A true prayer has something to give to all of us

A true prayer has something to give to all of us, whatever stage of development we may have reached. The simplest person, who perhaps knows nothing more than the words of the prayer, may still be open to the influence of the prayer on his soul, and it is the prayer which can call forth the power to raise him higher. But, however high a stage we may have reached, we have never finished with a prayer; it can always raise us to a still higher level. And the Lord’s Prayer is not for speaking only. It can call forth the mystical frame of mind, and it can be the subject of higher forms of meditation and concentration. This could be said of many other prayers. 

Since the Middle Ages, however, something has come to the fore, a kind of egotism, which can impair the purity of prayer and its accompanying state of mind. If we make use of prayer with the aim only of withdrawing into ourselves and making ourselves more perfect — as many Christians did during the Middle Ages and perhaps still do today — and if we fail to look out at the world around us with whatever illumination we may have received, then prayer will succeed only in separating us from the world, and making us feel like strangers in it. That often happened to those who used prayer in connection with false asceticism and seclusion. These people wished to be perfect not in the sense of the rose, which adorns itself  in order to add beauty to the garden, but on their own account, so as to find blessedness within their own souls.

Anyone who seeks for God in his soul and refuses to take what he has gained out into the world will find that his refusal turns back on him in revenge.


Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 59 – Metamorphoses of the Soul Vol.2 – Lecture 4: The Nature of Prayer – Berlin, 17th February 1910

Translated by Charles Davy and Christian von Arnim

Previously posted on December 31, 2013

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An ascetic fleeing from the world does not serve clairvoyance

Spiritual science teaches of the existence of certain highly evolved men, the initiates, and it has been taught in the Mystery Schools of all times how man can bring himself to such a stage of evolution. Definite exercises were prescribed there which develop man in quite a natural way. They are exercises of meditation and concentration which are to give man another kind of sight which cannot be attained with the intellect and the five senses. Meditation in the first place leads away from the grasp of the senses. Through inner soul-work man becomes free of the senses. Something then takes place similar to the operation on a man born blind. There is a kind of operation which opens man’s spiritual eyes and ears. It will be attained in the development of the whole human race in the course of a long period of time. But one must not disclaim the world when one wishes to rise higher; an ascetic fleeing from the world does not serve clairvoyance. Clairvoyance is the fruit of what the soul collects in the sense-world. Greek philosophy beautifully compared the human soul with a bee. The world of colour and light offers the soul honey which it brings with it into the higher world. The soul must spiritualise sense experience and carry it up into higher worlds.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – The Origin of Suffering, Origin of Evil, Illness and Death – Berlin, 22nd November 1906

Translated by M. Cotterell

Previously posted on Januari 29, 2014

Pain and suffering/Joy and happiness/Karma (2 – End)

Simple reflection upon the influence of personal enjoyment shows that inherent in it is something that makes us stagger and blots out our true being. No sermon is here being delivered against enjoyment, nor is an invitation extended to practice self-torture, or to pinch ourselves with red hot pliers, or the like. If one recognizes a situation in the right way, it does not mean that one should escape from it. No escape, therefore, is suggested, but a silent acceptance of joy and happiness whenever they appear. We must develop the inner attitude that we experience them as grace, and the more the better. Thus do we immerse ourselves the more in the divine. Therefore, these words are said not in order to preach asceticism, but in order to awaken the right mood toward joy and happiness.

If it is thought that joy and happiness have a paralyzing and extinguishing effect, and that therefore man should flee from them, then one would promote the ideal of false asceticism and self-torture. In this event, man, in reality, would be escaping from the grace that is given to him by the gods. Self-torture practiced by ascetics, monks and nuns is nothing but a continuous rebellion against the gods. It behooves us to feel pain as something that comes to us through our karma. In joy and happiness, we can feel that the divine is descending to us.

May joy and happiness be for us a sign as to how close the gods have attracted us, and may our pain and suffering be a sign as to how far removed we are from what we are to become as good human beings. This is the fundamental attitude toward karma without which we cannot really move ahead in life. In what the world bestows upon us as goodness and beauty, we must conceive the world powers of which it is said in the Bible, “And he looked at the world and he saw that it was good.” But inasmuch as we experience pain and suffering, we must recognize what man has made of the world during its evolution, which originally was a good world, and what he must contribute toward its betterment by educating himself to bear pain with purpose and energy.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Facing Karma – Vienna, 8th February 1912

Previously posted on December 28, 2014

Unworldly and Far from Reality

Although this has often been mentioned, from different perspectives, it may still be noted, that the most unreasonable and unrealistic accusation that one can make against spiritual science and its labour, is  that  it produces people who are somehow unworldly, distant from reality, and tempted by asceticism. Once more, it must be emphasized that a spiritual world with its beings and forces constantly underlies our earthly, sensory world, and interacts with it. Therefore it is precisely the people who do not care about the real and true forces of existence and who limit themselves to the enjoyments of the outer world through what their physical senses communicate to them, who should be called unworldly and far from reality.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 56Die Erkenntnis der Seele und des Geistes – Berlin, December 12, 1907 (page 132)

Anonymous translator

Why people reject what they hear through Spiritual Science?

In all cases where people reject what they hear through Spiritual Science, an instinct of self-preservation is at work; they know that they are incapable of doing the necessary exercises — that is, of practising asceticism in the true sense. A person prompted by the instinct for self-preservation will then say to himself: If these things were to permeate my spiritual life, they would confuse it; I could make nothing of them and therefore I reject them. So it is with a materialistic outlook which refuses to go a step beyond the doctrines of a science it believes to be firmly founded on facts.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 58 – Metamorphoses of the Soul, Vol 1: Lecture 6: Asceticism and Illness – Berlin, 11th November 1909

Previously posted on 28th October 2013