When Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in the autumn of 1813, gave to the world his Introduction to the Science of Knowledge, as the ripe fruit of a life wholly devoted to the service of truth, he spoke at the very outset as follows: “This doctrine presupposes an entirely new inner sense-organ or instrument, through which is revealed a new world which has no existence for the ordinary man.” And he showed by a simile how incomprehensible this doctrine of his must be when judged by conceptions of the ordinary senses: “Think of a world of people born blind, who therefore know only those objects and their relations which exist through the sense of touch. Go among them, and speak to them of colours and the other relations which exist only through light and for the sense of sight. You will convey nothing to their minds, and it is luckiest if they tell you so, for you will then quickly notice your mistake and, if unable to open their eyes, will cease talking to them in vain. ...” Anyone who speaks to people about such things as those Fichte is pointing to in this instance finds himself only too often in the position of a seeing man among those born blind. Yet these are things that relate to a man's true being and his highest aims, and to believe it necessary “to cease the useless speaking” would amount to despairing of humanity. Far rather, one should never despair of opening the eyes of everyone to these things, provided he has good will. It is on this supposition that all those have written and spoken who have felt that within them the growth of the “inner sense-instrument” by which they have become able to know the true nature and being of man, which is hidden from the outer senses. This is why from the most ancient times such a “Hidden Wisdom” has been spoken of again and again. Those who have grasped something of it feel just as sure of their possession as people with normal eyes feel sure that they possess the conception of colour. For them, therefore, this “Hidden Wisdom” requires no “proof.” They know also that this “Hidden Wisdom” requires no proof for any other person like themselves, in whom the “higher sense” has unfolded. To such a one they can speak as a traveller can speak about America to people who have not themselves seen that country, but who can form an idea of it, because they would see all that he has seen, if the opportunity presented itself to them.
But it is not only to investigators into the spiritual world that the observer of the supersensible has to speak. He must address his words to all men. For he has to give an account of things that concern all men. Indeed he knows that without a knowledge of these things no one can, in the true sense of the word, be “man.” And he speaks to all men, because he knows that there are different grades of understanding for what he has to say. He knows that even those who are still far from the moment when first-hand spiritual investigation will be possible for them, can bring to meet him a measure of understanding. For the feeling for truth and the power of understanding it are inherent in every human being. And to this understanding, which can light up in every healthy soul, he addresses himself in the first place. He knows too that in this understanding there is a force which, little by little, must lead to the higher grades of knowledge. This feeling which, perhaps, at first sees nothing at all of what is related, is itself the magician which opens the “eye of the spirit.” In darkness this feeling stirs; the soul sees nothing, but through this feeling is seized by the power of the truth; and then the truth will gradually draw nearer to the soul and open in it the “higher sense.” In one person it may take a longer, in another a shorter time, but everyone who has patience and endurance reaches this goal.
For although not everyone born blind can be operated on, every spiritual eye can be opened, and when it will be opened is only a question of time.
Erudition and scientific training are not pre-conditions for the unfolding of this “higher sense.” It can develop in the simple-minded person just as in the scientist of high standing. Indeed, what is often called at the present time “the only true science,” can, for the attainment of this goal, be frequently a hindrance rather than a help. For this science naturally allows only that to be considered “real,” which is accessible to the ordinary senses. And however great its merits are in regard to the knowledge of that reality, yet when it decrees that what is necessary and healthful for itself shall also apply to all human knowledge, then it creates at the same time a host of prejudices which close the approach to higher realities.
Against what is said here, it is often objected that “insurmountable limits” have been once and forever set to man's knowledge, and that since he cannot overstep these limits, all knowledge must be rejected which does not observe them. And anyone who makes assertions about things that most people accept as lying beyond the limits of man's capacity for knowledge is looked upon as highly presumptuous. Such objections entirely disregard the fact that a development of the human powers of knowledge has to precede the higher knowledge. What lies beyond the limits of knowledge before such a development stands, after the awakening of faculties slumbering in each human being, entirely within the realm of knowledge. One point in this connection must, indeed, not be neglected. It might be said: “Of what use is it to speak to people about things for which their powers of knowledge are not yet awakened, and which are therefore still closed to them?” Yet that is the wrong way to look at it. Certain powers are required to find out the things referred to; but if, after having been discovered, they are made known, every man can understand them who is willing to bring to bear upon them unprejudiced logic and a healthy feeling for truth. In this book only those things will be made known which can fully produce the impression that through them the riddles of human life and the phenomena of the world can be satisfactorily approached. This impression will be produced upon everyone who permits thought, unclouded by prejudice, and feeling for truth, free and without reservation, to work within him. Put yourself for a moment in the position of asking, “If the things asserted here are true, do they afford a satisfying explanation of life?” and it will be found that the life of every human being supplies the confirmation.
In order to be a “teacher” in these higher regions of existence, it is by no means sufficient that simply the sense for them has developed. For that purpose “science” is just as necessary, as it is necessary for the teacher's calling in the world of ordinary reality. “Higher seeing” makes a “knower” in the spiritual as little as healthy sense-organs make a “scholar” in regard to the realities of the senses. And because in truth all reality, the lower and the higher spiritual, are only two sides of one and the same fundamental being, anyone who is unlearned in the lower branches of knowledge will as a rule remain so in regard to the higher. This fact creates a feeling of immeasurable responsibility in one who, through a spiritual call, feels himself summoned to speak about the spiritual regions of existence. It imposes upon him humility and reserve. But it should deter no one from occupying himself with the higher truths — not even one whose other circumstances of life afford no opportunity for the study of ordinary science. For one can, indeed, fulfil one's task as man without understanding anything of botany, zoology, mathematics and other sciences; but one cannot, in the full sense of the word, be “man” without having, in some way or other, come nearer to an understanding of the nature and destination of man as revealed through the knowledge of the supersensible.
The Highest a man is able to look up to he calls the “Divine.” And in some way or other he must think of his highest destination as being in connection with this Divinity. Therefore that wisdom which reaches out beyond the sensible and reveals to him his own being, and with it his final goal, may very well be called “divine wisdom” or theosophy. To the study of the spiritual processes in human life and in the cosmos, the term spiritual science may be given. When, as is the case in this book, one extracts from this spiritual science the particular results which have reference to the spiritual core of man's being, then the expression theosophy may be used for this domain, because it has been employed for centuries in this direction.
From the point of view here indicated, there will be sketched in this book an outline of the theosophical conception of the universe. The writer of it will bring forward nothing that is not, for him, a fact in the same sense as an experience of the outer world is a fact for eyes and ears and the ordinary intelligence. For one is concerned with experiences which become accessible to every person who is determined to tread the “path of knowledge” described in a special section of this work. The right attitude towards the things of the supersensible world is to assume that sound thinking and feeling are capable of understanding everything in the way of true knowledge which can emerge from the higher worlds, and further that, when one starts from this understanding, and therewith lays a firm foundation, a great step onwards has been made towards seeing for oneself; even though, to attain to this, other things must be added also. But one locks and bolts the door to the true higher knowledge, when one despises this path and resolves to penetrate into the higher worlds only in some other way. The principle: only to recognise higher worlds when one has seen them, is a hindrance in the way of this very seeing. The will, first of all to understand through sound thinking what can later be seen, furthers that seeing. It conjures forth important powers of the soul which lead to this “seership.”