An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:15 pm

An Outline of Occult Science
by Rudolf Steiner
This volume is a translation of Die Geheimwissenschaft den Umrissr (Vol. 13 in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961).
Translated by Maud and Henry B, Monges and revised by Lisa D. Monges.





Preface, Sixteenth to Twentieth Edition
Preface, Seventh to Fifteenth Edition
Preface, Fourth Edition
Preface, First Edition
I. The Character of Occult Science
II. The Essential Nature of Mankind
III. Sleep And Death
IV. The Evolution of the Cosmos and Man
Chapter IV: (Part 1)
Chapter IV: (Part 2)
Chapter IV: (Part 3)
Chapter IV: (Part 4)
Chapter IV: (Part 5)
Chapter IV: (Part 6)
Chapter IV: (Part 7)
V. Cognition of the Higher Worlds — Initiation.
Chapter V: Part 1
Chapter V: Part 2
Chapter V: Part 3
Chapter V: Part 4
Chapter V: Part 5
Chapter V: Part 6
Chapter V: Part 7
Chapter V: Part 8
Chapter V: Part 9
Chapter V: Part 10
VI. The Present and Future of Cosmic and Human Evolution
VII. Details From the Realm of Spiritual Science
1. The Ether Body of Man
2. The Astral World
3. The Life of Man After Death
4. The Course of Human Life
5. The Higher Regions of the Spiritual World
6. The Members of Man's Being
7. The Dream State
8. The Acquirement of Supersensible Knowledge
9. Observation of Special Events and Beings of the World of Spirit
VIII. Special Comments
Back Cover Sheet
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:17 pm



NOW, fifteen years after the first edition of this book, I may well be allowed to say something publicly about the state of soul out of which it arose.

Originally, it was my plan to add its essential content as final chapters to my book Theosophy, which had been published previously. This proved to be impossible. At the time of the publication of Theosophy the subject matter of Occult Science did not yet live in me in its final form as was the case with Theosophy. In my imaginative perceptions the spiritual nature of individual man stood before my soul and I was able to describe it; the cosmic relationships, however, which had to be presented in Occult Science did not yet live in my consciousness in the same way. I perceived details, but not the complete picture.

I, therefore, decided to publish Theosophy with the content I had seen as the nature of the life of individual man, and then to carry through Occult Science in the near future, without undue haste.

The contents of this book had, in accordance with my soul mood at that time, to be given in thoughts that are further elaborations of the thoughts employed in natural science, suited for the presentation of the spiritual. In the preface to the first edition, reprinted in this book, it will be noted how strongly responsible I felt toward natural science in all that I wrote at that time about the science of the spirit.

What reveals itself to spiritual perception as the world of spirit cannot, however, be presented in such thoughts alone. For this revelation does not fit into a mere thought content. He who has experienced the nature of such revelation knows that the thoughts of ordinary consciousness are only suited to express what is perceived by the senses, not what is seen by the spirit.

The content of what is spiritually perceived can only be reproduced in pictures (imaginations) through which inspirations speak, which have their origin in spiritual entity intuitively perceived. [1]

But he who describes imaginations from the world of spirit cannot at present merely present these imaginations. For in doing so he would be presenting something that would stand as quite a different content of consciousness alongside the content of knowledge of our age, without any relationship whatsoever to it. He has to fill modern consciousness with what can be recognized by another consciousness that perceives the world of spirit. His presentation will then have this world of spirit as content, but this content will appear in the form of thoughts into which it flows. Through this it will be completely comprehensible to ordinary consciousness, which thinks in terms of the present day but does not yet behold the world of spirit.

This comprehensibility will only then be lacking if we ourselves raise barriers against it, that is, if we labor under the prejudices that the age has produced regarding “the limits of knowledge” through an incorrectly conceived view of nature.

In spiritual cognition everything is immersed in intimate soul experience, not only spiritual perception itself, but also the understanding with which the unseeing, ordinary consciousness meets the results of clairvoyant perception.

Those who maintain that anyone who believes he understands is merely suggesting the understanding to himself have not the slightest inkling of this intimacy.

But it is a fact that what expresses itself merely in concepts of truth and error within the scope of comprehension of the physical world becomes experience in regard to the spiritual world.

Whoever permits his judgment to be influenced — be it ever so slightly — by the assertion that the spiritually perceived is incomprehensible to the everyday, still unperceiving consciousness — because of its limitations — will find his comprehension obscured by this judgment as though by a dark cloud, and he really cannot understand.

What is spiritually perceived is fully comprehensible to the unprejudiced, unperceiving consciousness if the seer gives his perceptions thought form. It is just as comprehensible as the finished picture of the painter is to the man who does not paint. Moreover, the comprehension of the spirit world is not of the nature of artistic feeling employed in the comprehension of a work of art, but it bears the stamp of thought employed in natural science.

In order, however, to make such a comprehension really possible, the one who presents what he perceives spiritually must bring his perceptions up to a point where he can pour them into thought form without loss of their imaginative character within this form.

All this stood before my soul as I developed my Occult Science.

In 1909 I felt that, under these premises, I might be able to produce a book which, in the first place, offered the content of my spiritual vision brought, to a sufficient degree, into thought form, and which, in the second place, could be understood by every thinking human being who allows no obstructions to interfere with his understanding.

I say this today, stating at the same time that in 1909 the publication of this book appeared to be a risk. For I knew indeed that professional scientists are unable to call up in themselves the necessary impartiality, nor are the numerous personalities able to do so who are dependent on them for their judgment.

But, before my soul there stood the very fact that at the time when the consciousness of mankind was furthest removed from the world of spirit, the communications from that world would answer a most urgent necessity.

I counted upon the fact that there are human beings who feel, more or less desperately, the remoteness from all spirituality as a grave obstacle to life that causes them to seize upon the communications of the spiritual world with inner longing.

During the subsequent years this has been completely confirmed. Theosophy and Occult Science, books that presume the goodwill of the reader in coping with a difficult style of writing, have been widely read.

I have quite consciously endeavored not to offer a “popular” exposition, but an exposition that makes it necessary for the reader to study the content with strict effort of thought. The character I impressed upon my books is such that their very study is the beginning of spiritual training. For the calm, conscious effort of thought that this reading makes necessary strengthens the forces of the soul and through this makes them capable of approaching the spirit world.

The fact that I have entitled this book Occult Science has immediately called forth misunderstandings. From many sides was heard, “What claims to be science must not be secret, occult.” How little thought was exercised in making such an objection! As though someone who reveals a subject matter would want to be secretive about it. This entire book shows that it was not the intention to designate anything “occult,” but to bring everything into a form that renders it as understandable as any science. Or do we not wish to say when we employ the term “natural science” that we are dealing with the knowledge of “nature”? Occult science is the science of what occurs occultly insofar as it is not perceived in external nature, but in that region toward which the soul turns when it directs its inner being toward the spirit.

Occult Science is the antithesis of Natural Science.

Objections have repeatedly been made to my perceptions of the spiritual world by maintaining that they are transformed reproductions of what, in the course of the ages, has appeared in human thought about the spirit world. It is said that I had read this or that, absorbed what I read into the unconscious, and then presented it in the belief that it originated in my own perception. I am said to have gained my expositions from the teachings of the Gnostics, from the poetic records of ancient oriental wisdom, and so on.

These objections are superficial.

My knowledge of things of the spirit is a direct result of my own perception, and I am fully conscious of this fact. In all details and in the larger surveys I had always examined myself carefully as to whether every step I took in the progress of my perception was accompanied by a fully awake consciousness. Just as the mathematician advances from thought to thought without the unconscious or autosuggestion playing a role, so — I told myself — spiritual perception must advance from objective imagination to objective imagination without anything living in the soul but the spiritual content of clear, discerning consciousness.

The knowledge that an imagination is not a mere subjective picture, but a representation in picture form of an objective spiritual content is attained by means of healthy inner experience. This is achieved in a psycho-spiritual way, just as in the realm of sense-perception one is able with a healthy organism to distinguish properly between mere imaginings and objective perceptions. Thus the results of my perception stood before me. They were, at the outset, “perceptions” without names. Were I to communicate them, I needed verbal designations. I then sought later for such designations in older descriptions of the spiritual in order to be able to express in words what was still wordless. I employed these verbal designations freely, so that in my use of them scarcely one coincides with its ancient meaning.

I sought, however, for such a possibility of expression in every case only after the content had arisen in my own perception.

I knew how to exclude what had been previously read from my own perceptive research by means of the state of consciousness that I have just described.

Now it was claimed that in my expressions reminiscences of ancient ideas were to be found. Without considering the content, attention was fixed on the expressions. If I spoke of “lotus flowers” in the astral body of man, that was a proof, to the critic, that I was repeating the teachings of ancient India in which the expression is to be found. Indeed, if I spoke of “astral body,” this was the result of my reading the literature of the Middle Ages. If I employed the expressions “Angeloi,” “Archangeloi,” and so forth, I was simply renewing the ideas of Christian Gnosis.

I found such entirely superficial thinking constantly opposing me.

I wanted to point to this fact, too, now that a new edition of Occult Science is to be published, for the book contains the outline of Anthroposophy as a whole. It will, therefore, be chiefly beset by the misunderstandings to which Anthroposophy is exposed. Since the time when the imaginations that this book presents merged into a complete picture in my soul, I have advanced uninterruptedly in my ability to investigate, by means of soul and spirit perception, the historical evolution of mankind, the cosmos, and so forth. In the details I have continuously arrived at new results. But what I offered as an outline in Occult Science fifteen years ago remains for me basically undisturbed. Everything I have been able to say since then, if inserted in this book in the proper place, appears as an amplification of the outline given at that time.


January 10, 1925
Dornach, Switzerland



All that it is necessary to know concerning the nature of imagination, inspiration, and intuition is to be found in this book, Occult Science, in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, also in The Stages of Higher Knowledge.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:17 pm



IN THIS new edition of An Outline of Occult Science, I have almost entirely reshaped the first chapter, “The Character of Occult Science.” I believe that, as a result, there will now be less cause for the misunderstandings I saw arising from the earlier wording of this chapter. From many sides I could hear, “Other sciences offer proofs; what here is offered as science says simply, ‘Occult Science states this or that.’ ” It is quite natural for such prejudice to arise, since the proofs of supersensible cognition cannot obtrude themselves upon us with the exposition as is the case with the exposition of relationships of sense-perceptible reality. I have, however, sought, by means of a revision of the first chapter of this book, to make clearer than I seem to have succeeded in doing in the earlier editions, that we have to contend here merely with prejudice. — In the other chapters I have attempted, through amplifications, to elaborate some items of my presentation more clearly. Throughout the entire book I have taken pains to make numerous changes in the wording of the content, which seemed to me necessary after renewed experience of the subject matter.


Berlin, May 1920.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:18 pm



ANYONE attempting an exposition of the results of spiritual science as recorded in this book must, above all, take into account the fact that at present these results are universally looked upon as something quite impossible. For things are said in the following exposition that the supposedly exact thinking of our age affirms to be “probably entirely indeterminable by human intelligence.” He who knows and appreciates the reasons why so many earnest persons are lead to maintain this impossibility will wish to make ever new attempts to show the misconceptions upon which is based the belief that entrance into supersensible worlds is denied to human knowledge.

For two things offer themselves for consideration. First, any human soul, by reflecting deeply, will in the long run be unable to disregard the fact that its most important questions concerning the meaning and significance of life must remain unanswered if there be no access to supersensible worlds. We may theoretically deceive ourselves about this fact, but the depths of the soul-life will not tolerate this self-delusion. — If we do not wish to listen to these depths of the soul, we shall naturally reject any statement about supersensible worlds. Yet there are human beings — really not few in number — who find it impossible to remain deaf to the demands coming from these soul depths. Such people must always knock at the door that conceals, according to the opinion of others, the “inconceivable.”

Second, the statements resulting from “exact thinking” are not at all to be underrated. He who occupies himself with them will certainly appreciate their seriousness where they are to be taken seriously. The writer of this book would not like to be looked upon as one who lightheartedly passes over the tremendous thought activity that has been employed in determining the limits of the human intellect. This thought activity cannot be disposed of by a few phrases about “academic wisdom” and the like. In many cases its source rests in true striving for knowledge and in genuine acumen. — Indeed, even more may be admitted: reasons have been brought forward to show that the knowledge considered scientific today cannot penetrate into the spirit world, and these reasons are in a certain sense irrefutable.

Since this is admitted without hesitation by the writer of this book himself, it may appear to many quite strange that he, nevertheless, undertakes to make statements about supersensible worlds. It appears, indeed, to be almost impossible that someone in a certain sense admits the reasons for the inapprehensibility of the supersensible worlds and yet at the same time continues to speak about them.

It is possible, nevertheless, to have this attitude, and it is possible, at the same time, to understand that it will appear contradictory. For not everyone concerns himself with the experiences one has if one approaches the supersensible realm with the human intellect. There it becomes evident that the proofs of this intellect may well be irrefutable, and that, in spite of their irrefutability, they need not be decisive for reality. Instead of all theoretical arguments, the attempt shall be made here to bring about an understanding by means of a comparison. The fact that comparisons themselves are not proof is readily conceded; yet this does not prevent their making comprehensible what is to be expressed.

Human cognition, as it acts in everyday life and in ordinary science, is really so constituted that it cannot penetrate into supersensible worlds. This can be irrefutably proved, but this proof can have no more value for a certain kind of soul-life than the proof that is undertaken to show that the natural human eye with its power of perception cannot penetrate into the smallest cells of a living body, or into the constitution of distant celestial bodies. Just as the declaration is true and demonstrable that the ordinary power of sight does not penetrate as far as the cells, so also is the other statement correct and provable that ordinary cognition is unable to penetrate into supersensible worlds. Yet the proof that the ordinary power of sight must stop short of the cells does not decide anything against research into the cells. Why should the proof that the ordinary power of cognition must halt before supersensible worlds decide anything against the possibility of research into these worlds?

We can appreciate the feeling aroused in many a person by this comparison. We are even able to sympathize with those who doubt whether somebody who confronts the thought activity mentioned with such a comparison has even the slightest idea of the seriousness of this activity. Nevertheless, the author of this book is not only imbued with this seriousness, but he is of the opinion that this thought activity is to be counted among the noblest achievements of mankind. To prove that the human power of sight cannot penetrate to the cell structure without the aid of instruments would be, to be sure, an unnecessary undertaking; to become conscious, through exact thinking, of the nature of this thinking is a necessary spiritual activity. It is only too understandable that those who give themselves up to such thought activity do not notice that reality can refute them. The present preface of this book cannot be the place to go into the various “refutations” of the first editions on the part of persons who lack all understanding of what this book strives for, or who direct their false attacks at the person of the author. It must, however, be strongly emphasized that only those can suspect in this book any underrating of serious scientific thought activity who wish to close their eyes to the real character of the expositions.

The human power of cognition can be strengthened and enhanced, just as the faculty of eyesight can be strengthened. The means, however, for strengthening cognition are of an entirely spiritual nature; they are purely inner soul functions. They consist in what is described in this book as meditation and concentration (contemplation). Ordinary soul-life is bound to the instruments of the body, the strengthened soul-life frees itself from them. To certain modern schools of thought such a declaration must appear quite senseless and based only upon self-delusion. From their point of view, it will be found easy to prove that “all soul-life” is bound up with the nervous system. A person holding the point of view out of which this book is written will completely understand such proofs. He understands the people who say that only the superficial can maintain that there may be some sort of soul-life independent of the body, and who are entirely convinced that for such soul experiences a connection with the life of the nerves exists that “spiritual scientific amateurishness” fails to perceive.

Here certain entirely comprehensible habits of thought confront what is described in this book so sharply that they preclude at present any prospect of coming to an understanding. We are here at a point where the wish must make itself felt that in the present age it should no longer be in keeping with spiritual life to decry a direction of research as fantastic and visionary because it diverges abruptly from our own. — On the other hand, however, we have the fact that there are a number of human beings who have an understanding for the supersensible mode of research presented in this book. They are individuals who realize that the meaning of life does not reveal itself in general terms about soul, self, and so forth, but only through the real entering upon the results of supersensible research. It is not from lack of modesty, but with joyful satisfaction that the author of this book feels deeply the necessity of this fourth edition after a relatively brief time since the last edition appeared.

The author does not accentuate this from lack of modesty, because he feels only too clearly how little even the new edition corresponds to what it really ought to be as an “outline of a supersensible world conception.” In preparing this new edition, the whole subject matter has been re-studied and re-worked with considerable amplification at important points. Clarification was also striven for. Nevertheless, in numerous places the author became conscious of how inadequate the means of presentation available to him prove to be in comparison with what supersensible research shows. Hence, scarcely more than a way could be indicated for acquiring the concepts that in this book are given for the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. An important point of view, also in this domain, has been briefly treated anew in this edition. But the experiences in regard to such things diverge so greatly from all the experiences in the domain of the senses that the exposition must of necessity struggle continually for expressions that appear sufficiently adequate for the purpose. Anyone who is willing to go into the exposition attempted here will perhaps notice that much that is impossible to say in dry words is striven for by the manner of the description. This manner is, for example, one thing for the Saturn evolution, but quite another for the Sun evolution, and so forth.

The second part of this book, which deals with knowledge of the higher worlds, was greatly supplemented and amplified by its author. He endeavored to present clearly the character of the inner soul processes through which knowledge frees itself from its limits present in the sense world and fits itself for experiencing the supersensible world. The author attempted to show that this experiencing of the supersensible, although acquired entirely through inner ways and means, does not have a merely subjective significance for the individual who acquires it. The presentation was to show that, within the soul, its singularity and personal peculiarity are stripped off and an experience is reached which is similar in every human being who effects his development in the right manner out of his subjective experiences. Only when the knowledge of supersensible worlds is conceived of as possessing this character is it possible to distinguish it from all experiences of mere subjective mysticism and the like. Of such mysticism it may well be said that it is, more or less, a subjective concern of the mystic. The spiritual scientific training of the soul that is meant here, however, strives for objective experiences, the truth of which is indeed recognized entirely inwardly, the universal validity of which, however, is discernible for that reason. — Here again is a point where it is quite difficult to come to an understanding with many a thought habit of our age.

In conclusion, the author of this book should like to observe that also the well-intended reader should accept these expositions as they offer themselves by virtue of their own content. Today numerous attempts have been made to give to this or that spiritual movement this or that ancient historical name. To many, only then does it appear of value. The question, however, may be asked: What have the expositions of this book to gain by designating them “Rosicrucian” or the like? The important point is that here, with the means that are possible and adequate for the soul in this present period of evolution, an insight is attempted into supersensible worlds, and that from this point of view the riddles of human destiny and of human existence beyond the limits of birth and death are observed. It is not the question of a striving bearing this or that ancient name, but of a striving for truth.

On the other hand, opponents have also employed terms for the world conception presented in this book. Apart from the fact that the terms used in order to deal the author the heaviest possible blow and to discredit him are absurd and objectively false, such terms characterize themselves in their unworthiness by the fact that they attempt to discredit a completely independent striving for truth by failing to judge it on its own merits, and by endeavoring to impose their dependence upon ideas derived from this or that trend of thought as judgment upon others. Although these words are necessary in the face of many attacks against the author, nevertheless, he is loath here to go further into this matter.


June 1913.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:19 pm



IN OFFERING to the public a book like the present one, its author should be able to anticipate, with utter calmness, any kind of criticism that is possible in our time. Someone, for example, might begin to read the presentation given here of this or that matter, about which he has thought in accordance with the results of research in science, and he might come to the following conclusion: It is astonishing how such assertions are at all possible in our age. The author treats the simplest scientific concepts in a manner that shows the most inconceivable ignorance concerning even the most elementary facts of scientific knowledge. For example, he treats concepts, such as “heat,” in a way only possible for someone who has permitted the whole modern mode of thinking in physics to pass over his head without having the least effect. Anyone who knows even the elementary facts of this science could show him that what he says here does not even deserve the designation “amateurishness,” but can only be called “absolute ignorance.” Many sentences could be quoted that express this kind of possible criticism. One could imagine that someone might arrive at the following conclusion: “Whoever has read a few pages of this book will, according to his temperament, lay it aside either with a smile or with indignation, and say to himself, ‘It is certainly queer what eccentricities can be brought forth by a wrong trend of thought in the present day. It is best that such expositions be laid aside with many other freaks of the human mind.’ ” — What, however, does the author of this book say if he really experienced such criticism? Must he not, from his standpoint, simply regard the critic as a reader lacking the faculty of judgment or as someone who has not the goodwill to form an appreciative opinion? — The answer to that is emphatically, No! the author does not do that in every case. He is able to imagine that his critic may be a very clever person and also a trained scientist, someone who forms his judgments in quite a conscientious way. For the author of this book is able to enter with his thinking into the soul of such a person and into the reasons that can lead the latter to such a judgment. A certain necessity arises to clarify what the author really says. Although in general he considers it highly improper to discuss anything of a personal nature, it seems essential to do so in regard to this book. To be sure, nothing will be brought forward that is not concerned with the decision to write this book. What is said in such a book would certainly have no reason for existence were it to bear only a personal character. It must contain views that every human being may acquire, and these must be expressed without any personal coloring as far as this is humanly possible . The introduction of the personal element is only to make clear how the author is able to comprehend the above-mentioned criticism of his expositions, yet nevertheless was still able to write this book. There would be one way, to be sure, of avoiding mention of the personal element: that of presenting, explicitly, every detail that proves that the statements in this book really agree, with every forward step of modern science. This would necessitate, however, the writing of many volumes of introductory matter. Since this at present is out of the question, it seems necessary for the author to describe the personal circumstances through which he feels justified in believing himself in agreement with modern science. — Never, for example, would he have undertaken to publish all that is said in this book about heat phenomena were he not able to affirm that, thirty years ago, he was in the position to make a thorough study of physics, which had ramifications into the various fields of that science. The expositions belonging to the so-called “Mechanical Theory of Heat” (“Theory of Thermodynamics”) occupied at that time the central point of his studies in the field of heat phenomena. This theory was of special interest to him. The historical development of the interpretations associated with such names as Julius Robert Mayer, Helmholtz, Joule, Clausius, and others, formed a part of his continuous studies. He thus, laid the proper foundation and created the possibility of being able to follow — right up to the present — all the advances of science in the domain of the physical theory of heat. Hence there are no difficulties to overcome when he investigates what modern science has achieved in this field. His confession of inability to do this would have been sufficient reason for leaving the matter advanced in this book unsaid and unwritten. He has truly made it a principle to speak or write only about those subjects in the field of spiritual science about which he would be sufficiently able to say what modern science knows about them. This statement, however, is not meant as a general prerequisite for everyone. Others may, with justice, feel impelled to communicate and publish what their judgment, healthy sense of truth, and feelings indicate, although they may not know the point of view of contemporary science in such matters. The author of this book, however, intends to hold to the above expressed principle for himself. He would not, for example, write about the human glandular or nervous system as he does, were he not at the same time in the position also to discuss these matters from the point of view of natural science. Thus in spite of the fact that it is possible to conclude that anyone who discusses “heat” in the manner of this book knows nothing about the fundamental laws of modern physics, the author believes himself fully justified in what he has done, because he is striving really to know modern research, and he would have refrained from speaking in this way were the results of this research unknown to him. He knows that the motive for stating such a principle might easily be confused with lack of modesty. In regard to this book it is necessary, however, to state such things, in order that the author's true motives be not mistaken still further. This further mistaking might be far worse than to be accused of immodesty.

Criticism could also be possible from a philosophical standpoint. It might occur in the following way. A philosopher who reads this book might ask himself, “Has the author entirely neglected to study the present day achievements in the field of epistemology? Has he never heard of the existence of a man named Kant, according to whom it is simply philosophically inadmissible to advance such views?” Again, we could continue in this direction. The following critical conclusion, however, might also be drawn: “For the philosopher, such uncritical, naive, amateurish stuff is unbearable and to deal with it further would be nothing but a waste of time.” — From the same motive indicated above, in spite of all the misunderstandings that might arise from it, the author would again like to advance something personal here. His study of Kant began in his sixteenth year, and today he believes himself truly capable of judging quite objectively — from the Kantian standpoint — what has been advanced in the present book. From this aspect also, he would have had a reason for leaving this book unwritten did he not know what moves a philosopher to find naive what is written here if he applies the measuring rod of modern criticism. It is, however, possible really to know how, in the sense of Kant, we pass here beyond the limits of possible knowledge. It can also be known how Herbart might discover in this book a “naive realism” that has not yet attained to the “elaboration of concepts,” and so forth. It is even possible to know how the modern pragmatism of James, Schiller, and others would find that this book has gone beyond the bounds of “true representations” which “we are able to make our own, to assert, to put into action, and to verify.” (see Note 1) [1] All of this may be realized and in spite of that realization, indeed because of it, one may feel justified in writing the expositions presented here. The author has dealt with philosophical trends of thought in his writings: The Theory of Knowledge Based on Goethe's World Conception (Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung); Truth and Science (Wahrheit und Wissenschaft); Philosophy of Freedom (Philosophie der Freiheit); Goethe's Conception of the World (Goethe's Weltanschauung); Views of the World and Life in the Nineteenth Century (Welt- und Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert); Riddles of Philosophy (Die Raetsel der Philosophie).

Many kinds of possible criticism could still be cited. There might be critics who have read the earlier writings of the author, for example, Views of the World and Life in the Nineteenth Century, or perhaps the brochure on Haeckel and His Opponents. Some such critic might say, “It is incomprehensible how one and the same man can write these books and then, besides the already published book, Theosophy, also write this present book. How is it possible that someone can defend Haeckel and then turn around and discredit what results from Haeckel's research as healthy, monism? It might be comprehensible had the author of this Occult Science combated Haeckel ‘with fire and sword,’ but, that he has defended him, indeed, has even dedicated Views of the World and Life in the Nineteenth Century to him, is the most monstrous thing imaginable. Haeckel would have unmistakably declined this dedication had he been conscious of the fact that the dedicator might some day write such stuff as this Occult Science with its exposition of a more than crude dualism.” — The author of this book, however, is of the opinion that while it is possible to understand Haeckel very well, it is, nevertheless, not necessary to believe that he is only to be understood by one who considers nonsensical everything that is not derived from Haeckel's own concepts and hypotheses. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that it is possible to come to an understanding of Haeckel only by entering upon what he has achieved for science and not be combating him “with fire and sword.” Least of all does the author believe that Haeckel's opponents are right, against whom, for example in his brochure, Haeckel and His Opponents, he has defended the great natural philosopher. Indeed, if the writer of this brochure goes far beyond Haeckel's hypotheses and places the spiritual point of view of the world alongside Haeckel's merely naturalistic one, his opinion need not therefore coincide with the opinion of the latter's opponents. If the facts are looked at correctly, it will be discovered that the author's present day writings are in complete accord with his earlier ones.

The author also understands quite well the critic who generally regards the descriptions in this book as an outpouring of wild fancy or a dreamlike play of thoughts. All that is to be said in this regard, however, is contained in the book itself. It is shown there how, in full measure, thought based on reason can and must become the touchstone of what is presented. Only the one who applies to this book the test of reason in the same way he would apply it, for example, to the facts of natural science, will be able to determine what reason proves in such a test.

After saying so much about personalities who from the outset refute this book, a word may also be spared for those who have reason to agree with it. For them the most essential is to be found in the first chapter, The Character of Occult Science. Something more, however, is to be said here. Although the book deals with the results of research that lie beyond the power of the intellect bound to the sense world, yet nothing is offered that cannot be comprehended by anyone possessing an unprejudiced reason, a healthy sense of truth, and the wish to employ these human faculties. The author says without hesitation that he would like, above all, to have readers who are not willing to accept on blind faith what is offered here, but who endeavor to examine what is offered by means of the knowledge of their own soul and through the experiences of their own lives. [2] He would like to have above all cautious readers who only accept what can be logically justified. The author knows his book would have no value, were it dependent only on blind faith; it is only useful to the degree it can be vindicated before unbiased reason. Blind faith can so easily mistake the foolish and superstitious for the true. Many who are gladly satisfied with a mere belief in a “supersensible world” will perhaps find that this book makes too great a demand on the powers of thought. Yet concerning the communications given here, it is not merely a question of communicating something, but that the communication be in conformity with a conscientious view of the sphere of life in question. For it is indeed the sphere in which the highest things and the most unscrupulous charlatanry, in which knowledge and crass superstition so easily meet in actual life, and where, above all, they can be so easily confused with one another.

Anyone acquainted with supersensible research will, in reading this book, notice that it has been the endeavor of its author sharply to mark the limits between what can and ought to be communicated from the sphere of supersensible knowledge at present and that which is to be presented at a later period, or at least in another form.


December 1909.



1. This includes an earnest consideration and study of the philosophy of the “As If,” the Bergsonian philosophy, and the Critique of Speech.

2. Here is not only meant the spiritual scientific test by supersensible methods of research, but primarily the test that is possible by healthy, unprejudiced thought and common sense.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:20 pm


OCCULT science, an ancient term, is used for the contents of this book. This term can arouse in various individuals of the present day feelings of the most contrary character. For many, it possesses something repellent; it arouses derision, pitying smiles, perhaps contempt. These people imagine that the kind of thinking thus designated can only be based upon idle, fantastic dreaming, that behind such “alleged” science there can lurk only the impulse to renew all sorts of superstitions that are properly avoided by those who understand “true scientific methods” and “pure intellectual endeavor.” The effect of this term upon others is to cause them to think that what is meant by it must bring them something that cannot be acquired in any other way and to which, according to their nature, they are attracted by a deep, inner longing for knowledge, or by the soul's sublimated curiosity. In between these sharply contrasting opinions there exists every possible kind of intermediate stage of conditional rejection or acceptance of what this or that person imagines when he hears the term, “occult science.” — It is not to be denied that for many the term, occult science, has a magical sound because it seems to satisfy their fatal passion for knowledge of an “unknown,” of a mysterious, even of an obscure something that is not to be acquired in a natural way. For many people do not wish to satisfy the deepest longings of their souls by means of something that can be clearly understood. Their convictions lead them to conclude that besides what can be known in the world there must be something that defies cognition. With extraordinary absurdity, which they do not observe, they reject, in regard to the deepest longing for knowledge, all that “is known” and only wish to give their approval to something that cannot be said to be known by means of ordinary research. He who speaks of “occult science” will do well to keep in mind the fact that he is confronted by misunderstandings caused by just such defenders of a science of this kind — defenders who are striving, in fact, not for knowledge, but for its antithesis.

This work is intended for readers who will not permit their impartiality to be taken away from them just because a word may arouse prejudice through various circumstances. It is not here a question of knowledge which, in any respect, can be considered to be “secret” and therefore only accessible to certain people through some special favor of fate. We shall do justice to the use of the term, occult science, employed here, if we consider what Goethe has in mind when he speaks of the “revealed secrets” in the phenomena of the universe. What remains “secret” — unrevealed — in these phenomena when grasped only by means of the senses and the intellect bound up with them will be considered as the content of a supersensible mode of knowledge. [1] — What is meant here by “Occult Science” does not constitute science for anyone who only considers “scientific” what is revealed through the senses and the intellect serving them. If, however, such a person wishes to understand himself, he must acknowledge that he rejects occult science, not from well-substantiated insight, but from a mandate arising from his own personal feelings. In order to understand this, it is only necessary to consider how science comes into existence and what significance it has in human life. The origin of science, in its essential nature, is not recognized by means of the subject matter it is dealing with, but by means of the human soul-activity arising in scientific endeavor. We must consider the attitude of the soul when it elaborates science. If we acquire the habit of exercising this kind of activity only when we are concerned with the manifestation of the senses, we might easily be led to the opinion that this sense-manifestation is the essential thing, and we do not become aware that a certain attitude of the human soul has been employed only in regard to the manifestation of the senses. It is possible, however, to rise above this arbitrary self-limitation and, apart from special application, consider the characteristics of scientific activity. This is the basis for our designating as “scientific” the knowledge of a non-sensory world-content. The human power of thought wishes to occupy itself with this latter world-content just as it occupies itself, in the other case, with the world-content of natural science. Occult science desires to free the natural-scientific method and its principle of research from their special application that limits them, in their own sphere, to the relationship and process of sensory facts, but, at the same time, it wants to retain their way of thinking and other characteristics. It desires to speak about the non-sensory in the same way natural science speaks about the sensory. While natural science remains within the sense world with this method of research and way of thinking, occult science wishes to consider the employment of mental activity upon nature as a kind of self-education of the soul and to apply what it has thus acquired to the realms of the non-sensory. Its method does not speak about the sense phenomena as such, but speaks about the non-sensory world-content in the way the scientist talks about the content of the sensory world. It retains the mental attitude of the natural-scientific method; that is to say, it holds fast to just the thing that makes natural research a science. For that reason it may call itself a science.

When we consider the significance of natural science in human life, we shall find that this significance cannot be exhausted by acquiring a knowledge of nature, since this knowledge can never lead to anything but an experiencing of what the human soul itself is not. The soul-element does not live in what man knows about nature, but in the process of acquiring Knowledge The soul experiences itself in its occupation with nature. What it vitally achieves in this activity is something besides the knowledge of nature itself: it is self-development experienced in acquiring knowledge of nature. Occult science desires to employ the results of this self-development in realms that lie beyond mere nature. The occult scientist has no desire to undervalue natural science; on the contrary, he desires to acknowledge it even more than the natural scientist himself. He knows that, without the exactness of the mode of thinking of natural science, he cannot establish a science. Yet he knows also that after this exactness has been acquired through genuine penetration into the spirit of natural-scientific thinking, it can be retained through the force of the soul for other fields.

Something, however, arises here that may cause misgivings. In studying nature, the soul is guided by the object under consideration to a much greater degree than is the case when non-sensory world contents are studied. In the latter study, the soul must possess to a much greater degree, from purely inner impulses, the ability to hold fast to the scientific mode of thinking, Since many people believe, unconsciously, that this can be done only through the guidance of natural phenomena, they are inclined, through a dogmatic declaration, to make their decisions accordingly; as soon as this guidance is abandoned, the soul gropes in a void with its scientific method. Such people have not become conscious of the special character of this method. They base their judgment for the most part upon errors that must arise if the scientific attitude is not sufficiently strengthened by observation of natural phenomena and, in spite of this, the soul attempts a consideration of the non-sensory regions of the world. It is self-evident that in such cases there arises much unscientific talk about non-sensory world contents. Not, however, because such talk, in its essence, is incapable of being scientific, but because, in such an instance, scientific self-education in the observation of nature has been neglected.

Whoever wishes to speak about occult science must certainly, in connection with what has just been said, be fully awake in regard to all the vagaries that arise when, without the scientific attitude, something is determined concerning the revealed mysteries of the world. It would, however, be of no avail if, at the very beginning of an occult-scientific presentation, we were to speak of all kinds of aberrations, which in the souls of prejudiced persons discredit all research in this direction, because they conclude, from the presence of really quite numerous aberrations, that the entire endeavor is unjustified. Since, however, in the case of scientists, or scientifically minded critics, the rejection of occult science rests in most instances solely upon the above mentioned dogmatic declaration, and the reference to the aberrations is only an often unconscious pretext, a discussion with such opponents will be fruitless. Nothing, indeed, hinders them from making the certainly quite justifiable objection that, at the very outset, there is nothing that can definitely determine whether the person who believes others to be in error, himself possesses the above characterized firm foundation. Therefore, the person striving to present occult science can simply offer what in his estimation he has a right to say. The judgment concerning his justification can only be formed by other persons; indeed, only by those who, avoiding all dogmatic declarations, are able to enter into the nature of his communications concerning the revealed mysteries of cosmic events. To be sure, he will be obliged to show the relationship between his presentations and other achievements in the field of knowledge and life; he will have to show what oppositions are possible and to what degree the direct, external, sensory reality of life verifies his observations. He should, however, never attempt to present his subject in a way that produces its effect by means of his art of persuasion instead of through its content.

The following objection is often heard in regard to the statements of occult science: “These latter do not offer proof; they merely assert this or that and say that occult science ascertains this.” The following exposition will be misjudged if it is thought that any part of it has been presented in this sense. Our endeavor here is to allow the capacity of soul unfolded through a knowledge of nature to evolve further, as far as its own nature will allow, and then call attention to the fact that in such development the soul encounters supersensible facts. It is assumed that every reader who is able to enter into what has been presented will necessarily run up against these facts. A difference, however, is encountered with respect to purely natural scientific observation the moment we enter the realm of spiritual science. In natural science, the facts present themselves in the field of the sense world; the exponent of natural science considers the activity of the soul as something that recedes into the background in the face of the relationships and the course of sensory facts. The exponent of spiritual science must place his soul activity into the foreground; for the reader only arrives at the facts if he makes this activity of the soul his own in the right way. These facts are not present for human perception without the activity of the soul as they are — although uncomprehended — in natural science; they enter into human perception only by means of soul activity. The exponent of spiritual science therefore presumes that the reader is seeking facts mutually with him. His exposition will be given in the form of a narration describing how these facts were discovered, and in the manner of his narration not personal caprice but scientific thinking trained by natural science will prevail. It will also be necessary, therefore, to speak of the means by which a consideration of the non-sensory, of the supersensible, is attained. — Anyone who occupies himself with an exposition of occult science will soon see that through it concepts and ideas are acquired that previously he did not possess. Thus he also acquires new thoughts concerning his previous conception of the nature of “proof.” He learns that for an exposition of natural science, “proof” is something that is brought to it, as it were, from without. In spiritual-scientific thinking, however, the activity, which in natural-scientific thinking the soul employs for proof, lies already in the search for facts, These facts cannot be discovered if the path to them is itself not already a proof. Whoever really travels this path has already experienced the proving in the process: nothing can be accomplished by means of a proof applied from without The fact that this is not recognized in the character of occult science calls forth many misunderstandings.

The whole of occult science must spring from two thoughts that can take root in every human soul. For the occult scientist, as he is meant here, these two thoughts express facts that can be experienced if we use the right means. For many people these thoughts signify extremely controversial statements about which there may be wide differences of opinion; they may even be “proved” to be impossible.

These two thoughts are the following. First, behind the “visible” there exists an invisible world, concealed at the outset from the senses and the thinking bound up with the senses; and second, it is possible for man, through the development of capacities slumbering within him, to penetrate into this hidden world.

One person maintains that there is no such hidden world, that the world perceived by means of the human senses is the only one, that its riddles can be solved out of itself, and that, although the human being at present is still far from being able to answer all the questions of existence, a time will surely come when sense experience and the science based upon it will be able to give the answers.

Others state that we must not maintain there is no hidden world behind the visible, yet the human powers of cognition are unable to penetrate into it. They have limits that cannot be overstepped. Let those who need “faith” take refuge in a world of that kind: a true science, which is based upon assured facts, cannot concern itself with such a world.

There is a third group that considers it presumptuous if a man, through his cognitive activity, desires to penetrate into a realm about which he is to renounce all “knowledge” and be content with “faith.” The adherents of this opinion consider it wrong for the weak human being to want to penetrate into a world that is supposed to belong to the religious life alone.

It is also maintained that a common knowledge of the facts of the sense world is possible for everyone, but that in respect of supersensible facts it is only a matter of the personal opinion of the individual, and that no one should speak of a generally valid certainty in these matters.

Others maintain still other things.

It can become clear that the observation of the visible world presents riddles that can never be solved out of the facts of that world themselves. They will never be solved in this way, although the science concerned with these facts may have advanced as far as is possible. For the visible facts, through their very inner nature, point clearly to a hidden world. Whoever does not discern this closes his mind to the riddles that spring up everywhere out of the facts of the sense world. He refuses to perceive certain questions and riddles; he, therefore, thinks that all questions may be answered by means of the sensory facts. The questions he wishes to propound can indeed all be answered by means of the facts that he expects will be discovered in the future. This may be readily admitted. But why should a person wait for answers to certain things who does not ask any questions? Whoever strives for an occult science merely says that for him these questions are self evident and that they must be recognized as a fully justified expression of the human soul. Science cannot be pressed into limits by forbidding the human being to ask unbiased questions.

The opinion that there are limits to human cognition that cannot be overstepped, compelling man to stop short before an invisible world, must be replied to by saying that there can be no doubt about the impossibility of finding access to the invisible world with the kind of cognition referred to here. Whoever considers that form of cognition to be the only possible one cannot come to any other opinion than that the human being is denied access to a possibly existent higher world. Yet the following may also be stated. If it is possible to develop another kind of cognition, this then may well lead into the supersensible world. If this kind of cognition is considered to be impossible, then we reach a point of view from which all talk about a supersensible world appears as pure nonsense. From an impartial viewpoint, however, the only reason for such an opinion can be the fact that the person holding it has no knowledge of this other kind of cognition. Yet how can a person pass judgment upon something about which he himself admits his ignorance? Unprejudiced thinking must hold to the premise that a person should speak only of what he knows and should not make statements about something he does not know. Such thinking can only speak of the right that a person has to communicate what he himself has experienced, but it cannot speak of the right that somebody declare impossible what he does not know or does not wish to know. We cannot deny anyone the right to ignore the supersensible, but there can never be any good reason for him to declare himself an authority, not only on what he himself can know, but also on all that a man can not know.

In the case of those who declare that it is presumptuous to penetrate into the domain of the supersensible an occult-scientific exposition has to call attention to the fact that this can be done, and that it is a transgression against the faculties bestowed upon man if we allow them to stagnate, instead of developing and making use of them.

Whoever thinks, however, that the views concerning the supersensible world must belong entirely to personal opinion and feeling denies what is common to all human beings. It is certainly true that the insight into these things must be acquired by each person for himself, but it is also a fact that all human beings who go far enough arrive, not at different opinions about these things, but at the same opinion. Differences of opinion exist only as long as human beings wish to approach the highest truths, not by a scientifically assured path, but by way of personal caprice. It must again be admitted, however, that only that person is able to acknowledge the correctness of the path of occult science who is willing to familiarize himself with its characteristics.

At the proper moment, every human being can find the way to occult science who recognizes, or even merely assumes or divines, out of the manifest world, the existence of a hidden world and who, out of the consciousness that the powers of cognition are capable of development, is driven to the feeling that the concealed is able to reveal itself to him. To a person who has been led to occult science by means of these soul experiences there opens up not only the prospect of finding the answer to certain questions springing from his craving for knowledge, but also the quite different prospect of becoming the victor over all that hampers and weakens life. It signifies, in a certain higher sense, a weakening of life, indeed a death of the soul, when a human being sees himself forced to turn away from the supersensible, or to deny it. Indeed, under certain conditions it leads to despair when a man loses hope of having the hidden revealed to him. This death and despair in their manifold forms are, at the same time, inner soul opponents of occult-scientific striving. They appear when the inner force of the human being dwindles. Then all force of life must be introduced from without if such a person is to get possession of any life force at all. He then perceives the things, beings, and events that appear before his senses; he analyses these with his intellect. They give him pleasure and pain, they drive him to the actions of which he is capable. He may carry on in this way for a while yet at some time he must reach a point when he inwardly dies. For what can be drawn from the world in this way becomes exhausted. This is not a statement derived from the personal experience of one individual, but the result of an unbiased consideration of all human life. What guards against this exhaustion is the concealed something that rests within the depths of things. If the power to descend into these depths, in order to draw up ever new life-force, dies away within the human being, then finally also the outer aspect of things no longer proves conducive to life.

This question by no means concerns only the individual human being, only his personal welfare and misfortune. Precisely through true occult-scientific observations man arrives at the certainty that, from a higher standpoint, the welfare and misfortune of the individual is intimately bound up with the welfare or misfortune of the whole world. The human being comes to understand that he injures the whole universe and all its beings by not developing his forces in the proper way. If he lays waste his life by losing the relationship with the supersensible, he not only destroys something in his own inner being — the decaying of which can lead him finally to despair — but because of his weakness he creates a hindrance to the evolution of the whole world in which he lives.

The human being can deceive himself. He can yield to the belief that there is no hidden world, that what appears to his senses and his intellect contains everything that can possibly exist. But this deception is only possible, not for the deeper, but for the surface consciousness. Feeling and desire do not submit to this deceptive belief. In one way or another, they will always crave for a concealed something, and if this is withdrawn from them, they force the human being into doubt, into a feeling of insecurity of life, indeed, into despair. A cognition that reveals the hidden is capable of overcoming all hopelessness, all insecurity, all despair, in fact all that weakens life and makes it incapable of the service required of him in the cosmos.

This is the beautiful fruit of the knowledge of spiritual science that it gives strength and firmness to life, and not alone gratification to the passion for knowledge. The source from which this knowledge draws its power to work and its trust in life is inexhaustible. No one who has once really approached this source will, by repeatedly taking refuge in it, go away unstrengthened.

There are people who wish to hear nothing about this knowledge because they see something unhealthy in what has just been said. Such people are quite right in regard to the superficial and external side of life. They do not wish to see stunted what life offers in its so-called reality. They consider it weakness when a person turns away from reality and seeks his salvation in a hidden world that to them appears as a fantastic, imaginary one. If, in our spiritual scientific striving, we are not to fall into an unhealthy dreaminess and weakness, we must acknowledge the partial justification of such objections. For they rest upon a healthy judgment that leads, not to a whole, but only to a half-truth through the very fact that it does not penetrate into the depth of things, but remains on the surface. Were the striving for supersensible knowledge likely to weaken life and to estrange men from true reality, then such objections would certainly be strong enough to remove the foundation from under this spiritual trend.

Also concerning such points of view, spiritual-scientific endeavors would not take the right path if they wished to “defend” themselves in the usual sense of the word. Here also they can only speak out of their own merit, recognizable to every unprejudiced person, when they make evident how they increase the vital force and strength in those who familiarize themselves with them in the right way. These endeavors cannot turn man into a person estranged from the world, into a dreamer; they give him strength from the sources of life out of which his spirit and soul have sprung.

Many a man encounters still other intellectual obstacles when he approaches the endeavors of occult science. For it is fundamentally true that the reader finds in the presentation of occult science a description of soul experiences through the pursuit of which he can approach the supersensible world-content. But in practice this must present itself as a kind of ideal. The reader must at first absorb a comparatively large number of supersensible experiences in the form of communications, experiences that he, however, has not yet passed through himself. This cannot be otherwise and will also be the case with this book. The author will describe what he believes he knows about the nature of man, about his conduct between birth and death, and in his disembodied state in the spiritual world; in addition, the evolution of the earth and of mankind will be described. Thus it might appear as though a certain amount of alleged knowledge were presented in the form of dogmas for which belief based on authority were demanded. This is not the case. What can be known of the supersensible world-content is present in him who presents the material as a living content of the soul, and if someone becomes acquainted with this soul-content, this then enkindles in his own soul the impulses that lead to the corresponding supersensible facts. While reading the communications concerning spiritual-scientific knowledge, we live in a quite different manner than we do while reading those concerning external facts. If we read communications from the outer sense world, we are reading about them. But if we read communications about supersensible facts in the right way, we are living into the stream of spiritual existence. In absorbing the results we, at the same time, enter upon our own inner path to them. It is true that what is meant here is often not at all observed by the reader. Entrance into the spiritual world is imagined in a way too similar to an experience of the senses; therefore, what is experienced when reading about this world is considered to be much too much of the nature of thought. But if we have truly absorbed these thoughts we are already within this world and have only to become quite clear about the fact that we have already experienced, unnoticed, what we thought we had received merely as an intellectual communication. Complete clarity concerning the real nature of what has been experienced will be gained in carrying out in practice what is described, in the second and last part of this book, as the “path” to supersensible knowledge. It might easily be thought that the opposite would be the right way; that this path should be described first. That is not the case. For anyone who only carries out “exercises” in order to enter the supersensible world, without directing the attention of his soul to definite facts concerning it, that world remains an indefinite, confused chaos. We learn to become familiar with that world naively, as it were, by gaining information about certain of its facts, and then we account for the way in which we ourselves, abandoning naiveté, fully consciously acquire the experiences about which we have gained information. If we penetrate deeply into the descriptions of occult science we become convinced that this is the only sure path to supersensible knowledge. We shall also realize that the opinion that supersensible knowledge might at first have the effect of a dogma through the power of suggestion, as it were, is unfounded. For the content of this knowledge is acquired by a soul activity that takes from it all merely suggestive power and only gives it the possibility of appealing to another person in the same way in which all truths speak to him that offer themselves to his thoughtful judgment. The reason the other person does not at first notice that he is living in the spiritual world does not lie in a thoughtless, suggestive absorption of what he has read, but in the subtlety and unfamiliarity of what he has experienced in his reading. — Therefore, by first absorbing the communications as given in the first part of this book, we become participators in the knowledge of the spiritual world; by means of the practical application of the soul exercises given in the second part, we become independent knowers of this world.

In the spirit and true sense of the word, no real scientist will be able to find a contradiction between his science built upon the facts of the sense world and the method by which the supersensible world is investigated. The scientist makes use of certain instruments and methods. He produces his instruments by transforming what “nature” offers him. The supersensible method of knowledge also makes use of an instrument. This instrument is man himself. This instrument, too, must first be made ready for higher research. The capacities and forces given to man by nature, without his assistance, must be transformed into higher capacities and powers. Man is thereby able to make himself the instrument for research in the supersensible world.



1. It has happened that the term “occult science,” as used by the author in earlier editions of this book, has been rejected for the reason that a science cannot be “something hidden.” That would be correct if the matter were meant in this way. But such is not the case. The science of nature cannot be called a “natural” science in the sense that it belongs by “nature” to everyone, nor does the author consider occult science as a “hidden” science, but one that has to do with the unrevealed, the concealed, in the phenomena of the world for ordinary methods of cognition. It is a science of the “mysteries,” of the “revealed secrets.” This science, however, should not be a secret for anyone who seeks knowledge of it by the proper methods.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:22 pm


IN THE OBSERVATION of man from the point of view of a supersensible mode of cognition, the general principles of this method become immediately applicable. This observation rests upon the recognition of the “revealed mystery” within the individual human being. Only a part of what supersensible cognition apprehends as the human being is accessible to the senses and to the intellect dependent upon them, namely, the physical body. In order to elucidate the concept of this physical body, our attention must first be turned to that phenomenon which, as the great riddle, lies spread out over all observation of life, that is, to death and, in connection with it, to so-called lifeless nature — the mineral kingdom — which always bears death within it. We have, thereby, referred to facts that are only fully explainable through supersensible knowledge, and to which a large part of this volume must be devoted. Here, however, a few thoughts must first be offered for the sake of orientation.

Within the manifest world, the physical body is the part of man having the same nature as the mineral world. On the other hand, what differentiates man from the mineral cannot be considered as physical body. Especially important in an unbiased consideration is the fact that death lays bare the part of man that, after death, is of the same nature as the mineral world. We can point to the corpse as that part of man subject to the processes of the mineral realm. It can be emphasized that in this member of man's being, the corpse, the same substances and forces are active as in the mineral realm, but it is necessary to emphasize, equally strongly, the fact that at death the decay of the physical body occurs. Yet we are also justified in saying that while it is true that the same substances and forces are active in both the human physical body and the mineral, their activity during life is dedicated to a higher purpose. Only when death has occurred is their activity similar to that of the mineral world. They then appear as they must appear, according to their own nature, namely, as the dissolver of the physical bodily form.

Thus, in man we have to differentiate sharply between the visible and the concealed. For during life the concealed must wage constant battle against the substances and forces of the mineral element in the physical body. When this battle ceases, the mineral activity comes to the fore. We have thereby drawn attention to the point where the science of the supersensible must enter. It must seek that which wages the above-mentioned battle. It is just this that is hidden from sense-observation and is only accessible to supersensible observation. In a later chapter of this work we shall consider how the human being is able to reach the point where this hidden something becomes manifest to him just as the phenomena of the senses are manifest to the ordinary eye. Here, however, we shall describe the result of supersensible observation.

It has already been indicated that the description of the path on which man attains to a higher perception can be of value to him only after he has become acquainted in simple narrative form with the disclosures of supersensible research. For in regard to the supersensible realm it is possible to comprehend what has not yet been observed. Indeed, the right path toward perception is that which proceeds from comprehension.

Even though that hidden something, which in the physical body carries on the battle against disintegration, is only observable by higher perception, yet its effects are clearly evident to the reasoning power that limits itself to the manifest. These effects express themselves in the form or shape into which the mineral substances and forces of the physical body are fashioned during life. This form disappears by degrees and the physical body becomes a part of the rest of the mineral world when death has occurred. Supersensible perception, however, is able to observe, as an independent member of the human entity, what prevents the physical substances and forces during life from taking their own path, which leads to dissolution of the physical body. Let us call the independent member the ether or lifebody. — In order to prevent misunderstandings from the very beginning, two things should be borne in mind concerning this designation of a second member of the human entity. The word “ether” is used here in a sense quite different from the one in use in present day physics, which, for example, designates the vehicle of light as ether. Here, however, the word will be limited to the meaning given above. It will be used for what is accessible to higher perception and for what is recognizable to sense-observation only in its effects, that is through its ability to give a definite form and shape to the mineral substances and forces existing in the physical body. The word “body” also must not be misunderstood. In designating the higher things of existence, it is necessary to use the words of ordinary language, and for sense-observation these words express only the sensory. From the standpoint of the senses, the ether body is, naturally, nothing of a bodily nature, however tenuous we may picture it. (see Note #1.) [1]

Having reached, in the presentation of the supersensible, the mention of this ether body or life body, the point has also been reached where such a concept will have to encounter the opposition of many present-day opinions. The evolution of the human spirit has led to the point where in our age the discussion of such a member of the human organism must be considered as something unscientific. The materialistic mode of thought has reached the point of seeing in the living body nothing but a combination of physical substances and forces, like those to be found in the so-called lifeless body, in the mineral. The combination in the living is supposed to be more complicated than in the lifeless, however. Not so long ago, ordinary science, too, held still other points of view. Whoever has followed the writings of many serious scientists of the first half of the nineteenth century realizes that at that time “real natural scientists” were conscious of the fact that something exists in the living body besides what is present in the lifeless mineral. They spoke of a “life force.” This “life force,” to be sure, is not visualized as having the nature of the lifebody designated here, but an inkling that something of the kind exists, underlies such a concept. This “life force” was thought of as though supplementing in the living body the physical substances and forces as the magnetic force supplements the mere iron in the magnet. Then came the time when this “life force” was discarded from the store of scientific concepts. Purely physical and chemical causes were to suffice for everything. In this respect, a reaction has set in today among many modern scientific thinkers. It is admitted on many sides that the assumption of something similar to “life force” is not, after all, pure nonsense. The scientist who admits this, however, will not be inclined to make common cause with the point of view presented here concerning the life body. It is useless, as a rule, to enter into a discussion, from the standpoint of supersensible knowledge, with people holding such views. It ought rather be the concern of this knowledge to recognize that the materialistic mode of thought is a necessary concomitant phenomenon of the great progress in natural science in our age. This progress rests upon an enormous improvement in the means of sense-observation, and it lies in the nature of man, during his evolution, at times to bring to a certain degree of perfection particular faculties at the cost of others. Exact sense-observation, which has developed so significantly through natural science, caused the cultivation of those human capacities that lead into “hidden worlds” to retreat into the background, but the time has come again when this cultivation is necessary. Acknowledgment of the concealed, however, will not be won by contending against opinions that result with logical accuracy from the denial of the concealed, but by placing the concealed itself in the proper light. Then those for whom “the time has come” will acknowledge it.

It was necessary to speak of this here in order to keep people from assuming that the author is ignorant of the viewpoint of natural science when he speaks of an “ether body” that in many circles is considered as something purely fantastic.

This ether body, then, is a second member of the human entity. For supersensible cognition, it possesses a higher degree of reality than the physical body. A description of its appearance to supersensible perception can only be given in a subsequent chapter of this book after the sense in which such descriptions are to be taken has become clear. For the present it may suffice to say that the ether body penetrates the physical completely and that it is to be looked upon as a kind of architect of the latter. All organs are preserved in their form and shape by means of the currents and movements of the ether body. The physical heart is based upon an “etheric heart,” the physical brain upon an “etheric brain,” and so forth. The ether body is organized like the physical body, only with greater complexity. Wherever in the physical body separated parts exist, in the ether body everything is in living, interweaving motion.

The human being possesses this ether body in common with the plants, just as he possesses the physical body in common with the mineral element. Everything living has its ether body.

Supersensible observation advances from the ether body to a further member of the human entity. In order to aid the student in forming a visualization of this member, it points to the phenomenon of sleep, just as it pointed to the phenomenon of death when it spoke of the ether body. All human endeavor rests upon activity in the waking state, in so far as the manifest is concerned. This activity, however, is only possible if man again and again gathers new strength for his exhausted forces from sleep. Action and thought disappear in sleep; all suffering, all pleasure are submerged for conscious life. As though out of hidden, mysterious depths, conscious forces arise out of the unconsciousness of sleep as man awakens. It is the same consciousness that sinks into shadowy depths when we go to sleep and arises again when we awaken. The power that awakens life again and again out of a state of unconsciousness is, according to supersensible cognition, the third member of the human entity, We may call it the astral body. Just as the physical body is unable to retain its form by means of the mineral substances and forces contained in it, but only by being interpenetrated by the ether body, so likewise the forces of the ether body are unable, by themselves, to illuminate this body with the light of consciousness. An ether body, left entirely to itself, would have to remain in a continuous state of sleep. We might also say: it could only maintain a plant-existence within the physical body. An awakened ether body is illuminated by an astral body. For sense-observation, the activity of the astral body disappears when man sinks into sleep. For supersensible observation, the astral body still exists, but it appears to be separated or withdrawn from the ether body. Sense-observation is not concerned with the astral body itself, but only with its effects within the manifest, and during sleep these effects are not directly present. In the same sense that man has his physical body in common with the minerals, his ether body with the plants, he is, in regard to his astral body, of the same nature as the animals. Plants are in a continuous state of sleep. A person who does not judge accurately in these things can easily fall into the error of ascribing a kind of consciousness also to plants that is similar to that of animals and men in their waking state. That, however, can happen only if he has an unclear idea of the nature of consciousness. It is then stated that if an external stimulus is applied to the plant it makes certain movements like the animal. One speaks of the “sensitivity” of some plants that, for example, contract their leaves if certain outer stimuli act upon them. Yet it is not the characteristic of consciousness that a being reacts to certain stimuli, but that the being experiences something in its inner nature that adds something new to the mere reaction. Otherwise, one could also speak of consciousness when a piece of iron expands under the influence of heat. Consciousness is present only when, through the effect of heat, the being, for example, inwardly experiences pain.

The fourth member of his being that supersensible cognition must ascribe to man has nothing in common with the world of the manifest surrounding him. It is what distinguishes him from his fellow-creatures and through which he is the crown of creation belonging to him. Supersensible cognition forms a conception of this additional member of the human entity by calling attention to the essential difference in the experiences of waking life. This difference appears at once when man realizes that in the waking state he stands, on the one hand, always in the midst of experiences that of necessity come and go, and that, on the other hand, he has experiences in which this is not the case. This becomes especially clear when human and animal experiences are compared. The animal experiences with great regularity the influences of the outer world, and under the influence of heat and cold, pain and pleasure, under certain regularly recurring processes of its body, it becomes conscious of hunger and thirst. The life of man is not exhausted with such experiences. He can develop passions and desires that transcend all this. In the case of the animal it would always be possible, were we able to go far enough, to show where the cause for an action or sensation lies, outside of or within the body. With man this is by no means the case. He can produce desires and passions for whose origin neither the cause within nor without his body is sufficient. We must ascribe a special source to everything that falls within this domain. In the light of supersensible science this source can be seen in the human ego. The ego can, therefore, be called the fourth member of the human entity. — If the astral body were left to itself, pleasure and pain, feelings of hunger and thirst would take place in it; but what would not occur Is the feeling that there is something permanent in all this. Not the permanent as such is here called the “ego,” but what experiences this permanency. We must formulate the concepts precisely in this realm, if misunderstandings are not to arise. With the becoming aware of something enduring something permanent in the change of the inner experiences the dawning of the “ego feeling” begins. The fact that a being feels hunger, for example, cannot give it an ego feeling. Hunger arises when the renewed causes of it make themselves felt within the being in question. It pounces upon its food just because these renewed causes are present. The ego feeling appears when not only these renewed impulses drive the human being to seek food, but when pleasure has arisen at a previous appeasement of hunger and the consciousness of this pleasure has remained, thus making not only the present experience of hunger, but the past experience of pleasure the driving force in the human being's search for food. — Without the presence of the ether body, the physical body would decay. Without the illumination by the astral body, the ether body would sink into unconsciousness. In like manner the astral body would have to let the past sink, again and again, into oblivion, were it not for the “ego” to carry this past over into the present. What death is for the physical body, and sleep for the ether body, oblivion is for the astral body. One might also say that life belongs to the ether body, consciousness to the astral body, and memory to the ego.

It is even easier to fall into the error of ascribing memory to animals than it is to ascribe consciousness to plants. It is very natural to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master whom he has not seen perhaps for a long time. Yet, in reality, this recognition does not rest upon memory, but upon something quite different. The dog feels a certain attraction to its master. This attraction proceeds from the master's personality. This personality causes pleasure in the dog when the master is in its presence, and every time the master's presence reoccurs, it causes a renewal of this pleasure. Memory, however, is only present when a being not only feels with its experiences in the present, but when it retains also those of the past. One might acknowledge this and still fall into the error of thinking that the dog has memory. For it might be said that the dog mourns when its master leaves it, therefore it has retained a memory of him. That also is an incorrect conclusion. Through sharing the master's life, his presence becomes a need to the dog and it, therefore, experiences his absence in the same way that it experiences hunger. Whoever does not make these distinctions, will not arrive at clarity concerning the true relationships of life.

Out of certain prejudices, one might object to this exposition by maintaining that it cannot be known whether or not there exists in the animal anything similar to human memory. Such an objection, however, is the result of untrained observation. Anyone who can observe quite factually how the animal behaves in the complex of its experiences notices the difference between its behavior and that of the human being, and he realizes that the animal's behavior corresponds to the non-existence of memory. For supersensible observation this is quite clear. Yet, what arises as direct experience in supersensible observation may also be known by its effects in this domain through sense-perception permeated by thought activity. If one says that man is aware of his memory through inner soul-observation, something he cannot carry out in the case of the animal, one states something based upon a fatal error. What man has to say to himself about his capacity for memory he cannot derive from inner soul-observation, but only from what he experiences with himself in relation to the things and occurrences of the outer world. Man has these experiences with himself and with another human being and also with animals in exactly the same way. He is blinded by pure illusion when he believes that he judges the existence of memory merely by means of inner observation. The power underlying memory may be called an inner power; the judgment concerning this power is acquired, also in regard to one's own person, through the outer world by directing one's attention to the relationships of life. Just as one is able to judge these relationships in regard to oneself, so one can judge them in regard to the animal. In regard to such things our current psychology suffers from its wholly untrained, inexact ideas, deceptive to a great degree because of errors in observation.

Memory and oblivion signify for the ego what waking and sleeping signify for the astral body. Just as sleep permits the cares and troubles of the day to disappear into nothingness, oblivion spreads a veil over the bad experiences of life, blotting out a part of the past. Just as sleep is necessary for the restoration of the exhausted life forces, so man has to eradicate certain parts of the past from his memory if he is to approach new experiences freely and without bias. But precisely through forgetting, strength develops for perception of the new. Consider certain facts, like that of learning to write. All the details the child has to experience in learning to write are forgotten. What remains is the ability to write. How would man be able to write if at every stroke of the pen all the past experiences in learning to write were to arise again in the soul as memory?

Memory appears in various stages. Its simplest form occurs when a person observes an object and, after turning away, is able to call up its mental image, is able to visualize it. He has formed this image while perceiving the object. A process has taken place between his astral body and his ego. The astral body has aroused the consciousness of the outer impression of the object. Yet knowledge of the object would last only as long as the latter is present, if the ego were not to absorb this knowledge and make it its own. — It is at this point that supersensible perception separates the bodily element from the soul nature. One speaks of the astral body as long as one considers the arising of knowledge of an object that is present. What, however, gives permanence to this knowledge one designates as soul. From what has been said we can see at the same time how closely the human astral body is connected with that part of the soul that gives permanence to knowledge. Both are united into one member of the human entity. This union, therefore, may also be called astral body. If we desire an exact designation, we may call the human astral body the soul body, the soul, in so far as it is united with this soul body, we may call the sentient soul.

The ego rises to a higher stage of its being when it directs its activity toward what it has made its own out of the knowledge of the objects. This is the activity by which the ego severs itself more and more from the objects of perception in order to work within what it has made its own. The part of the soul in which this occurs may be designated the intellectual or mind soul. — It is characteristic of both the sentient and intellectual souls that they work with what they receive through the impressions of the objects perceived by the senses, and what is retained from this in memory. The soul is here completely surrendered to what is external to it. What it makes its own through memory it has also received from outside. But it can pass beyond all this. It is not alone sentient soul and intellectual soul. For supersensible perception it is easiest to give an idea of this passing beyond by pointing to a simple fact, the comprehensive significance of which, however, must be appreciated. This fact is the following: In the whole range of language there is one name that, through its very nature, distinguishes itself from every other name. That name is “ I. ” Every other name may be given by every man to the object or being to whom it applies. The “ I ” as designation for a being has meaning only when this being applies it to itself. The name “ I ” can never resound to the ear of a human being from without as his designation; only the being himself can apply it to himself. “I am an ‘ I ’ to myself only. For every other person I am a ‘you’ and everyone else is for me a ‘you.’ ” This fact is the outer expression of a deeply significant truth. The true nature of the “ I ” is independent of all that is external; therefore its name “ I ” cannot be called to it by anything external. Those religious denominations that have consciously maintained their relationship with supersensible perception designate the “ I ” as the “Ineffable Name of God.” By using this expression, reference is made to what has been indicated. Nothing of an external nature has access to that part of the soul with which we are concerned here. Here is the “hidden sanctuary” of the soul. Only a being with whom the soul is of like nature can gain entrance there. The God who dwells within man speaks when the soul becomes aware of itself as an I. Just as the sentient and intellectual souls live in the outer world, so a third soul member immerses itself in the Divine when the soul gains a perception of its own being.

The above conceptions may easily be misunderstood as an attempt to identify the I with God. But it has not been stated that the I is God, but only that it is of the same nature and essence as the Divine. Would anyone contend that a drop of water is the sea when he says that the drop is of the same essence or substance as the sea? If we wish to use a comparison, we may say that the drop of water has the same relationship to the sea that the I has to the Divine. Man can find the Divine within himself because his innermost being is drawn from the Divine. Thus he acquires, through this, the third member of his soul, an inner knowledge of himself, just as he gains through his astral body a knowledge of the outer world. Therefore, occult science can call this third member of the soul the consciousness soul; and, in this sense, the soul consists of three members: the sentient soul, the intellectual soul, and the consciousness soul, just as the corporeal part of man consists of three members — the physical body, the ether body, and the astral body.

Psychological errors of observation, similar to those already mentioned concerning the judging of the capacity of memory, make it difficult to gain the proper insight into the nature of the I. Much that people believe they understand can be regarded as a refutation of the above, yet it is in reality a confirmation. This is the case, for example, with the remarks about the I which Eduard von Hartmann makes in his Outline of Psychology [2] “In the first place, consciousness of self is more ancient than the word I. Personal pronouns are a rather late product of the evolution of languages and have only the value of abbreviations. The word I is a short substitute for the speaker's own name, but a substitute that each speaker, as such, uses for himself, no matter by what proper name others may call him. Consciousness of self can be developed in animals and in uneducated deaf and dumb persons to a high degree, even without reference to a proper name. Consciousness of the proper name can fully replace the lack of use of the word I. With this insight the magical nimbus is eliminated which for many people envelops the little word I; it cannot add the slightest thing to the concept of self-consciousness, but receives its whole content solely from the latter.” It is possible to be quite in agreement with such points of view; also with the contention that no magical nimbus be bestowed upon the little word, I, which would only dim a thoughtful consideration of the matter. But the nature of a thing is not decided by the way the verbal designation for this thing has gradually been brought about. The important point is the fact that the essential nature of the ego in self-consciousness is “more ancient than the word I ” and that man is compelled to use this little word — endowed with the qualities belonging to it alone — for what he experiences, in his reciprocal relationship with the outer world, differently from the way the animal can experience it. Nothing can be known concerning the nature of the triangle by showing how the “word” triangle has been evolved; likewise, nothing can be decided concerning the nature of the I by knowing how this word has taken form in the evolution of language out of a different verbal usage.

The true nature of the I reveals itself only in the consciousness soul. For while the soul sinks itself into other things in feeling and intellect, as consciousness soul it takes hold of its own being. Therefore this I can be perceived by the consciousness soul only through a certain inner activity. The visualizations of external objects are formed just as these objects come and go, and these visualizations continue to work in the Intellect by means of their own force. But if the I is to observe itself, it cannot simply surrender itself; it must, through inner activity, first lift its being out of its own depths in order to have a consciousness of it. With the perception of the I, with self-contemplation, an inner activity of the I begins. Through this activity, the perception of the I within the consciousness soul has a significance for man quite different from the observation of all that reaches him through the three corporeal members and the two other members of the soul. The force that discloses the I within the consciousness soul is indeed the same force that manifests in all the rest of the world. This force does not, however, appear directly in the body and in the lower members of the soul, but reveals itself by degrees in its effects. The lowest manifestation is the manifestation through the physical body; this then mounts up by stages to what fills the intellectual soul. One might say that, with each step upward, one of the veils that envelop the hidden falls away. In what fills the consciousness soul, the hidden enters unveiled into the innermost temple of the soul. Yet it appears there only like a drop out of the ocean of all-pervading spirituality. Here, however, man must first take hold of this spirituality. He must recognize it in himself, then he will be able to find it also in its manifestations.

What here like a drop penetrates into the consciousness soul, occult science calls the spirit. Thus the consciousness soul is united with the spirit, which is the hidden in all that is manifest. If man wishes to take hold of the spirit in all manifestation, he must do it in the same way he takes hold of the ego in the consciousness soul. He must direct the activity that has led him to the perception of this I toward the manifest world. He, thereby, develops to higher stages of his being. He adds something new to the corporeal and soul members. The next thing is that he, himself, also conquer what lies hidden within the lower members of his soul, and this happens through his work on his soul, proceeding from the ego. How man is engaged in this work becomes evident if one compares a person who still surrenders himself to his lower passions and so-called sensual lust, with a noble idealist. The latter develops out of the former if he rids himself of certain low inclinations and turns toward nobler ones. In doing so he has worked on his soul, ennobling and spiritualizing it out of his ego. The ego has become master within the soul-life. This can be carried so far that no desire, no enjoyment can gain entrance into the soul without the I being the power that makes the entrance possible. In this way, the whole soul now becomes a manifestation of the I, as this was previously the case with the consciousness soul alone. In fact, all cultural life and all spiritual human endeavor consists in a work that has as its aim this rulership of the ego. Every human being living in the present age is engaged in this work whether he wants it or not, whether he is conscious of it or not.

Through this work, however, higher stages of the being of man are reached. Through it, man develops new members of his being. These lie as the concealed behind what is manifest to him. Not only can he become master of the soul by working on the latter through the power of the ego so that the soul drives the concealed into manifestation, but he can also extend this work. He can extend it to the astral body. The I thus takes possession of this astral body by uniting itself with the latter's hidden nature. This astral body, overcome and transformed by the ego, may be called the spirit self. (This is what, in connection with oriental wisdom, is called “manas.”) In the spirit self we have a higher member of man's being, one which, so to speak, exists within it as a germ and which emerges more and more as it actively works upon itself.

Just as the human being conquers his astral body by penetrating to the hidden forces standing behind it, so, too, in the course of evolution, does this happen with the ether body. The work upon the ether body is, however, more intensive than the work upon the astral body, for what is concealed in the former is enveloped by two veils, while the concealed in the astral body is veiled by only one. It is possible to form a concept of the difference in the work on these two bodies by pointing to certain changes that can take place in man in the course of his development. Let us call to mind how certain human soul qualities develop when the ego is working upon the soul; how passion and desire, joy and sorrow may change. It is only necessary to think back to the time of childhood. At that time, what was man's source of pleasure? What caused him pain? What has he learned in addition to what he was able to do in childhood? All this is only an expression of the way the ego has gained mastery over the astral body. For this body is the bearer of pleasure and pain, of joy and sorrow. Compare this with how little certain other qualities of man change in the course of time, for example, his temperament, the deeper peculiarities of his character, and so forth. A person, hot-tempered as a child, will often retain certain aspects of this violent temper in later life. This is such a striking fact that there are thinkers who wholly deny the possibility of any change in the fundamental character of a human being. They assume that this is something that remains unchanged throughout life, manifesting in one way or another. Such a judgment is merely based upon lack of observation. Anyone who has the capacity of observing such things can perceive clearly that also man's temperament and character change under the influence of his ego. To be sure, this change is slow when compared with the change in the qualities described above. The relationship between the two kinds of changes may be compared with the advancing of the hour hand of a clock in relation to the minute hand. The forces that bring about this change of character or temperament belong to the hidden realm of the ether body. They are of like nature with the forces that rule in the kingdom of life, that is to say, with the forces of growth and nutrition and those that bring about reproduction. Subsequent explanations in this book will shed the right light upon these matters. — The I is not working upon the astral body if the human being simply gives himself up to pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, but if the peculiarities of these soul qualities change. Likewise, the work extends to the ether body if the ego applies its activity to the changing of its traits of character, of its temperament, and so forth. Also on this latter change every human being is working, whether he is conscious of it or not. The strongest impulses producing this change in ordinary life are the religious ones. When the I allows the impulses that flow from religion to act upon it again and again, they form within it a power that works right into the ether body and transforms it in much the same way that lesser life-impulses cause a transformation of the astral body. These lesser impulses of life, which come to man through study, contemplation, ennobling of the feelings, and so forth, are subject to the manifold changes of existence; religious experiences, however, imprint upon all thinking, feeling, and willing a uniform character. They shed, as it were, a common, uniform light over the entire soul-life. A man thinks and feels this way today, tomorrow differently. The most varied causes bring this about. But if a person through his religious feelings, whatever they may be, divines something that persists throughout all changes, he will relate his current soul experiences of thinking and feeling to that fundamental feeling just as he does with his soul experiences of tomorrow. Religious creed, therefore, has a far-reaching effect upon the whole soul-life; its influence becomes ever stronger in the course of time, because it works by means of constant repetition. It therefore acquires the power of working upon the ether body. — The influence of true art has a similar effect upon the human being. If, through outer form, through color and tone of a work of art, he penetrates to its spiritual basis with thought and feeling, then the impulses that the I thus receives work down even into the ether body. If we think this thought through to the end we can estimate what a tremendous significance art has for all human evolution. We have referred here only to a few instances that give to the I the impulse to act upon the ether body. There are many similar influences in human life that are not so apparent to the observing eye as those that have been mentioned. But from these it is evident that hidden within man there is another member of his being that the I gradually develops. This member may be called the second spiritual member, the life spirit. (It is called “buddhi” in oriental wisdom.) The expression “life spirit” is the appropriate term for the reason that the same forces are active in what it designates as in the “life body”; only, in these forces, when they manifest themselves as life body, the human ego is not active. If they manifest as life spirit, however, they are permeated by the activity of the 1.

The intellectual development of man, his purification and ennobling of the utterances of feeling and will are the measure of his transformation of the astral body in spirit self; his religious and many other experiences imprint themselves upon the ether body and transform it into life spirit. In the usual course of life this occurs more or less unconsciously. On the other hand, what is called initiation of man consists in his being directed by supersensible knowledge to the means that enable him to undertake this work on the spirit self and life spirit in full consciousness. These means will be discussed in later parts of this book. For the present, it was a question of showing that, beside the soul and the body, the spirit is also active within the human being. We shall see later how this spirit, in contrast to the transient body, belongs to the Eternal in man.

The activity of the I is not exhausted with its work upon the astral and ether bodies; it extends also to the physical body. A trace of the influence of the I upon the physical body can be seen when, for example, under certain circumstances a person blushes or turns pale. In this case the I is actually the cause of a process in the physical body. If, through the activity of the I, changes take place in man in respect of its influence upon the physical body, the I is actually united with the hidden forces of this physical body, with the same forces that cause the physical processes to take place. It can be said, then, that the I, through this activity, works upon the physical body. This expression must not be misunderstood. It must not be imagined that this activity is something grossly material. What appears in the physical body as gross matter is only the manifested part of it. Behind this manifested part lie the hidden forces of its being, and these forces are of a spiritual nature. We are not speaking here of work upon a material substance, of which the physical body seems to consist, but of the spiritual work upon the invisible forces that bring this body into existence and allow it to decay. In ordinary life this work of the I on the physical body enters human consciousness indistinctly. Complete clarity of consciousness in this respect is acquired only if man, under the influence of supersensible knowledge, takes this activity consciously in hand. Then the fact emerges that there is still a third spiritual member in man. It is what may be called spirit man, in contrast to the physical man. (In oriental wisdom this spirit-man is called “atma.”)

It is easy to be misled in respect of the spirit man, owing to the fact that in the physical body we see the lowest member of man's being, and it is, therefore, hard to be reconciled to the idea that work on the physical body brings into being the highest member of the human entity. But just because the physical body conceals the active spirit within it behind three veils, the highest form of human endeavor is needed to unite the I with this hidden spirit.

Thus in occult science man presents himself as a being composed of various members. Those of a corporeal nature are the physical body, the ether body, and the astral body. Those belonging to the soul are sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul. The I, the ego, spreads out its light within the soul. The members possessing a spiritual nature are spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man. We see from the above descriptions that the sentient soul and the astral body are closely united and in a certain respect form a whole. In a similar manner, consciousness soul and spirit self are a whole, for the spirit flashes up within the consciousness soul and from there rays through the other members of human nature. With this in mind, we can also speak of the following membering of the human being. We may combine astral body and sentient soul into a single member, likewise consciousness soul and spirit self, and the intellectual soul we may call the I, since it partakes of the I nature and, in a certain respect, is already the I that has not yet become conscious of its spiritual nature. We have, therefore, seven members of man: 1. physical body, 2. ether or life body, 3. astral body, 4. I , 5. spirit self, 6. life spirit, and 7. spirit man.

Even for those who are accustomed to materialistic ideas this membering of man according to the number seven would not possess anything “vaguely magical,” which they often ascribe to it, if they but held to the meaning of the above description and did not, from the very outset, themselves introduce this magical element into the matter. It is from the standpoint of a higher form of observing the world and in no other way that we ought to speak of these seven members of man, just as we speak of the seven colors of light or of the seven tones of the scale, (considering the octave as a repetition of the tonic.) Just as light appears in seven colors, and tone in a sevenfold scale, so does the homogeneous human nature appear in the above-mentioned seven members. Just as the number seven in tone and color bears nothing of “superstition” in it, so is this also the case in regard to the sevenfold membering of the human being. (On one occasion, when this question was discussed verbally, it was said that in the case of colors the number seven does not hold good, since beyond red and violet there are other colors that are not visible to the eye. Even in this respect, however, the comparison with the colors agrees, for the being of man extends beyond the physical body on the one side and spirit man on the other, only these extensions are “spiritually invisible” to the spiritual means of observation in the same way that the colors beyond red and violet are invisible to the physical eye. This comment had to be made because the opinion so easily arises that supersensible perception is not particular with respect to natural scientific thinking, that it is amateurish in this regard. But whoever pays strict attention to what is meant by the statements made here will find that, in fact, they are nowhere in contradiction to true natural science — neither when facts of natural science are used for illustration nor when, in the remarks made here, a direct relationship to natural-scientific research is indicated.)



1. In his book, Theosophy, the author has discussed the fact that with the designation “ether body” or “life body” he has no intention of renewing the old concept of “life force” discarded by natural science.

2. Eduard von Hartmann, Grundniss der Psychologie, Vol. 111, p.55. Bad Sachsa, 1908.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:24 pm

Part 1 of 2


IT IS NOT possible to penetrate into the nature of waking consciousness without observing the state through which the human being passes during sleep, and it is impossible to solve the riddle of life without considering death. For a human being in whom there is no feeling for the significance of supersensible knowledge, doubts may arise in regard to such knowledge because of the way in which it carries on its considerations regarding sleep and death. Supersensible knowledge is able to understand the motives that give rise to such a distrust. For it is quite comprehensible when someone says that man is here for an active, purposeful life and his accomplishments are based upon his devotion to it; furthermore, that the occupation with states such as sleep and death can only result from an inclination to idle dreaming and can only lead to empty imaginings. The rejection of what is thus held to be “fantastic” may readily be looked upon as the expression of a healthy soul, and an inclination toward “idle dreaming” of this kind as something unhealthy, characteristic of persons lacking in vital energy and the joy of life, and who are incapable of “real accomplishment.” It is wrong to declare forthwith that such an opinion is false, for it contains a certain kernel of truth. It is a quarter-truth that must be supplemented by the other three-quarters belonging to it, and a person who sees the one-quarter very well, but who has no conception of the other three-quarters, will only be made distrustful by our combating the true one-quarter. It must, in fact, be acknowledged without question that a consideration of what lies concealed in sleep and death is unhealthy if it leads to a weakening, to an estrangement from real life, and we must admit that much that has called itself occult science in the world from time immemorial, and is practiced also today under that name, bears a character unhealthy and hostile to life. But this unsound element does not spring from true supersensible knowledge. On the contrary, the real fact is the following. Just as man cannot always be awake, he also cannot, in regard to the real conditions of life in its widest sense, get along without what the supersensible is able to offer. Life continues during sleep, and the forces that are active and creative during the waking state receive their strength and renewal from what is given to them by sleep. Thus it is with what can be observed in the manifest world. The domain of the world is greater than the field of this observation, and what is known about the visible universe must be supplemented and fructified by what can be known about the invisible. A human being who does not continually draw strength for his weakened forces from sleep must of necessity destroy his life. Likewise, a world concept that is not fructified by a knowledge of the hidden world must lead to desolation. It is similar with death. Living beings succumb to death in order that new life may arise. It is precisely the knowledge of the supersensible that can shed clear light upon the beautiful words of Goethe: “Nature has invented death that she might have abundant life.” Just as there could be no life in the ordinary sense of the word without death, so can there be no true knowledge of the visible world without insight into the supersensible. All knowledge of what is visible must plunge again and again into the invisible in order to evolve. Thus it is evident that the science of the supersensible alone makes the life of revealed knowledge possible. It never weakens life when it appears in its true form. When, having been left to itself, life becomes weak and sickly, supersensible knowledge strengthens it and makes it, ever and again, fresh and healthy.

When man sinks into sleep, there is a change in the relationship of his members. That part of the sleeping man that lies in bed contains the physical and ether bodies, but not the astral body and not the ego. Because the ether body remains united with the physical body in sleep, the life-activities continue; for, the moment the physical body were left to itself, it would have to crumble to dust. What, however, is extinguished in sleep includes the mental images, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, the capacity to express a conscious will, and similar facts of existence. The astral body is the bearer of all this. An unbiased point of view can naturally never entertain the thought that in sleep the astral body is destroyed along with all pleasure and pain and the world of ideas and will. It simply exists in an other state. In order that the human ego and astral body not only be filled with joy and sorrow and all the other facts of existence mentioned above, but also have a conscious perception of them, it is necessary that the astral body be united with the physical and ether bodies. In the waking state, all three are united; in the sleeping state, the astral body withdraws from the physical and ether bodies. It assumes a different kind of existence from the one that falls to its lot during its union with the physical and ether bodies. It is the task of supersensible knowledge to consider this other kind of existence in the astral body. Observed from the standpoint of the outer world, the astral body disappears in sleep; supersensible perception must follow its life until it again takes possession of the physical and ether bodies on awakening. Just as in all cases where it is a matter of knowledge of the hidden things and events of the world, so supersensible observation is necessary for the discovery of the facts of the sleeping state in their particular form. If, however, what can be discovered by means of supersensible observation has once been uttered, it is comprehensible to truly unbiased thinking, for the processes of the hidden world reveal themselves in their effects in the manifest world. If it is seen how the revelations of supersensible perception make the sensory processes comprehensible, such a corroboration by means of life itself is the proof that can be required for such things. Anyone not desiring to employ the means for acquiring supersensible perception, indicated later on in this book, can have the following experience. He may at first accept the evidence of supersensible perception and then apply it to the manifest facts of his experience. He may, in this way, find that life has thereby become clear and comprehensible, and the more exact and thorough his observations of ordinary life are, the more readily will he come to this conviction.

Although the astral body, during sleep, experiences no mental pictures and also no pleasure and pain, it does not remain inactive. On the contrary, it is just in the sleep state that a lively activity is incumbent upon it. It is an activity into which it must again and again enter in rhythmical succession, if it has been for a time active in connection with the physical and ether bodies. Just as the pendulum of a clock, after having swung to the left and returned again to the center, must swing to the right because of the momentum gathered in its left swing, so the astral body and the ego living within it, after having been active for a time in the physical and ether bodies must, as a result of this, unfold a subsequent activity, body-free, in a surrounding world of soul and spirit. For the ordinary conditions of human life, unconsciousness occurs during this body-free condition of the astral body and ego because it presents the antithesis of the state of consciousness developed in the waking state through union with the physical and ether bodies, just as the swing of the pendulum to the right is the antithesis of the swing to the left. The necessity of entering into this state of unconsciousness is experienced by the soul-spirit nature of man as fatigue. But this fatigue is the expression of the fact that the astral body and ego, during sleep, prepare themselves to transform, during the following waking state, what has arisen in the physical and ether bodies through purely organic formative activity when freed from the presence of the spirit and soul elements. This unconscious formative activity and what takes place in the human being during and by means of consciousness are antitheses that must alternate in rhythmic succession. — The physical body can retain the form and stature suitable for man only by means of the human ether body, which in turn receives its proper forces from the astral body. The ether body is the builder, the architect, of the physical body, but it can only build in the right way if it receives the impulse for this purpose from the astral body. In the astral body reside the prototypes according to which the ether body gives form to the physical body. During the waking state, the astral body is not filled with these prototypes of the physical body, or at least only to a certain degree, for, during the waking state, the soul puts its own images in the place of these prototypes. When man directs the senses toward his environment he forms, by means of perception, thought images that are likenesses of the world about him. These likenesses are at first disturbances for the images that stimulate the ether body to maintain the physical body. Were the human being able, through his own activity, to bring to his astral body the images that are required to give the right impulse to the ether body, then there would be no such disturbance. This very disturbance, however, plays an important role in human existence. It expresses itself in the fact that the prototypes for the ether body do not act to the full extent of their power during waking life. The astral body carries on its waking activity within the physical body. In sleep, it works upon the physical body from without. [1]

Just as the physical body, for example, needs the outer world, which is of like nature to itself, to supply it with the means of subsistence, something similar is also the case with the astral body. Just imagine a physical human body removed from its surrounding world. It would have to perish. This demonstrates that without the whole physical environment it is not possible for the physical body to exist. In fact, the entire earth must be as it is, if human physical bodies are to exist upon it. The whole human body is, in reality, only a part of the earth; indeed, in a wider sense, a part of the whole physical universe. In this respect its relationship is similar, for example, to that of a finger to the entire human body. If the finger is severed from the hand, it can no longer continue to be a finger; it withers. This would also happen to the human body were it removed from the organism of which it is a member, from the life conditions offered it by the earth. If we were to lift it a sufficient number of miles above the earth's surface, it would perish just as the finger perishes that has been severed from the hand. If less consideration has been given to this fact in respect of the physical body and the earth than in respect of the finger and the body, it is simply because the finger cannot stroll about on the body in the way that the human being walks about on the earth, and because in the former case the dependence is more obvious.

Just as the physical body belongs to the physical world in which it is embedded, so does the astral body belong to its own world; during waking life, however, it is torn out of this world of its own. What happens there may be illustrated by an analogy. Imagine a vessel filled with water. A drop within this whole mass of water is not something isolated. Let us, however, take a little sponge and with it absorb a drop from the whole. Something similar occurs with the human astral body on awaking. During sleep it is in a world like itself; in a certain sense it constitutes something that belongs to this world. On awaking, the physical and ether bodies suck it up; they fill themselves with it. They contain the organs through which the astral body perceives the outer world. But in order that it may acquire this perception, it must separate itself from its own world. From this world it can only receive the prototypes that it needs for the ether body. — Just as the physical body receives its food, for example, from its environment, so during the sleep state the astral body receives the images from the world about it. It lives there actually in the universe, separated from the physical and ether bodies, in the same universe out of which the entire human being is born. The source of the images through which the human being receives his form lies in this universe. During sleep he is harmoniously inserted into it, and during the waking state he lifts himself out of this all-encompassing harmony in order to gain external perception. In sleep, his astral body returns to this cosmic harmony and on awaking again brings back to his bodies sufficient strength from it to enable him to dispense with his dwelling within the cosmic harmony for a certain length of time. The astral body, during sleep, returns to its home and on awaking brings back with it renewed forces into life. These forces that the astral body brings with it on awaking find outer expression in the refreshment that healthy sleep affords. Further descriptions of occult science will show that this home of the astral body is more encompassing than that which belongs to the physical body of the physical environment in the narrower sense. Whereas the human being is physically a part of the earth, his astral body belongs to worlds in which still other cosmic bodies besides our earth are embedded. Therefore he enters, during sleep, into a world to which other worlds than the earth belong, a fact that will only become clear from later descriptions.

It ought to be superfluous to call attention to a misunderstanding that can easily arise in regard to these facts, but to do so is not out of place in our age in which certain materialistic modes of thought are prevalent. Those who hold such thoughts can naturally say that it is only scientific to investigate the physical conditions of such a thing as sleep. They maintain that although scholars are not yet in agreement concerning the physical causes of sleep, yet one fact is certain: that definite physical processes must be assumed as lying at the foundation of this phenomenon. Oh! if people would only acknowledge the fact that supersensible knowledge in no way contradicts this assertion! It agrees with everything that is said from this point of view just as one agrees that in the physical erection of a house one brick must be laid upon another, and when it is finished, its form and cohesion can be explained by purely mechanical laws. In order that the house may be built at all, however, the thought of the builder is necessary. This thought is not to be discovered when merely the physical laws are investigated. — Thus, just as the thoughts of the builder of the house lie behind the physical laws that make the house comprehensible, so behind what physical science presents in an absolutely correct way lies the spiritual content of which supersensible knowledge speaks. It is true, this comparison is often presented when it is a matter of justification of a spiritual background of the world and it may be considered trivial. But in these things the point is not whether there is a familiarity with certain concepts, but rather whether they are properly evaluated in arguing the question. Opposing theories can have so great an effect on the power of judgment that the possibility of arriving at a proper evaluation is entirely excluded.

Dreaming is an intermediate state between waking and sleeping. What dream experiences offer to thoughtful consideration is a multi-colored interweaving of a picture world that conceals within it certain rules and laws. This world of dreams seems to display an ebb and flow, often in confused succession. In his dream life, the human being is freed from the law of waking consciousness that fetters him to sense-perception and to the rules governing his power of reason. Yet dreams have certain mysterious laws that are fascinating and alluring to man's prescience, and that are the deeper reason why the beautiful play of fantasy underlying artistic feeling is readily likened to “dreaming.” It is only necessary to call to mind certain characteristic dreams to find this corroborated. Someone dreams, for example, that he drives away a dog that is rushing upon him. He awakens and finds himself in the act of unconsciously throwing off a part of the bedclothes that had pressed upon an unaccustomed part of his body and had, therefore, become burdensome. What does dreaming here make out of the sense-perceptible process? What the senses would perceive in the waking state, the life of sleep allows to remain in complete unconsciousness. It retains, however, something essential, namely the fact that the sleeping person wishes to ward off something. Around this fact sleep weaves a pictorial process. The images, as such, are echoes of waking-day life. The manner in which they are borrowed from it has something arbitrary about it. Every person has the feeling that under the same external provocation, the dream could conjure up different pictures in his soul, but they express symbolically the feeling that the person has something he wishes to ward off. Dreams create symbols; they are symbol-makers. Inner processes, too, can transform themselves into such dream symbols. A person dreams that a fire is crackling near him; in his dream he sees the flames. He awakens and finds that he has been too heavily covered and has become too warm. The feeling of too much warmth is symbolically expressed in the dream picture. Quite dramatic experiences can be enacted in dream. For example, a person dreams that he is standing at an abyss. He sees a child running toward it. In his dream he experiences all the agony of the thought: Oh! if the child would only take heed, would only pay attention and not fall into the abyss! He sees it falling and hears the dull thud of its body below. He awakens and becomes aware that an object hanging on the wall of his room had become loosened and, in falling, has made a dull sound. Dream life expresses this simple occurrence in an event that is enacted in exciting pictures. — For the present we do not need to enter into a consideration of why, in the last example, the moment of the dull thud of the falling object should spread out into a series of events that seem to extend over a certain period of time. We need only keep in mind how the dream transforms into a picture what sense-perception would offer were we awake.

We see that as soon as the senses cease their activity, something creative asserts itself in man. This is the same creative element that is also present in completely dreamless sleep and there presents the soul state that appears as the antithesis of the soul's waking state. If this dreamless sleep is to take place, the astral body must be withdrawn from the ether and physical bodies. During the dream state, it is separated from the physical body in so far as it no longer has any connection with this body's sense organs, but it still retains a certain connection with the ether body. That the processes of the astral body can be perceived in pictures is due to this connection with the ether body. The moment this connection ceases, the pictures sink down into the darkness of unconsciousness, and we have dreamless sleep. The arbitrary and often absurd character of dream pictures rests upon the fact that the astral body, because of its separation from the sense organs of the physical body, cannot relate its pictures to the proper objects and events of the external environment. This fact becomes especially clear if we consider a dream in which the ego is, as it were, split up; when, for example, a person dreams that, as a pupil, he cannot answer a question put to him by his teacher, while directly afterwards the teacher, himself, answers the question. Because the dreamer cannot make use of the organs of perception of his physical body he is unable to relate the two occurrences to himself, as the same individual. Thus, in order to recognize himself as an enduring ego, he must be equipped with the external organs of perception. Only if a person had acquired the capacity of becoming conscious of his ego otherwise than through these organs of perception, would the enduring ego become perceptible to him outside his physical body. Supersensible consciousness must acquire these capacities, and the means of accomplishing this will be considered later on in this book.

Even death occurs only because there is a change in the relationship of the members of man's being. What supersensible perception has to say about death can also be observed in its effects in the outer world, and by unbiased reason the communications of supersensible knowledge can be verified on this point also through observation of external life. The expression of the invisible within the visible is, however, less obvious in these facts. It is more difficult fully to feel the importance of what, in the events of external life, corroborates the communications of supersensible knowledge in this realm. Even more than in the case of many things already mentioned in this book it would be quite natural here to declare that these communications are simply figments of the imagination, if no heed is paid to the knowledge of how a clear indication of the supersensible is contained in the sensory.

In passing over into sleep, the astral body only severs its connection with the ether and physical bodies, the latter remaining bound together; in death, the physical body, however, is severed from the ether body. The physical body is left to its own forces and must, for that reason, disintegrate as a corpse. When death occurs, the ether body enters into a state that it never experienced during the time between birth and death, except under rare conditions that will be spoken of later. It is now united with its astral body, without the presence of the physical body, for the ether body and astral body do not separate immediately after death. For a time they remain together by means of a force whose existence is easily to be understood. If it did not exist, the ether body could not sever itself from the physical body, for it is bound to it. This is seen in sleep when the astral body is unable to tear these two members of the human organism apart. This force begins its activity at death. It severs the ether body from the physical, with the result that the ether body is now united with the astral body. Supersensible observation shows that after death this union varies in different people. Its duration is measured by days. For the present this duration is only mentioned by way of information. — Later the astral body separates from its ether body also and continues on its way bereft of it. During the union of the two bodies man is in a condition that enables him to perceive the experiences of his astral body. As long as the physical body is present, the work of refreshing the worn out organs must begin from the moment the astral body is severed from it. With the severance of the physical body this work ceases. The force that is employed for this work when the human being sleeps remains after death and can now be used to make the astral body's own processes perceptible.

An observation that clings to the externals of life may say that these are statements that are clear to those endowed with supersensible perception, but there is no possibility of anyone else ascertaining the truth about them. This is not a fact. What supersensible perception observes in this realm, removed from ordinary perception, can be comprehended by ordinary thought power after it has once been discovered. This thought power must consider in the right way the relationships of life that are present in the manifested world. Thinking, feeling, and willing stand in such a relationship to each other and to the experiences of man in the outer world, that they remain incomprehensible if the manner of their revealed activity is not considered as the expression of an unrevealed activity. This manifest activity becomes clear to the judgment only when it can be looked upon, in its course within physical human life, as the result of what supersensible knowledge establishes for the non-physical. In regard to this activity we are, without supersensible knowledge, much like a man in a dark room without light. Just as the physical objects around us are perceived only in the light, so will what takes place through the soul-life of man be explicable only by means of supersensible knowledge.

During the union of the human being with his physical body, the outer world enters his consciousness in images; after casting off this body, what the astral body experiences when it is not bound to the outer world by means of physical sense organs becomes perceptible. It has at first no new experiences. Union with the ether body prevents it from experiencing anything new. What it does possess, however, is a memory of the past life. The still present ether body allows this memory to appear as a comprehensive, living picture. This is the first experience of the human being after death. He perceives the life between birth and death in a series of pictures spread out before him. During physical life, memory exists only during the waking state when man is united with his physical body. Memory is present only to the extent allowed by this body. Nothing is lost to the soul that makes an impression upon it during life. Were the physical body a perfect instrument for this, it would be possible at every moment of life to conjure up before the soul the whole of life's past. This hindrance disappears at death. As long as the human being retains the ether body, a certain perfection of memory exists, and it disappears to the degree that the ether body loses the form it had during its sojourn in the physical body, when it resembled the physical body. This is also the reason why the astral body after a time separates from the ether body. It can remain united with the latter only as long as the ether form, which corresponds to the physical body, endures. During life between birth and death, a separation of the ether body from the physical body takes place only in exceptional cases, and then only for a short time. If, for example, a person presses heavily upon one of his limbs, a part of the ether body may separate from the physical. When this occurs we may say that the limb has “gone to sleep.” The peculiar feeling one has at that time comes from the severance of the ether body. (Naturally, here also a materialistic mode of thought may deny the existence of the invisible within the visible and say that all this simply comes from the physical disturbance caused by the pressure.) In such a case, supersensible perception is able to observe how the corresponding part of the ether body passes out of the physical. If a person experiences an unusual shock, or something of the kind, a separation of the ether body from a large part of the physical body may result for a short time. This happens if a person for one reason or another sees himself suddenly near death; if, for example, he is on the verge of drowning, or if, on a mountaineering trip, he is in danger of a precipitous fall. What is told by people who have experienced such things comes very near the truth and may be corroborated by supersensible observation. They state that in such moments their entire life passed before the soul in a great memory-picture. Of the many examples that could be cited here, only one will be referred to because it originates with a person to whose mode of thinking all that has been said here about these experiences must appear as idle fancy. For anyone who takes a few steps in supersensible observation, it is always useful to become acquainted with the statements of those who consider this science as something fantastic. Such statements cannot be so lightly attributed to the prejudice of the observer of the supersensible. (Spiritual scientists may well learn a great deal from those who consider their endeavors nonsense, and they need not be disconcerted if there is no reciprocal “affection” in this respect on the part of the critics. To be sure, for supersensible perception itself there is no need of verification of its results through such experiences. It does not desire to prove anything by these references, but to elucidate its findings.) The eminent criminologist and well known researcher in many other fields of natural science, Moritz Benedict, relates a personal experience in his memoirs. Once, when he was near being drowned while bathing, he saw in memory his whole life before him as though in a single picture. — If others describe differently the pictures experienced under similar circumstances, even in a way that lets them appear to have little to do with the events of their past, this does not contradict what has been said. For the pictures that occur in the quite unusual condition of the separation of the ether body from the physical are often not readily explicable in regard to their relation to life. Proper consideration will always recognize this relationship. Neither is it an objection if someone, for example, once came near drowning and did not have the experience described. It must be remembered that this can only occur when the ether body is actually separated from the physical and at the same time remains united with the astral body. If through the shock a loosening of the ether and astral bodies also takes place, then the experience does not occur, because there exists complete unconsciousness, as in dreamless sleep.

In the period immediately following death the experiences of the past appear summarized in a memory-picture. After the separation of the ether body and the astral body, the latter is left to itself in its further journey. It is not difficult to see that, within the astral body, everything remains that it has made its own through its own activity during its sojourn in the physical body. To a certain degree, the ego has developed spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man. As far as they are developed, they receive their existence, not from what exists as organs in the bodies, but from the ego. The ego is the very member that needs no external organs for self-perception; it also needs none in order to remain in possession of what it has united with itself. The objection can be made, “Why, then, is there no perception in sleep of this spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man, which have been developed?” There is none, because the ego is fettered to the physical body between birth and death. Even though in sleep the ego, united with the astral body, is outside the physical body, it remains, nevertheless, in close union with the latter, for the activity of the astral body is directed toward this physical body. Thus the ego with its perception is relegated to the external sense world and cannot therefore receive the revelations of the spirit in its direct form. Only at death does the ego receive these revelations because, at death, the ego is freed from its connection with the physical and ether bodies. Another world can flash up for the soul the moment it is withdrawn from the physical world that chains the soul's activity to itself during life. There are reasons why even at this moment all connections between man and the external sense world do not cease. Certain desires remain that maintain this connection. These are desires that the human being creates because he is conscious of his ego, the fourth member of his being. Those desires and wishes arising out of the nature of the three lower bodies can only be active within the external world, and when these bodies are laid aside the desires cease. Hunger is caused by the external body; it is silenced as soon as this outer body is no longer united with the ego. If the ego possessed no other desires than those arising from its own spiritual nature, it could at death draw complete satisfaction from the spiritual world into which it is translated. But life has given it still other desires. It has enkindled in the ego a longing for enjoyments that can only be satisfied through physical organs, although the desires do not have their origin in these organs themselves. Not only do the three bodies demand their satisfaction through the physical world, but the ego itself finds enjoyments within this world for which the spiritual world offers no means of satisfaction. For the ego there are two kinds of desires in life: the desires that have their source in the bodies, and therefore must be satisfied within these bodies, ceasing with the disintegration of these bodies, and the desires that have their source in the spiritual nature of the ego. As long as the ego is within the bodies, these desires also are satisfied by means of bodily organs, for in the manifestations of the bodily organs the hidden spirit is at work, and in all that the senses perceive they receive at the same time something spiritual. This spiritual element exists also after death, although in another form. All spiritual desires of the ego within the sense world exist also when the senses are no longer present. If a third kind of desire were not added to these two, death would signify merely a transition from desires that can be satisfied by means of the senses to those that find their realization in the revelation of the spiritual world. This third type of desire is produced by the ego during Its life in the sense world because it finds pleasure in this world also in so far as there is no spirit manifest in it. — The basest enjoyments can be a manifestation of the spirit. The gratification that the hungry being experiences in taking food is a manifestation of spirit because through the eating of food something is brought about without which, in a certain sense, the spirit could not evolve. The ego can, however, transcend the enjoyment that this fact of necessity offers. It may long for good tasting food, quite apart from the service rendered the spirit by eating. The same is true of other things in the sense world. Desires are created thereby that would never have come into being in the sense world had the human ego not been incorporated in it. But neither do these desires spring from the spiritual nature of the ego. The ego must have sense enjoyments as long as it lives in the body, also in so far as it is spiritual; for the spirit manifests in the sense world and the ego enjoys nothing but spirit when, in this world, it surrenders itself to that medium through which the light of the spirit radiates. It will continue to enjoy this light even when the sense world is no longer the medium through which the rays of the spirit pass. In the spirit world, however, there is no gratification for desires in which the spirit has not already manifested itself in the sense world. When death takes place, the possibility for the gratification of these desires is cut off. The enjoyment of appetizing food can come only through the physical organs that are used for taking in food: the palate, tongue, and so forth. After throwing off the physical body man no longer possesses these organs. But if the ego still has a longing for these pleasures, this longing must remain ungratified. In so far as this enjoyment is in accord with the spirit, it exists only as long as the physical organs are present. If it has been produced by the ego, without serving the spirit, it continues after death as desire, which thirsts in vain for satisfaction. We can only form an idea of what now takes place in the human being if we think of a person suffering from burning thirst in a region in which water is nowhere to be found. This, then, is the state of the ego, in so far as it harbors, after death, the unextinguished desires for the pleasures of the outer world and has no organs with which to satisfy them. Naturally, we must imagine the burning thirst that serves as an analogy for the conditions of the ego after death to be increased immeasurably, and imagine it spread out over all the other still existing desires for which all possibility of satisfaction is lacking. The next task of the ego consists in freeing itself from this bond of attraction to the outer world. In this respect the ego has to bring about a purification and emancipation within itself. All desires that have been created by it within the body and that have no inherent rights within the spiritual world must be rooted out. — Just as an object takes fire and is consumed, so is the world of desires, described above, consumed and destroyed after death. This affords us a glimpse into the world that supersensible knowledge designates as the “consuming fire of the spirit.” All desires of a sensual nature, in which the sensual is not an expression of the spirit, are seized upon by this “fire.” The ideas that supersensible knowledge must give in regard to these processes might be found to be hopeless and awful. It might appear terrifying that a hope, for whose realization sense organs are necessary, must change into hopelessness after death; that a desire, which only the physical world can satisfy, must turn into consuming deprivation. Such a point of view is possible only as long as one does not consider the fact that all wishes and desires, which after death are seized by the “consuming fire,” in a higher sense represent not beneficial but destroying forces in life. By means of such destructive forces, the ego tightens the bond with the sense world more strongly than is necessary in order to absorb from this very sense world what is beneficial to it. This sense world is a manifestation of the spirit hidden behind it. The ego would never be able to enjoy the spirit in the form in which it is able to manifest through bodily senses alone, did it not want to use these senses for the enjoyment of the spiritual within the sense world. Yet the ego deprives itself of the true spiritual reality in the world to the degree that it desires the sense world without the spirit. If the enjoyment of the senses, as an expression of the spirit, signifies an elevation and development of the ego, then an enjoyment that is not an expression of the spirit signifies the impoverishing, the desolation of the ego. If a desire of this kind is satisfied in the sense world, its desolating effect upon the ego nevertheless remains. Before death, however, this destructive effect upon the ego is not apparent. Therefore the satisfaction of such desires can produce similar desires during life, and man is not at all aware that he is enveloping himself, through himself, in a “consuming fire.” After death, what has surrounded him in life becomes visible, and by becoming visible it appears in its healing, beneficial consequences. A person who loves another is certainly not attracted only to that in him which can be experienced through the physical organs. But only of what can thus be experienced may it be said that it is withdrawn from perception at death; just that part of the loved one then becomes visible for the perception of which the physical organs were only the means. Moreover, the only thing that then hinders that part from becoming completely visible is the presence of the desire that can only be satisfied through physical organs. If this desire were not extirpated, the conscious perception of the beloved person could not arise after death. Considered in this way, the picture of frightfulness and despair that might arise in the human being concerning the events after death, as depicted by supersensible knowledge, must change into one of deep satisfaction and consolation.

The first experiences after death are different in still another respect from those during life. During the time of purification man, as it were, lives his life in reverse order. He passes again through all that he has experienced in life since his birth. He begins with the events that immediately preceded death and experiences everything in reverse order back to childhood. During this process, everything that has not arisen out of the spiritual nature of the ego during life passes spiritually before his eyes, only he experiences all this now inversely. For example, a person who died in his sixtieth year and who in his fortieth year had done someone a bodily or soul injury in an outburst of anger will experience this event again when, in passing through his life's journey in reverse order after death, he reaches the place of his fortieth year. He now experiences, not the satisfaction he had in life from his attack upon the other person, however, but the pain he gave him. From what has been said above, it is at the same time also possible to see that only that part of such an event can be experienced painfully after death that has arisen from passions of the ego having their source only in the outer physical world. In reality, the ego not only damages the other person through the gratification of such a passion, but itself as well; only the damage to itself is not apparent to it during life. After death this whole, damaging world of passion becomes perceptible to the ego, and the ego then feels itself drawn to every being and every thing that has enkindled such a passion, in order that this passion may again be destroyed in the “consuming fire” in the same way it was created. Only when man in his backward journey has reached the point of his birth have all the passions of this kind passed through the fire of purification, and, from then on, nothing hinders him from a complete surrender to the spiritual world. He enters upon a new stage of existence. Just as, at death, he threw off the physical body, then, soon after, the ether body, so now that part of the astral body falls away that can live only in the consciousness of the outer physical world. For supersensible perception there are, thus, three corpses: the physical, the etheric, and the astral corpse. The point of time when the latter is thrown off by man is at the end of the period of purification, which lasts about a third of the time that passed between birth and death. The reason why this is so can only become clear later on, when we shall consider the course of human life from the standpoint of occult science. For supersensible observation, astral corpses are constantly present in the environment of man, which have been discarded by human beings who are passing over from the state of purification into a higher existence, just as for physical perception there are physical corpses in the world in which men dwell.

After purification an entirely new state of consciousness begins for the ego. While before death the outer perceptions had to flow toward the ego in order that the light of consciousness might fall upon them, now, as it were, a world flows from within of which it acquires consciousness. The ego lives in this world also between birth and death. There, however, this world is clothed in the manifestations of the senses, and only there where the ego, taking no heed of all sense-perceptions, perceives itself in its innermost sanctuary is what otherwise appears veiled by the sense world revealed in its real form. Just as before death the self-perception of the ego takes place in its inner being, so after death and after purification the world of spirit in its plenitude is revealed from within. This revelation, in fact, takes place immediately after the stripping off of the ether body. But, like a darkening cloud, the world of desires, which are still turned toward the outer world, spreads out before it. It is as though dark demoniacal shadows, arising out of the passions “consuming themselves in fire,” intermingled with a blissful world of spiritual experience. Indeed, these passions are now not mere shadows, but actual entities. This becomes at once apparent when the physical organs are removed from the ego and it, therefore, can perceive what is of a spiritual nature. These creatures appear like distortions and caricatures of what the human being previously knew through sense-perception. Supersensible perception says about the world of the purifying fire that it is inhabited by beings whose appearance for the spiritual eye can be horrible and painful, whose pleasure seems to be destruction and whose passion is bent upon a spiritual evil, in comparison with which the evil of the sense world appears insignificant. The passions indicated, which human beings bring into this world, appear to these creatures as food by means of which their power receives constant strengthening. The picture thus drawn of a world imperceptible to the senses can appear less incredible if one for a moment observes a part of the animal world with unprejudiced eyes. For the spiritual gaze, what is a cruel, prowling wolf? What manifests itself in what the senses perceive in it? Nothing but a soul that lives in passions and acts through them. One can call the external form of the wolf an embodiment of these passions, and even if a person had no organs with which to perceive this form, he would still have to acknowledge the existence of the being in question, if its passions showed invisibly in their effects; that is, if a power, invisible to the eye, were prowling around by means of which everything could happen that occurs through the visible wolf. To be sure, the beings of the purifying fire do not exist for sensory, but for supersensible consciousness only; their effects, however, are clearly manifest: they consist in the destruction of the ego when it gives them nourishment. These effects become clearly visible when a well-founded pleasure increases to lack of moderation and excess, for what is perceptible to the senses would also attract the ego only in so far as the pleasure is founded in its own nature. The animal is impelled to desire only by means of that in the outer world for which its three bodies are craving. Man possesses nobler pleasures because a fourth member, the ego, is added to the three bodily members. But if the ego seeks for a gratification that serves to destroy its own nature, not to maintain and further it, then such craving can be neither the effect of its three bodies, nor that of its own nature. It can only be the effect of beings who, in their true form, remain hidden from the senses, beings who can set to work on the higher nature of the ego and arouse in it passions that have no relationship to sense existence, but can only be satisfied through it. Beings exist who are nourished by desires and passions that are worse than any animal passions, because they do not have their being in the sense world, but seize upon the spiritual and drag it down into the realm of the senses. For that reason the forms of such beings are, for supersensible perception, more hideous and gruesome than the forms of the wildest animals, in which only passions are embodied that originate in the sense world. The destructive forces of these beings exceed immeasurably all destructive fury existing in the visible animal world. Supersensible knowledge must, in this way, enlarge the human horizon to include a world of beings that, in a certain respect, stand lower than the visible world of destructive animals.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:24 pm

Part 2 of 2

When man, after death, has passed through this world, he finds himself confronted by a world that contains the spirit, producing a longing within him that finds its satisfaction only in the spirit. Now too, however, he distinguishes between what belongs to his ego and what forms the environment of this ego, that is, its spiritual outer world. Only, what he experiences of this environment streams toward him in the way the perception of his own ego streams toward him during his sojourn in the body. While in the life between birth and death his environment speaks to him through his bodily organs, after all bodies have been laid aside the language of the new environment penetrates directly into the “innermost sanctuary” of his ego. The entire environment of the human being is filled with beings of like nature with his ego, for only an ego has access to another ego. Just as minerals, plants, and animals surround him in the sense world and compose that world, so after death he is surrounded by a world that is composed of beings of a spiritual nature. — Yet he brings with him into this world something that does not belong to his environment there, namely, what the ego has experienced within the sense world. Immediately after death, and as long as the ether body was still united with the ego, the sum of these experiences appeared in the form of a comprehensive memory picture. The ether body itself is then, to be sure, cast off, but something from this memory picture remains as an imperishable possession of the ego. What has thus been retained appears as an extract, an essence made from all the experiences that the human being has passed through between birth and death. This is life's spiritual yield, its fruit. This yield contains everything of a spiritual character that has been revealed through the senses. Without life in the sense world, however, it could not have come into existence. After death the ego feels this spiritual fruit of the sense world as its own inner world with which it enters a world composed of beings who manifest themselves as only his ego can manifest itself in its innermost depths. Just as the plant seed, which is an extract of the entire plant, develops only when it is inserted into another world — the earth, so what the ego brings with it out of the sense world unfolds like a seed upon which the spiritual environment acts that has now received it. If the science of the supersensible is to describe what occurs in this “land of the spirits,” It can indeed only do so by portraying it in pictures. Still, these pictures appear as absolute reality to supersensible consciousness when it investigates the corresponding occurrences imperceptible to the physical eye. What is to be described here may be illustrated by means of comparisons with the sense world, for although it is wholly of a spiritual nature, it has, in a certain respect, a similarity to the sense world. For example, just as in the world of the senses a color appears when an object impresses the eye, in the “land of the spirits,” when a spiritual being acts upon the ego, an experience is produced similar to one made by a color. But this experience is produced in the way in which, in the life between birth and death, only the perception of the ego can be produced in the soul's inner being. It is not as though the light struck the human inner being from without, but as though another being were acting directly upon the ego, causing it to portray this activity in a colored picture. Thus all beings of the spiritual environment of the ego express themselves in a world of radiating colors. Since their origin is of a different kind, these color experiences of the spirit world are, naturally, of a character somewhat different from the experiences of physical color. The same thing can be said of other impressions that the human being receives from the sense world. The impressions that resemble most those of the sense world are the tones of the spiritual world, and the more the human being becomes familiar with this world, the more will it become for him an inwardly pulsating life that may be likened to tones and their harmonies in sensory reality. These tones, however, are not experienced as something reaching an organ from outside, but as a force streaming through the ego out into the world. The human being feels the tone as he feels his own speaking or singing in the sense world, but he knows that in the spiritual world these tones streaming out from him are at the same time manifestations of other beings poured out into the world through him. A still higher manifestation takes place in the land of spirit beings when the tone becomes “spiritual speech.” Then not only the pulsing life of another spirit being streams through the ego, but a being of this kind imparts its own inner nature to this ego. Without that separation which all companionship must experience in the physical world, two beings live in each other when the ego is thus permeated by “spiritual speech.” The companionship of the ego with other spirit beings after death is really of this kind.

Three realms of the land of spirits appear before supersensible consciousness that may be compared with three regions of the physical sense world. The first region is the “solid land” of the spiritual world, the second, the “region of oceans and rivers,” the third, the “atmospheric region.” — What assumes physical form on earth so that it may be perceived by means of physical organs is perceived in its spiritual nature in the first realm of the land of spirit beings. For example, the force that gives the crystal its form may be perceived there, but what thus appears is the antithesis of the form it assumes in the sense world. The space, which in the physical world is filled with the stone mass, appears to spiritual vision as a kind of cavity. Around this cavity, however, the force is visible that gives form to the stone. The color the stone possesses in the physical world is experienced in the spiritual world as the complementary color. Thus a red stone appears greenish in the spirit land and a green stone, reddish. The other characteristics also appear In their complementary forms. Just as stones, earth masses, and so forth, make up the solid land — the continental regions — of the physical world, so the structures described above compose “the solid land” of the spirit world. — Everything that is life within the sense world is the oceanic region in the spirit world. Life to the physical eye is manifest in its effects in plants, animals, and men. Life to spiritual vision is a flowing entity that permeates the land of spirits like seas and rivers. A still better analogy is that of the circulation of the blood in the body, for whereas oceans and rivers appear irregularly distributed within the physical world, there is a certain regularity, like that of the circulation of the blood, in the distribution of this streaming life of the land of spirit beings. This flowing life is heard simultaneously as a spiritual entoning. — The third realm of the spirit land is its “atmosphere.” What appears in the sense world as sensation exists in the spiritual realm as an all-pervading presence like the earth's air. Here we must imagine a sea of flowing feeling. Sorrow and pain, joy and delight flow through this realm like wind or a raging tempest in the atmosphere of the sense world. Imagine a battle raging upon earth. Not only human forms confront each other there, forms that can be seen with the physical eyes, but feelings stand forth opposing feelings, passions opposing passions. The battlefield is filled with pain as well as with human forms. Everything that is experienced there of the nature of passion, pain, joy of conquest, is present not alone in its effects perceptible to the senses, but the spiritual sense becomes conscious of it as atmospheric processes in the land of spirits. Such an event in the spirit is like a thunder storm in the physical world, and the perception of these events may be likened to the hearing of words in the physical world. Therefore it is said that just as the air surrounds and permeates the earth beings, so do “wafting spiritual words” enclose the beings and processes of the spirit land.

There are still other perceptions possible in this spiritual world. What may be compared to warmth and light of the physical world is also present. What permeates everything in the spirit land, like warmth permeating earthly things, is the thought world itself, only here, thoughts must be imagined as living, independent entities. What is apprehended as thoughts in the physical world is like the shadow of what exists in the land of spirits as thought beings. If we imagine thought, as it exists in human beings, withdrawn from man and endowed as an active entity with its own inner life, then we have a feeble illustration of what permeates the fourth region of the spirit land. What man perceives as thoughts in his physical world between birth and death is only the manifestation of the thought world as it is able to express itself through the instrumentality of the bodies. But all such thoughts entertained by human beings, which signify an enrichment of the physical world, have their origin in this region. One need not think here merely of the ideas of the great inventors, of the geniuses. It can be seen how every person has sudden ideas that he does not owe merely to the outer world, but with which he transforms this outer world itself. Feelings and passions whose causes lie in the outer world have to be placed in the third region of the spirit land. But everything that can so live in the human soul as to make him a creator, causing him to transform and fructify his surroundings, is perceptible in its primeval, essential form in the fourth sphere of the spiritual world. — What exists in the fifth region may be compared with physical light. It is wisdom revealing itself in its innermost form. Beings belonging to this region shed wisdom upon their environment, just as the sun sheds light upon physical beings. What is illuminated by this wisdom appears in its true significance and meaning for the spiritual world, just as a physical object displays its color when it is shone upon by the light. — There exist still higher regions of the land of the spirits, descriptions of which will be found in a later part of this work.

After death, the ego is immersed in this world, together with the harvest that it brings with it from its life in the sense world. This harvest is still united with that part of the astral body that has not been thrown off at the end of the period of purification. Only that part falls away which after death was inclined with its desires and longings toward physical life. The immersion of the ego in the spiritual world, together with what it has acquired in the sense world, may be compared with the insertion of a seed into the ripening earth. Just as this seed draws substances and forces from its environment in order to develop into a new plant, so, too, unfolding and growth is the very essence of the ego being embedded in the world of spirit. — Within what an organ perceives lies hidden the force by means of which the organ itself is created. The eye perceives the light, but without the light there would be no eye. Beings that pass their lives in darkness develop no organs of sight. In this manner the whole bodily organism of the human being is created out of the hidden forces lying within what is perceived with these bodily members. The physical body is built up by the forces of the physical world, the ether body by those of the life world, and the astral body is formed out of the astral world. When the ego is now transplanted into the spirit land, it encounters those forces that remain hidden to physical perception. In the first region of the spirit land the spiritual beings are perceptible who always surround the human being and who have also fashioned his physical body. Thus in the physical world, man perceives nothing but the manifestations of those spiritual forces that have also formed his own physical body. After death, he is himself in the midst of these formative forces that now appear to him in their own, previously concealed, form. Likewise, in the second region he is in the midst of the forces composing his ether body. In the third region, forces stream toward him out of which his astral body has been organized. The higher regions of the spirit land also now impart to him what composes his form in his life between birth and death.

These beings of the spirit world now co-operate with what man has brought with him as fruit from the former life and what now becomes a seed. By means of this cooperation man is built up anew as a spiritual being. In sleep the physical and ether bodies continue their existence; the astral body and ego are, to be sure, outside of these two bodies, but still united with them. Whatever influences the astral body and the ego receive in this state from the spiritual world can only serve to restore the forces exhausted during the waking period. When the physical and ether bodies have been laid aside, however, and when, after the period of purification, those parts of the astral body that are still connected with the physical world through their desires are also laid aside, all that streams toward the ego from the spirit world now becomes not only a perfector, but a recreator. After a certain length of time, which will be discussed in later parts of this work, an astral body has formed itself around the ego; the former can again dwell in ether and physical bodies befitting the human being between birth and death. He can again pass through birth and appear in a new earth existence into which the fruit of the previous life has been incorporated. Up to the time of re-forming a new astral body, man is a witness of his own re-creation. Since the powers of the spirit land do not reveal themselves to him by means of outer organs, but from within, like his own ego in self-consciousness, he is able to perceive this revelation as long as his mind is not yet directed to an outwardly perceptible world. The moment, however, the astral body is newly formed, his attention turns outward. The astral body once more requires an external ether and physical body. It therefore turns away from the revelations of the inner world. For this reason an intermediate state now begins, during which man sinks into unconsciousness. Consciousness can only reappear in the physical world when the necessary organs for physical perception have been formed. During this period in which consciousness, illuminated by inner perception, ceases, the new ether body begins to attach itself to the astral body and the human being can then again enter into a physical body. Only an ego that has of itself produced life spirit and spirit man, the hidden, creative forces in the ether and physical bodies, would be able to take part consciously in the attachment of these two members. As long as man is not developed to this point, beings who are further advanced than he in their evolution must direct the attachment of these members. The astral body is led by such beings to certain parents, so that he may be endowed with the proper ether and physical bodies. — Before the attachment of the ether body is completed, something extraordinarily significant occurs for the human being who is re-entering physical existence. He has, in his previous life, created destructive forces that became evident when he experienced his life in reverse order after death. Let us take again the example suggested above. A person had caused someone pain in an outburst of anger in the fortieth year of his previous life. After death, he met this pain of the other person in the form of a force destructive to the development of his own ego. So it is with all such occurrences of his previous life. On re-entering physical life, these hindrances to evolution confront the ego anew. Just as at death a kind of memory picture of the past life arose before the human ego, now a pre-vision of the coming life presents itself. Again he sees a tableau, which this time displays all the hindrances he must remove if his evolution is to make further progress. What he thus sees becomes the starting point of forces that he must carry with him into a new life. The picture of the pain that he has caused another person becomes the force impelling the ego, on re-entering life, to make reparation for this pain. Thus the previous life has a determining effect upon the new life. The actions of this new life are in a certain way caused by those of the previous life. This orderly connection between a former and a later existence must be considered as the law of destiny. It has become the custom to designate this law by the name karma, a term borrowed from oriental wisdom.

The fashioning of a new corporeal organization is not the only activity that is required of the human being between death and a new birth. While this building up is taking place, man lives outside the physical world. But during this time the earth proceeds in its evolution. Within relatively short periods of time the earth changes its countenance. How did those regions, which at present are occupied by Germany, appear a few millennia ago? When man reappears in a new life, the earth as a rule presents quite a different appearance from the one it had in his previous life. While he was absent from the earth all sorts of changes have occurred. Hidden forces also are at work in this transformation of the face of the earth. Their activities proceed from the same world in which man dwells after death, and he himself must co-operate in this transformation of the earth. He can do so only under the guidance of higher beings, as long as he has not acquired, through the development of life spirit and spirit man, a clear consciousness concerning the relationship between the spirit and its expression in the physical. But he helps to transform the earthly conditions. It can be said that human beings, during the period between death and a new birth, transform the earth in such a way that its conditions harmonize with their own development. If we observe a particular spot on the earth at a definite point of time and observe it again after a long span, finding it in a fully changed condition, the forces that have wrought this change are the forces of the human dead. In this way men have a relationship with the earth also during the period between death and a new birth. Supersensible consciousness sees in all physical existence the manifestation of a hidden spirituality. For physical observation, it is the light of the sun, climatic changes, and similar phenomena that bring about the transformation of the earth. For supersensible observation, the forces of the human dead are active in the rays of light that fall upon the plants from the sun. By observing supersensibly one becomes aware of how human souls hover above the plants, how they change the surface of the earth, and so forth. The attention of the human being is not only turned upon himself and upon the preparation for his own new earth life; indeed, he is called upon to work spiritually upon the outer world, just as he is called upon to work physically in the life between birth and death.

Not only from the land of spirit beings does human life affect the conditions of the physical world, however, but, vice versa, all activity in physical existence has its effects in the spiritual world. An example will illustrate what happens in this respect. A bond of love exists between mother and child. This love arises out of an attraction between the two that has its roots in the forces of the sense world. But it changes in the course of time; a spiritual bond is formed more and more out of the sensory, and this spiritual link is fashioned not merely for the physical world, but also for the land of spirits. This is also true for other relationships. What has been spun in the physical world through spiritual beings remains in the spiritual world. Friends who have become closely united in life belong together also in the land of spirits and, after laying aside their bodies, they are in much more intimate communion than in physical life. For as spirits they exist for each other through the manifestation of their inner nature in the same way that the higher spiritual beings manifest their existence to one another through their inner nature, as we have described above, and a tie that has been woven between two people brings them together again in a new life. Therefore, in the truest sense of the word, we must speak of people finding each other again after death.

What has once taken place with a person, during the period from birth to death and then from death to a re-birth, repeats itself. Man returns to earth again and again when the fruit that he has acquired in one physical life has reached maturity in the land of the spirits. Yet, we must not think here of repetition without beginning and end, for the human being passed, at some time, from other forms of existence into those that take place in the manner described, and he will in the future pass on to others. A picture of these transitional stages will be presented when, subsequently, the evolution of the cosmos — in relation to man — is described from the standpoint of supersensible consciousness.

The processes that occur between death and a new birth are, naturally, still more concealed for outer sensory observation than the spiritual element that underlies manifest existence between birth and death. This sensory observation can see the effects of this part of the concealed world only where they enter into physical existence. The question for sensory observation is, whether the human being who passes through birth into life brings with him something of the processes described by supersensible cognition as taking place between a previous death and birth. if someone finds a snail shell in which no trace of an animal is to be seen, he will nevertheless acknowledge that this snail shell has come into existence through the activity of some animal and will not believe that it has been constructed in its form purely by means of physical forces. Likewise, a person who observes a living human being and finds something that cannot have its origin in this life, can admit with reason that it originates in what the science of the supersensible described, if thereby a clarifying light is thrown upon what is otherwise inexplicable. Thus intelligent sensory observation would be able to find that the invisible causes are comprehensible through their visible effects, and to anyone who observes this physical life entirely without prejudice, the above will appear — with every new observation — more and more convincing. It is only a question of finding the right standpoint for observing the effects in outer life. For example, where are the effects of what supersensible cognition describes as processes of the time of purification? How do the effects of the experiences that man undergoes manifest themselves after this time of purification in the purely spiritual realm, according to the evidence of spiritual research?

Problems enough force themselves into every earnest and deep consideration of life in this field. We see one person born in need and misery, equipped with only meager ability, and he appears to be predestined to a pitiable existence because of the conditions prevailing at his birth. Another will, from the first moment of his life, be cherished and cared for by solicitous hands and hearts; brilliant capacities unfold in him, he is cut out for a fruitful, satisfactory existence. Two contrasting points of view can be asserted in respect of such problems. The one adheres to what the senses perceive and what the intellect, bound to the senses, can grasp. This point of view sees no problem in the fact that one person is born to good fortune, the other to misfortune. Although such a point of view may not wish to use the word “chance,” still those who hold it are not ready to assume an interrelated web of laws that causes such diversities, and with respect to aptitudes and talents, this way of thinking adheres to what is said to be “inherited” from parents, grandparents, and other ancestors. It will refuse to seek the causes in spiritual events that man himself has experienced before his birth, and through which he has formed his capacities and talents, quite apart from the hereditary descent from his ancestors. — Another point of view will not feel satisfied with such an interpretation. It will hold that even in the outer world nothing occurs at a definite place or in definite surroundings without the necessity of presupposing a reason for the cause of it. Although in many instances these causes have not yet been investigated, yet they exist. An Alpine flower does not grow in the lowlands; there is something in its nature that unites it with the Alpine regions. Likewise, there must be something in a human being that causes him to be born in a definite environment. This is not to be explained by causes that lie merely in the physical world. To a serious thinker this must appear as though a blow dealt another should be explained not by the feelings of the aggressor, but rather by the physical mechanism of his hand. — Those who have this point of view must also be dissatisfied with all explanations of aptitude and talents as mere inheritance. Yet it may be said in this connection that obviously certain aptitudes continue to be inherited in families. During two and a half centuries musical aptitudes were inherited by the members of the Bach family. Eight mathematicians, some of whom in their childhood were destined for quite different professions, have appeared in the Bernoulli family. The “inherited” talents have always impelled them to take up the family profession. Furthermore, it can be shown through exact investigation of the line of ancestry of an individual that, in one way or another, the talents of this individual have appeared in the ancestors and that they present only a summation of inherited tendencies. The one having the second point of view mentioned will certainly not disregard such facts, but they cannot mean the same thing to him as to the other who rests his explanations solely upon the processes of the sense world. The former will point out that it is just as impossible for the inherited traits to sum themselves up into an entire personality as it is for the metal parts of a clock to form themselves into a clock. If the objection is made that the united activity of the parents can bring about the combination of traits and that this, as it were, takes the place of the clock-maker, he will reply, “Just look with impartiality at the completely new element in every child's personality; this cannot come from the parents for the simple reason that it does not exist in them.”

Unclear thinking can cause great confusion in this realm. The worst is if those having the first point of view previously stated look on those having the second as opponents of what is based upon “sure facts.” But these latter may not even think of denying the truth or the value of these facts. They also see quite clearly, for example, that a definite spiritual predisposition, even a spiritual direction, is “inherited” in a family, and that certain capacities summarized and combined in one descendant result in a remarkable personality. They are ready to admit that the most illustrious name seldom stands at the beginning, but at the end of a blood relationship. But those holding this view should not be blamed if they are forced to draw conclusions from these findings quite different from those of the persons who merely hold to the facts of the senses. The latter may be countered by saying that the human being certainly displays the attributes of his ancestors, for the soul-spirit element, which enters into physical existence through birth, takes its physical form from what heredity gives it. But by this, nothing else is said than that a being bears the qualities of the medium in which it is immersed. The following is certainly a strange and trivial comparison, but the unprejudiced mind will not deny its justification when it is said that the fact that a human being appears clothed in the traits of his forebears gives no more evidence of the origin of his personal characteristics than the fact that he is wet because he fell into the water gives evidence of his inner nature. It can be said further that if the most illustrious name stands at the end of a blood relationship covering many generations, it shows that the bearer of this name needed this blood relationship in order to form the body required for the development of his entire personality. It is, however, no proof whatsoever of the “inheritance” of the personal element itself; in fact, for a healthy logic, this fact proves just the opposite. If indeed the personal gifts were inherited, they would have to stand at the beginning of this series of generations and be transmitted to the descendants. But the appearance of a great endowment at the end of a human series proves that it is not inherited.

It is not to be denied that those who speak of spiritual causation in life often add to the confusion. They often speak too much in general, indefinite terms. When it is declared that the inherited attributes are summed up into the personality of a human being, this can certainly be compared with the statement that the metal parts of a clock have assembled themselves. But it must also be admitted that many statements about the spiritual world are similar to the declaration that the metal parts of a clock cannot assemble themselves so that the hands move forward; therefore something spiritual must be present that takes care of the forward movement of the hands. In respect of such an assertion, he builds on a firmer foundation who says, “Oh, I shall not trouble about such ‘mystical beings’ who advance the hands of the clock; I am trying to learn to understand the mechanical relationships that bring about this forward movement of the hands.” For it is not a question of merely knowing that behind such a mechanism as the clock, for example, there stands something spiritual — the clock-maker — but it is of significance only to learn to know the thoughts in the mind of the clock-maker that have preceded the construction of the clock. These thoughts can be found again in the mechanism.

All mere dreaming and imagining about the supersensible brings only confusion for they are incapable of satisfying the opponents. The latter are right when they say that such general references to supersensible beings are not an aid to the understanding of the facts. These opponents, it is true, may say the same thing about the definite indications of spiritual science. In this case, however, it can be shown how the effects of hidden spiritual causes appear in outer life. The following can be maintained: Suppose that what spiritual research has established by means of observation is true, namely, that man after death has passed through a period of purification and that he has experienced psychically during that time how a definite act, which has been performed in a previous life, is a hindrance to further evolution. While he was experiencing this, the impulse developed in him to rectify the consequences of this act. He brings this impulse with him into a new life, and it then forms the trait of character that places him in a position where this rectification is possible. Consider the totality of such impulses, and you have a reason for the destined environment in which a person is born. — The same may apply to another supposition. Again assume that what spiritual science says is true, namely, that the fruits of a past life are incorporated in the spiritual human seed, and that the land of the spirits in which this seed exists between death and rebirth is the realm in which these fruits ripen in order to appear again in a new life changed into talents and capacities, and to form the personality in such a way that it appears as the effect of what has been gained in a former life. — Anyone who makes these assumptions and, with them, observes life without prejudice will see that through them all facts of the sense world can be acknowledged in their full significance and truth, while at the same time everything becomes comprehensible that must remain forever incomprehensible to the one who, while relying only on physical facts, directs his attitude of mind toward the spiritual world. Above all, every illogical assumption will disappear, for instance the one mentioned above, that because the most important name stands at the end of a blood relationship series, the bearer of that name must have inherited his talents. Life becomes logically comprehensible by means of the supersensible facts communicated by spiritual science.

The conscientious truth-seeker who, without personal experiences in the supersensible world, wishes to find his way within the facts will, however, still be able to raise an important objection. For it can be asserted that it is inadmissible to assume the existence of any fact whatever simply for the reason that something that otherwise is inexplicable can thereby be explained. Such an objection is surely wholly without meaning for the one who knows the corresponding facts from supersensible experience. In the subsequent chapters of this work, the path will be indicated that can be traveled for the purpose of becoming acquainted, not only with other spiritual facts to be described here, but also with the law of spiritual causation as an individual experience. However, the above objection can, indeed, have significance for the person who is not willing to tread this path, but what can be said in refutation of this objection is also valuable for the one who has decided to take this path. For a person who accepts this in the right way has made the best initial step that can be taken on the path. — It is absolutely true that we should not accept something, the existence of which we do not otherwise know, simply because something, which otherwise remains incomprehensible, can be explained by it. In the case of the spiritual facts mentioned, however, the matter is quite different. If they are accepted, this has not only the intellectual consequence that life becomes comprehensible through them, but by the admission of these assumptions into our thoughts something else is experienced. Imagine the following case. Something happens to a person that arouses in him a feeling of distress. He can take this in two different ways. He can experience distress over the occurrence and yield himself to its disturbing aspects, even perhaps sink into grief. He can, however, take it in another way. He can say, “In reality, I have in a past life developed in myself the force that has confronted me with this event; I have, in fact, brought this thing upon myself,” and he can arouse in himself all the feelings that can result from such a thought. Naturally, the thought must be experienced with the utmost sincerity and all possible force if it is to have such a result for the life of feeling and sensation. Whoever achieves this will have an experience that can best be illustrated by a comparison. Let us suppose that two men get hold of a stick of sealing wax. One makes intellectual observations concerning its “inner nature.” These observations may be very clever; if there is nothing to show this “Inner nature,” one might easily reply that this is pure fantasy. The other, however, rubs the sealing wax with a cloth and then shows that it attracts small particles. There is a tremendous difference between the thoughts that have passed through the head of the first man, arousing his observations, and those of the second man. The thoughts of the first have no actual results; those of the second, however, have aroused a force, that is, something actual, from its concealment. — This is also the case with the thoughts of the human being who imagines that, through a former life, he has implanted into himself the power to encounter an event. This mere thought arouses in him a real force by means of which he can meet the event quite differently from the way he would have met it had he not entertained this thought. The inherent necessity of this event, which otherwise he might have considered merely due to chance, dawns upon him, and he will at once understand that he has had the right thought, for it had the force to disclose to him the facts. If a person repeats such inner processes, they become the means of an inner supply of strength and thus they prove their truth through their fruitfulness, and this truth becomes manifest gradually and powerfully. These processes have a healthy effect in regard to spirit, soul, and body; indeed, in every respect they act beneficially upon life. Man becomes aware that in this way he enters in the right manner into the relationships of life, whereas he is on the wrong path when he considers only the one life between birth and death. His soul becomes stronger because of this knowledge. — Such purely inner proof of spiritual causation can only be produced by each person himself in his own intimate soul life, but everyone can have such proof. Anyone who has not produced this proof cannot, of course, judge its power. Anyone who has produced it can no longer have any doubt about it. It is not surprising that this is so, for it is only natural that what is so intimately connected with man's innermost nature, his personality, can also be satisfactorily proved only by means of the most intimate experience. — The objection cannot be made, however, that each person must deal personally with such matters since they have to do with an inner experience of this kind, and that they cannot be the concern of spiritual science. It is true that each person must have the experience himself, just as each person must himself understand the proof of a mathematical problem. The means by which the experience can be attained, however, holds good for everyone, just as the method of proving a mathematical problem holds good for everyone.

It should not be denied that — aside from supersensible observations, of course — the proof by means of the forceproducing power of the corresponding thoughts just referred to, is the only one that holds its own if viewed with impartial logic. All other considerations are certainly important, but they all will possess something that offers a point of attack. To be sure, anyone who has acquired a sufficiently unprejudiced point of view will find something in the possibility and actuality of the education of man that has logically effective power of proof for the fact that a spiritual being is struggling for existence within the bodily sheath. He will compare the animal with the human being and say to himself that in the former, its normal characteristics and capacities appear at birth as something definite, which shows clearly how it is predestined by heredity and how it will develop in the outer world. See how the tiny chick from birth carries out vital functions in a definite way. In the human being, however, something enters into relationship with his inner life, through education, that can exist without any connection whatsoever with heredity, and he can make the effects of such outer influences his own. Anyone who teaches knows that forces from the inner being must come to meet such influences. If this is not the case, then all schooling, all education is meaningless. For the unprejudiced educator, there exists a clear-cut boundary between inherited characteristics and those inner human forces that shine through these characteristics originating in former earth lives. True, it is impossible to adduce “weighty” proofs for these things in the same way that certain physical facts may be demonstrated by means of the scales. But then, these things are the intimacies of life, and for the person who has a sense for such things, these impalpable evidences are likewise conclusive, even more conclusive than the obvious reality. That animals can be trained, that is, that they acquire qualities and faculties through education, offers no objection for the one who is able to see the essential thing. Aside from the fact that everywhere in the world transitions are to be found, the results of animal training do not fuse in like manner with the animal's personal nature, as is the case with human beings. It is even emphasized that the abilities the domestic animal acquires through training during its life with man, are inheritable, that is, that they have their effects in the species, not in the individual. Darwin describes how dogs fetch and carry without having learned to do so or having seen it done. Who would assert a similar thing in regard to human education?

There are thinkers who through their observation pass beyond the opinion that the human being is constructed from without purely through the forces of heredity. They rise to the idea that a spiritual being, an individuality, precedes physical existence and forms it. Many of them do not find it possible to comprehend that there are repeated earth lives, and that in the intervening existence between lives the fruits of the previous ones act cooperatively as formative forces. Let us mention one out of the list of such thinkers. Immanuel Hermann Fichte, son of the great Fichte, in his work Anthropology [2] cites his observations that bring him to the following comprehensive conclusion:

“The parents are not the producers of the child in the fullest sense of the word. They offer the organic substance, and not alone that, but at the same time the median, sensory soul element that expresses itself in temperament, in special soul coloring, in definite specification of impulses, and the like, the general source of which is ‘fantasy’ in that broader sense already proved by us. In all these elements of personality the mixture and peculiar union of the parent souls is unmistakable; there are good reasons, therefore, to explain these as purely a product of procreation; all the more so, if procreation is understood to be an actual soul process. We had to come to this conclusion. But the actual conclusive central point of the personality is lacking just here. For by means of a deeper, more penetrating observation we see that even those characteristics of mind and soul are only vestures and instruments for embracing the real spiritual, ideal aptitudes of man, capable of furthering or retarding them in their development, but in no way capable of bringing them into existence out of themselves.”
And we read further:

“Each person existed previously in accordance with his spiritual fundamental form, for spiritually considered, no individual resembles another any more than one species of animal resembles another.” (see Note #3) [3]

These thoughts only go so far as to permit a spiritual being to enter the physical corporeality of man. Since, however, this spiritual being's formative forces are not derived from the causes of a former life, each time that a personality comes into existence a spiritual being of this kind would have to emerge out of a divine primal fount. Assuming this to be true, there would be no possibility of explaining the relationship that exists between the aptitudes struggling forth out of the human inner being and what approaches this inner being in the course of life from the outer earthly environment. The human inner being, which in every individual would have to spring from a divine primal source, would have to stand as a complete stranger before what confronts it in earth life. Only then will this not be the case — and so it is indeed — if this human inner nature had already been united with the external world — in other words, if it is not living in this world for the first time. The unbiased educator can clearly make the observation, “I bring something to my pupil from the results of earth life that is indeed foreign to his merely inherited characteristics, yet is something that makes him feel as if he had already been connected with the work in which these results of earth life have their source.” Only repeated earth lives, in connection with the facts in the spiritual realm between these earth lives as presented by spiritual research, can give a satisfactory explanation of the life of present day humanity, considered from every point of view. — The expression, “present day” humanity, was intentionally used here, for spiritual research finds that there was a time when the cycle of earth lives began, and that at that time conditions different from those of the present existed for the spiritual being of man as it entered into the corporeal sheath. In the following chapters we shall go back to this primeval state of the human being. When it will have to be shown, from the results of spiritual science, how this human being has attained his present form in relation to the evolution of the earth, we shall then be able to point out still more exactly how the spiritual essential core of man penetrates into the physical body from supersensible worlds, and how the spiritual law of causation — “human destiny” — is developed.



1. Concerning the nature of fatigue, see “Details from the Domain of Spiritual Science” at the end of this book, Chapter VII

2. Immanuel Hermann Fichte, Anthropologie, p. 528. Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1860.

3. Immanuel Hermann Fichte, Anthropologie, p. 532.
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Re: An Outline of Occult Science, by Rudolf Steiner

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:25 pm


(Part 1)

FROM the foregoing considerations it may be seen that the being of man is composed of four members: physical body, life body, astral body, and the vehicle of the ego. The ego is active within the three other members and transforms them. Out of this transformation, at a lower level, are developed sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul. At a higher stage of human existence, spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man are formed. These members of the human being stand in the most manifold relationships to the whole cosmos and their evolution is bound up with cosmic evolution. By considering this cosmic evolution, an insight may be gained into the deeper mysteries of man's being.

It is evident that human life is related in the most diverse ways to its environment, to the dwelling place in which it evolves. By means of existing facts even external science has been forced to the opinion that the earth itself, this dwelling place of man in the most comprehensive sense, has undergone an evolution. It points to the conditions of earth existence in which the human being, in his present form, did not yet exist upon our planet. It shows how mankind has slowly and gradually evolved from simple states of civilization to the present conditions. Thus, science also has come to the opinion that a relationship exists between the evolution of man and that of his heavenly body, the earth.

Spiritual science [1] traces this relationship by means of knowledge that gathers its facts from perception sharpened by spiritual organs. It traces back the process of human development, and it becomes clear to it that the real inner spiritual being of man has passed through a series of lives upon this earth. Spiritual science thus reaches a point of time, lying far back in the remote past, when for the first time this inner being of man enters an external life in the present sense of the word. It was in this first earthly incarnation that the ego began to be active within the three bodies, astral body, life body, and physical body, and it then carried with it the fruits of this activity into the succeeding life.

If one goes back in one's consideration to this point of time, in the manner indicated, one then becomes aware that the ego meets with an earth condition in which the three bodies, physical body, life body, and astral body, are already developed and have already a certain connection. The ego unites for the first time with the being composed of these three bodies. From now on, it takes part in the further evolution of the three bodies. Heretofore, these bodies developed without this human ego up to the stage at which the ego came in touch with them.

Spiritual science must go still further back in its research, if it wishes to answer the following questions: How did the three bodies reach the stage of evolution at which they were able to receive an ego into themselves, and how did this ego itself come into existence and acquire the capacity to be active within these bodies?

An answer to these questions is only possible if one traces out the development of the earth planet itself, in the sense of spiritual science. By means of such research one arrives at the beginning of this earth planet. The mode of observation that relies merely upon the facts of the physical senses cannot come to conclusions that have anything to do with this beginning of the earth. A certain point of view, which makes use of such final conclusions, decides that all earthly substance has been formed out of a primeval mist. It cannot be the task of this work to enter into these ideas because for spiritual research it is a question of not merely considering the material processes of the earth's evolution, but chiefly of taking into account the spiritual causes lying behind matter. If we have before us a man who raises his hand, this raising of the hand can suggest two different ways of considering the act. We may investigate the mechanism of the arm and the rest of the organism and describe the process as it takes place purely in the realm of the physical. On the other hand, we may turn our spiritual attention to what is taking place in the human soul, to what constitutes the inner impulse of raising the hand. In a similar way the researcher, schooled by means of spiritual perception, sees spiritual processes behind all processes of the physical sense-world. For him, all transformations in the substances of the earth planet are manifestations of spiritual forces lying behind these substances. If, however, this spiritual observation of the life of the earth goes further and further back, it comes to a point in evolution where all matter has its primal beginnings. Matter evolves out of the spiritual. Prior to this, only the spiritual exists. By means of this spiritual insight, the spiritual is perceived, and on further investigation it can be seen how this spiritual element in part condenses, so to speak, into matter. Here we have before us, on a higher level, a process that may be likened to what would take place if we were observing a container of water in which lumps of ice were gradually forming by means of ingeniously controlled refrigeration. Just as we see here ice condensing from what was formerly water, so also, through spiritual observation, we are able to trace out the manner in which material things, processes, and beings are condensed from an element that was formerly spiritual. — In this way the physical earth planet has evolved out of a spiritual cosmic being, and everything material connected with this earth planet has condensed out of what was spiritually bound up with it previously. We must not imagine, however, that at any time all that exists of a spiritual nature is transformed into matter, but in matter we have before us transformed parts only of the primeval spiritual substance. Moreover, also during the period of evolution of matter, the spiritual remains the directing and guiding principle. It is obvious that the mode of thought that restricts itself to the processes of the physical sense-world, and to what the intellect is able to infer from them, is incapable of giving information concerning the spiritual element in question. Let us imagine a being having only the senses that can perceive ice, not, however, the finer condition of water, out of which ice is formed by means of refrigeration. For such a being, water would be non-existent, and only when parts of this water had been transformed into ice would the water be at all perceptible to it. Thus the spiritual part lying behind the earth processes remains concealed to anyone who admits only what exists for the physical senses. If, from the physical facts he observes now in the present, he forms a correct conclusion concerning earlier conditions of the earth planet, he merely arrives at that point in evolution where a part of the preceding spiritual element condensed into matter. This method of observation perceives just as little of the preceding spiritual element as it does of the spiritual element that holds sway, also at the present time, invisibly behind the world of matter.

Only in the last chapters of this work shall we be able to speak of the paths upon which man must travel to acquire the capacity for looking back, with spiritual perception, at those earlier conditions of the earth under discussion here. Here we only wish to indicate that for spiritual research the facts even of the remote past have not disappeared. When a being reaches corporeal existence, the substance of his body disappears with his physical death. The spiritual forces that have expelled these corporeal elements from themselves do not “disappear” in the same way. They leave their impressions, their exact counterparts, behind in the spiritual foundations of the world, and he who, penetrating the visible world, is able to lift his perception into the invisible, is finally able to have before him something that might be compared with a mighty spiritual panorama, in which all past world-processes are recorded. These imperishable impressions of all that is spiritual may be called the “Akashic Record,” thus designating as the Akashic essence the spiritually permanent element in universal occurrences, in contradistinction to the transient forms of these occurrences. It must be repeated, once more, that research in the supersensible realms of existence can only be carried on with the help of spiritual perception, that is, in the realm with which we are now dealing, only by reading the above-mentioned “Akashic Record.” Yet what has already been said in earlier parts of this work in a similar connection applies here also. Supersensible facts can be investigated only by means of supersensible perception; if, however, they have been investigated and are communicated through the science of the supersensible, they may then be comprehended by ordinary thinking, provided this thinking is really unprejudiced. In the following pages, information concerning the evolution of the earth will be imparted from the standpoint of supersensible cognition. The transformations of our planet will be traced down to the condition of life in which we find it today. If a person observes what he has actually before him in pure sense-perception, and then grasps what supersensible cognition has to say in regard to the way in which what exists at the present time has been evolving since time immemorial, he is then able to say, if he really thinks impartially: in the first place, the information imparted by this form of cognition is thoroughly logical; in the second place, I can understand that things have become what they now are, if I admit the truth of what has been communicated through supersensible research. Naturally, when we speak of logic in this connection, we do not infer thereby that it is impossible for errors in logic to be contained in some presentation of supersensible research. We shall here speak of logic only as that word is used in the ordinary life of the physical world. Just as logical presentation is demanded in the physical world, even though the individual person presenting a range of facts may fall into logical error, so it is also the case in supersensible research. It may even happen that a researcher who has the power of perception in supersensible realms may fall into error in his logical presentation, and that someone who has no supersensible perception, but who has the capacity for sound thinking, may correct him. Essentially, however, there can be no objection to the logic employed in supersensible research. Moreover, it should be quite unnecessary to emphasize the fact that nothing can be charged against the facts themselves on purely logical grounds. Just as in the realm of the physical world it is never possible to prove logically the existence of a whale except by seeing one, so also the supersensible facts can be known only by means of spiritual perception. — It cannot, however, be sufficiently emphasized that it is necessary for the observer of supersensible realms first to acquire a view by means of the above-mentioned logic, before he tries to approach the spiritual world through his own perception. He must also recognize how comprehensible the manifest world of the senses appears when it is assumed that the communications of spiritual science are correct. All experience in the supersensible world remains an insecure, even dangerous, groping, if the above-mentioned preparatory path is ignored. Therefore in this work the supersensible facts of earth evolution are first communicated, before the path to supersensible knowledge itself is dealt with. — We must also consider the fact that anyone who finds his way purely through thinking into what supersensible cognition has to impart is not at all in the same position as someone who listens to the description of a physical process that he himself is unable to observe, since pure thinking is itself a supersensible activity. Thinking, as a sensory activity, cannot of itself lead to supersensible occurrences. If, however, this thinking be applied to the supersensible occurrences described by supersensible perception, it then grows through itself into the spiritual world. In fact, one of the best ways of acquiring one's own perception in the supersensible realm is to grow into the higher world by thinking about the communications of supersensible cognition, for, entrance into the higher realms in this way is accompanied by the greatest clarity of perception. For this reason a certain school of spiritual-scientific investigation considers this thinking the most excellent first stage of all spiritual-scientific training. — It should be quite comprehensible that in this book the way in which the supersensible finds its verification in the outer world is not described in all the details of earth evolution as it is perceived in spirit. That is not what was meant when it was said that the hidden is everywhere demonstrable by its visible effects. The idea is, rather, that whatever is encountered can become entirely clear and comprehensible to man, if the manifest processes are placed into the light afforded by spiritual science. Only in a few characteristic instances will reference be made in the following pages to a verification of the concealed by means of the manifest, in order to show how it can be done at any point in the course of practical life.

If we trace back the evolution of the Earth by means of the spiritual-scientific method of research mentioned above, we come to a spiritual state of our planet. If we continue still further back on our path of research, we find that this spiritual element previously existed in a sort of physical embodiment. Thus we come upon a past physical planetary state that later became spiritualized and then, later still, through repeated materialization, became transformed into our Earth. Our Earth appears, therefore, as a reincarnation of an ancient planet. But spiritual science is able to go still further back and it then discovers the whole process repeated twice more. This Earth of ours passed through three preceding planetary stages, and in between these stages there lie intermediate stages of spiritualization. The physical element appears ever more subtle, the further back we trace the Earth's incarnations.

One may ask: How can a sound power of thought accept the existence of world stages lying so far back in the past, such as these that are spoken of here? This is a natural objection to the descriptions that are to follow. Our reply is that for anyone who with understanding is able to see the present hidden spiritual element in what is revealed to the senses, an insight into the earlier evolutionary states, however remote, presents no impossibility. Only for someone who does not acknowledge this hidden spiritual element finds that, in his perception of the present stage, the earlier ones are also contained, just as in his perception of a man of fifty the one-year-old child is still contained. But, you may say, in the latter case you have before you, besides the man of fifty, one-year-old children and all the possible intermediate stages. That is true, but it is also true for the evolution of the spirit as it is meant here. Whoever has come to an objective understanding in this field sees also that in a comprehensive survey of the present, which includes the spiritual, the past evolutionary stages have really survived, alongside the perfected stages of present-day evolution, just as alongside a man of fifty, one-year-old children are present. Within the earthly events of the present, the primeval happenings of the past may be seen if we are but able to distinguish between these different successive stages of evolution.

In the form in which he is evolving at present man appears for the first time during the fourth of the planetary incarnations characterized above, the actual Earth itself. The essential nature of this form shows the human being to be composed of the four members: physical body, life body, astral body, and ego. Yet this form would not have been able to appear had it not been prepared through the preceding processes of evolution. This preparation took place because within the previous planetary incarnation there were beings evolving who already possessed three of the present four human members — the physical body, life body, and astral body. These beings, who in a certain sense may be called our human ancestors, did not yet possess an ego, but they developed these three other members and their inter-relationships to the degree that made them mature enough later on to receive the ego. Thus the human ancestor, in the previous planetary incarnation, reached a certain stage of maturity in his three members. This state passed over into a spiritual one and out of it a new physical planetary state developed, that of the Earth. Within this Earth, the matured human ancestors were present, as it were, in a germinal state. Because the entire planet had passed over into a spiritualized condition and had reappeared in a new form, it offered to the embryonic human entities contained within it, with their physical, life, and astral bodies, the opportunity not only of developing again to their previous level, but also the further possibility, after having attained this point, of reaching out beyond it through the reception of the ego. The Earth evolution, therefore, falls into two parts. In the first period, the Earth itself appears as a reincarnation of the previous planetary stage. This recapitulatory stage, however, stands at a higher level than that of the previous incarnation because of the intervening stage of spiritualization. The Earth now contains within itself the germinal nuclei of the human ancestors from the previous planet. These at first develop to their previous level; then, when they have attained this point, the first period is concluded, but because of its own higher stage of evolution, the Earth can now develop the nuclei still further, namely, by making them fit to receive the ego. The unfoldment of the ego within the physical, life, and astral bodies is characteristic of the second period of Earth evolution.

In this way, by means of the evolution of the Earth, man is brought a stage higher. This was also the case in the previous planetary incarnations, for even in the first of these incarnations some element of the human being was present. Therefore, light is shed upon the human being of the present if his evolution is traced back to the distant past of the very first of the planetary incarnations mentioned. — In supersensible research, the first of these planetary incarnations may be named Saturn, the second may be designated Sun, the third, Moon, and the fourth, Earth. It must be clearly understood, however, that these designations must not, at the outset, be associated with the same names that are used for the members of our present solar system. Saturn, Sun, and Moon are to be names for bygone evolutionary forms through which the Earth has passed. [2] The relationship that these worlds of the ancient past hold to the heavenly bodies constituting the present solar system will appear in the course of the subsequent descriptions. It will then become clear why these names have been chosen.

The conditions of the four planetary incarnations mentioned can be described only in outline, because the processes and the beings and their destinies upon Saturn, Sun, and Moon are truly as manifold as upon the Earth itself. Therefore in our descriptions of these states only single characteristic points will be brought out that illustrate how the Earth's states have developed out of earlier ones. We must also consider the fact that the further back we go, the more do these states become dissimilar to those of the present. Yet in characterizing them, they can only be described by employing mental representations borrowed from present earthly relationships. When, for instance, we speak of light, heat, or other phenomena, in connection with these earlier states, we should not overlook the fact that we do not mean exactly what is meant by these words, light and heat, at the present time, and yet this terminology is correct, because for the observer of supersensible realms something appears in these earlier stages of evolution out of which the light and heat of the present have evolved. Those who follow the descriptions given here will indeed be well able to gather — from the connection in which these things are placed — what mental pictures are to be made in order to have characteristic images and symbols for things that have occurred in the distant, primeval past.

To be sure, these difficulties become especially significant for the planetary conditions that preceded the Moon incarnation, for, during this latter period, conditions prevailed that still show a certain similarity to earthly conditions. He who attempts to describe these conditions has in this similarity to the present a certain starting point for expressing in clear mental pictures the supersensibly acquired perceptions. It is a different matter when the evolution of Saturn and Sun are to be described. What presents itself there to clairvoyant observation is very different from the objects and beings belonging at present to the sphere of human life, and this dissimilarity makes it difficult to the highest degree to bring the ancient matters in question within the scope of supersensible consciousness. Since, however, the present being of man cannot be understood unless we go back as far as the Saturn state, the description must nevertheless be given. Surely such a description will not be misunderstood by the one who holds the existence of such difficulties in mind and who remembers that much of what is said must of necessity be considered more in the light of an allusion and a reference to the corresponding facts than as an exact description of them.

A contradiction might be found between what is given here and in the following pages, and what is said on page 109 [e.Ed link] concerning the continuation of the past into the present. One might imagine that nowhere does there exist, alongside the present Earth state, a previous Saturn, Sun, and Moon state, or even a human form such as is described in this exposition as having existed in these earlier stages. It is true that Saturn human beings, Sun and Moon human beings do not move about side by side with Earth humanity in the same way as three-year-old children move about alongside fifty-year-old men and women, but within the earthly human being the previous states of humanity are supersensibly perceptible. In order to know this we must have acquired the power of discrimination and extend it to include the full scope of the conditions of life. The three-year-old child exists alongside the fifty-year-old man; similarly, the corpse, the sleeping, and the dreaming human being exist alongside the living, waking Earth man. Although these various forms of existence of the being of man — as they are at present — do not directly correspond to the various stages of evolution, nevertheless a genuine perception sees in such forms of manifestation these various evolutionary stages.



1. The term “spiritual science,” as is apparent from the context, is here synonymous with the terms “occult science” and “supersensible knowledge.”

2. In order to make clear the difference between the designations of the Planetary Evolutions and our present planetary bodies, which bear the same names, the following system has been worked out. Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan printed in italics with initial capitals designate the great cosmic planetary cycles of evolution. In the Sun evolution, after the separation of the main cosmic body into two parts, the designation is Sun and Saturn, spelt with initial capitals, but not with italics. In the Moon evolution, when a separation takes place, the remaining main body is spelt Moon, with an initial capital, the separating planetary sun is spelt with small letter. In the Earth evolution, the separated planetary bodies are spelt as is customary, that is, the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury with initial capitals; sun, moon, earth with small letters. (Tr.)
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