4. The Path of Knowledge
Knowledge of the spiritual science presented in this book can be acquired by every human being for himself. Descriptions of the kind given here present a thought-picture of the higher worlds and they are in a certain respect the first step towards personal vision. For man is a thinking being. He can find his path to knowledge only when thinking is his starting-point. A picture of the higher worlds presented to his intellect is not fruitless for him, even if for the time being it is only like a narration of higher facts into which he has as yet no insight through his own vision. For the thoughts which are given him represent in themselves a force which works on further in his world of thought. This force will be active in him; it will awaken slumbering capacities. A man who is of the opinion that it is superfluous to occupy himself with such a thought-picture is mistaken; for he regards thought as something unreal and abstract. But thought is a living force. And just as in one who has knowledge thought is present as a direct expression of what is seen in the spirit, so the communication of this expression works in him to whom it is communicated as a seed, which brings forth from itself the fruit of knowledge.
Anyone disdaining the application of strenuous intellectual exertion in the effort to attain higher knowledge, and preferring to turn to other forces for that end, fails to take into account that thinking is the highest of the faculties possessed by man in the world of the senses.
To one who asks, “How can I gain personal knowledge of the higher truths of spiritual science?” the answer must be given, “Begin by making yourself acquainted with what is communicated by others concerning such knowledge.” And should he reply, “I want to see for myself; I do not want to know anything about what others have seen,” the answer must be: “It is in the very assimilating of the communications of others that the first step towards personal knowledge consists.” And if he should retort: “Then I am compelled first of all to have blind faith,” one can only reply that in regard to some communications it is not a case of belief or disbelief, but merely of unprejudiced assimilation. The genuine spiritual investigator never speaks with the expectation of being met with blind credulity. He merely says, “I have experienced this in the spiritual regions of existence and I am narrating these experiences of mine.” But he knows too, that the assimilation of these experiences by another and the fact that the thoughts of that other person are permeated by the account are living forces making for spiritual development.
What is here to be considered, will only be rightly viewed by one who takes into account the fact that all knowledge of the worlds of soul and spirit slumbers in the depths of the human soul. It can be brought to light through treading the “path of knowledge.” But there can be insight not only into what one has oneself brought to light, but also into what someone else has brought up from the depths of the soul; and that, moreover, even when no actual preparation has yet been made for the treading of that path of knowledge. Genuine spiritual insight awakens the power of understanding in anyone whose inner nature is not clouded by preconceptions and prejudices. The unconscious knowledge rises to meet the spiritual facts discovered by another. This is not blind credulity but the right working of healthy human reason. This healthy comprehension should be considered a far better starting-point even for first-hand cognition of the spiritual world, than dubious mystical “experiences” and the like, which are often imagined to be more valuable than what healthy human understanding can recognise when confronted with the findings of genuine spiritual research.
It cannot be emphasised strongly enough how necessary it is for anyone who wishes to develop his faculties for higher knowledge to undertake strenuous efforts to cultivate his powers of thinking. This emphasis must be all the stronger because many people who would become “seers” place too little value on this earnest, self-denying labour of thinking. They say, “Thinking cannot help me to reach anything; what really matters is ‘feeling’ or something similar.” In reply it must be said that no one can in the higher sense (and that means in truth) become a “seer” who has not previously worked his way into the life of thought. In the case of many people a certain inner laziness plays an injurious role. They do not become conscious of this laziness because it clothes itself in contempt for “abstract thought,” “idle speculations,” and the like. But thinking is completely misunderstood, if it is confused with a spinning of idle, abstract trains of thought. This “abstract thinking” can easily kill supersensible knowledge; live and vigorous thinking can become its foundation.
It would of course be more convenient if the power of higher seership could be acquired while shunning the labour of thinking. Many would like this to be possible. But in order to achieve higher seership an inner stability is necessary, an assurance of soul to which thinking alone can lead. Otherwise there merely results a meaningless flickering of pictures hither and thither, a distracting display of phenomena which indeed gives pleasure, but has nothing to do with a true penetration into higher worlds. Further, if we consider what purely spiritual experiences take place in a man who really enters the higher world, we shall realise that the matter has also another aspect. Absolute healthiness of the life of soul is essential in a “seer.” There is no better means of developing this healthiness than genuine thinking. In fact this health of soul may suffer seriously if the exercises for higher development are not based on thinking. Although it is true that the power of spiritual sight makes a healthy and rightly thinking man still healthier and more capable in life than he is without it, it is equally true that all attempts to develop while shirking the effort of thought, all vague dreamings in this domain, lend strength to fantasy-hunting and encourage a false attitude to life. No one who wishes to acquire higher knowledge has anything to fear if he pays heed to what is said here; but the attempt should only be made under the above premise. This premise has to do only with man's soul and spirit; to speak of any kind of injurious influence upon the bodily health is absurd.
Unfounded disbelief is indeed injurious. It works in the recipient as a repelling force. It hinders him from taking in the fruitful thoughts. Not blind faith, but the reception of the thought-world of spiritual science, is the pre-requisite for the development of the higher senses. The spiritual investigator approaches his pupil with the injunction: “You are not to believe what I tell you but think it out yourself, make it part of the contents of your own thought-world; then my thoughts will themselves bring it about that you recognise them in their truth.” This is the attitude of the spiritual investigator. He gives the stimulus; the power to accept it as true springs from within the recipient himself. And it is in this sense that the views of spiritual science should be studied. Anyone who steeps his thoughts in them may be sure that sooner or later they will lead him to vision of his own.
What has been said here already indicates one of the first qualities which everyone wishing to attain vision of higher realities has to develop in himself. It is the unreserved, unprejudiced surrender to what is revealed by human fife or by the world external to man. If from the outset a man approaches a fact in the world bringing with him judgment originating in his life hitherto, he shuts himself off through this judgment from the calm, all-round effect which the fact can have on him. The learner must be able at each moment to make himself a perfectly empty vessel into which the new world flows. Knowledge arises only in those moments when every criticism coming from ourselves is silent. For example, when we meet a person, the question is not at all whether we are wiser than he. Even the most unintelligent child has something to reveal to the greatest sage. And if he approaches the child with his prejudgment, however wise it may be, his wisdom thrusts itself like a dulled glass in front of what the child ought to reveal to him. 1One can see very well, precisely from this indication, that in the requirement of “unreserved surrender” there is no question of shutting out one's own judgment or giving oneself up to blind faith. Anything of the sort would quite obviously have no sense or meaning in regard to a child.
Complete inner selflessness is necessary for this surrender to the revelations of the new world. And if a man test himself to find out in what degree he has this power of surrender, he will make astonishing discoveries. Anyone who wishes to tread the path of higher knowledge must train himself to be able to obliterate himself, together with all his preconceptions at any and every moment. As long as he obliterates himself the other flows into him. Only a high degree of such selfless surrender enables a man to imbibe the higher spiritual realities which surround him on all sides. This faculty can be consciously developed. A man can try for example to refrain from any judgment on people around him. He should obliterate within himself the gauge of attraction and repulsion, of stupidity or cleverness, which he is accustomed to apply, and try without this gauge to understand people purely through themselves. The most effective exercises can be made in connection with people for whom he has an aversion. He should suppress this aversion with all his might and allow everything that they do to affect him without bias. Or, if he is in an environment that calls for this or that judgment, he should suppress the judgment and lay himself open to the impressions. 2This open-minded and uncritical attitude has nothing whatever in common with “blind faith.” The important thing is not that one should believe blindly in anything, but that a “blind judgment” should not be put into the place of the living impression.
He should allow things and events to speak to him rather than speak about them. And this should also extend to his thought-world. He should suppress in himself whatever prompts this or that thought and allow only what is outside to give rise to the thoughts. Only when such exercises are carried out with the most solemn earnestness and perseverance do they lead to the goal of higher knowledge. He who undervalues such exercises knows nothing of their worth. And he who has experience in such things knows that selfless surrender and freedom from prejudice are true generators of power. Just as heat conducted to the steam boiler is transformed into the motive power of the locomotive, so do these exercises in selfless spiritual self-surrender transform themselves in man into the power of vision in the spiritual worlds.
By this exercise a man makes himself receptive to everything that surrounds him. But to this receptivity must be added the faculty of correct estimation. As long as a man is still inclined to value himself too highly at the expense of the world around him, he bars all access to higher knowledge. One who in face of each thing or event in the world yields himself up to the pleasure or pain which they cause him, is enmeshed in this over-valuation of himself. For through his pleasure and his pain he learns nothing about the things, but merely something about himself. If I feel sympathy with a human being, I feel, to begin with, nothing but my relation to him. If I make myself dependent on this feeling of pleasure, of sympathy, in my judgment and my conduct, I am placing my personality in the foreground: I am obtruding it upon the world. I want to thrust myself into the world just as I am, instead of accepting the world in an unbiased way and allowing it to play itself out in accordance with the forces working in it. In other words, I am tolerant only of what harmonises with my personality. Towards everything else I exert a repelling force. As long as a man is enmeshed by the sense-world, he works in a particularly repelling way on all non-material influences. The learner must develop in himself the capacity to conduct himself towards things and people in accordance with their peculiar natures and to recognise the due worth and significance of each one. Sympathy and antipathy, liking and disliking, must be made to play quite new roles. There is no question of man's eradicating these, of blunting himself to sympathy and antipathy. On the contrary, the more a man develops in himself the capacity to refrain from allowing every feeling of sympathy and antipathy to be followed immediately by a judgment, an action, the more delicate will be the sensitiveness he develops. He will find that sympathies and antipathies assume higher forms in him, if he curbs those already in him. Even something that is at first utterly unattractive has hidden qualities; it reveals them if a man does not in his conduct obey his selfish feelings. He who has developed in this respect has more delicate feelings, in every direction, than one who is undeveloped, because he does not allow his own personality to cause lack of receptivity. Each inclination that a man follows blindly blunts his power to see things in the environment in their true light. By obeying inclination we thrust ourselves through the environment, as it were, instead of laying ourselves open to it and feeling its true value.
A man becomes independent of the changing impressions of the outer world when every pleasure, every pain, every sympathy and antipathy, no longer evoke in him an egotistical response and egotistical conduct. The pleasure he feels in a thing makes him at once dependent on it. He loses himself in the thing. A man who loses himself in the pleasure or pain caused by constantly changing impressions cannot tread the path of higher knowledge. He must accept pleasure and pain with equanimity. Then he ceases to lose himself in them; he begins instead to understand them. A pleasure to which I surrender myself devours my being at the moment of surrender. I ought to use the pleasure only in order through it to reach an understanding of the thing that arouses pleasure in men. The important point ought not to be that the thing has aroused the pleasure in me; I ought to experience the pleasure and through it the essential nature of the thing in question. The pleasure should only be an intimation to me that there is in the thing a quality calculated to give pleasure. This quality I must learn to understand. If I go no further than the pleasure, if I allow myself to be entirely absorbed in it, then it only feeds my own pleasures; if the pleasure is to me only an opportunity to experience a quality or property of a thing, I enrich my inner being through this experience. To the seeker, pleasure and displeasure, joy and pain, must be opportunities for learning about things. The seeker does not thereby become blunted to pleasure or pain, but he raises himself above them in order that they may reveal to him the nature of things. He who develops in this respect will learn to realise what good instructors pleasure and pain are. He will feel with every being and thereby receive the revelation of its inner nature. The seeker never says to himself merely, “Oh, how I suffer!” or “Oh, how glad I am!” but always “How suffering speaks!” “How joy speaks!” He eliminates the element of self in order that pleasure and joy from the outer world may work upon him. By this means he develops a completely new way of relating himself to things. Formerly he responded to this or that impression by this or that action, only because the impressions caused him joy or dislike. But now he lets pleasure and displeasure also become the organs by which things tell him what they themselves truly are in their own nature. In him, pleasure and pain change from being mere feelings to organs of sense by which the external world is perceived. Just as the eye does not itself act when it sees something, but causes the hand to act, so do pleasure and pain bring about nothing in the spiritual seeker, in so far as he employs them as means of knowledge, but they receive impressions, and what is experienced through pleasure and displeasure is that which brings about the action. When a man uses pleasure and displeasure in such a way that they become organs of transmission, they build up within his soul the actual organs through which the soul-world reveals itself to him. The eye can serve the body only by being an organ for the transmission of sense-impressions; pleasure and pain become eyes of the soul when they cease merely to have value for themselves and begin to reveal to a man's own soul the soul outside it.
Through the qualities named, the student induces in himself the condition which allows the realities present in the world around him to work upon him without disturbing influences emanating from his own personality. But he has also to fit himself into the surrounding spiritual world in the right way. As a thinking being he is a citizen of the spiritual world. He can be this in a right way only if during mental activity he makes his thoughts move in accordance with the eternal laws of truth, the laws of the “Spiritland.” For only so can that realm work upon him and reveal its facts to him. A man does not reach the truth as long as he gives himself up only to the thoughts continually coursing through his Ego. For if he does, these thoughts take a course imposed on them by the fact that they come into existence within the bodily nature. The thought-world of a man who gives himself up to a mental activity determined primarily by his physical brain appears disorderly and confused. A thought enters it, breaks off, is driven out of the field by another. Anyone who tests this by listening to a conversation between two people, or who observes himself frankly, will gain an idea of this mass of will-o'-the-wisp thoughts. As long as a man devotes himself only to the calls of the life of the senses, the confused course of his thoughts will always be set right again by the facts of reality. I may think ever so confusedly: but in my actions everyday facts force upon me the laws corresponding to the reality. My mental picture of a town may be utterly confused; but if I wish to walk along a certain street in the town I must accommodate myself to existing facts. A mechanic may enter his workshop with a chaotic medley of ideas; but the laws of his machines compel him to adopt the correct procedure in his work. Within the world of the senses facts exercise their continuous corrective on thought. If I think out a false opinion about a physical phenomenon or the shape of a plant, the reality confronts me and sets my thinking right.
It is quite different when I consider my relations to the higher regions of existence. They reveal themselves to me only if I enter them with strictly controlled thinking. There my thinking must give me the right, the sure impulse, otherwise I cannot find the proper paths. For the spiritual laws prevailing in these worlds are not sensibly perceptible, and therefore they do not exert on me the compulsion described above. I am able to obey these laws only when they are allied to my own as those of a thinking being. Here I must be my own sure guide. The student's thinking must therefore be strictly regulated in itself. His thoughts must by degrees disaccustom themselves entirely from taking the ordinary daily course. They must in their whole sequence take on the inner character of the spiritual world. He must be able constantly to keep watch over himself in this respect and have himself in hand. With him one thought must not link itself arbitrarily with another, but only in the way that corresponds with the actual contents of the thought-world. The transition from one idea to another must correspond with the strict laws of thought. As thinker, the man must be to a certain extent a constant copy of these thought-laws. He must shut out from his train of thought everything that does not flow out of these laws. Should a favourite thought present itself to him, he must put it aside if the right sequence will be disturbed by it. If a personal feeling tries to force upon his thoughts a direction not proper to them, he must suppress it.
Plato required of those who wished to be admitted to his school that they should first have a mathematical training. And mathematics, with its strict laws which are independent of the course taken by sense-phenomena, form a good preparation for the seeker. If he wishes to make progress in the study of mathematics he must get rid of all personal arbitrariness, all elements of disturbance. The student prepares himself for his task by overcoming through his own will all arbitrary thinking. He learns to follow purely the demands of thought. And so too he must learn to do this in all thinking intended to serve spiritual knowledge. This thought-life itself must be a reflection of undisturbed mathematical judgment and inference. He must strive, wherever he goes and wherever he is, to be able to think in this way. Then the laws of the spirit-world flow into him, laws which pass over and through him, without a trace as long as his thinking has the usual, confused character. Regulated thinking leads him from reliable starting-points to the most hidden truths. What has been said, however, must not be understood in a one-sided way. Although mathematics acts as a good discipline, pure, healthy and vital thinking can be achieved without mathematics.
The goal towards which the student must strive for his thinking must also be the same for his actions. He must be able to obey the laws of the nobly beautiful and the eternally true without any disturbing influences from his personality. These laws must be able to guide and direct him. If he begins to do something he has recognised as right and his personal feelings are not satisfied by the action, he must not for that reason abandon the path on which he has entered. But on the other hand he must not persist with it because it gives him joy, if he finds that it is not in harmony with the laws of the eternally Beautiful and True. In everyday life people allow their actions to be determined by what satisfies them personally, by what bears fruit for themselves. In so doing they force their personality upon the world's events. They do not bring to realisation the true that is already traced in the laws of the spirit-world, but simply the demands of their self-will. We act in harmony with the spiritual world only when we follow its laws alone. From what is done merely out of the personality, there result no forces which can form a basis for spiritual knowledge. The seeker must not ask only, “What brings me advantages, what will bring me success?” He must also be able to ask: “What have I recognised as the Good?” Renunciation of the fruits of action for his personality, renunciation of all self-will: these are the stern laws that he must prescribe for himself. Then he treads the paths of the spiritual world, his whole being is penetrated by these laws. He becomes free from all compulsion from the world of the senses; his spirit-nature raises itself out of the material sheath. Thus he makes actual progress on the path towards the spiritual and spiritualises his own nature. One cannot say, “Of what use to me are the precepts to follow purely the laws of the True when I am perhaps mistaken as to what is the True?” What matters is the striving and the attitude to it. Even a man who is mistaken has in his very striving after the
True a force which diverts him from the wrong path. If he is mistaken, this force guides him to the right paths. Even the objection, “But I may be mistaken,” is harmful misgiving. It shows that the man has no confidence in the power of the True. For the important point is that he should not presume to decide on his aims and objects in life in accordance with his own egotistical views, but that he should selflessly yield himself up to the guidance of the spirit itself. It is not the self-seeking human will that can prescribe for the True; on the contrary, the True itself must become lord in the man, must penetrate his whole being, make him a mirror-image of the eternal laws of the Spiritland. He must fill himself with these eternal laws in order to let them stream out into life.
The seeker must be able to hold strict guard over both his thinking and his will. Thereby he becomes in all humility — without presumption — a messenger of the world of the True and the Beautiful, and rises to be a participant in the Spirit-World. He rises from stage to stage of development. For one cannot reach the spiritual life by merely beholding it; it has to be attained through actual experience.
If the seeker observes the laws here described, those of his soul-experiences that relate to the spiritual world will take on an entirely new form. He will no longer live merely in them. They will no longer have a significance merely for his personal life. They will develop into inner perceptions of the higher world. In his soul the feelings of pleasure and displeasure, of joy and pain, grow into organs of soul, just as in his body eyes and ears do not lead a life for themselves but selflessly allow external impressions to pass through them. And thereby the seeker gains the inner calmness and assurance that are necessary for investigation in the spirit-world. A great joy will no longer make him merely jubilant, but may be the messenger of qualities in the world which have hitherto escaped him. It will leave him calm: and through the calm, the characteristics of the joy-bringing beings will reveal themselves to him. Suffering will no longer merely oppress him, but will also be able to tell him about the qualities and attributes of the being which causes the suffering. Just as the eye does not desire anything for itself, but shows to man the direction of the path he has to take, so will joy and suffering guide the soul safely along its path. This is the state of balance of soul which the seeker must attain. The less joy and suffering exhaust themselves in the waves which they throw up in his inner life, the more will they form eyes for the supersensible world. As long as a man lives wholly in joy and pain he cannot gain knowledge through them. When he learns how to live through them, when he draws out of them his feeling of self, then they become his organs of perception; then he sees by means of them, cognises by means of them. It is incorrect to think that the seeker becomes a dry, colourless being, incapable of joy or suffering. Joy and suffering are present in him, but — when he investigates in the spiritual world — in a different form; they have become “eyes and ears.”
As long as we live in a personal relationship with the world things reveal only what links them with our personality. But that is the transitory part of them. If we withdraw ourselves from the transitory nature and live with our feeling of self, with our “I,” in our permanent nature, then the transitory parts of our nature become intermediaries; and what reveals itself through them is an Imperishable reality, an Eternal reality in the things. This relationship between his own Eternal nature and the Eternal in the things must be established by the seeker. Even before he begins other exercises of the kind described, and also during them, he should direct his thought to this Imperishable aspect. When I observe a stone, a plant, an animal, a man, I should be able to remember that in each of them an Eternal Reality expresses itself. I should be able to ask myself what is the permanent reality that lives in the transitory stone, in the transitory human being? What will outlast the transitory, physical appearance? It must not be thought that such a directing of the spirit to the Eternal destroys the power of devoted observation and our feeling for the qualities of everyday affairs, and estranges us from the immediate realities. On the contrary. Every leaf, every little insect, will unveil to us innumerable mysteries when not our eyes only, but through the eyes the spirit is directed upon them. Every sparkle, every shade of colour, every cadence, will remain vividly perceptible to the senses; nothing will be lost; an infinitude of new life is gained in addition. Indeed a person who does not understand how to observe with the eye even the tiniest thing will achieve only pale, bloodless thoughts, not spiritual sight.
Everything depends upon our attitude of mind. How far we shall succeed will depend upon our capacities. We have only to do what is right and leave everything else to evolution. It must be enough for us at first to direct our minds to the permanent. If we do this, the knowledge of the permanent will thereby awaken in us. We must wait until it is given. And it is given at the right time to each one who waits with patience — and works. A man soon notices during such exercises what a mighty transformation takes place in him. He learns to consider each thing as important or unimportant only in so far as he recognises it to be related to the Permanent, to the Eternal. His valuation and estimate of the world are different from those he has hitherto held. His feeling takes on a new relationship towards the whole surrounding world. The transitory no longer attracts him merely for its own sake, as formerly; it becomes for him a member, an image of the Eternal. And this Eternal reality that lives in all things, he learns to love. It becomes familiar to him, just as the transitory was formerly familiar to him. Again this does not cause him to be estranged from life; he merely learns to value each thing according to its true significance. Even the trifles of life will not pass him by without trace; but, inasmuch as he is seeking the spiritual, he no longer loses himself in them but recognises them at their worth. He sees them in their true light. Only an inferior seeker would go wandering in the clouds and lose sight of actual fife; a genuine seeker will, from his high summit, with his power of clear survey and his just and healthy feeling for everything, know how to assign to each thing its proper place.
Thus there opens out to the seeker the possibility of ceasing to obey only the incalculable influences of the external world of the senses, which turn his will now here, now there. Through knowledge he has seen the eternal nature in things. Through the transformation of his inner world he has gained the capacity to perceive this eternal nature. For the seeker, the following thoughts have special importance. When he acts from out of himself, he is conscious that he is also acting out of the eternal nature of the things. For the things give utterance in him to this nature of theirs. He is therefore acting in harmony with the eternal World Order when he directs his action from out of the Eternal within him. He knows himself to be no longer merely impelled by the things; he knows that he impels them according to the laws implanted in them which have become the laws of his own being.
This ability to act out of his own inner being can only be an ideal towards which the seeker strives. The attainment of the goal lies in the far distance. But the seeker must have the will clearly to recognise this path. This is his will for freedom. For freedom is action out of one's own inner being. And only a man who draws his motives from the Eternal may act from out of his inner being. One who does not do this, acts according to motives other than those inherent in the things. Such a man opposes the World Order. And this must then prevail against him. That is to say, what he plans to carry through by his will can, in the last resort, not take place. He cannot become free. The arbitrary will of the individual annihilates itself through the effects of its deeds.
He who is able to work upon his inner life in such a way advances from stage to stage in spiritual knowledge. The fruit of his exercises will be that certain vistas of the supersensible world will unfold to his spiritual perception. He learns the meaning of the truths that are communicated about this world; and he will receive confirmation of them through his own experience. If this stage is attained something approaches him which can become experience only through treading this path. In a manner whose significance now for the first time can become clear to him through the “great spiritual guiding Powers of the Human race” there is bestowed on him what is called consecration — Initiation. He becomes a “pupil of Wisdom.” The less such an Initiation is thought to consist in any outer human relationship, the more correct will be the conception formed about it. What the seeker now experiences can only be indicated here. He receives a new home. He becomes thereby a conscious dweller in the supersensible world. The source of spiritual insight now flows to him from a higher sphere. The light of knowledge does not henceforward shine upon him from without but he is himself placed in the fountain-head of this light. The problems which the world presents receive new illumination. Henceforth he no longer holds converse with the things which are fashioned through the spirit, but with the forming Spirit itself. The separate life of the personality only exists now, in the moments of spiritual knowledge, in order to be a conscious image of the Eternal. Doubts concerning the spirit which could formerly have arisen in him vanish away: for only he can doubt who is deluded by things regarding the spirit that rules in them. And since the “pupil of Wisdom” is able to hold intercourse with the spirit itself, every false form in which he had previously imagined the spirit, vanishes. The false form under which the spirit is conceived is superstition. The initiate has passed beyond all superstition, for he knows what the true form of the spirit is. Freedom from the preconceptions of the personality, of doubt and of superstition — these are the hallmarks of one who has attained to discipleship on the path of higher knowledge. This state in which the personality becomes one with the all-embracing spirit of life, must not be confused with an absorption in the “All-Spirit” that annihilates the personality. No such annihilation takes place in a true development of the personality. Personality remains preserved as such in the relationship into which it enters with the spirit-world. It is not the subjection of the personality but its higher development that takes place. If we wish to have a simile for this coincidence or union of the individual spirit with the “All-Spirit,” we cannot choose that of different circles which, coinciding, are lost in the one, but we must choose the picture of many circles of which each has a distinct shade of colour. These differently coloured circles coincide, but each separate shade preserves its existence within the whole. Not one loses the fullness of its individual power.
No further description of the path will be given here. It is contained, as far as is possible, in my Occult Science — an Outline which forms a continuation of this book.
What has been said here about the path of spiritual knowledge can only too easily, if it is not properly understood, mislead the reader into regarding it as a recommendation of moods of soul that bring with them the tendency to turn away from the immediate, joyous, active experience of life. As against this it must be emphasised that the particular mood of the soul which renders it fit for direct experience of the reality of the spirit, cannot be extended over the whole of life. It is possible for the investigator of spiritual existence to bring his soul, for the purpose of that investigation, into the necessary condition of withdrawal from the realities of the senses, without being made in ordinary life into a man estranged from the world. On the other hand it must be recognised too that a knowledge of the spiritual world, not merely a knowledge gained by treading the path, but also a knowledge acquired through grasping the truths of spiritual science with ordinary, open-minded, healthy human understanding, leads to a higher moral status in life, to a knowledge of sensory existence that is in accord with the truth, to assurance in life and to inner health of the soul.