The six basic exercises – 6. Harmony

Thus we have named five capacities of the soul that the student must make his own by correct training: Control of the direction of thought; control of the impulses of will; calmness in joy and sorrow; positiveness in judging the world; impartiality in our attitude toward life. Anyone who has employed certain consecutive periods of time for the purpose of acquiring these capacities will still be subject to the necessity of bringing them into harmonious concord in his soul. He will be under the necessity of practicing them simultaneously, in pairs, or three and one, and so forth, in order to bring about harmony.

The exercises just characterized are indicated by the methods of spiritual training because by being conscientiously carried out they not only effect in the student what has been designated above as a direct result, but indirectly much else follows, which is needed on the path to the spiritual worlds. Whoever carries out these exercises to a sufficient degree will encounter in the process many shortcomings and defects in his soul-life, and he will find precisely the means required by him for strengthening and safeguarding his intellectual life, his life of feeling, and his character.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – V: Cognition of the higher worlds. Initiation. (Part 2)

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on November 27, 2014

The six basic exercises – 5. Impartiality in our attitude toward life

Thought linked with will undergoes a certain maturing if we permit ourselves never to be robbed by previous experiences of the unbiased receptivity for new experiences. For the student of the spiritual the following thought should entirely lose its meaning, “I have never heard that, I do not believe that.” It should be his aim, during specific periods of time, to learn something new on every occasion from everything and everybody. From every breath of air, from every leaf, from the babbling of children one can learn something if one is prepared to bring to one’s aid a certain point of view that one has not made use of up to the present. It will, however, be easily possible in regard to such an ability to go wide of the mark. One should not in any way disregard, at any particular stage of life, one’s previous experiences. One should judge what one experiences in the present by one’s experiences of the past. This is placed upon one scale of the balance; upon the other, however, must be placed the inclination of the student continually to experience the new. Above all, there must be faith in the possibility that new experiences may contradict the old.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – V: Cognition of the higher worlds. Initiation. (Part 2)

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on November 26, 2014

The six basic exercises – 4. Positiveness in judging the World

For the control of thought and feeling there is a further means of education in the acquirement of the faculty that we may call positiveness. There is a beautiful legend that tells of how the Christ Jesus, accompanied by some other persons, passed by a dead dog lying on the roadside. While the others turned aside from the hideous spectacle, the Christ Jesus spoke admiringly of the animal’s beautiful teeth. One can school oneself in order to attain the attitude of soul toward the world shown by this legend. The erroneous, the bad, the ugly should not prevent the soul from finding the true, the good, and the beautiful wherever it is present. This positiveness should not be confused with non-criticism, with the arbitrary closing of the eyes to the bad, the false, and the inferior. If you admire the “beautiful teeth” of a dead animal, you also see the decaying corpse. But this corpse does not prevent your seeing the beautiful teeth. One cannot consider the bad good and the false true, but it is possible to attain the ability not to be deterred by evil from seeing good, and by error from seeing truth.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – V: Cognition of the higher worlds. Initiation. (Part 2)

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on November 25, 2014

The six basic exercises – 3. Calmness in joy and sorrow

In regard to the world of feeling the soul should attain for spiritual training a certain degree of calmness. It is necessary for that purpose that the soul become ruler over expressions of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain. It is just in regard to the acquiring of this ability that much prejudice may result. One might imagine that one would become dull and without sympathy in regard to one’s fellowmen if one should not feel joy with the joyful and with the painful, pain. Yet this is not the point in question. With the joyful the soul should rejoice, with sadness it should feel pain. But it should acquire the ability to control the expression of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain. If one endeavors to do this, one will soon notice that one does not become less sensitive, but on the contrary more receptive to all that is joyous and sorrowful in one’s environment than one was previously. To be sure, if one wishes to acquire the ability with which we are concerned here, one must strictly observe oneself for a long period of time. One must see to it that one is able fully to sympathize with joy and sorrow without losing one’s self-control so that one gives way to an involuntary expression of one’s feelings. It is not the justified pain that one should suppress, but involuntary weeping; not the horror of an evil action, but the blind rage of anger; not attention to danger, but fruitless fear, and so forth. — Only through such practice does the student of the spiritual attain the tranquility of mind that is necessary to prevent the soul at the birth of the higher ego, and, above all, during its activity, from leading a second, abnormal life like a sort of Doppelganger — soul double — along side this higher ego. It is just in regard to these things that one should not surrender oneself to any sort of self-deception. It may appear to many a one that he already possesses a certain equanimity in ordinary life and therefore does not need this exercise. It is just such a person who doubly needs it. It may be quite possible to be calm when confronting the things of ordinary life, but when one ascends into a higher world, the lack of equilibrium that heretofore was only suppressed may assert itself all the more. It must be grasped that for spiritual training what one already appeared to possess previously is of less importance than the need to practice, according to exact rules, what one lacks. Although this sentence appears contradictory, it is, nevertheless, correct. Even though life has taught us this or that, the abilities we have acquired by ourselves serve the cause of spiritual training. If life has brought us excitability, we should break ourselves of the habit; if life has brought us complacency, then we should through self-education arouse ourselves to such a degree that the expression of the soul corresponds to the impression received. Anyone who never laughs about anything has just as little control of his life as someone who, without any control whatever, is continually given to laughter.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – V: Cognition of the higher worlds. Initiation. (Part 2)

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on November 24, 2014

The six basic exercises – 2. Control of the impulses of will

The soul must become a ruler in the sphere of the will as it must be in the world of thought. In the physical-sensory world, it is life itself that appears as the ruler. It emphasizes this or that need of the human being, and the will feels itself impelled to satisfy these needs. In higher training man must become accustomed to obey his own commands strictly. He who becomes accustomed to this will be less and less inclined to desire the non-essential. Dissatisfaction and instability in the life of will rest upon the desire for things the realization of which we cannot conceive clearly. Such dissatisfaction may bring the entire mental life into disorder when a higher ego is about to emerge from the soul. It is a good practice if one gives oneself for months, at a certain time of the day, the following command: Today, at this definite time, I shall perform this or that action. One then gradually becomes able to determine the time for this action and the nature of the thing to be done so as to permit its being carried out with great exactness. Thus one lifts oneself above the damaging attitude of mind found in, “I should like this, I want that,” in which we do not at all consider the possibility of its accomplishment. A great personality — Goethe — lets a seeress say, “Him I love who desires the impossible.” [Goethe: Faust 11.] And Goethe himself says, “To live in the idea means to treat the impossible as though it were possible.” [Goethe: Verses in Prose.] Such expressions must not be used as objections to what is presented here. For the demand of Goethe and his seeress, Manto, can only be fulfilled by someone who has trained himself to desire what is possible, in order then to be able, through his strong will, to treat the “impossible” so that it is transformed through his will into the possible.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – V: Cognition of the higher worlds. Initiation. (Part 2)

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges

Previously posted on November 23, 2014