The Path of Knowledge in Anthroposophy
- Although Dr. Steiner would always put the results of spiritual research first and only afterwards describe the methods of researching---since reading the results is itself the beginning of developing your own ability to do spiritual research ---I'm going to put here some material about meditation and spiritual development first, since so many people are interested primarily in that.
Grail Yoga: The Western Path to Higher Knowledge-- Initiation Pt. 1
Some Comments on the Path described in Dr. Rudolf Steiner's "Theosophy" & "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment"
The first things required of one who would develop higher knowledge are spelled out by Rudolf Steiner in "The Path of Knowledge" (the last chapter of his book "Theosophy") and described again at the beginning of his book "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment" (now published as How To Know Higher Worlds"). At the start of Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, in fact, Dr. Steiner says that ALL of the essentials of the Path are included in that brief yet profound last chapter of Theosophy. If one examines this, one finds several qualities which anyone must develop first and foremost are stated in The Path of Knowledge, which, in slightly different language, are repeated in all the lectures Dr. Steiner gave on developing higher perception.
The beings and events described in Occult Science, Theosophy, etc., are thought-pictures which one can understand and use with normal consciousness, just by accepting what is described as possible and testing it out with unprejudiced logic. But they remain pictures of a world one cannot see directly. In order to see these things yourself, the Path of occult training must be walked. This Way or Path may be called a Western form of Yoga, or the meditative Way to re-join the Self consciously to the Divine ("Yoga" meaning "to yoke" or join, as "religion" comes from the Latin "re ligare", to re-join).
The first steps on the path are the most important. Your practice of them must continue for life; for, along with the attempts to take these steps, the inner discipline is required to begin a daily review of self, a daily "meeting self."
This is how one first learns to "meditate"---to "be between"---the self that is and the self that is becoming.
What is meditation?
It is the concentration, through will, of ordinary thinking and feeling regularly (even five minutes a day) into new organs of the spirit, through which the hidden worlds become perceptible. This is the secret of occultism or spiritual science---that clairvoyance is evolved from everyday thinking and feeling and daily actions. There are shortcuts to occult power, but beware! Only the true spiritual path keeps one safe. 'Observe unfortunates, and imitate them not', to paraphrase Pythagoras' "Golden Verses". Power without wisdom destroys. Only the slow, gradual, step-by-step growth of spiritual organs will result in healthy ones, without which a man gaining access to higher worlds will suffer delusions and moral decay. In old times, those steps ("graduale") became known as the "Grail."
The path begins with 4 efforts at concentration, and the additional effort of the concentrating itself. Anything---an object, idea, phrase, a picture---can be a subject for concentration; whatever works for you. The important thing is to develop the ability to concentrate itself, not what you use---at least at first.
But in addition, 4 areas require specific concentration work:
1. Objectivity about self and surroundings; gained by cultivating the devotion to truth and appreciation of the value of all things, even those which seem most worthy of criticism.
2. Equanimity, balance in pleasure and pain. You must not indulge in the extremes of these, but must feel them and yet be detached from them. We must not at all reduce our ability to feel---no, we must feel ever more deeply and profoundly---but we must hold back from letting our feelings move us immediately to any judgment or action.
3. Next, one's thinking must begin to become regulated within itself. Idea must link itself with idea only in the way required by the nature of the ideas themselves, rather than one's preferences or prejudices.
4. Finally, one's actions in life must become likewise regulated according to the inner perception of the laws of the True and Good. One must do only what one has recognized as the right thing to do.
These have to do primarily with:
1. Sensation (The Physical World),
2. Unconscious Habits (Emotions),
3. Thinking, and
Now let's look at these in greater detail.
THE FIRST 4 STEPS ON THE PATH OF KNOWLEDGE
The first requirement for higher knowledge is the development of objectivity.
One must be able to look at oneself (as well as all external to oneself), and see one's personality and outer things as they are, without influence from the likes and dislikes of the subjective self. One must suspend one's past self and all its judgments when one confronts anything new; rather than immediately summoning up a judgment based on one's life up to the present, one must lay oneself open to the living impression of the thing. This does not mean that we never criticize, but only that we do not judge in place of receiving impressions.
One's self must be an empty vessel before the new world can flow into it: one does not place new wine in old wineskins.** This develops Man's receptivity to true impressions.
**It is for this reason that self-conscious clairvoyance could not become a science until the modern age; for man's objectivity is something dependent upon the modern consciousness. For this reason, anyone who wishes to rise to higher consciousness MUST begin with lower knowledge: in other words, he must train his mind in logic and reason. The subject is not important---whether mathematics, grammar, music, or sewing---so long as the facts are grasped and arranged in a rational order. The inner attitude developed through logical thinking (rather than the subject-matter)is what counts.
2. DETACHMENT FROM PLEASURE & PAIN
Once a man has attained an objective view of himself and his world---that is, ceased to follow his subjective whims, judgments and opinions and instead derived his thoughts only through the things themselves--- he now has halted his habitual judgments arising from his prejudices. But now, in place of these, he must learn to evaluate in a new way. He must cease to value himself too highly at the expense of the world about him. We do this by allowing a pleasure or a pain caused by the world to overwhelm our inner being. Instead, we must detach the self from pleasure and pain---learn to experience them without losing ourselves in them. When we do this, a pleasure or a pain becomes merely an indication to us that there is a quality in a thing or being which causes me pleasure or pain; this quality I wish to know, not merely that I suffer or feel joy because of it.
One does not blunt oneself to feeling in this way, but only halts the feelings' power to make one jump into taking an action of will (such as a judgment). The habitual egotistical response to feelings is halted, not the ability to feel-- in fact one's sensitivity grows in proportion as one gains control over the effects of pleasure and pain upon the self. As Steiner puts it: "...sympathies and antipathies take on a higher character if he [the student] curbs those he already has."
In the same way as one's thinking can tell one only about oneself if used egotistically, but when made transparent through "forgetting self" can tell one objectively about the external world---so also one's feelings are at first egotistically received and bound to the self, but they can likewise be transformed, through an objective attitude, into forces which tell one about things themselves rather than only about the self. Instead of knowing only about how I feel towards a thing, my feelings---once made objective---begin to tell me about the things themselves; just as we can only see by the physical eye being transparent itself. Truly, "the Soul is the Key to the Universe" when the purely subjective use of it is gone.
3. CONTROL OVER THINKING
The next step consists in taking one's thinking in hand to the point that one not only is objective about whatever confronts one, but so that Man is not limited in his thinking to whatever happens to confront his senses at the moment. One must take inner control over one's thought world, and connect thought to thought only in the way that truth demands. This strictly logical thinking is best seen in mathematics, and it is this kind of linking thought to thought on the basis of the nature of the thinking itself, out of its own inner necessity (rather than anything from the sense-world) which is needed. Whether one studies mathematics or not, one must regulate one's thinking as is done in true science. Personal preferences or antipathies, all arbitrary decisions in thought, must be silenced.
4. CONTROL OF ACTIONS
As in one's thinking, so one must also do in one's actions. As one asks in one's thinking, "What is the True?" and seeks to make one's thinking a copy of the laws of the true, so too one must ask in one's actions, "What is the Good?" rather than "What is advantageous to me?", and follow that which one recognizes as the good no matter what. If one recognizes a course of action as good, one must keep to it regardless of personal feelings; likewise, one cannot pursue a course of action one knows not to be good simply because it will bring one pleasure.
Such are the rather stern-sounding laws of the Way; but they are not really so, once experienced. As the Master said, "My burden is easy, my yoke is light." They are only hard while you're still resisting them; once adopted as a Way of life, they become almost effortless---become, in fact, second nature. And this is how it should be---so long as you must enforce them on yourself, you are still only preparing for initiation, but once they become allied to you as a part of your being, the processes of initiation (the Trials) can proceed.
One can find all this in the final "Path of Knowledge" chapter of "Theosophy", if one looks for it. This is then repeated in the opening chapters of "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment" in this way:
Where can we, in our complicated daily lives, begin to develop higher knowledge?
1. Thinking about what the senses give us: thinking, not blind faith, is needed.
2. Have unprejudiced objectivity: make oneself a new vessel into which knowledge can flow; practice no passing of judgment or criticism---one must remain open to impressions, without judging "clever", "stupid", etc. You become thereby totally receptive to all, independent of pleasure and pain; they no longer call forth an egotistical response (similar to the "non-attachment" of Buddhism).
3. One who thus eliminates the self-orientation from his sympathy and antipathy becomes able to sense, not just if things are "good" or "bad" in relation to self, but what pleasure and displeasure reveal is what things really ARE in their OWN nature. One's sympathies and antipathies, once curbed from taking habitual patterns, thereby become senses (eyes of the soul) whereby things are known THROUGH feelings.
4. The regulation of thinking as in mathematics and action as in morality (Knowing and Living the Eternal).
At this point one begins to see the Eternal in stone, plant, animal and Man.
Then, there are the exercises given for sensing growth & decay, the sounds of the unliving vs. the living, and seeing the auras of the mineral, animal and then the plant; then exercises are given for seeing Desire in Man, along with the needed Purifications for using fellow human beings as an object of observation.
Then these lead on to the three Trials. The foundation is once again these same attributes of Objectivity, Equanimity, Control of thinking and control of actions. One who can't be objective about oneself, balanced in feelings, and in control of one's thinking and deeds, walks the Path at risk of a failed Initiation; so these are the essentials for walking the anthroposophic Path, always.
***TO BE CONTINUED***