It seems like a contradiction

Spiritual science points to the fact that there are highly developed individuals called the “initiates.” In every age there have been secret schools where it was taught how, through exercises in meditation and concentration, a person could reach higher stages of development. Such exercises lead to insight that cannot be attained by means of the five senses and the intellect. Inner meditative work enables the soul to become free of the senses; something occurs in an individual that is comparable to what happens in someone born blind and whose sight is restored. An inner process takes place through which the spiritual eyes and ears are opened. 

The whole of humanity will reach this stage, but only after long periods of time. It is essential that those who seek higher development in no way neglect worldly, everyday affairs; the ascetic who flees the world will not attain spiritual vision, for the new clairvoyance is the fruit of the soul’s experiences gathered in the physical world. The Greek philosophers have compared the human soul to the bee gathering honey, saying that the world of color and light offers honey to the human soul, to carry it up to higher worlds. The task of the human soul is to spiritualize sense experiences and take them up to higher worlds.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – SUPERSENSIBLE KNOWLEDGE – IV. The Origin of Evil – Berlin, 22 November 1906

Translated by Rita Stebbing

PS This seems contradictory. On the one hand, it is about becoming detached from the sensory world through meditation and concentration. On the other hand, it is about being absorbed in the sensory world precisely with interest. This is something I have often had a lot of trouble with. But I think we should not see it as the one OR the other, but it is the one AND the other. By the way, again, this is not to say that everyone should meditate. I never do either myself. The most important thing is to read and ponder the spiritual insights. Or as Steiner says:

We must have esoterics, but not everyone needs to be one. A very simple example can help us understand: It is a fact that everyone needs shoes. Shoemakers are therefore a necessity. It would however be quite wrong to draw the conclusion that everyone needs to be a shoemaker. Likewise, people need not all to become esotericist, but those who want to do so, will, during their present or future incarnations, have the task of spreading spiritual knowledge, and promoting it in the lives of others.


Dream Child – Art of Carol Herzer


Americans / Spiritual vision / Self-control / Self-discipline / Self-education

We do indeed find that a good deal of what the Americans have developed represents a primitive form of the exercises by which a spiritual vision is attained. Thus, we find Americans repeatedly commending self-control, self-discipline, self-education as all-important: what matters is not having learned something, but implanting it in your will by the constant repetition of a given exercise.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 83 – The Tension Between East and West/Prospects of its Solution (Europe-America) – Vienna, 10th June 1922

Translated by B.A. Rowley


Previously posted on 2 November 2018

Example and imitation

In the first period of life, from the first to the seventh year the child is mainly an imitating being. But we have to understand this in the broadest sense of the word. […] In relation to these things people sometimes ask for advice at one or the other event. So, for example, a father once complained to me about his five-year-old child. ‘What did this five-year-old child do? ‘ I asked. ‘It stole ‘, said the father unhappily. I told him: ‘Then one must first consider how the theft actually took place.’ Then he told me, that the child had not actually stolen out of wickedness. He had taken money from the drawer of his mother and purchased sweets. Afterwards he divided the sweets among the children in the street. So it was not bare selfishness. What actually took place then? Now, every day the child sees the mother take money from the drawer. At the age of five years the child is an imitator. It did not steal; it simply did what he had seen his mother do daily, because the child instinctively considers what the mother does as right. – This is a typical example of the subtleties which one should be aware of when one wants to educate in accordance with the true being of man.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 297a – Erziehung zum Leben – Utrecht, 24th February 1921 (p. 19-20)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


Previously posted on 26 september 2018

About excercises

What we want to attain through esoteric exercises is to concentrate completely on one thought and afterwards to let an empty space arise in us and to wait for what flows to us as a result of our meditation. What we attain thereby depends on the intensity of the perseverance that we have applied to this. One might think that one gets ahead faster by changing exercises, but the most profound esoterics have always said that they got the furthest by doing the same exercise with patience and perseverance for years.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes: Esoteric Lessons Part II – Munich, 10th January 1912

Previously posted on March 15, 2018


Painter unknown

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

Translated by Charles Davy and Christian von Arnim

Previously posted on March 14, 2018