The Path of Knowledge in Anthroposophy- Pt. 3: The 6 Preparatory Exercises
The path of spiritual development outlined by Rudolf Steiner goes through stages. The first stage is the use of your ordinary everyday mind to absorb the teachings of spiritual science; the second stage is where you choose to do certain exercises in concentration and meditation, to deepen your understanding of what you have first come to know through your ordinary intellect. (The meditative mantras I post each week here, The Calendar of the Soul, are some of these meditation devices.)
Then you rise to a third and fourth stage as your consciousness gradually changes, and this causes a transformation of what we call the astral and etheric bodies. These meditation exercises and the ascending path of initiation are described by Dr. Steiner primarily in his books Theosophy, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, and Occult Science: An Outline, and in his many lectures, of course.
Simply put, the mental exercises of concentration and meditation gather together life forces in the head area and form a sort of center there, in the region of the third eye. But once this center is formed by your will, it begins to be drawn down towards the heart, and this is where it must eventually implant itself to become a new organ of seeing. None of the mental exercises would be of any use if they remained only in the head-- -- -- the deeper forces of feeling and will have to become involved. The center formed in the head must migrate to the heart, from which it affects everything.
In ancient eastern wisdom, they knew about the 7 etheric centers of the body (which also have been handed down to us in a hidden way in our Western religions in the form of the 7 parts of the Lord's Prayer, the seven seals in the Book of Revelation, and so on). Steiner could also sense these, and described the heart as the center that has 12 spokes or petals, and said that six of these have already been developed for us. He gave out six exercises to develop the others, and emphasized that we need to begin with these as soon as possible along with doing the meditations. They are described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (now published as "How To Know Higher Worlds").
The first exercise is control of thinking. You don't have control of your thinking if whatever your senses give you immediately makes you think of that. Instead, you must think about something you choose to think about without your life forcing you to. He recommends you take simple things at first, and form very simple, basic ideas about them and put these together in a logical sequence. A simple object like a pin or a pencil was recommended. I can post an example here.
The second exercise is control of will. If you only do what life forces you to do, like get up in the morning because you'll lose your job if you're not at work on time, you're not truly in control of your will. You're living by habit, not consciously willing. So you choose things to do that nothing forces you to do, regularly. You decide to water a plant every afternoon at 3:00, or even just to touch your fingers to your ear lobe then. People who actually DO this exercise (as opposed to just thinking about it or talking about it), quickly find out they can't do it; they forget almost instantly, the second or third day, and keep forgetting -- -- -- showing how "asleep" our wills truly are. But this exercise begins to awaken them, and can then be extended to doing something every week, every month, and so on -- -- -- things you consciously choose to do, with nothing forcing you to do so.
The third exercise is control of feelings; to consciously keep oneself from becoming all ecstatic with happiness, and then the inevitable opposite, plunged downward in depression, but rather to have balance or equanimity of feeling. [For some people, this may be the most important exercise to take up!]
The fourth exercise is positiveness, seeking the good in everything instead of looking only for what can be criticized, as a deliberate choice; not refusing to criticize where criticism is deserved, but looking for the good aspects of all things.
The fifth is openness or tolerance, deliberately seeking to be open to new things and ideas rather than saying, 'I've never heard that before, so I don't believe it.'
The sixth is perseverance, control of resolutions, being able to decide on a course of action and then stick to it, allowing nothing to sway one.
These are known to anthroposophists as the Six Preparatory Exercises, and are one of the first things new anthroposophists are advised to undertake. The reason why is what is all too easily seen here on the Internet, where dabblers in anthroposophy play mere games with the head-concepts from spiritual science--- unfortunately. The spiritual ideas of Anthroposophy have great power in them, and therefore a person must begin a path of moral ennoblement right away if you intend to use them. Otherwise mere sophistry results, not real spiritual knowledge, which they CAN lead to, IF used with more than only the head-forces.
I'll be posting some things here from the basic books with their spiritual ideas, but these exercises need to be done along with book study.
P.S. Along with these six exercises for the Heart Center, there is also a series of eight exercises for the will center in the throat, which are the same as the eightfold path found in Mahayana Buddhism (Right Image, Right Judgement. etc.). These can be done on the 7 days of the week, along with your daily meditation (Right Meditation) being the 8th part.