Devotion / Admiration / Respect / Veneration

He who wishes to become a disciple of higher knowledge must assiduously cultivate the devotional mood. Everywhere in his environment he must look for that which demands of him admiration and homage. Whenever his duties or circumstances permit, he should try to renounce entirely all criticism or judgment. If I meet a man and blame him for his weakness, I rob myself of power to win the higher knowledge; but if I try to enter lovingly into his merits, I then gather such power. The disciple must continually try to follow out this advice. Experienced occultists are aware how much they owe to the continual searching for the good in all things, and the withholding of all carping criticism. This must not remain only as an external rule of life; rather must it take possession of the innermost part of our souls. We have it in our power to perfect ourselves, and by and by to transform ourselves completely. But this transformation must take place in the innermost self, in the mental life. It is not enough that I show respect only in my outward bearing toward a person; I must have this respect in my thought. The disciple must begin by drawing this devotion into his thought-life, He must altogether banish from his consciousness all thoughts of disrespect, of criticism, and he must endeavour straightway to cultivate thoughts of devotion.

Every moment in which we set ourselves to banish from our consciousness whatever remains in it of disparaging, suspicious judgment of our fellow-men, every such moment brings us nearer to the knowledge of higher things. And we rise rapidly when, in such moments, we fill our consciousness only with thoughts that evoke in us admiration, respect, and veneration for men and things. He who has experience in these matters will know that in every such moment powers are awakened in man which otherwise remain dormant. In this way the spiritual eyes of a man are opened. He begins to see things around him which hitherto he was unable to see. He begins to understand that hitherto he had only seen a part of the world around him. The man with whom he comes in contact now shows him quite a different aspect from what he showed before.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 10 – THE WAY OF INITIATION – Chapter II. How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Translated from the original German by Max Gysi

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Understanding must take the place of criticism

For the development of the soul it is necessary that one acquire a certain definite manner of judging one’s fellowmen. It is difficult to attain an uncritical attitude, but understanding must take the place of criticism. It suppresses the advancement of the soul if you confront your fellowman immediately with your own opinion. We must hear the other out first, and this listening is an extraordinarily effective means for the development of the soul eyes. Anybody who reaches a higher level in this direction owes it to having learned to abstain from criticizing and judging everybody and everything.

How can we look understandingly into somebody’s being? We should not condemn but understand the criminal’s personality, understand the criminal and the saint equally well. Empathy for each and everyone is required and this is what is meant with higher, occult “listening.” Thus, if a person brings himself with strict self-control to the point of not evaluating his fellowman, or the rest of the world for that matter, according to his personal judgment, opinion and prejudice and instead lets both work on him in silence, he has the chance to gain occult powers. Every moment during which a person becomes determined to refrain from thinking an evil thought about his fellowman is a moment gained.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 53 – The Inner Development of Man – Berlin, 15th December 1904

Translated by Maria St. Goar

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Previously posted on August 22, 2018

Nothing is worse than not to try to gain an understanding of every kind of human feeling and human sensation and human life  

Really nothing is worse during this esoteric progress than not to try to gain an understanding of every kind of human feeling and human sensation and human life. Of course, this does not postulate the principle — this must be emphasised again and again — that we should pass over all the wrong that is done in the world without criticism, for that would be an injustice towards the world; but it postulates something else; whereas before esoteric development we may have felt a certain pleasure in finding fault with some human failing, this pleasure in finding fault with other people entirely ceases in the course of esoteric development. 

Who does not know in external life people who like to deliver very pertinent criticisms of other people’s faults? Not that the pertinence of judgment over human faults has to cease, not that under all circumstances, such an act as was committed, let us say, by Erasmus of Rotterdam when he wrote his book, The Praise of Folly, should be condoned; no, it may be quite justifiable to be stern against the wrongs done in the world; but in the case of one who undergoes an esoteric development every word of blame he utters or sets in motion pains him, and prepares more and more pain for him.

And the sorrow at being obliged to find fault is something which can also act as a barometer of the esoteric development. The more we are still able to feel pleasure when we are obliged to find fault or when we find the world ludicrous, the less we are really ready to progress; and we must gradually gain a sort of feeling that there is, developing more and more within us, a life which makes us see these follies and errors in the world with eyes, of which one is critical, and the other filled with tears, one dry and the other wet.

Source: GA 145 – The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man – Lecture V – The Hague, 24th March 1913

Translated by Harry Collison

Previously posted on February 20, 2018

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ERASMUS (1466-1536)

Veneration and Devotion

If we do not develop within ourselves this deeply rooted feeling that there is something higher than ourselves, we shall never find the strength to evolve to something higher. The initiate has only acquired the strength to lift his head to the heights of knowledge by guiding his heart to the depths of veneration and devotion. The heights of the spirit can only be climbed by passing through the portals of humility. You can only acquire right knowledge when you have learnt to esteem it. Man has certainly the right to turn his eyes to the light, but he must first acquire this right. 

There are laws in the spiritual life, as in the physical life. Rub a glass rod with an appropriate material and it will become electric, that is, it will receive the power of attracting small bodies. This is in keeping with a law of nature. It is known to all who have learnt a little physics. Similarly, acquaintance with the first principles of spiritual science shows that every feeling of true devotion harbored in the soul develops a power which may, sooner or later, lead further on the path of knowledge.

The student who is gifted with this feeling, or who is fortunate enough to have had it inculcated in a suitable education, brings a great deal along with him when, later in life, he seeks admittance to higher knowledge. Failing such preparation, he will encounter difficulties at the very first step, unless he undertakes, by rigorous self-education, to create within himself this inner life of devotion. In our time it is especially important that full attention be paid to this point. Our civilization tends more toward critical judgment and condemnation than toward devotion and selfless veneration. Our children already criticize far more than they worship. But every criticism, every adverse judgment passed, disperses the powers of the soul for the attainment of higher knowledge in the same measure that all veneration and reverence develops them.

In this we do not wish to say anything against our civilization. There is no question here of leveling criticism against it. To this critical faculty, this self-conscious human judgment, this “test all things and hold fast what is best,” we owe the greatness of our civilization. Man could never have attained to the science, the industry, the commerce, the rights relationships of our time, had he not applied to all things the standard of his critical judgment. But what we have thereby gained in external culture we have had to pay for with a corresponding loss of higher knowledge of spiritual life. It must be emphasized that higher knowledge is not concerned with the veneration of persons but the veneration of truth and knowledge.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 10 – How to know higher worlds – 1. How Is Knowledge of the Higher Worlds Attained? – Conditions

Translated by George Metaxa

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Incorrect criticism

Something that especially harms esoteric development is the untested, superficial and therefore objectively incorrect criticism that we often direct at people. I’m not saying that criticizing is wrong, but it should always be directed to facts and not at people whom one doesn’t happen to like.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes: Part II – Muenchen, 26th February 1912

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Previously posted on November 26, 2017