Knowledge Of Higher Worlds — Initiation
 Between birth and death, human beings at our present stage of evolution experience three states of consciousness during ordinary life: waking, sleeping, and the state between them, dreaming. Dreaming will be considered briefly later on in this book, but here let’s look at life in its two main alternating states, waking and sleeping.
We achieve knowledge of higher worlds by acquiring a third state in addition to sleeping and waking. When we are awake, our souls are devoted to sensory impressions and the mental images they stimulate. When we sleep, these sensory impressions are silenced, but our souls also lose consciousness; the experiences of the day sink down into a sea of unconsciousness. Now let’s imagine that the sleeping soul is capable of becoming conscious in spite of the fact that all sensory perceptions are excluded, as is otherwise the case in deep sleep, and that not even a memory of the day’s experiences is present. In that case, would the soul find itself in a state of nothingness? Would it be unable to have any experiences at all?
It is only possible to answer these questions if we can actually induce a state of consciousness similar to this, if the soul is actually able to experience something even in the total absence of current and remembered sensory impressions. In this case, although the soul would seem asleep with regard to the ordinary outer world, it would not be asleep but would confront a real world just as it does in the waking state. Now, this state of consciousness can be induced if we bring about the soul experiences made possible by spiritual science. Everything spiritual science tells us about the worlds lying beyond the world of the senses—including the information given in preceding chapters of this book—has been investigated by means of this state of consciousness. This chapter will discuss, to the extent possible in this book, the methods used to create the state of consciousness needed for this research.
 This state of consciousness is similar to sleep in only one respect, namely that it puts an end to all outer sense impressions and eliminates all the thoughts stimulated by these impressions. But although during sleep the soul does not have the strength to experience anything consciously, this other state of consciousness provides this strength, awakening a perceptive ability that only sensory impressions can arouse during our ordinary life. The soul’s awakening to this higher state of consciousness can be called initiation.
 Initiation methods lead us out of our usual state of waking consciousness into a soul activity that makes use of spiritual instruments of observation. These instruments are already present in the soul in a seminal state, but they need to be developed. Now it’s possible for people to discover at a certain point in the course of their lives that these higher instruments have developed spontaneously, without any special preparation, and that a certain involuntary self-awakening has taken place. As a result, these people find that their essential nature is totally transformed and that their soul experiences are infinitely enriched. They also find that no knowledge of the sensory world can possibly provide the bliss, soul satisfaction, and inner warmth that they now experience as a result of what is being disclosed to understanding that is not accessible to the physical eye. Strength and certainty will flow into their will from a spiritual world.
Such instances of self-initiation do occur, but they should not tempt us to believe that the only right thing to do is to wait for this to happen and do nothing to bring initiation about through appropriate training. Since self-initiation can come about without observing rules of any sort, it is not necessary to talk about it here, but what will be described is how training can develop the seminal organs of perception lying dormant in the soul. People who feel no particular urge to do something for the sake of their own development may easily say that human life stands under the guidance of spiritual powers and that instead of intervening in this guidance, we should patiently await the moment when these powers find it right to disclose another world to our souls. These people may well feel that there is a certain presumptuousness or unjustified desire in wanting to interfere with wise spiritual guidance. People who think like this will change their minds only when one thought makes a strong enough impression on them. This thought is:
“This wise guidance has given me certain faculties, not so that they will remain unused, but so that I can put them to use. The wisdom in this guidance lies in the fact that it has planted the seeds of a higher state of consciousness in me. I understand this guidance only if I feel that human beings have an obligation to reveal everything their own spiritual powers can possibly reveal.”
If this thought has made a strong enough impression on the soul, then the above-mentioned doubts about training for a higher state of consciousness will disappear.
 However, another doubt can still arise about this training. We might say, “Developing inner soul faculties constitutes an intervention in an individual’s hidden holiest of holies and involves a certain transformation of that person’s entire nature. It is inherently impossible for us to independently conceive of the means for bringing about such a transformation, because only those who have personally experienced reaching a higher world can know how to do it. But if we turn to a person like this, we permit that person to have an influence on our own soul’s hidden holiest of holies.” Even having methods for bringing about a higher state of consciousness presented in book form would not be particularly reassuring to people who think like this, because the point is not whether we receive this information as an oral communication or learn about these methods from someone who knows about them and presents them in a book.
There are indeed people who are knowledgeable about the rules for developing spiritual organs of perception but subscribe to the view that these rules should not be entrusted to a book. In general, these people also consider it impermissible to communicate certain truths having to do with the spiritual world. Given the present stage of humankind’s evolution, however, this view must be considered outdated in a certain way. It is true that we can go only so far in communicating the rules in question, but the information that can be provided leads far enough so that those who apply it to their own souls will reach a point in the development of their knowledge where they will then be able to discover the rest of the way. Only personal previous experience on the path to spiritual knowledge can give us the right idea about how this path then leads on.
All these facts can give rise to doubts about the path to spiritual knowledge, but these doubts disappear when we consider the nature of the course of development indicated by the training that is appropriate to our times. This is the path that will be discussed here. Other methods of training will be mentioned only briefly.
 The training that will be discussed here will provide those who have the will to develop their higher faculties with the means for beginning to transform their souls.
There is no question of dubious intervention in the student’s inner nature unless the teacher attempts to bring about this transformation through methods that elude the student’s consciousness, and no instruction in spiritual development that is appropriate for our times makes use of methods like that. Appropriate instruction does not make the student into an unconscious instrument; it supplies rules of conduct which the student then implements. When the occasion arises, the reason for laying down some particular rule will not be withheld. People searching for spiritual development do not need to receive and apply these rules as a matter of blind faith. In fact, blind faith is totally out of place in this area.
If we have not yet begun spiritual training ourselves but have considered the nature of the human soul simply as it reveals itself to our ordinary self-observation, we can ask ourselves after receiving the recommended rules of spiritual training: How can these rules affect our soul life?
Even without any training, we can answer this question adequately by applying our healthy common sense in an unbiased way. We can get the right idea of how these rules work even before we subject ourselves to them, although only training itself allows us to actually experience how they work. Even then, our experience will always be accompanied by understanding only if sound judgment accompanies each step we take. In this day and age, any true science of the spirit will provide only rules that can stand up to the scrutiny of sound judgment. If we are ready and willing to undertake only this kind of training and do not permit any bias to drive us into blind faith, all our doubts will disappear. We will not be disturbed by any objections that can be raised about an appropriate training in attaining a higher state of consciousness.
 This training is not superfluous even for those whose inner maturity can eventually lead to self-awakening of their spiritual organs of perception. On the contrary, it is especially suitable for them, because people like this almost invariably have to make many roundabout, useless detours before self-initiation takes place. Training spares them these detours and leads them forward on a straight path. Self-initiation is a result of having achieved the appropriate degree of maturity during preceding lifetimes. It can very easily happen that a soul rejects training out of a certain dim sense of its own maturity, since this feeling can create a certain arrogance that prevents the person from having confidence in a true spiritual training.
It is also possible for a certain level of soul development to remain concealed and appear only at a certain age. In such cases, training can be exactly the right way to make it appear, but if the person in question remains closed to the possibility of training, it may well be that his or her ability will remain concealed during the present lifetime and will appear again only during some subsequent life.
 It is important to avoid certain obvious misunderstandings with regard to the training in supersensible knowledge that is intended here. One such misunderstanding can arise from thinking that this training intends to make its students into different beings with regard to how they lead their entire lives. But this is not a question of giving people general instructions on how to conduct their lives, it’s a question of telling them about soul practices they can carry out in order to learn to observe the supersensible element.
These practices have no direct influence on the parts of their lives that lie outside of supersensible observation.
People acquire the gift of supersensible observation in addition to these other parts of their lives. This perceptive activity is just as separate from life’s ordinary functions as the waking state is from sleep. One state cannot interfere with the other in the least. Wanting to have impressions of the supersensible interspersed in the course of life’s ordinary events would be like dealing with constant, unhealthy interruptions to your sleep when you are ill. The student must be able to induce the state of observing supersensible reality through an act of free will.
Indirectly, however, supersensible training is related to certain standards of conduct inasmuch as insight into the supersensible is either impossible or harmful without a certain ethical attitude toward life. For this reason, much of what leads to supersensible observation is also a means of ennobling how we lead our lives. On the other hand, insight into the supersensible world allows us to recognize higher moral impulses that also apply to the physical world of the senses. Certain moral necessities can only be recognized from the supersensible world.
A second misunderstanding consists in believing that soul practices leading to supersensible cognition might involve changes in the physical body’s structure or functioning. On the contrary, these practices have nothing at all to do with anything that is any business of physiology’s, or of any other branch of natural science, for that matter. They are purely spiritual soul-processes that are as far removed from anything physical as healthy thinking and perception are. What happens in the soul as a result of such practices is no different in character from what happens during healthy thinking or conclusionforming. The processes involved in a real training in supersensible knowledge have just as much or little to do with the body as healthy thinking does, and anything that relates to the human being in any other way is a distortion of true spiritual training rather than the real thing. The presentation that follows is to be taken in the spirit of what has been said here. If supersensible training seems to require things that would make a person into something else, this is simply because supersensible cognition proceeds from a person’s entire soul. In actual fact, it is simply a question of instruction in practices that make it possible for the soul to bring about moments in its life when it can observe the supersensible.
 It is only possible to rise to a state of supersensible consciousness from ordinary waking consciousness, the state the soul lives in prior to its ascent. Training provides the soul with methods that will lead it out of the ordinary waking state. Among the first methods provided by the training we are discussing here are some that can still be described as functions of ordinary waking consciousness.
The most important of these consist of silent activities of the soul. The soul is meant to devote itself to certain specific mental images that have the intrinsic power to awaken certain hidden faculties in the human soul. Such mental images are different from those of our daily waking life, whose purpose is to depict outer things—the more truly they do this, the truer they themselves are, and it is part of their essential nature to be “true” in this sense.
This is not the purpose of the mental images the soul concentrates on when its goal is spiritual training. These images are not structured so as to reproduce anything external, but to have an awakening effect on the soul. The best thought pictures for this purpose are symbolic ones, but others can be used also. The content of these mental images is not the point; the point is that the soul devotes all its energies to having nothing in its consciousness other than the mental image in question.
In our everyday soul life, the soul’s energies are divided among many different things and our mental images shift rapidly. In spiritual training, however, the point is to concentrate the soul’s entire activity on a single mental image that is freely chosen as a focus for consciousness. For this reason, symbolic images are better than ones that represent outer objects or processes and have a point of contact with the outer world, since these do not force the soul to rely on itself to the same extent as it does with symbols that it creates out of its own energy.
It’s not important what is imagined, but only that the process of visualizing the image frees the soul from dependence on anything physical.
 By calling to mind the concept of memory, we can begin to grasp what it means to immerse ourselves in a visualized image. For example, if we look at a tree and then turn away from it so that we can no longer see it, we can reawaken the mental image of the tree out of our memory. The mental image we have of a tree when it is not actually present before our eyes is the memory of the tree. Now let’s imagine that we retain this memory in our soul; we allow the soul to rest on this memory image and attempt to exclude all other images. Then the soul is immersed in the memory image of the tree. But although the soul is immersed in a mental image, this image is a copy of something perceived by our senses. However, if we attempt the same thing with an image that we insert into our consciousness through an act of free will, we will gradually be able to achieve the necessary effect.
 We will illustrate this with a single example of contemplating or meditating on a symbolic mental image.
First, this mental image must be built up in the soul. I can do this as follows: I imagine a plant taking root in the ground, sprouting one leaf after another, and continuing to develop up to the point of flowering. Then I imagine a human being alongside this plant. In my soul, I bring to life the thought that this human being has qualities and abilities that can be called more perfect than those of the plant. I think about how human beings are able to move around in response to their feelings and intentions, while plants are attached to the ground. But then I also notice that although human beings are certainly more perfect than plants, they also have characteristics that we cannot perceive in plants, characteristics whose absence can actually make plants seem more perfect than humans.
Human beings are filled with desires and passions which their actions obey, and certain errors result from these drives and passions. In contrast, I see how plants obey the pure laws of growth as they develop one leaf after another and open their flowers without passion to the chaste rays of the Sun. I can say that human beings have an advantage over plants with regard to a certain type of perfection, but that the price they have paid for this perfection is to allow urges, desires, and passions to enter their nature alongside the forces of the plants that seem so pure to me.
Next I visualize the green sap flowing through the plant and imagine this as an expression of the pure, passionless laws of growth. Then I visualize the red blood flowing through human arteries and imagine it as an expression of urges, desires, and passions. I allow all this to arise in my soul as a vivid thought. Then I think about how human beings are capable of development, how they can use the higher soul faculties to cleanse and purify their urges and passions. I think about how this destroys a baser element in these urges and passions, which are then reborn on a higher level. The blood may then be imagined as the expression of these cleansed and purified urges and passions. For example, in the spirit I see a rose and say: In the red sap of the rose blossom I see the color of the plant’s green sap transformed into red, and the red rose, like the green leaf, obeys the pure, passionless laws of growth.
Let the red of the rose symbolize the blood that is an expression of purified urges and passions. They have been stripped of their baser element and are now similar in purity to the forces that are active in the red rose.
I now try not only to assimilate these thoughts with my intellect, but also to bring them to life in my feeling. I can have a blissful sensation when I imagine the growing plant’s purity and absence of passion; I can generate a feeling in myself for the price human beings must pay for greater perfection by acquiring urges and desires. This can transform my earlier bliss into a serious feeling. Next, a feeling of liberating happiness can stir in me as I devote myself to the thought of the red blood that can become the vehicle of inwardly pure experiences, just like the red sap of the rose blossom.
 It is important not to unfeelingly confront the thoughts that serve to build up a symbolic mental image such as this. After having basked in these thoughts and feelings, we transform them into this symbolic image: We imagine a black cross. Let this be the symbol of the baser element that has been eliminated from our urges and passions. We imagine seven radiant red roses arranged in a circle where the two beams of the cross intersect. Let these be the symbol of the blood that is an expression of cleansed, purified passions and urges.1 This symbolic image must now be called up before our mind’s eye in the way described earlier with regard to a memory image. A symbolic mental image such as this has the power to awaken our souls when we inwardly immerse ourselves in it and devote ourselves to it. We must try to exclude all other mental images while we are immersed in this one. We must allow only this symbol to linger before our mind’s eye in the spirit, and it must be as vivid as possible.
It is not without significance that this symbol was not immediately proffered as a soul-awakening image but was first built up by means of specific ideas about plants and human beings, because the effectiveness of a symbol like this depends on its being put together in this way before it is used for meditation. If we imagine it without first having gone through this buildup in our own souls, the symbol remains cold and is much less effective than if it has received its soul-illuminating power through this preparation. During meditation, however, we should not summon up all of these preparatory thoughts but should only allow the image to linger vividly before us in the spirit while permitting the feeling we had as a result of these preparatory thoughts to resonate. In this way, the symbol becomes a token of this experience of feeling, and its effectiveness is due to the fact that the soul dwells on this experience. The longer we can dwell on it without a different and disruptive image intervening, the more effective the whole process will be. However, outside of the time we set aside for actual meditation, it is a good idea to frequently repeat the process of building up the image through thoughts and feelings of the type described above, so that the feeling doesn’t fade away.
The more patience we have in renewing it, the more significant the image becomes for our souls. (Additional examples of methods of meditation are explained in my book How to Know Higher Worlds.2 Described there are meditations on becoming and dying in plants, the creative forces lying dormant in seeds, the forms of crystals, and so on, which are especially effective. The intent here was to use a single example to demonstrate the nature of meditation.)
A symbol such as the one described here is not a copy of any outer thing or being that nature has produced, but this very fact gives it the power to awaken certain faculties that are strictly soul-like in character. However, an objection could be raised to this. Someone might say, “It’s true that the symbol as a whole is not present in nature, but all its details have been borrowed from nature: the black color, the roses, and so on. All these things are perceived by the senses.” Anyone who is bothered by this objection should consider the fact that the process of reproducing the sense perceptions is not what leads to awakening our higher soul faculties, but that this is brought about solely through how these details are combined, and the combination itself does not depict anything that is present in the world of the senses.
 This symbol was intended to illustrate the process of effective meditation. In spiritual training, any number of images of this sort could be used, and they could be built up in many different ways. Certain sentences, phrases, or single words may also be assigned as subjects for meditation. The goal of all of these methods of meditation, however, is to tear the soul away from sensory perception and to rouse it to activity in which physical sense impressions are meaningless and the development of dormant inner soul faculties becomes the essential thing.
It is also possible to meditate only on feelings, sensations, and so on, and such meditations prove to be especially effective. Let’s take the feeling of joy, for example.
In the normal course of our lives, our souls may experience joy when an outer stimulus for it is present. A soul with healthy feelings who sees a person doing something out of the goodness of his or her heart will experience satisfaction and joy. But this soul can then proceed to think about an action of this sort, saying “When something is done out of the goodness of someone’s heart, the person in question is acting not in his or her own interest but in the interest of fellow human beings. Such an action may be called morally good.” The meditating soul, however, can free itself completely from its mental image of the individual case in the outer world that has given it joy or satisfaction, and it can then form a comprehensive idea of goodheartedness. Perhaps it thinks of how goodheartedness comes about when one soul absorbs another’s interest and makes it its own. The meditating soul can then feel joy in this moral idea of goodheartedness. This joy is not due to any process in the sensory world; it is joy in an idea as such. If we attempt to keep such joy alive in the soul for a certain length of time, we are meditating on a feeling, a sensation. What then becomes effective in arousing our inner soul faculties is not the idea itself, but rather the ongoing influence of a feeling within the soul that has not been stimulated by a mere individual outer impression.
Since supersensible knowledge is able to delve more deeply into the essence of things than our ordinary thinking, meditating on feelings derived from supersensible experience is much more effective in developing soul faculties. As necessary as this may be for higher levels of training, we must be aware that we can go quite far simply through energetic meditation on feelings and sensations of the sort typified by the meditation on goodheartedness.
Since people differ in their essential character, different training methods will be effective for different individuals.
With regard to how long meditation should last, we must keep in mind that the calmer and more deliberate this meditation can become, the stronger its effect will be. However, any excesses in this direction should be avoided. The exercises themselves teach us a certain inner discretion and can show us the limits to observe in this regard.
 As a rule, such meditation exercises will have to be carried out for a long time before the person doing them is able to perceive their results. Patience and persistence are absolute prerequisites of spiritual training. People who do not summon up both of these attitudes, who do not calmly continue to do their exercises with patience and persistence forming a constant underlying mood in their souls, will not accomplish much.
 It should have become evident by now that meditation is a means of acquiring knowledge about higher worlds.
However, it should also be evident that not just any arbitrary thought content will lead to this knowledge, but only one that has been organized as described.
 The path that is pointed out here leads first to what can be called imaginative cognition, which is the first stage of higher knowledge. Cognition based on sensory perceptions and their assimilation by the sense-bound intellect can be called “object cognition” in the sense of spiritual science. Beyond this lie higher levels of cognition, the first of which is imaginative cognition. The term imaginative may cause doubts on the part of those who think of imagination only in terms of illusory ideas that don’t correspond to anything real. In spiritual science, however, “imaginative” cognition must be understood as cognition that comes about through a supersensible state of consciousness in the soul. Our senses have no access to the spiritual realities and beings that are perceived in this state.
Because this state of consciousness is awakened in the soul by meditating on symbols, or imaginations, the world belonging to this higher state of consciousness can be called the imaginative world and the cognition that applies to it can be called imaginative cognition. Therefore, imaginative means something that is “real” in a different sense than the realities and beings of sensory, physical perception. The content of the mental images that fill our imaginative experience is not important at all; what is important is the soul faculty this experience develops.
 One very natural objection to using the symbolic images described here is that they are shaped by dreamlike thinking and arbitrary imagination and can therefore only have dubious results. Doubts of this sort are unjustified with regard to the particular symbols that form the basis of genuine spiritual training, because these symbols are chosen in such a way that it is entirely possible to disregard their connection to any outer sensory reality and to seek their value only in the force they exert on the soul when it withdraws all of its attention from the outer world, suppresses all sensory impressions, and excludes all thoughts it might entertain as a result of external stimulation.
The meditative state is best illustrated by comparing it to the sleeping state. These two states are similar in one respect and totally opposite in another. Meditation is sleep that constitutes a higher form of wakefulness in comparison to our ordinary consciousness during the day.
The important point is that concentrating on the idea or image in question forces the soul to summon up much stronger forces from its own depths than it does in ordinary life or ordinary cognition. This increases its inner liveliness. It frees itself from the body just as it does during sleep, but without falling into a state of unconsciousness. Instead, it experiences a world it did not experience before. Although this soul state is similar to sleep in that the soul is released from the body, in comparison to ordinary day consciousness it can be described as a state of heightened wakefulness. This allows the soul to experience itself in its true inner independent nature. In contrast, because the soul’s own forces do not develop to the same extent in the ordinary daily waking state, it can only become conscious of itself there with the help of the body.
As a result, it does not experience itself but only becomes aware of itself in the reflection-like image that the body (or actually the body’s processes) presents to it.
 By their very nature, symbols built up in the way described above do not yet relate to anything real in the spiritual world. They serve to free the human soul from sensory perception and from the brain, the instrument to which our intellect is initially bound. This cannot happen before we feel that we are imagining something by means of forces that do not use the brain and the senses as their tools. The first thing we experience on this path is this process of being freed from our physical organs. We can then say that our consciousness is not extinguished when we disregard sensory perceptions and ordinary intellectual thinking; we are able to rise above them and experience ourselves as individual beings alongside what we were previously. This is the first purely spiritual experience—observing an “I”-being of soul and spirit, a new self that has risen up out of the self that is bound only to the physical senses and the physical intellect.
If we freed ourselves from the world of the senses and the intellect without meditation, we would sink down into the “nothingness” of unconsciousness. Of course, we each have a being of soul and spirit prior to meditation, but at that point it has no tools for observing the spiritual world. It is something similar to a physical body without eyes for seeing or ears for hearing. The energy applied during meditation first creates organs of soul and spirit in a previously unorganized soul-spiritual being.
What is created in this way is also the first thing we perceive, so in a certain sense our first experience is a selfperception. It belongs to the very nature of spiritual training that at this point in its development, the soul practicing self-education is fully conscious of the fact that it first perceives itself in the world of images (imaginations) that appears as a result of the exercises that have been described. Although these images appear to be living in a new world, the soul must recognize that to begin with they are nothing more than a reflection of its own being, strengthened by these exercises. Not only must the soul recognize this and assess the situation correctly, it must also have developed its will sufficiently to be able to remove or extinguish these images from consciousness at any time. Within these images, the soul must be able to act freely and completely deliberately.
This belongs to a genuine spiritual training at this point.
If the soul were not able to do this, its situation in the domain of spiritual experience would be similar to that of a soul in the physical world if its eyes were fixated on objects and unable to look away.
There is only one exception to the rule that it must be possible to extinguish images, and that is a group of inner pictorial experiences that must not be extinguished at this stage of spiritual training. They correspond to the core of the soul’s own being. In these images, each student of the spirit recognizes his or her fundamental being, the aspect of the self that moves through repeated Earth lives. At this point, sensing repeated Earth lives becomes a real experience. In all other instances, however, the above-mentioned independence with regard to spiritual experiences must prevail. Only after having acquired the ability to extinguish our experiences do we approach the real spiritual world outside of ourselves. In place of what we have extinguished, something else appears, and we recognize its spiritual reality. We feel that our souls are outgrowing something undefined and becoming something defined.
We must then move on from self-perception to observing an outer world of soul and spirit. This happens when we structure our inner experience along the lines of what will be described next.
 To begin with, the souls of spiritual students are weak with regard to everything that is perceptible in the world of soul and spirit. During meditation, they will have to expend a great deal of inner energy to hold onto the symbols or mental images that they have built up out of the sense world’s stimuli. But if they also want to achieve real observation in a higher world, they must be able to do more than merely hold onto these visualizations. Having done this, they must also be able to spend a certain amount of time in a state that not only permits no stimuli from the outer world of the senses to affect the soul, but also eliminates the earlier visualizations from consciousness. Only after this has been done can what has taken shape through meditation appear in consciousness. The point is that from now on the soul must have enough inner strength so that what has taken shape in this way is really perceived spiritually and does not escape attention, which is all too possible when the soul’s inner energy is still only weakly developed. The organism of soul and spirit which begins to develop, and which the student is meant to grasp in self-perception, is delicate and fleeting. The disturbances from the sense-perceptible outer world and from its aftereffects in memory are great, no matter how hard we try to keep them at bay. It is not just a question of the disturbances we notice, but even more of those we are completely unaware of in ordinary life.
However, in this context the very nature of the human being makes a transitional state possible. It is possible for the soul to accomplish in the sleeping state what is initially impossible for it in the waking state because of disturbances from the physical world. If we devote ourselves to inner contemplation and are then properly attentive to what happens during sleep, we will notice that we are not “fast asleep,” that our souls have times when they are still active in a certain way in spite of being asleep. During these states, natural processes keep the influences of the outer world at bay even though the waking soul is not yet strong enough to ward them off under its own power. But if the meditation exercises have already taken effect, the soul frees itself from unconsciousness during sleep and senses the world of spirit and soul.
This can happen in two different ways. Either we are able to realize during sleep that we are now in another world, or we are able on waking to recall having been there. The first instance requires greater inner energy than the second, which is therefore more prevalent among beginners in spiritual training. Students can gradually get to the point where they realize after they wake up that the whole time they were sleeping was spent in another world, and that they emerged from this world when they woke up. Their memories of the beings and realities of this other world will become ever more definite. In one sense or another, what can be called “continuity of consciousness” — that is, the continuation of consciousness during sleep — has set in. This does not mean, however, that these people are always conscious during sleep. It is already a big step toward continuity of consciousness if people who otherwise sleep just like anyone else have certain times during sleep when they can look, as though consciously, into a world of spirit and soul, or if they can look back in memory on these brief conscious states when they are awake.
We must not forget, however, that what is described here is only meant to be a transitional state. If our purpose is to train ourselves, it’s good to go through this transitional state, but we should not believe that we should derive a conclusive view of the world of spirit and soul from it. In this state, the soul is uncertain and not yet able to trust its perceptions. Through such experiences, however, it gathers more and more strength in order eventually to be able to keep the disturbing influences of the physical outer and inner worlds at bay when it is awake — and thus to observe the world of spirit and soul without being distracted by any impressions coming from the senses, by the intellect that is bound to the physical brain, or even by the mental images of meditation, which were merely a preparation for spiritual sight and have now been removed from consciousness.
Anything spiritual science makes public in any form should never originate in any other kind of soul-spirit observation than the one that occurs in the fully waking state.
 Two soul experiences are important as our spiritual training continues. One is what makes us able to say,
“From now on, when I disregard all the impressions the physical outer world can give me and look into my inner self, I will not be looking at a being whose activity is totally extinguished but at a being who is aware of itself in a world I knew nothing about as long I allowed myself to be stimulated only by impressions from my senses and from my ordinary intellect.”
At this moment, the soul has the feeling of having given birth to a new being within itself, to the essential core of its own being, as described above. This new being has characteristics that are totally different from those previously present in the soul.
The other experience is that of having the old being standing like a second being alongside the new. What we formerly experienced as containing us now turns into something we confront from outside in a certain respect.
At times we experience ourselves outside of what we each otherwise regarded as our own essential being, as the individual I. It is as if we were now fully conscious of living in two I’s. One of them we have known all along; the other stands above it like a newborn being. We feel how the first acquires a certain independence with regard to the second, somewhat similar to how the human body has a certain independence with regard to the first I. This experience is very significant, because it makes us realize what it means to live in the world we are trying to reach through our training.
 The second, newborn I can now be guided into perception in the spiritual world. Within it, something can develop that has the same significance for this spiritual world as the sense organs have for the physical world of the senses. Once this development has advanced to the necessary level, we will not only sense ourselves as newborn I’s but will begin to perceive spiritual realities and spiritual beings in the surroundings, just as we perceive the physical world through our physical senses. This is a third important experience.
To really cope at this level of spiritual training, we must count on the fact that self-love and egotism will accompany the strengthening of our soul forces, appearing to a degree that we never experience in our ordinary soul life.
It would be a mistake to believe that mere ordinary selflove is what we are talking about at this point. At this level of development, this powerful egotism is intensified to the point where it seems like a force of nature within our own souls, and a rigorous will-training is required in order to overcome it. This egotism is not produced by spiritual training; it is always present but becomes conscious only when we experience the spirit. It is absolutely necessary for will-training to go hand in hand with our other spiritual training. We have a strong urge to feel blissfully happy in the world we have just created for ourselves; as described above, we must be able to extinguish, so to speak, what we have just worked so hard to bring about. Having reached the imaginative world, we must extinguish our selves, but egotism’s strongest urges agitate against this.
It is easy to believe that the exercises of spiritual training are something external and disregard the soul’s moral development. In response, it must be said that the moral strength that is needed to overcome egotism, as has been described, cannot be acquired without elevating the soul’s moral state to the corresponding level. Progress in spiritual training is unthinkable unless it is accompanied by moral progress. Without moral strength, it would beimpossible to defeat egotism. All talk of genuine spiritual training’s not being a moral training at the same time is inaccurate. Only those who have not experienced this personally can doubt our ability to know that we are dealing with realities in what we believe to be spiritual perceptions and not with mere self-deceptions (visions, hallucinations, and the like.)
The real fact of the matter, however, is that if we have reached this level through a genuine training, we will be able to distinguish mental images of our own creation from spiritual realities in the same way that any individuals of sound common sense can distinguish their own mental images of a hot piece of iron from the actual existence of a piece they are touching. Healthy experience, and nothing else, reveals the difference. Even in the spiritual world, life itself is the touchstone. Just as we know in the sense-perceptible world that an imagined piece of iron will not burn our fingers no matter how hot we imagine it to be, trained students of the spirit know whether they are experiencing a spiritual fact only in their imagination or whether real facts or beings are making an impression on their awakened spiritual organs of perception. The general rules we have to observe during spiritual training so as not to fall victim to deceptions in this regard will be described later on.
 At this point, it is extremely important for students of the spirit to have acquired a very specific state of soul when they first became conscious of the newborn I, since it is through the I that we become able to guide our sensations, mental images, and feelings; our urges, desires, and passions. Perceptions and mental images cannot be left to their own devices in the soul. They must be controlled through thoughtful deliberation. The I is what implements the laws of thinking and uses them to bring order into our life of thoughts and mental images. Something similar is true of our desires, urges, inclinations, and passions. Our ethical principles become the guides for these soul forces. Through moral judgment, the I becomes the soul’s guide in this area. If an individual then extracts a higher I from the ordinary one, the original I becomes independent in a certain respect, and it loses as much vital strength as is given to the higher I.
Let’s suppose, however, that an individual who has not yet developed sufficient ability and stability with regard to laws of thinking and powers of judgment chooses to give birth to the higher I on this level. This person will only be able to leave behind as much thinking ability for his or her lower I as was developed previously. If the amount of orderly thinking is insufficient, a disorderly, confused, fantastical type of thinking and judging will appear in this person’s newly independent ordinary I.
Because the newborn I in such a person can also only be weak, the confused lower I will dominate supersensible perception and the person in question will not demonstrate balance in judging his or her observations of the supersensible. If this person had developed the faculty of logical thinking sufficiently, it would have been quite safe to allow the lower I to be independent.
This is also true in the domain of ethics. If we have not achieved firmness in our moral judgments, if we have not sufficiently mastered our inclinations, urges, and passions, we will allow the ordinary I to become independent under circumstances in which these soul forces are still active. As a result, we may not apply the same high standards of truthfulness to our experiences of supersensible cognition as we do to what we raise to the level of consciousness in the outer physical world. With this slackened sense of truth, we could take all kinds of fantastic imaginings for spiritual reality. Firmness in ethical judgments, steadiness of character, and thoroughness of conscience must work into our sense for truth, having first been developed in the I that is left behind before the higher I becomes active for purposes of supersensible cognition. This is not meant to scare people away from spiritual training, but it does have to be taken very seriously.
 If we have the strength of will to do everything necessary to make the first I inwardly secure in carrying out its functions, we have no reason to be afraid of freeing the second I through spiritual training to pursue supersensible cognition. However, we must be aware of how powerful self-deception is when it comes to feeling “mature” enough to undertake something. Students in the spiritual training that is described here develop their thought life to the extent that they will never be in danger of going astray, although this is often assumed to be inevitable. This thought development makes all the necessary inner experiences appear and be played out in the soul as they should be, without being accompanied by harmful aberrations of fantasy. Without appropriate thought development, these experiences can cause profound uncertainty in the soul.
Through the method emphasized here, these experiences appear in such a way that it is possible to become completely familiar with them, just as we become familiar with perceptions of the physical world if we are in a sound state of mind. By developing our thought life, we become more able to observe what we are experiencing in ourselves; if we do not develop it, we will not be able to face this experience in a calm and collected manner.
 An appropriate training lists certain qualities that those who want to find the way into the higher world should acquire through practice. These are, above all, the soul’s mastery over its train of thought, its will, and its feelings.
The method for bringing this mastery about through practice has two goals. On the one hand, this practice is meant to imbue the soul with stability, certainty, and equilibrium to the extent that it retains these qualities even when a second I is born out of it. On the other hand, it is meant to give this second I strength and support for its journey.
 Objectivity is what our thinking needs most of all for spiritual training. In the physical world of the senses, life is the great teacher of the human I as far as objectivity is concerned. If the soul chose to allow its thoughts to wander aimlessly, it would have to be immediately corrected by life so as not to come into conflict with it. The soul’s thinking must correspond to the actual course of life’s realities. When we turn our attention away from the physical world of the senses, we are no longer subject to its automatic correction, so our thinking will go astray if it is not able to self-correct. This is why students of the spirit must train their thinking so that it can set its own direction and goals. Their thinking must teach itself inner stability and the ability to stick strictly to one subject. For this reason, the appropriate “thought exercises” we undertake should not deal with unfamiliar and complicated objects, but with ones that are simple and familiar.
Over a matter of months, if we can overcome ourselves to the point of being able to focus our thoughts for at least five minutes a day on some ordinary object (for example, a pin, a pencil, or the like), and if, during this time, we exclude all thoughts unrelated to this object, we will have made a big step in the right direction. (We can consider a new object each day or stay with the same one for several days.) Even those who consider themselves thinkers because of their scientific education should not scorn this means of preparing themselves for spiritual training, because if we fix our thoughts on something very familiar for a certain period of time, we can be certain that we are thinking objectively. If we ask: What is a pencil made of? How are these materials prepared? How are they put together to make pencils? When were pencils invented? and so on, our thoughts correspond to reality much more closely than they do if we think about the origin of human beings or the nature of life. Simple thought exercises are better for developing objective thinking about the Saturn, Sun, and Moon phases of evolution than any complicated scholarly ideas, because what we think about is not the point, at least initially. The point is to think objectively, using our own inner strength. Once we have taught ourselves objectivity by practicing on sense-perceptible physical processes that are easily surveyed, our thinking becomes accustomed to striving for objectivity even when it does not feel constrained by the physical world of the senses and its laws. We break ourselves of the habit of allowing our thoughts to wander without regard for the facts.
 The soul must become a ruler in the domain of the will just as it is in the world of thoughts. Here again, life itself appears as the controlling element in the physical world of the senses. It makes us need certain things, and our will feels roused to satisfy these needs. For the sake of higher training, we must get used to strictly obeying our own commands. If we do this, we will become less and less inclined to desire nonessentials. Dissatisfaction and instability in our life of will, however, are based on desiring things without having any clear concept of realizing these desires. This dissatisfaction can disrupt our entire mental life when a higher I is trying to emerge from the soul.
A good exercise is to tell ourselves to do something daily at a specific time, over a number of months: Today at this particular time I will do this. We then gradually become able to determine what to do and when to do it in a way that makes it possible to carry out the action in question with great precision. In this way, we rise above damaging thoughts, such as: “I’d like this, I want to do that,” which disregard totally the feasibility of what we want. A very great man put these words into the mouth of a seer: “I love whomever longs for the impossible.”3 This great man himself said, “Living in ideas means treating the impossible as if it were possible.”4 These statements, however, should not be used as objections to what has been presented here, because what Goethe and his seeress Manto ask can only be accomplished by those who have trained themselves in desiring what is possible in order to then be able to apply their strong will to “impossibilities” in a way that transforms them into possibilities.
 For the sake of spiritual training, the soul should also acquire a certain degree of composure with regard to the domain of feeling. For this to happen, the soul must master its expressions of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain.
There are many prejudices that become evident with regard to acquiring this particular quality. We might imagine that we would become dull and unreceptive to the world around us if we are not meant to empathize with rejoicing or pain. However, that is not the point. The soul should indeed rejoice when there is reason to rejoice, and it should feel pain when something sad happens. It is only meant to master its expressions of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and displeasure. With this as our goal, we will soon notice that rather than becoming dulled to pleasurable and painful events in our surroundings, the opposite is true.
We are becoming more receptive to these things than we were previously. Admittedly, acquiring this character trait requires strict self-observation over a long period of time. We must make sure that we are able to empathize fully with joy and sorrow without losing ourselves and expressing our feelings involuntarily. What we are meant to suppress is not our justified pain, but involuntary weeping; not our abhorrence of a misdeed, but blind rage; not alertness to danger, but fruitless fear, and so on.
Exercises like this are the only way for students of the spirit to acquire the mental tranquillity that is needed to prevent the soul from leading a second, unhealthy life, like a shadowy double, alongside the higher I when this I is born and especially when it begins to be active. Especially with regard to these things, it is important not to succumb to self-deception. It can easily seem to people that they already possess a certain equilibrium in ordinary life and that they therefore do not need this exercise, but in fact it is doubly necessary for people like this. It’s quite possible to be calm and composed in confronting things in ordinary life and yet have our suppressed lack of equilibrium assert itself all the more when we ascend into a higher world. It is essential to realize that for purposes of spiritual training, what we seem to possess already is much less important than systematically practicing what we need to acquire.
This sentence is quite correct, regardless of how contradictory it may seem. No matter what life may have taught us, what we teach ourselves is what serves the purposes of spiritual training. If life has taught us excitability we need to break that habit, but if it has taught us complacency we need to shake ourselves up through self-education so that our souls’ reactions correspond to the impressions they receive. People who cannot laugh at anything have as little control over their lives as people who are constantly provoked to uncontrollable laughter.
 An additional way of training our thinking and feeling is by acquiring a quality we can call “positivity.” There is a beautiful legend that tells of Christ Jesus and several other people walking past a dead dog.5 The others all turned away from the ugly sight, but Christ Jesus spoke admiringly of the animal’s beautiful teeth. We can practice maintaining the soul-attitude toward the world that this legend exemplifies. The erroneous, the bad, and the ugly must not prevent the soul from finding the true, the good, and the beautiful wherever they are present. We must not confuse this positivity with being artificially uncritical or arbitrarily closing our eyes to things that are bad, false, or inferior. It is possible to admire a dead animal’s “beautiful teeth” and still see the decaying corpse; the corpse does not prevent us from seeing the beautiful teeth. We cannot consider bad things good and false things true, but we can reach the point where the bad does not prevent us from seeing the good and errors do not keep us from seeing the truth.
 Our thinking undergoes a certain maturing process in connection with the will when we attempt never to allow anything we have experienced to deprive us of our unbiased receptivity to new experiences. For students of the spirit, the thought: “I’ve never heard of that; I don’t believe it,” should totally lose its meaning. During specific periods of time, we should be intent on using every opportunity to learn something new concerning every thing and every being. If we are ready and willing to take previously unaccustomed points of view, we can learn from every current of air, every leaf, every babbling baby. Admittedly, it is easy to go too far with regard to this ability. At any given stage in life, we should not disregard all our previous experiences. We should indeed judge what we are experiencing in the present on the basis of past experiences. This belongs on one side of the scales; on the other, however, students of the spirit must place their inclination to constantly experience new things and especially their faith in the possibility that new experiences will contradict old ones.
 We have now listed five soul qualities that students in a genuine spiritual training need to acquire: control of one’s train of thought, control of one’s will impulses, composure in the face of joy and sorrow, positivity in judging the world, and receptivity in one’s attitude toward life. Having spent certain periods of time practicing these qualities consecutively, we will then need to bring them into harmony with each other in our souls. We will need to practice them in pairs, or in combinations of three and one at the same time, and so on, in order to bring about this harmony.
 Methods of spiritual training recommend these exercises because if conscientiously carried out, they not only have the above-mentioned direct effects on students but also affect them in many indirect ways that they need on their path to the spiritual worlds. If we do these exercises enough, we will encounter many shortcomings and errors in our soul life and will discover the necessary means of strengthening and safeguarding the activity of our intellect, our feelings, and our character. Depending on our abilities, temperament, and character, we will certainly need many other exercises, but these will follow quite naturally from ample practice of the ones described above. In fact, we will notice that these exercises indirectly and gradually supply things that did not initially seem inherent in them. For example, after a certain time, people with too little self-confidence will notice that doing these exercises develops the self-confidence they need. The same is true of other soul qualities. (Specific and more detailed exercises can be found in my book How to Know Higher Worlds.)
It is significant that students of the spirit are able to advance to ever higher levels of the faculties indicated.
They must develop their control of thoughts and feelings to the point where their souls have the power to establish times of complete inner tranquillity. During these times, students must keep their hearts and minds free of everything outer daily life brings with it in the way of joy and sorrow, satisfactions and concerns, and even tasks and demands. The only things that are allowed to enter the soul in this state of meditation are what the soul itself chooses to admit. It is easy for a certain prejudice to become apparent with regard to this. People might think that we would estrange ourselves from daily life and its tasks if we withdrew our heart and mind from them for certain periods during the day. In reality, however, this is not the case at all. If we give ourselves up to periods of inner stillness and peace, this engenders many powerful forces that are applicable even to our duties in daily life.
As a result, we will not only not be worse at fulfilling our daily obligations but will certainly be better at it than we were before.
It is extremely valuable when people are able to detach themselves completely during these periods from thoughts about their personal concerns and rise to concerns that are shared by all. If they are able to fill their souls with communications from the higher spiritual worlds, and if this information is able to capture their interest to the same extent as their personal cares or concerns, this will prove especially fruitful for their souls.
If we make an effort to intercede in our soul life and regulate it in this way, we will also find it possible to observe ourselves and our own concerns with the same composure we apply to the concerns of others. Being able to look at our own experiences, joys, and sorrows as if they belonged to someone else is a good preparation for spiritual training. We can gradually acquire this ability to the necessary extent by taking time after our day’s work is done to allow our experiences of the day to pass in front of us in the spirit. We should see ourselves in the images of these experiences; that is, we must look in on ourselves in our daily lives as if from outside. We acquire a certain facility in self-observation of this sort by beginning with visualizations of small isolated portions of our daily life.
With practice, we become increasingly skillful in doing this retrospective view, so that after considerable practice we are able to form a complete picture in a short time.
Looking at our experiences in reverse order is especially valuable for spiritual training because it forces us to free our visualizations from our normal habit of merely tracing the course of sense-perceptible events with our thinking. In this reversed thinking, we visualize things correctly but are not bound by their sense-perceptible sequence. This is something we need in order to find our way into the spiritual world. It makes our visualizing stronger in a healthy way. That’s why it is also good, in addition to visualizing our daily life in reverse, to do the same with other things such as the sequence of a drama, a narrative, a melody, and so on.
For students of the spirit, the ideal increasingly becomes to relate to the events they encounter in life with inner certainty and tranquillity of soul and to judge them according to their own inherent significance and value rather than on the basis of a personal state of mind. With this ideal in view, students are able to create a foundation in their own souls for devoting effort to the above-mentioned meditation exercises on symbolic ideas or other thoughts and feelings.
 The prerequisites described here must be met, because we build up our supersensible experience on the basis of our standing in ordinary soul life before entering the spiritual world. In two different ways, everything we experience supersensibly is dependent on the soul’s point of departure for entering this world. If we are not concerned from the very beginning with making a healthy faculty of judgment the basis of our spiritual training, we will develop supersensible faculties that perceive the spiritual world inexactly and incorrectly. Our spiritual organs of perception will not develop properly, so to speak. Just as we cannot see properly in the world of the senses if our eyes are defective or diseased, we also cannot perceive properly with spiritual organs that have not been developed on the basis of a healthy faculty of judgment.
And if we take an immoral attitude as our point of departure, the way we ascend into the spiritual worlds will make our spiritual view seem clouded or dazed. We will confront supersensible worlds like someone observing the sensory world in a daze. Although in the sensory world, such a person will surely not be capable of saying anything significant about that world, even dazed spiritual observers are more awake than people in a normal state of consciousness, so their statements become errors with regard to the spiritual world.
 Inner soundness of the imaginative stage of cognition is achieved when the habit of what we might call “sense-free thinking” supports the soul meditations described here. If we form a thought on the basis of observing something in the physical world of the senses, this thought is not sensefree. However, such thoughts are not the only ones human beings are capable of having. Our thinking does not necessarily have to become empty and without content simply because we do not allow it to be filled with sensory observations. The safest and most obvious way for students of the spirit to learn sense-free thinking is by studying the facts that spiritual science communicates about the higher world and by taking possession of them with their own thinking. Although these facts cannot be observed by our physical senses, we will find that we are able to comprehend them if we have enough patience and persistence. We cannot do research in the higher world or make observations of our own without higher training, but even without it we can understand everything researchers communicate about this world.
There is no reason for anyone to say: How am I supposed to accept on faith what spiritual researchers say, since I can’t see it for myself? Simply by thinking about it, we can come to the conviction that this information is true. If we can’t do this, it’s not because it is impossible to believe in something we do not see, but simply because how we have applied our thinking has not yet been sufficiently unbiased, comprehensive, and thorough. To come to clarity on this point, we must realize that human thinking, if it gets a strong inner grip on itself, can comprehend much more than we usually imagine it can. There is an inner entity inherent in thought itself that already has connections to the supersensible world. The soul is usually not aware of these connections because it is in the habit of developing its thinking abilities only by applying them to the sensory world. As a result, the soul finds information about the supersensible world incomprehensible. However, this information actually is understandable not only to a spiritually trained way of thinking, but to any thinking that is aware of its full power and is willing to make use of it.
By constantly making the statements of spiritual research our own, we become accustomed to thinking in a way that does not draw on sensory observations. We learn to recognize how thoughts interweave within the soul, how one thought seeks out another even when the connections between them are not brought about by the power of sensory observation. Here, the essential thing is that we become aware of the inner life of the thought world. We become aware that if we are truly thinking, we are already in the domain of a living supersensible world.
We realize that something within us is building up a thought-organism, and that we ourselves are one with this “something.” When we give ourselves up to sense-free thinking, we experience that something being-like is flowing into our inner life, just as the characteristics of sense-perceptible things flow into us through our physical organs when we observe by means of our senses.
Observers of the sense-perceptible world say to themselves: There is a rose in the space out there, and it is not strange to me because it makes itself known through its color and its smell. When sense-free thinking is at work in us, we only need to be sufficiently unbiased to have the corresponding thought: Something being-like that links one thought to another within me, forming a thoughtorganism, is making itself known to me.
However, there is a difference between the sensations we have of things we observe in the outer sensory world and our sensations of the inherent reality that makes itself known in sense-free thinking. People observing a rose feel that they are observing it from outside, while people devoting themselves to sense-free thinking feel that the inherent reality that is making itself known to them is present within them; they feel one with it. Of course those who can only bring themselves—either consciously or subconsciously—to acknowledge the existence of things that confront them in the way that external objects do will not be able to have the feeling that something being-like in character can make itself known through the fact that they feel one with it. In order to see correctly in this connection, we must be able to have this inner experience: We must learn to distinguish the connections between thoughts that we create freely and arbitrarily from the ones we experience within ourselves when we silence our personal arbitrary will. In the case of the latter, we may then acknowledge that while we ourselves are quite still and are not creating any connections between thoughts, we are giving ourselves up to what “thinks in us.” We are then as fully justified in saying that something being-like in character is working in us as we are in saying that the rose is working on us when we perceive a certain red color or a particular scent.
This is not contradicted by the fact that the contents of these particular thoughts of ours have been communicated to us by spiritual researchers. Although these thoughts are already present when we give ourselves up to them, it would be impossible for us to think them without recreating them anew in our souls in each single instance. In any case, the important point here is that when spiritual researchers awaken thoughts in their listeners and readers, these people must first draw these thoughts up out of themselves. In contrast, researchers who describe sense-perceptible realities point to things that their listeners and readers can observe in the world of the senses.
 (The path that leads us to sense-free thinking by means of information conveyed by spiritual science is absolutely reliable. However, there is another one that is even more reliable and, above all, more exact. It is presented in my books Goethe’s World View and Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path.6 These books present the knowledge human thinking can gain when it does not devote itself to the impressions of the external physical world of the senses, but only to itself. What is then at work is not the thinking that indulges only in memories of sense-perceptible things. It is pure thinking, which acts like a living entity within the human being. Although these books include none of the information conveyed by spiritual science, they demonstrate that pure thinking, working only within itself, is capable of unlocking the secrets of the universe, life, and the human being. These works constitute an important intermediate level between knowing the world of the senses and knowing the spiritual world. They present what thinking can gain by rising above sensory observation while not yet becoming involved in spiritual research. If we allow these books to work on our entire souls, we are already in the spiritual world, but it makes itself known to us as the world of thoughts. People who feel that they are in a position to allow an intermediate stage such as this to work on them are traveling a safe path. It will give them a feeling for the higher world that will bear the most beautiful fruit in all times to come.)
 To put it precisely, the goal of meditating on the symbolic mental images and feelings characterized above is to develop higher organs of perception within the human astral body. Initially, these organs are created out of the substance of the astral body. They inform us about a new world where we get to know ourselves as new I’s. These new perceptual organs are already different from those of the physical world of the senses in that they are active organs. Eyes and ears passively allow light and sound to work on them, but our perceptual organs of spirit and soul can be said to be constantly active during perception and grasp objects and facts in full consciousness, so to speak.
As a result, we experience soul-spiritual cognition as a process of uniting with the facts in question and “dwelling in them.”
Metaphorically speaking, these developing individual organs of soul and spirit can be called “lotus flowers,” because this corresponds to the imaginative picture supersensible consciousness has to make of them. (Of course, we must realize that this term has nothing more to do with the actual thing in question than the term chamber does when we speak of the “chambers” of the heart.) Through very specific types of meditation, we work on the astral body in such a way that one or the other soul-spiritual organ, or lotus flower, takes shape.
After everything that has been described in this book, it should be superfluous to mention that we must not imagine such an organ as something whose reality is reflected by our sensory mental image of it. These “organs” are supersensible and consist of soul activity that is shaped in a particular way. They exist only inasmuch and as long as this soul-activity is being exercised. There is nothing sense-perceptible about these organs, just as no “vapor” is present around a human being who is thinking. We fall into misunderstandings if we insist on imagining the supersensible as sense-perceptible in any way. Although this remark is quite superfluous, it is inserted here because we repeatedly encounter people who are convinced of the existence of the supersensible but try to imagine it only as something sense-perceptible. We also repeatedly encounter opponents of supersensible cognition who believe that spiritual researchers are speaking of “lotus flowers” as if they were talking about delicate sense-perceptible formations.
Any genuine meditation that is done with regard to imaginative cognition has an effect on one or the other of these organs. (Details on methods of meditation and exercises that influence specific organs may be found in my book How to Know Higher Worlds.) In any genuine training, the student’s individual exercises are set up and arranged in a sequence so that the organs can develop accordingly—either in conjunction with one another or one after the other. This training requires a great deal of patience and persistence on the student’s part. The usual amount of patience people acquire as a result of their situation in life is not sufficient, because it often takes a long, long time before these organs have developed enough to be used for perception in the higher world.
When this finally happens, it can be called “enlightenment,” in contrast to the period of preparation, or purification, that consists of exercises to develop the organs.
(The word purification is used here because these exercises purify a certain part of the student’s inner life, eliminating everything that comes exclusively from the world of sensory observation.)
It’s certainly possible for people who have not yet experienced actual enlightenment to receive repeated “flashes of light” from a higher world. Even such “flashes” allow them to bear witness to spiritual worlds and should be accepted with gratitude. But students should not waver if these flashes do not appear during the preparation period, which may seem unduly long. People who are still capable of becoming impatient because they “don’t see anything yet” have not yet acquired the right relationship to the higher world, a relationship understood only by those who are capable of seeing the training exercises as almost an end in themselves. In actual fact, these exercises are working on our soul-spiritual nature; that is, on the astral body. Even if we cannot “see,” we can feel that we are doing soul-spiritual work. The only possible reason for not being able to feel this is having a preconceived idea of what we are actually trying to “see.” In that case, we will think nothing of something that is actually immensely significant. However, we must be subtly attentive to all of our experiences while practicing, because they are so very different from all of our experiences in the world of the senses. We will then notice that we are not simply making impressions on the astral body as if it were some indifferent substance. There is a whole world in there that is different from the life our senses tell us about. Higher beings work on the astral body in the same way the outer physical world of the senses works on the physical body. We “bump into” the higher life in our own astral body if we do not close ourselves off to it, but if we repeatedly say to ourselves: “I don’t perceive anything,” it’s usually because we have preconceived ideas of how this perception is supposed to look. Because we are not seeing what we have convinced ourselves we ought to see, we say that we don’t see anything.
 However, once we have the right attitude about doing these training exercises, we will increasingly find something in them that we can love for its own sake. We will realize that the very act of practicing places us in the midst of a world of spirit and soul, and we will wait patiently and humbly for what may follow. This attitude can best become conscious in us in these words: I will do all the exercises that are suitable for me, knowing that at the right time, as much will come to me as is important for me to have. I do not demand this impatiently, but I am constantly preparing to receive it.
It is not legitimate to object that students of the spirit have to grope around in the dark indefinitely because success alone can show them that they are on the right path. It’s not true that this is the only way to know that we are doing the right exercises. If we take the right approach to our exercises, the satisfaction we gain will make it clear that we are doing the right thing. We do not have to wait for success to have this certainty. Appropriate practice in the field of spiritual training goes hand in hand with a satisfaction that is more than just satisfaction. It is also knowledge, the knowledge of being able to see that what we are doing is leading us in the right direction. We can have this knowledge at any time if we pay attention to the subtleties of what we are experiencing. If we do not, this experience escapes us and we pass it by like hikers lost in thought who fail to see the trees on either side of the trail, although they would be able to see them if they simply paid attention to them.
Success invariably does come if we continue to practice, and it is not at all desirable to force results to appear more quickly. If we did, the result might be only a small part of what actually should have appeared. With regard to spiritual development, partial success is often the reason for a great delay in achieving complete success. Moving among the forms of spiritual life that constitute partial success dulls us to the influences of forces that can lead to higher levels of development. We only appear to have gained something by having “seen into the spiritual world,” because seeing it in this way gives us deceptive images instead of the truth.
 As the soul-spiritual organs, or lotus flowers, take shape, they appear to supersensible consciousness to be located close to certain organs in the physical body of the person undergoing training. Of these soul organs, we may mention the following: the so-called two-petalled lotus flower that we feel as if between the eyebrows, the sixteen-petalled lotus flower in the area of the larynx, the twelve-petalled lotus flower in the area of the heart, and a fourth that is located near the solar plexus. Other such organs appear in the vicinity of other parts of the physical body. (The names two-petalled or sixteen-petalled can be used because the organs in question can be compared to flowers with a corresponding number of petals.)
 We become conscious of the lotus flowers through the astral body. As soon as we have developed one or the other of these organs, we are also aware that we have it.
We feel that we are able to make use of it and that in doing so we are actually entering a higher world. In many respects, our impressions of this world are still similar to impressions of the physical world of the senses. People with imaginative cognition will be able to speak of this new higher world in terms of sensations of warmth or cold, perceptions of sounds and words, and impressions of light or color, because that is how they experience it. However, they are aware that these perceptions express something different in the imaginative world than they do in the world of sense-perceptible reality. They realize that the causes underlying them are soul-spiritual rather than physical-material ones. If they receive something like an impression of warmth, they do not attribute it to a piece of hot iron, for example, but think of it as emanating from a soul process similar to the ones they had, until now, been familiar with only in their own soul life. They know that soul-spiritual things and processes stand behind these imaginative perceptions just as material, physical beings and realities stand behind physical perceptions.
Alongside the similarity between the imaginative and physical worlds, however, there is also a significant difference. One thing that is present in the physical world appears quite differently in the imaginative world. In the physical world, we can observe things constantly coming into existence and disappearing again; there is a constant alternation between birth and death. In the imaginative world, this phenomenon is replaced by the constant transformation of one thing into another. For example, in the physical world we see a plant die and decompose. In the imaginative world another configuration that is physically imperceptible comes about as the plant withers away. The decaying plant is gradually transformed into this other configuration. Once the plant has completely disappeared, this figure has developed fully and taken its place. Birth and death are ideas that lose their significance in the imaginative world. They are replaced by the concept of one thing being transformed into another.
Because of this, certain truths about our human makeup become accessible to imaginative cognition. These truths are the ones presented in chapter 2 of this book. As far as physical, sensory perception is concerned, only the processes of the physical body are perceptible. These are played out in the “domain of birth and death.” The other members of our human makeup—the life body, the sentient body, and the I—are subject to the laws of transformation and are perceptible to imaginative cognition.
Anyone who has advanced to this stage perceives how something that goes on living after death in another state of existence releases itself, so to speak, from the physical body at death.
 However, inner development does not stop at the level of the imaginative world. If we chose to stop here, we would perceive beings who are undergoing processes of transformation, but we would not be able to interpret these processes, nor would we be able to orient ourselves in this newly won world. The imaginative world is a restless region, full of movement and transformation; there are no resting places in it. We reach such resting places only by developing beyond the level of imaginative cognition to what can be called cognition through inspiration.
It is not necessary for those seeking knowledge about the supersensible world to acquire the faculty of imaginative cognition to its fullest extent before moving on to inspiration. Their exercises may be arranged so that what leads to imagination develops parallel to what leads to inspiration. After the appropriate amount of time, these students will enter a higher world where, in addition to being able to perceive, they will also be able to orient themselves and interpret what they see. Typically, however, they first perceive some of the phenomena of the imaginative world and only later feel that they are gaining the ability to orient themselves.
Compared to the world of mere imagination, however, the world of inspiration is something totally new.
Through imagination, we perceive the transformation of one process into another, but through inspiration we become familiar with the inner qualities of the beings who are undergoing transformation. Through imagination, we recognize the soul expression of these beings, but through inspiration we penetrate their inner spiritual nature.
Above all, we recognize a multitude of spiritual beings and the relationships between them. In the physical world of the senses, we are also dealing with a multitude of different beings, but the multitude in the world of inspiration is different in character. There, each being’s very specific relationships to others are determined by its inner makeup rather than by external influences as is the case in the physical world. When we perceive a being in the world of inspiration, we do not perceive any outer effect it might have on another—that is, any effect comparable to how physical beings affect each other. Instead, the relationship between beings comes about through how they are each inwardly constituted.
In the physical world, this relationship can be compared to the relationship between individual sounds or letters in a word. Let’s take the word human. It is brought about by the combined sounding of the speech sounds h-u-m-a-n.
Although there is no impetus or other external influence connecting the h to the u, the two sounds work together within the totality because of how they are inwardly constituted. For this reason, observing the world of inspiration can only be compared to reading, and beings in this world are like letters of the alphabet in how they affect observers. We must become familiar with these letters and decipher their interrelationships like supersensible writing. This is why spiritual science also calls cognition through inspiration “reading the hidden script.” How this hidden script is read and how what has been read can be communicated will now be made clear using previous chapters of this book as examples.
 The first thing described was how the makeup of the human being consists of different components. Next, it was shown how the cosmic body on which human beings evolve has passed through various conditions during the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth phases of evolution. The perceptions that allow us to recognize the members of our human makeup on the one hand, and the Earth’s successive stages and earlier metamorphoses on the other, are perceptible to imaginative cognition.
However, it is also necessary to recognize the connections that exist between the Saturn state and the physical human body, the Sun state and the ether body, and so on.
It must be possible to demonstrate that the seminal nucleus of the physical human body came about already during the Saturn state, and that it then continued to evolve during the Sun, Moon, and Earth states until it reached its present form. For example, it was necessary to show what changes took place in the human being as a result of the separation of the Sun from the Earth, and that something similar happened in relation to the Moon. It was also necessary to describe the interactions that were needed for the transformations in humanity that occurred during the Atlantean age and the successive periods of the Indian, Persian, and Egyptian cultures, and so on.
Depicting these connections does not result from imaginative perception, but from cognition through inspiration, from reading the “hidden script” in which imaginative perceptions are like letters or sounds. This sort of reading, however, is needed for other things in addition to explaining what has been described above. We would not be able to understand the whole course of a human life if we were able to look at it only through imaginative cognition. If we were not able to orient ourselves within our imaginative perceptions, we would perceive how the soul-spiritual members are released from what remains behind in the physical world at death, but we would not understand the connections between what happens after a person’s death and the states that precede and follow. Without cognition through inspiration, the imaginative world would remain like writing that we stare at without being able to read.
 When we advance from imagination to inspiration as students of the spirit, it becomes evident very quickly how wrong it would be to renounce understanding the great phenomena of the cosmos and to attempt to restrict ourselves only to facts that touch upon immediate human interests, so to speak. Those who are not initiated into these things might well say, “It seems to me that the only important thing is to find out what the fate of the human soul is after death. If someone tells me about that, that’s enough. Why does spiritual science tell me about distant things like the Saturn and Sun states and the separation of the Sun and Moon from the Earth?” However, if we have been introduced to these things in the right way, we realize that we can never really know what we want to know if we do not also know about these other things that seem so unnecessary. Any description of the human condition after death will remain completely incomprehensible and worthless if we cannot link it to concepts derived from those distant things. Even the simplest supersensible observation makes it necessary to know about such things.
For example, when a plant passes from the flowering stage to the fruiting stage, supersensible observers see a transformation taking place in an astral entity that covers and surrounds the flowering plant like a cloud coming from above. If fertilization did not take place, this astral entity would metamorphose into a form quite different from the one it assumes as a result of fertilization. We can understand this whole process as supersensible observation perceives it if we have learned to understand its nature from the great cosmic process undergone by the Earth and all its inhabitants at the time when the Sun separated from the Earth. Before fertilization, the plant’s situation is like that of the whole Earth prior to the Sun’s detachment.
After fertilization, the plant’s flower resembles the Earth when the Moon forces were still active in it after the Sun had detached itself. If we have personally acquired the ideas that can be gained from studying the Sun’s detachment, we will then objectively perceive the meaning of the process of fertilization in the plant. We will say that the plant is in a sun state before fertilization and in a moon state afterward. Even the very smallest processes in the world can only be understood if we see them as copies of great cosmic processes. Otherwise their nature remains just as incomprehensible as Raphael’s Madonna would be to someone who saw only a little speck of blue because the rest of the picture was covered up.
Everything that is now happening in the human being is a copy of all the great cosmic processes that have to do with our existence. If we want to understand what supersensible consciousness observes about phenomena taking place between birth and death and those taking place between death and a new birth, we will be able to do so if we have acquired the ability to decipher imaginative observations by means of concepts acquired from the study of macrocosmic processes. This study provides us with a key for understanding human life. This is why, in the sense of spiritual science, we are also observing the human being when we observe the Saturn, Sun, and Moon states.
 Through inspiration, we acquire the ability to recognize the relationships between beings in the higher world. The next higher stage of cognition makes it possible to recognize the actual inner nature of these beings. This level of cognition can be called “intuitive cognition.” (The word intuition is misused in everyday life to mean an indefinite, uncertain insight into something; although it may coincide at times with the truth, we cannot prove that this sudden insight is justifiable. What is meant here, of course, has nothing to do with an “intuition” of that sort. Here, the term intuition is used to designate a cognitive process of the highest degree of light-filled clarity. If we have it, we are fully conscious of its justification.)
To have knowledge of a sense-perceptible being means to stand outside it and assess it according to external impressions. To have knowledge of a spiritual being through intuition means having become completely at one with it, having united with its inner nature. Students of the spirit rise to this level of knowledge step by step.
Imagination brings us to the point where we no longer feel that perceptions are external qualities of beings; instead, we recognize in them the emanations of something that is soul-spiritual in character. Inspiration leads us still further into the inner nature of beings and teaches us to understand what these beings are for each other. In intuition, we penetrate into the beings themselves.
Here too we can use the accounts in this book to demonstrate the significance of intuition. The preceding chapter not only told how development proceeded through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon phases of evolution, and so on, it also informed us that beings were involved in this development in a great variety of ways. The thrones, or Spirits of Will, the Spirits of Wisdom, the Spirits of Movement, and others were all introduced. In the Earth phase of evolution, the Luciferic and Ahrimanic spirits were mentioned. The structure of the cosmos was traced back to the beings involved in it. We can learn about these beings through intuitive cognition, something we already need if we want to understand even the course of a human life. In the time after death, what has freed itself from the physical, bodily aspect of the human being passes through various states. Imaginative cognition would still be more or less able to describe the states immediately following death. However, what happens when a human being advances further into the period between death and a new birth would remain totally incomprehensible to imagination if inspiration were not added to it. Only inspiration is able to discover what can be said about human life after purification in the “land of spirits.” However, inspiration is no longer adequate for the next stage; it loses the thread of understanding at this point, so to speak. There is a period in human development between death and a new birth when the human being is accessible only to intuition.
However, this part of the human being is always within us, and if we want to understand it in its true inner nature, we must also use intuition to seek it out in the time between birth and death. If we attempted to understand the human being exclusively by means of imagination and inspiration, the processes that belong to this innermost being and play from one incarnation into the next would elude us. Therefore, only intuitive cognition makes it possible for us to objectively investigate repeated earthly lives and karma. All the truths that can be communicated about these processes must result from research that makes use of intuitive cognition. Knowledge of the inner being within us can also come only from intuition.
Through intuition, we perceive the aspect of ourselves that progresses from one earthly life to another.
 Exercises for the soul and spirit are the only way we can achieve the knowledge that comes from inspiration and intuition. These exercises are similar to the contemplations or meditations described for acquiring imagination.
However, while these exercises that lead to imagination are linked to impressions of the physical world of the senses, this link must increasingly disappear in exercises that lead to inspiration. To clarify what has to happen, let’s think again about the symbol of the rose cross. By immersing ourselves in it, we have an image before us whose components are taken from impressions of the sensory world — the black color of the cross, the roses, and so on.
However, the way these components are combined into the rose cross is not derived from the physical world of the senses. If we attempt to eliminate the black cross and red roses from our consciousness as images of sensory realities and retain in our souls only the spiritual activity that combined them, then we have a means of meditation that will gradually lead to inspiration.
Within our souls, we should ask: What have I done inwardly in order to combine the cross and roses into this symbol? I want to hold fast to what I have done, to the personal soul process I have undergone, but to allow the image itself to disappear from my consciousness. I will feel everything within me that my soul did in order to bring the image about, but I will not picture the image itself. From this point onward, I will dwell quite inwardly in the activity of mine that created the image. Instead of meditating on an image, I will become absorbed in my own image-creating soul activity.
Such absorption, if carried out repeatedly with regard to many symbols, will lead to cognition through inspiration.
Here is another example: We meditate on the mental image of a plant that first grows and then decays. We allow an image to come about in our souls of a gradually developing plant as it emerges from the seed, as one leaf after another unfolds, as flowers and fruit develop. Then we picture how the plant begins to wilt; we follow this process to the point of complete dissolution. As we meditate on this image, we gradually arrive at a feeling of becoming and decaying for which the plant is only an image. When we persevere at this exercise, this feeling develops into an imagination of the process of transformation that underlies physical becoming and decay. However, if we want to achieve the corresponding inspiration, we must do the exercise differently. We must reflect on the actual soul activity that derived the idea of becoming and decay from the image of the plant. We must allow the plant to disappear completely from our consciousness and meditate only on our own inner activity. Only exercises of this sort make it possible to rise to the level of inspiration.
Initially, it will not be easy to get a thorough grasp of how to approach such an exercise, because if we are in the habit of allowing our inner life to be determined by outer impressions, we immediately become uncertain and start to vacillate when we have to develop another soul life that has cast off all its connections to these outer impressions. To an even greater degree than in acquiring imaginations, it must be clear to us that we should only undertake exercises that lead to inspiration if we are willing to accompany them with all the precautionary measures that will safeguard and solidify our power of judgment, our feeling life, and our character. Taking these precautions has two results. First, our personalities will not become unbalanced during supersensible perception; second, we will acquire the ability to really carry out what these exercises demand of us. We will find these exercises difficult only as long as we have not acquired a certain very specific soul makeup, very specific feelings and sensations. If we patiently and persistently cultivate inner faculties in our souls that favor the growth of supersensible cognition, we will soon acquire not only an understanding of these exercises but also the ability to actually do them.
We will gain much by acquiring a habit of often withdrawing into ourselves in a way that is less concerned with brooding about ourselves than with quietly organizing and digesting our experiences in life. We will find that our ideas and feelings are enriched by bringing one experience into relationship with another. We will become aware to what a great extent we experience new things not only by having new impressions and encounters but also by allowing the old ones to work in us. If we begin to allow the experiences and even the opinions we have acquired to interact as if we ourselves with all our sympathies and antipathies and personal interests and feelings were not even present, we will prepare the ground well for the forces of supersensible cognition.
We will truly develop what we can call a rich inner life.
However, the most important thing in this regard is the stability and balance of our soul qualities. In devoting ourselves to a certain soul activity, we tend to fall into onesidedness all too easily. As a result, if we once become aware of the advantages of inner reflection and dwelling in our own world of ideas, we may develop such an inclination toward this that we increasingly shut ourselves off from the impressions of the outer world. This, however, makes our inner life dry and desolate.
We will go the farthest if, alongside the ability to retreat into ourselves, we preserve our open receptivity to all impressions of the outer world. This does not apply only to life’s so-called important impressions. Any individual in any situation, even in the most miserable surroundings, can experience enough simply by remaining open and receptive. We do not need to go looking for experiences; they are everywhere.
It is also especially important how we transform these experiences in our souls. For example, we might make the discovery that someone we or others greatly admire has a certain character trait we would have to consider a shortcoming. This experience can lead our thinking in one of two directions. We could simply say: Now that I’ve realized this, I can no longer respect this person the way I used to.” Or we could ask ourselves: “How is it possible for this respected person to be afflicted with this particular fault? What must I do to imagine this fault not only as a shortcoming, but as something caused by this person’s life or perhaps even by his or her great qualities?” If we were to ask ourselves these questions, we might come to the conclusion that our respect is in no way diminished by having observed this shortcoming. Every time we come to such a conclusion, we learn something and increase our understanding of life.
Now it would certainly be a bad thing if the merits of this way of looking at life were to mislead us into excusing everything possible in people or things that have our sympathy, or if we were to acquire a habit of disregarding everything that deserves criticism on the grounds that doing so is advantageous for our inner development. This is not the case when the impulse not only to censure but also to understand the faults comes from our own motivations; however, it is advantageous if the instance at hand elicits this attitude regardless of whether we who judge stand to gain or lose by it. It is absolutely correct that we cannot learn by condemning a fault, but only by understanding it. However, if we want to exclude disapproval entirely for the sake of understanding, we will not get far either. Once again, the important thing is stability and balance in our soul forces, not onesidedness in one direction or another.
This is particularly true of one soul quality that is exceptionally significant for individual development, namely the feeling we call reverence or devotion. This feeling, whether we develop it in ourselves or already possess it as a fortunate gift of nature, forms an excellent basis for supersensible powers of cognition. Being able to look up to certain people in our childhood and youth with devoted admiration in the same way that we would look up to high ideals means that supersensible cognition will find fertile ground in our souls where it can thrive. Later on in life, when our judgment has matured, if we look up at the starry heavens and sense the revelation of higher powers with complete devotion and admiration, we are preparing ourselves for knowledge of supersensible worlds, and this is also true when we are able to appreciate the forces that prevail in human life. It is of no little significance if as adults we are still able to have the highest degree of reverence for other people whose worth we surmise or believe to recognize. Only when such reverence is present can a view into the higher worlds open up.
If we are not capable of reverence, we will never advance very far in our knowledge. If we do not want to acknowledge the worth of anything in the world, the essence of things will remain closed to us.
In contrast, however, if our feelings of reverence and devotion tempt us to totally kill off our healthy selfawareness and self-confidence, we sin against the law of soul stability and balance. Students of the spirit will work on themselves continually to make themselves ever more mature, but when they do so, they are also permitted to be confident in their individual personalities and in their continuing growth. If we achieve the right feelings along these lines, we will say to ourselves: There are latent forces within me, and I am capable of bringing them up out of my inner being. Therefore, wherever I see something I must honor because it is superior to me, not only must I honor it, but I may also trust myself to develop everything within me that will make me similar to it.
 The greater our ability to be attentive to certain processes in life that are not immediately familiar to our personal judgment, the greater the possibility of laying the foundations for leading our development into the spiritual worlds. An example may illustrate this: Individuals may find themselves in a situation in life where they can either do something or leave it undone. Their judgment says: Do it; but there is still a certain inexplicable something in their feelings that keeps them from doing whatever it is.
They can choose to pay no attention to this inexplicable something and simply do whatever their powers of judgment suggest. However, they can also give in to the urging of the inexplicable and refrain from going through with the action in question. If they then follow up the matter further, it may become evident that the results would have been disastrous if they had followed their judgment, and that it was a blessing that they refrained from that particular action. An experience like this can guide our thinking in a very specific direction, allowing us to recognize that there is something in us that guides us better than the degree of judgment we possess at present. We need to be open-minded about this “something” within us, which we are not mature enough to reach through our faculty of judgment.
It is of the greatest possible benefit for the soul to pay attention to such instances in life, because they provide a healthy premonition that there is more in us than we can survey with our power of judgment at any given time.
Such attentiveness works to expand our soul life. Once again, however, it is also possible for serious onesidedness to result. If we got into the habit of always disregarding our judgment because of “premonitions” impelling us to do this or that, we might become the playthings of all sorts of undefined urges. It is a short step from a habit of this sort to lack of judgment and superstition.
For students of the spirit, superstition of any sort is disastrous. It becomes possible for us to truly make our way into the domains of spiritual life only if we carefully guard ourselves against superstition, fantastic ideas, and daydreaming. We do not enter the spiritual world in the right way if we rejoice at every opportunity to experience something “that cannot be grasped by the human mind.”
A preference for the inexplicable certainly does not make anyone a student of the spirit. We must break ourselves of the biased habit of thinking that mystics are those who “assume the existence of the inexplicable and the unfathomable” wherever they please. For students of the spirit, the appropriate attitude is to acknowledge the presence of hidden forces and beings everywhere, but also to assume that the unfathomable can be successfully investigated if the necessary forces are available.
 A certain soul disposition is important to students of the spirit at every level of development. It consists not in expressing their desire for knowledge in a one-sided way, constantly asking how one question or another may be answered, but by asking how they can develop certain faculties. Once these faculties have developed through patient inner work, the answers to these questions appear by themselves. Students of the spirit will always cultivate this soul disposition in themselves. This leads them to constantly work on themselves, to make themselves ever more mature, and to relinquish the desire to force answers to certain questions. They will wait until such answers come to them.
Once again, if we become one-sided in this respect, we will not make much progress. At certain times, students of the spirit can also have the feeling that they themselves are able to answer the most exalted questions with the forces currently at their disposal. Here, too, steadiness and balance in our soul disposition play an important role.
 It is helpful to cultivate and develop many more soul qualities if we are attempting to achieve inspiration through doing such exercises. Each of these qualities could be described individually, but in each case it would have to be emphasized that steadiness and balance are the all-important soul qualities. They prepare us to understand and to be able to carry out the exercises that have been described as necessary for achieving inspiration.
 The exercises for achieving intuition require students of the spirit to extinguish from consciousness not only the images to which they devoted themselves in attaining imagination, but also the life of their own soul activity, which they contemplated in acquiring inspiration. Literally nothing must remain in their souls from any previously known outer or inner experiences. However, if there were nothing in their consciousness after discarding these experiences—that is, if their consciousness disappeared and they sank into unconsciousness—they would realize that they had not yet matured enough to be able to undertake exercises to develop intuition, and they would have to continue the exercises for imagination and inspiration. Eventually, however, there comes a time when our consciousness is not empty when the soul casts off its inner and outer experiences, but something remains as an effect. It then becomes possible for us to give ourselves up to this effect, just as we previously gave ourselves up to something that owed its existence to outer or inner impressions. This residual effect is nevertheless very specific in character. In comparison to all our previous experiences, it is something really new. When we experience it, we know that this is something we were not familiar with before. It is a perception, just as an actual sound is a perception when our ears hear it. This new perception, however, is something that can only enter our consciousness through intuition, just as sound can only enter our consciousness through our ears. Intuition strips our impressions of their last sensory, physical remnants, and the spiritual world begins to be apparent to our cognition in a form that no longer has anything in common with the characteristics of the physical world of the senses.
 Imaginative cognition is achieved when the lotus flowers develop out of the astral body. Through the exercises we undertake in order to reach inspiration and intuition, specific movements, configurations, and currents that were not there before appear in our ether body or life body.
These are the organs that allow us to acquire the ability to read the “hidden script” and what lies beyond it. The changes in the ether body of a person who has achieved inspiration and intuition present themselves to supersensible cognition as follows: A new center in the ether body, located approximately in the area of the physical heart, becomes conscious and develops into an etheric organ. A great variety of movements and currents run from it to the various parts of the human body. The most important of these currents go to the lotus flowers, permeating them and their individual petals, and then pour out like rays into external space. The more highly developed the person in question, the larger the surrounding area where these currents are perceptible.
In a genuine training, however, this center in the area of the heart does not develop immediately. First, the way is prepared for it. A temporary center appears in the head, which then slips down to the vicinity of the larynx and then moves into the area of the physical heart. In an abnormal development, the organ in question might form immediately in the vicinity of the heart. In this case, instead of achieving supersensible perception calmly and objectively, the person in question would be in danger of becoming a visionary and a fanatic.
As students of the spirit develop further, they learn how to take the currents and differentiations that have developed in the ether body, make them independent of the physical body, and use them independently. In this process, the lotus flowers are used as tools for moving the ether body. Before this can happen, however, certain currents and rays must have formed all around the ether body, closing it off as if in a delicate network and making it a selfcontained entity. Once this has happened, nothing hinders the movements and currents taking place in the ether body from coming into contact with the external world of soul and spirit, so that outer soul-spiritual events and inner ones taking place in the human ether body intermingle. At this point, such a person consciously perceives the world of inspiration. Cognition of this sort does not appear in the same way as the cognition that applies to the physical world of the senses. In the sensory world, we receive perceptions through our senses and then form mental images and concepts about them. This is not the case when we know about something through inspiration. What we know there is immediately present in a single action; there is no such thing as thinking about a perception after it occurs. In inspiration, what we acquire in the form of a concept after the fact in sensory, physical cognition is presented simultaneously with the perception. This is why we would flow into and merge with the surrounding world of soul and spirit and be unable to distinguish ourselves from it if we had not developed the network in the ether body that has just been described.
 When we do the exercises that lead to intuition, they not only affect the ether body but also work into the supersensible forces of the physical body. We must not imagine, however, that the effects within the physical body are accessible to our ordinary sense perception. They can only be assessed by means of supersensible cognition and have nothing to do with external cognition. They are a result of consciousness maturing to the point where it is able to have intuitive experiences even after having excluded all previous outer and inner experiences.
Intuitive experiences, however, are tender, subtle, and delicate. At its present stage of evolution, the physical human body is coarse in comparison to them and presents a major obstacle to the success of intuition exercises. But if these exercises are carried out with energy, persistence, and the necessary inner tranquillity, they eventually overcome the mighty obstacles presented by the physical body. Students of the spirit notice that this has happened when they gain control over certain expressions of the physical body that formerly occurred completely unconsciously. They may notice it also because they feel the need to regulate their breathing, for example, for short periods of time so that it harmonizes with what their souls are doing in these exercises or other meditations. In inner development, the ideal is to not perform any exercises, including breathing exercises of this sort, by means of the physical body itself. Instead, everything that needs to happen with regard to the physical body should come about only as a consequence of pure intuition exercises.
 At a certain level in their ascent along the path to worlds of higher cognition, students of the spirit notice that the forces of their personalities are being held together differently than they are in the physical world of the senses. In the physical world, the I makes the soul forces of thinking, feeling, and willing work together in a unified way; under the ordinary circumstances of our lives, these three soul forces always relate to each other in specific ways.
For example, we see something in the outer world, and our souls like it or dislike it—that is, the mental image of the thing is necessarily followed by a feeling of liking or disliking. We may desire the thing in question or have an impulse to change it in one way or another. This means that our will and our ability to desire something are associated with an idea and a feeling. This happens because the I unites visualizing (thinking), feeling, and willing, thus bringing order into the forces of the personality. This healthy order would be disrupted if the I were to prove powerless in this respect—if our desires wanted to take a different direction from our feeling or thinking, for example. Thinking that a certain thing is right while wanting to do something that we do not think is right, or wanting what we dislike instead of what we like, would not indicate a healthy state of mind.
On the path toward higher cognition, however, we actually notice that thinking, feeling, and willing separate and acquire a certain independence from each other—for example, that certain thoughts no longer seem to automatically impel us toward a specific way of feeling and willing. At this point, although in thinking we can perceive something correctly, we again require an independent impulse coming from ourselves in order to come to any feeling or willed decision about it. During supersensible observation, thinking, feeling, and willing do not remain three forces radiating from their common center in the I of the person in question. They become independent beings—three separate personalities, so to speak. The individual I must become that much stronger, because rather than simply having to impose order on three forces, it must now guide and direct three beings. This separation, however, should persist only as long as supersensible observation continues. Here again it becomes apparent how important it is for exercises leading to higher training to be accompanied by ones that provide stability and firmness for our capacity for judgment and our life of feeling and will. If we do not bring these qualities with us into the higher world, we will soon see that the I proves too weak to act as an appropriate guide for thinking, feeling, and willing. In this case, the soul is torn apart in different directions by three personalities, so to speak, and its inner unity comes to an end. But if a student’s development proceeds in the right way, the transformation of these forces signifies true progress, and the I retains its mastery over the independent beings that now make up the soul.
In the further course of personal development, this evolution continues. Thinking, having become independent, stimulates the appearance of a fourth specific soul-spiritual being that can be described as a direct influx of thought-like currents into the human being. The entire cosmos then appears as a thought structure that confronts us just as the world of plants or animals confronts us in the physical domain of the senses. Similarly, our newly independent feeling and willing stimulate two forces in the soul that also act like independent beings within it.
Still a seventh force and being appears, which is similar to our own I.
 This whole experience is linked to another one. Before entering the supersensible world, we know our thinking, feeling, and willing only as inner soul experiences. As soon as we enter this world, we perceive things that express the element of soul and spirit rather than the physical, sensory element. There are now beings of soul and spirit standing behind the perceived qualities of this new world and presenting themselves to us as an outer world in the same way that stones, plants, and animals present themselves to our senses in the physical domain.
Students of the spirit can perceive a significant difference between the world that is now disclosing itself to them and the one they were accustomed to perceiving with their senses. A plant in the world of the senses remains the same regardless of what the human soul feels or thinks about it. Initially, this is not the case with the images of the world of soul and spirit. They change according to what we feel or think. We imprint a certain character on them in accordance with our own essence.
Let’s imagine that a certain image appears in the imaginative world in front of us. It shows itself in one form if our souls remain indifferent to it, but as soon as we experience liking or disliking with regard to this image, it changes its form. To begin with, therefore, these images not only express something independent of and external to us but also reflect what we are. They are thoroughly permeated with our own human essence, which is drawn over the beings in question like a veil. Even when we are confronted by a real being, we see something of our own creation instead of the being itself. We can actually have something totally true in front of us and still see something false. And this is not only the case with regard to the aspects of our essential nature that we actually notice in ourselves, but everything else in us also influences this world in the same way. For example, we may have hidden tendencies that do not become evident in our life because of our education and character, but they do influence the world of spirit and soul, which assumes a particular coloration as a result of the total being of each one of us, regardless of how much we ourselves know or do not know about this essential being.
To advance beyond this level of development, we must learn to distinguish between ourselves and the spiritual outer world. We must learn to exclude all the effects of the individual self on the world of soul and spirit around us. The only way we can do this is by knowing about what we ourselves bring into this new world. The important thing, therefore, is that we must first have a true and thorough knowledge of ourselves so that we can perceive the surrounding world of soul and spirit in a pure way. It is inherent in certain facts of human inner development that knowing ourselves in this way takes place quite naturally and as a matter of necessity when we enter the higher world.
As we know, we each develop our I, our self-awareness, in the ordinary physical world of the senses. This I now acts as a center of attraction for everything that belongs to the human individual. All our inclinations, sympathies, antipathies, passions, opinions, and so on gather around this I, as it were, which is also the point of attraction for everything we call an individual’s karma. If we were to see this I exposed, we would recognize its need to encounter specific forms of destiny in this and subsequent incarnations, according to how it lived in earlier incarnations and what it acquired there. With all of this clinging to it, the I is necessarily the first image that appears to the human soul ascending into the world of soul and spirit. According to a law of the spiritual world, this double of ours must be the very first impression we receive there. This underlying law becomes easily understandable if we consider the following: In our physical, sensory life we perceive ourselves only to the extent that we have inner experiences of ourselves in our thinking, feeling, and willing. However, these perceptions are inner ones that do not present themselves to us in the same way that stones, plants, and animals present themselves. In addition, we also become only partially familiar with ourselves through inner perception because something within us prevents deeper self-knowledge. What prevents this is an impulse to immediately transform any character trait if self-knowledge forces us to acknowledge it and we do not want to succumb to self-deception.
 If we do not give in to this impulse, if we simply divert our attention from this aspect of ourselves and remain the way we are, we deprive ourselves of the possibility of getting to know ourselves on this particular point. But if we delve into ourselves and hold up certain character traits for inspection without deceiving ourselves, either we will be in a position to correct them or we will be unable to do so in our present situation. In this latter instance, a feeling that we must describe as “shame” creeps into our souls.
This is how healthy human nature actually works—it experiences many different types of shame in the process of self-knowledge. Now, this feeling already has a very specific effect even in our ordinary life. People with sound thinking will make sure that the aspects of themselves that give them this feeling have no outer effects, that they are not played out in outer actions. Shame, therefore, is a force that impels us to conceal something within us and not allow it to become outwardly perceptible.
If we give this due consideration, we will understand why spiritual research ascribes much more wide-ranging effects to an inner soul experience that is very closely related to the feeling of shame. This research reveals a type of hidden shame in the hidden depths of the soul, a shame that we do not become conscious of in our physical, sensory life. However, this hidden feeling works in a way that is similar to how the ordinary feeling of shame works in everyday life—it prevents a person’s innermost being from appearing to that person as a perceptible image. If this feeling were not there, we would confront a perception of what we are in truth. We would not only have inner experiences of our ideas, feelings, and will; we would also perceive them just as we perceive stones, animals, and plants. This feeling conceals us from ourselves, and at the same time it conceals the entire world of soul and spirit, because the fact that our own inner being is concealed from us means that we are also unable to perceive the means of developing tools for recognizing the world of soul and spirit. We are unable to transform our own being to receive the organs of spiritual perception.
However, if we work toward acquiring these organs through genuine training, the first impression that appears to us is an impression of what we ourselves are. We each perceive our own double. This self-perception cannot be separated from perceiving the rest of the world of soul and spirit. In ordinary life in the physical, sensory world, the effect of the feeling described above is that it constantly closes the door of the soul-spiritual world in our faces. If we want to take even a single step toward entering this world, this subconscious feeling of shame immediately appears and conceals the part of the world of soul and spirit that wants to become evident. The exercises that were described earlier, however, open this world to us. And in fact, this concealed feeling acts like a great benefactor of human beings, because any powers of judgment, feeling life, or character we acquire without spiritual scientific training do not make us capable of standing up to the perception of our own nature in its true form without further preparation. Perceiving this would deprive us of all of our self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-awareness. We need to take precautionary measures in cultivating our sound judgment, feeling life, and character in addition to doing the exercises for higher knowledge in order to ensure that this does not happen. Through proper training, we learn, as if unintentionally, enough spiritual science and the necessary means of self-knowledge and self-observation to have sufficient strength to encounter our double.
For students of the spirit, it is then like seeing what they have already learned in the physical world in another form, as a picture of the imaginative world. If we have already acquired a rational grasp of the law of karma in the physical world, we will not be unduly shaken by seeing the seeds of our destiny imprinted on the image of our double. If we have used our powers of judgment to become familiar with the evolution of the cosmos and of humankind, and if we know that at a certain point in this evolution the forces of Lucifer invaded the human soul, it will not be difficult for us to bear it when we become aware that Luciferic beings and all their influences are contained in this image of our own essential nature.
We see from this how necessary it is that we not demand to enter the spiritual world ourselves before we have understood certain truths about this world through the ordinary powers of judgment that we develop in the physical world of the senses. Before wanting to actually enter the supersensible worlds, students of the spirit should make their own the information in this book that precedes the discussion of knowing higher worlds. In the course of a legitimate self-development process, they should do this on the basis of their ordinary powers of judgment.
 In a training that does not pay attention to safeguarding and solidifying the power of judgment, their life of feeling and their character, it could happen that the higher world would approach the students before they had the necessary inner faculties. If this happened, encountering their doubles would depress them and lead them into errors. If, however, human beings avoided this encounter entirely and were nevertheless led into the supersensible world—which would also be possible—they would be equally incapable of recognizing this world in its true form. It would be totally impossible for them to distinguish between what they themselves were projecting onto things and what these things really were. It is only possible to make this distinction if we perceive our own essence as an image in itself. If we do so, everything flowing from our own inner nature detaches itself from what surrounds it.
In our life in the physical world of the senses, the double immediately makes itself invisible by means of the sense of shame described above when we approach the world of soul and spirit. Simultaneously, however, the double also conceals this entire world. It stands like a guardian in front of that world, refusing entry to anyone not yet suitable for entering. The double can therefore be called “the guardian of the threshold to the world of soul and spirit.” We encounter this guardian of the threshold not only when we enter the supersensible world in the way described but also when we enter it through physical death. The guardian reveals itself gradually in the course of our soul-spiritual development between death and a new birth. In this case, however, we are not oppressed by this encounter because we know about worlds we did not know about during life between birth and death.
 If we were to enter the world of soul and spirit without encountering the guardian of the threshold, we would succumb to one deception after another, because we would never be able to distinguish between what we ourselves were bringing into this world and what really belongs to it. Genuine training, however, is only permitted to lead students of the spirit into the domain of truth and not into the domain of illusion. It is inherent in this training that the encounter with the guardian must take place at some point, since it is an indispensable precautionary measure against the deception and illusory fantasy that are possible when we are observing supersensible worlds.
One of the most indispensable precautions all students of the spirit must take as individuals is to work carefully on themselves to avoid becoming delusional visionaries who may succumb to deception and autosuggestion.
Whenever instructions for spiritual training are followed correctly, the potential sources of deception are destroyed. Of course this is not the place to go into all the numerous details that have to be considered with regard to these precautions; only the most important points can be indicated here. The deceptions that come into consideration here come from two sources. Some of them come from the fact that we color reality with our own soul nature. In ordinary life in the physical world of the senses, this source of deception poses relatively little danger, because there the outer world always forces itself upon our observations in its actual form, regardless of how we might attempt to color it with our desires and interests.
But as soon as we enter the imaginative world, the images we perceive change because of these desires and interests of ours, and we confront a seeming reality that we have shaped ourselves, or have at least contributed to shaping.
Through encountering the guardian of the threshold, students of the spirit become familiar with everything that is within them that they might carry into the world of soul and spirit. This eliminates the first source of deception.
The preparation that students undergo before entering the world of soul and spirit accustoms them to disregarding themselves even when observing the physical world of the senses, allowing only the essence of things and events to speak to them. If we have prepared thoroughly enough, we can wait calmly to encounter the guardian of the threshold. This encounter will be the ultimate test of whether we are really also in a position to exclude our own being when we face the world of soul and spirit.
 In addition to this, still another source of deceptions appears when we misinterpret an impression we receive.
A simple example of this type of deception in our physical, sensory life is what happens when we sit in a train and think that the trees are moving in the opposite direction, while we ourselves are actually moving with the train.
Although in many cases such deceptions in the physical world of the senses are more difficult to correct than this simple one, it is easy to see that in this world we find the means to do away with such deceptions if our sound judgment takes everything into account that can contribute to an appropriate explanation. The situation is different, of course, as soon as we make our way into supersensible domains. In the world of the senses, facts do not change when human beings are deceived, so it is possible for unbiased observation to use the facts to correct the deception. In the supersensible world, however, the matter is not that simple. If we apply false judgments in approaching a supersensible process we are trying to observe, we insert these false judgments into the process itself, where they become so entangled with actual fact that it is not immediately possible to distinguish them from the fact. In this case, the error is not inside us and the correct fact outside; our error has become a component of the external fact and can therefore not be corrected simply by observing the fact in an unbiased way. With this, we have pointed to a superabundant source of possible deceptions and illusory fantasies for those who approach the supersensible world without the right preparation.
Just as students of the spirit acquire the ability to exclude deceptions that come about because of how their own nature colors supersensible phenomena, they must also acquire the gift of inactivating this second source of deception. They become able to exclude what comes from themselves once they have recognized the image of their own double, and they will be able to exclude this second source of deception once they have acquired the ability to recognize from the makeup of a supersensible fact whether it is the truth or a deception. If deceptions looked exactly the same as facts, it would be impossible to distinguish between them, but this is not the case. In the supersensible worlds, deceptions have inherent qualities that distinguish them from realities. It is essential for students of the spirit to know which qualities distinguish the realities.
It seems self-evident that someone unacquainted with spiritual training might ask, “How is there any possibility of protecting ourselves against deception, since there are so many sources of it? And are students of the spirit ever certain that all their so-called higher knowledge is not based only on deception and autosuggestion?” Anyone who talks like this is not taking into account the fact that the very way a true spiritual training takes place blocks deceptions at the source. In the first place, through their preparation true students of the spirit will have acquired enough knowledge about the causes of deception and autosuggestion to be able to protect themselves. In this respect, they have more opportunities than any others to become sufficiently matter-of-fact and competent to judge what they encounter in life. Everything they experience makes them distrust indefinite premonitions and questionable flashes of so-called inspiration. Their training makes them as careful as possible. In addition, any true training first guides its students to thoughts about great cosmic events—that is, to things that force them to exert their powers of judgment, refining and sharpening them in the process. The only way we could miss out on this sharpening of our healthy powers of judgment, which give us certainty in distinguishing between deception and reality, would be by refusing to enter such distant realms and insisting on restricting ourselves to “revelations” closer at hand.
However, all of this is not the most important thing.
What is most important is inherent in the very exercises that are used in genuine spiritual training. They have to be arranged in such a way that the student’s consciousness has a complete and exact overview of what is going on in the soul during meditation. First of all, a symbol is developed to bring about imagination. There are still images taken from outer perceptions in this symbol; we are not solely responsible for its content. And since we do not create it ourselves, it is possible for us to delude ourselves about how it comes about. We may misinterpret its origin.
However, students of the spirit remove this content from their consciousness when they move up to the exercises for inspiration, where they contemplate only their own souls’ activity that shaped the symbol. Here too error is possible. We have acquired the character of our soul activity through our upbringing, education, and so on. We cannot know everything about the origin of this activity.
However, students of the spirit also remove this activity of theirs from their consciousness, so if something still remains, there is no remnant of anything that cannot be surveyed. Anything that can possibly mingle with this can be assessed with regard to its entire content.
In their intuition, students of the spirit thus possess something that shows them the makeup of anything that is a totally clear reality in the world of soul and spirit. If they then apply the signs they have recognized as being characteristic of soul-spiritual reality to everything that presents itself to their observation, they will be able to distinguish semblances from realities. And they can be certain that applying this law will protect them from deception in the supersensible world just as certainly as they will not mistake an imagined piece of hot iron for a real one that actually burns them in the physical world of the senses. It goes without saying that we will only apply these criteria to knowledge we regard as our own experience in the supersensible worlds, and not to what we receive as communications from others and understand with our physical intellect and our healthy feeling for the truth. Spiritual students will attempt to draw a precise boundary between what they have acquired in these two different ways. They will willingly receive information about the higher worlds and attempt to understand it with their powers of judgment, but when they categorize something as personal experience or direct observation, they will have tested whether it presents the very same characteristics that infallible intuition has taught them to perceive.
 Once students of the spirit have the encounter with the guardian of the threshold behind them, they face further experiences as they ascend into supersensible worlds.
First of all, they notice a certain inner relationship between this guardian and the seventh soul force that was described above as forming itself into an independent entity. In a certain respect, this seventh being is none other than the double, the actual guardian of the threshold.
It poses a specific task to students of the spirit. They must use their newborn selves to guide what they are in their ordinary selves, which appear to them in images. This results in a sort of struggle against the double, who will constantly try to gain the upper hand. Achieving the right relationship with the double, not allowing it to do anything that does not happen under the influence of the newborn I, strengthens and consolidates the forces of the human being.
In the higher world, self-knowledge is different in some respects than it is in the physical world of the senses, where self-knowledge appears only as an inner experience. In contrast, the newborn self immediately presents itself as an external soul phenomenon. We each see our own newborn self as a separate being in front of us, but we are not able to perceive it fully. Regardless of what level we have reached on the path to supersensible worlds, there are always still higher levels where we will perceive ever more of the higher self, which can therefore reveal itself only partially at any given level. However, when we first become aware of some aspect of the higher self, we are overcome by an extremely great temptation to look at it from the standpoint we acquired in the physical world of the senses, so to speak. This temptation is actually a good thing, and it must happen if our inner development is to proceed properly. We must each observe our double, the guardian of the threshold, and place it in front of the higher self in order to notice the discrepancy between what we are and what we are meant to become. When we do this, however, the guardian of the threshold begins to assume a completely different form.
It presents itself as an image of all the obstacles confronting the development of the higher self. We perceive what a burden we are each dragging around with us in the form of the ordinary self. If our preparations have not made us strong enough to say: “I am not going to stop here; I will strive unceasingly to develop toward my higher self,” we will falter and shrink back from what is ahead of us. In this case, we have plunged into the world of soul and spirit but quit working our way forward. We become prisoners of the form that now stands before our souls as the guardian of the threshold.
The significant thing about this experience is that we don’t have the feeling of being prisoners. We are much more likely to believe that we are experiencing something completely different. The figure summoned up by the guardian of the threshold can create the impression in our souls that the images appearing to us at this stage of our development already encompass all possible worlds, that we have arrived at the pinnacle of knowledge and no longer need to exert ourselves. Instead of feeling like prisoners, it’s possible for us to feel that we possess all the immeasurably rich secrets of the cosmos. We will not be surprised by this experience, which is the exact opposite of the true state of affairs, if we consider that we are already in the world of soul and spirit when we have this experience and that one of this world’s idiosyncrasies is that experiences can appear in reverse. This fact was already pointed out earlier in this book when life after death was described.
 The figure that we perceive at this stage of our development shows us something different from what first appeared to us as the guardian of the threshold. In the double as we first perceived it, we saw all the character traits that the ordinary self possesses as a result of the influence of Luciferic forces. However, in the course of human evolution another power has also been able to move into the human soul because of Lucifer’s influence. This is what was described as the power of Ahriman in earlier chapters of this book. It is the power that prevents us from perceiving the soul-spiritual beings of the outer world lying behind the surface of sense-perceptible things. What the human soul has become under the influence of this power is shown in image form in the figure that appears during the experience that has just been described.
If we approach this experience with the right preparation, we will interpret it correctly, and then another figure will soon appear. In contrast to the lesser guardian described earlier, we can call this figure the “greater guardian of the threshold.” The greater guardian tells us that we must not remain at this stage but must continue to work energetically. The greater guardian awakens in us the awareness that the world we have conquered will only become a truth and not metamorphose into illusion if we continue to work in the appropriate way.
However, if we approach this experience without having been prepared for it by a proper spiritual training, when we encounter the greater guardian something that can only be compared to a feeling of immeasurable horror or boundless fear will fill our souls.
 Just as the encounter with the lesser guardian makes it possible for us to test whether we are protected against the deceptions that can arise when we insert our own being into the supersensible world, the experiences that ultimately lead us to the greater guardian allow us to test whether we are capable of overcoming the deceptions that can be traced back to the second source described above.
If we are able to resist the immense illusion that leads us to believe that the world of images we have reached is a rich possession while in reality we are mere prisoners, we will also be protected against mistaking semblance for reality in the further course of our development.
 To a certain extent, the guardian of the threshold will assume an individually different form for each human being. The encounter with the guardian corresponds to the experience that overcomes the personal character of our supersensible observations and makes it possible for us to enter an area of experience that is free of personal coloring and valid for every human being.
 Students of the spirit who have had the experiences described above are then able to distinguish what they themselves are from what is outside of them in their soulspiritual surroundings. They will then realize that we need to understand the cosmic process described in this book in order to understand human beings themselves and their lives. We understand the physical body only if we recognize how it has been built up through the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth phases of evolution; we understand the ether body only if we trace its development through the Sun, Moon, and Earth phases, and so on. However, we also understand what is presently involved in the Earth’s evolution if we recognize how all this has unfolded gradually. Spiritual training puts us in a position to recognize that everything in the human being is related to corresponding facts and beings in the world outside of us. It is a fact that every part and organ of the human being is related to all the rest of the world. In this book, it has only been possible to present a sketchy outline of the facts.
However, we must keep in mind that the physical human body, for example, was present only in seminal form during the Saturn phase of evolution. Later, during the Sun, Moon, and Earth phases, its organs—heart, lungs, brain—evolved from this seminal endowment. Thus our heart, lungs, and so on are related to the Sun, Moon, and Earth phases of evolution. Something similar is true of the organs of the ether body, sentient body, sentient soul, and so on. Human beings took shape out of the entire world immediately surrounding them, and every detail of our human makeup corresponds to a process or being in the outer world.
At the appropriate level of inner development, students of the spirit begin to recognize this relationship between their own individual beings and the greater world. This level of cognition can be described as becoming aware of the correspondence between the microcosm, or smaller world, that is the human being and the macrocosm, or greater world. Having broken through to this stage of knowledge, students of the spirit can then begin to have a new experience. In spite of being aware of themselves in their full independence, they begin to feel as if they have grown together with the entire structure of the cosmos. They have a feeling of merging with the entire cosmos and becoming one with it, yet without losing their essential nature. We can describe this level of development as “becoming one with the macrocosm.” It is important not to think of this as a cessation of an individual consciousness, as if the essence of a human individual were flowing out into the universe. To think of it in this way would only reflect the opinion of an untrained faculty of judgment.
In the sense of the initiation process described here, the individual stages of higher cognition can be listed as follows:
 1. Studying spiritual science by initially making use of the power of judgment, which we have acquired in the physical world of the senses.
2. Acquiring imaginative cognition.
3. Reading the hidden script (this corresponds to inspiration).
4. Living one’s way into the spiritual surroundings (this corresponds to intuition).
5. Recognizing the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm.
6. Becoming one with the macrocosm.
7. Experiencing all of these previous experiences as a totality, as a fundamental mood of soul.
 We do not necessarily need to think of these stages as happening one after the other. On the contrary, depending on the individual student, training may proceed so that one level has been only partially completed before the student begins with exercises that correspond to the next level. For example, it may be very good for a certain student to do exercises leading to personal experiences in inspiration, intuition, or recognizing the connection between microcosm and macrocosm even though he or she has only acquired a few imaginations with any degree of certainty.
 Once students of the spirit have experienced intuition, in addition to being able to recognize the images of the world of soul and spirit and read their interrelationships in the “hidden script,” they also acquire direct knowledge of the actual beings who work together to bring about the world to which we human beings belong. Through this, they also get to know themselves in the forms they possess as spiritual beings in the world of soul and spirit. They have worked hard to be able to perceive the higher I and have realized how they need to continue working in order to control the double, the guardian of the threshold. But they have also encountered the “greater guardian” who constantly urges them on to greater effort. This greater guardian becomes the example they want to emulate, and once this has happened it becomes possible for them to recognize who it is standing in front of them in the form of the greater guardian. In the students’ perception, the greater guardian is now transformed into the figure of the Christ.
The essence of this being and His intervention in Earth’s evolution has been made clear in earlier chapters of this book. In this way, students of the spirit are initiated into that same exalted mystery that is linked with the name of Christ. The Christ discloses Himself to them as the great example for human beings on Earth.
To those who have recognized the Christ in the spiritual world as a result of their initiation, historical events on Earth in the fourth post-Atlantean evolutionary period (the Greco-Latin age) also become comprehensible. For students of the spirit, the intervention of the exalted Sun being, the Christ-being, in Earth’s evolution at that time and His ongoing work within this evolution become a matter of direct experience and personal knowledge.
Through intuition, therefore, the purpose and significance of Earth’s evolution are revealed to students of the spirit.
 The path that is described here as leading to knowledge of the supersensible worlds is one that every human being can follow, regardless of his or her present situation in life. In talking about such a path, we must keep in mind that although the goal of knowledge and truth is the same in all ages of Earth’s evolution, the starting points have been different at different times. People wanting to set out on the path to the spiritual world at present cannot start from the same point as ancient Egyptian candidates for initiation, for example. That’s why present-day individuals cannot simply take up the exercises assigned to students of the spirit in ancient Egypt. Since that time, human souls have progressed through various incarnations, and this progress is not without meaning and significance. The abilities and characteristics of human souls change from incarnation to incarnation. Even if we observe human history only superficially, we can see that all of life’s circumstances were different after the twelfth or thirteenth century than they were before: opinions, feelings, and even human abilities changed. The path to higher cognition that is described here is one that is suitable for souls incarnating in the immediate present. It takes its point of departure for spiritual development from where people stand at present, whatever the circumstances of their individual lives may be. Just as the forms of outer life change, evolution from one period to the next leads humankind to ever different forms with regard to the paths to higher cognition. At any given time, outer life and initiation must be in perfect harmony.
1. The point here is not the extent to which any particular natural scientific view can or cannot find these thoughts justifiable. The point is to develop thoughts about plants and human beings that can be acquired by means of simple, direct observation without any theory whatsoever.
These thoughts do have a value alongside other, more theoretical ideas (which are no less valuable in other respects) about things in the outer world. In this case, the purpose of these thoughts is not to present facts in a scientific way, but to build up a symbol that proves effective on a soul level, regardless of whatever objections may occur to one or the other individual as it is being built up.—R. Steiner.
2. How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1994.
3. Goethe, Faust, Part Two, Act 2.
4. Goethe, Verses in Prose.
5. A story attributed to the Persian poet Nizami (1141–1203), and adapted by Goethe for inclusion in his West-östlicher Divan. It is translated into English as “Agraphon” in Selected Poems, Angelos Sikelianos, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1979, pp. 137–139.
6. Goethe’s World View, Mercury Press, Spring Valley, NY, 1985; Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1995.