910

Esoteric Lessons for the First Class

of the Free School for Spiritual Science

by Rudolf Steiner

Lesson Two in Prague

From stenographic records not revised by the speaker. The original stenographic records for the two lessons in Prague were not preserved, nor were the blackboard drawings.

Translated by Frank Thomas Smith

Prague, April 3, 1924

 

My dear friends,

The day before yesterday we considered the first part of what can be called the encounter with the Guardian of the Threshold. I said about this encounter that it must be taken with the utmost earnestness. For it should be clear that as long as we are unable to develop the feelings related to what has been disclosed, we will not be able to attain true knowledge. We may think that a certain knowledge about the transition to the spiritual world is attainable without these shattering impressions of self-knowledge. But what we can attain without such impressions is not real knowledge. Everything accessible to us through the senses, as well as what we can achieve by means of normal thinking, can at most supply knowledge of what is outside the human being, but not about the human being as such. For the human being is of a super-sensible nature in his whole being. And what we observe by means of the senses is merely the exterior image of the human being. So that whenever you meet another person, my dear friends, you should have this feeling: what I encounter here is basically only the image of the person's true essence. For the true essence of the person is enormously all-embracing. And we only get an impression of the true essence of the person when we seek to clarify things which at first seem simple.

Just think, my dear sisters and brothers, that certain sicknesses in man must be fought by what is called poison. An encompassing, marvelous puzzle lies in this simple fact. Why must poison be administered to a person in order for him to be relieved of certain illnesses? What is poison? Let us ask the lovely-looking deadly nightshade belladonna, let us ask such a strange being what it actually is, my dear friends!

Let us observe the wide world of colored plants which we enjoy eating without harm. These plants thrive under normal sunlight with the spirit that lives in sunlight. Just as we have a body which is thoroughly spiritualized, everything physical, including sunlight, is also thoroughly spiritualized. But plants – the ones that do us no harm when we eat them - only absorb the etheric forces. At the moment when the plant absorbs an astral force – which otherwise hovers over the plant like mist – it becomes poisonous. Belladonna sucks astral force into its fruit and thus becomes a poison.

What does all this mean anyway? When we ingest belladonna, we are also ingesting the plant's astrality. We already have astrality in us, for we also have an astral body, that is, we have within us something that continually produces poison. And the I is more poison producing than the astral body.

Therefore we can also say: the physical and etheric bodies are constructive. But if only the physical and etheric bodies were active in us, we would be permanently unconscious. If the budding and sprouting forces had the upper hand we would be unconscious. We are conscious because the astral body and the I-organization deconstruct in us. Due to the physical and etheric elements being deconstructed by the astral body and the I, there is room in us for spirit processes. If there were no continuous deconstruction going on in us, we would have nothing of a spiritual nature. If, however, the astral body and the I are too weak to deconstruct sufficiently, tumors appear in the physical and etheric bodies. And given that our astral body and I are too weak, in certain cases we must support the weak astral body and the I with poisonous substances from without, which deconstruct what the astral body and the I could not.

What does the physician do in such cases? He says to himself: In this ill person the spirit has become weak; the astral body and the I deconstruct too little. I must request outside help so that more can be deconstructed. So we look for the plants that are more spiritual than the others; for the poisonous plants are poisonous simply because they are more spiritual than the others. You can see from this which mysteries exist with regard to the human being and his relationship to nature, and that only when we approach the spirit are these mysteries revealed.

You can sense, from what I already said, that to learn the secrets of the spirit is something uncanny; because one learns about a creative spiritual element which, however, is destructive for the physical world. And we can only understand the spirit in its reality if we seek it where it manifests itself in the physical world through destruction. At the moment we approach the threshold of the spiritual world, we realize that we become thoroughly acquainted there with the forces of deconstruction. And no one who wishes to not meet with these forces can truly enter the spiritual world.

So do you see, my dear sisters and brothers, how it is with physical human beings on the earth? Yes, it is the case that because their physical organism – only the physical organism – is a whole, thinking, feeling and willing is also a whole. You cannot think without a certain willing being involved. Even in the process of developing a thought, a certain amount of willing is involved. You cannot will without also thinking. You cannot feel without also thinking. In normal consciousness thinking, feeling and willing are connected to each other. When we say: we are thinking, then we are mostly thinking, and feeling remains somewhat in the unconscious, and willing completely so. When we say: we feel, then we are merely mostly feeling, and thinking and willing remain weak. But whenever the soul is stimulated, thinking, feeling and willing are bound together.

By being bound together, however, means that each of these three – thinking, feeling and willing – is weaker than in its own original state. Because of this, our thinking is not strengthened, but weakened by the will. Our will is not strengthened by thinking, but weakened. Our feeling is not strengthened by thinking, but weakened.

If, for one moment, we were to only think within the physical body without the force of willing and of feeling, as it exists in the universe, in that moment, thinking completely without the force of feeling and will, in that moment we would be physically paralyzed.

If, also for one moment, as physical beings we were to feel without thinking and willing, we would suffer from cramping attacks, because feeling is something very much alive.

If, also for a moment, as physical beings we were to only will without thinking, we would be consumed in fiery fever.

But before we descended through birth, through conception, into physical-sensory existence, our thinking, feeling and willing each stood for itself. There, however, our environment was the spiritual world: we were able to tolerate it there. But in order to achieve the necessary knowledge, an inner sense must be attained about what it's like when we have separated our being into thinking, feeling and willing.

A great, meaningful moment occurs when crossing the threshold into the spiritual world we meet with the souls of people who have died. At that moment we must be so prepared that in the deepest part of our being, in our hearts, the words say: They are the truly living! We say it when we truly enter the spiritual world: They are the truly living! For in them thinking lives above all.

Yes, this thinking begins to live once we pass through the gate of death. Yes, this thinking had lived there before we descended to earthly life. And we only reach thinking in earthly life correctly when we say to ourselves: I realize that I am seeing a corpse before me, a soulless corpse. It can only be the remnant of a living person. A corpse cannot exist on its own. It is a physical being, but not one with its own capacity for life; it points to the life that preceded it.

When my thinking unfolds in me, I think as an earthling thinks, which means as a corpse. All earthly thinking is a corpse, the corpse of what thinking was before we descended to our earthly existence. And our physical body is the coffin into which our thinking is laid when we descend to the physical-sensory world.

Without becoming incompatible with earthly life, without losing the correct relationship with earthly life, we must be able to say in all honesty and with complete confidence: as a physical earthling you are a coffin for your thinking, for in the moment that you descended from the spiritual world to the sensory world, thinking died and became the corpse of the living thinking which resided in you before you descended to earthly existence.

Your will is also not alive. It will be alive once you pass through the gate of death. Will is seed, thinking is corpse. The will is the embryo of what arises in us when we cross the gate of death.

What I have just said must be clear to the esotericist. Then he will have an inkling of how the soul-life of a person is transformed when he really wants to enter the world of knowledge. And he can only enter once he defeats the three beasts which I spoke of last time, and which the meditation which I gave points to. (I will give you that meditation after this lesson, because I didn't write it on the blackboard last time. So I'll write it on the blackboard and you can copy it.) But today we want to look back upon how our willing, our feeling and our thinking appear to us in images, in the imagination, through these three beasts when our inner life is manifested in the outer world, with which we are inwardly connected.

Therefore, the person who approaches the esoteric path must at least begin to separate thinking, feeling and willing. There is no other way to knowledge. And protection from the dangers to which he is subjected in the separation of thinking, feeling and willing is provided by Anthroposophy if he honestly accepts what Anthroposophy offers.

Anthroposophy forms thoughts in such a way that we are strengthened for super-sensible knowledge. Even if we only receive and accept information about the super-sensible world, we become strong. Thinking becomes stronger if we use it to understand the super-sensible world.

What then is the condition of those who do not want to approach the super-sensible world, who don't want to know anything about anthroposophical spiritual science? Their condition is that their brains cannot keep up with their etheric bodies. Immediately, as they fill their brains with thoughts given by Anthroposophy, their etheric bodies run out of their heads, out of their brains; then only what the physical organism can think remains. From a more elevated viewpoint, one can only pity those for whom the anthroposophical conception of the world is inaccessible.

On the other hand, my dear sisters and brothers, the more thinking, feeling and willing become independent through continuous anthroposophical study, the more they connect us in the right way to the forces of the world. Therefore, we must orient our soul-forces so that we can find the way for thinking, feeling and willing to enter the spiritual world in the right way.

Another admonition – in addition to the one given in the previous lesson – another admonition by the Guardian of the Threshold relates to how we should orient thinking, feeling and willing in order to enter the spiritual world in the right way. We must be clear as to the nature of thinking, feeling and willing in order to understand what the Guardian of the Threshold is saying.

The Guardian of the Threshold explains how all the thinking we do with normal consciousness in the physical body is like a corpse, that is, a semblance. This thinking is a semblance of the world, as a corpse is a semblance of the living, but no longer living itself. Our real self is not in this thinking we do in normal life in the physical body; it is not manifested in this thinking, just as the living is not manifested in a corpse. But as soon as we have the courage to say: Yes, the thinking that you do in the physical body from morning till night is only a semblance; I will recognize it as a semblance, and it will become ever clearer to us that the physical body gives us a thinking which is only a dead semblance; the etheric body gives us a thinking which rises above semblance.

Whoever feels that earthly thinking is only semblance, is only the corpse of previous spiritual thinking, gradually feels himself to be an etheric being.

Then we gradually become aware that the spirit, which is hidden in normal consciousness, is within us. We can only approach this spirit if, at the moment we realize the illusory nature of thinking, when thinking dies for our consciousness so to speak, if at that moment we begin to revere the spiritual etheric entity that emerges in us as etheric body.

Yes, my dear sisters and brothers, when we observe the plants, the stones, the animals, even when we observe the physical man, they don't withdraw from us if we remain dry and somber and are thus unable to revere nature. But all this changes when we stand before the spiritual world: the etheric world immediately withdraws from the human being if he cannot revere it. At the moment when I can say to myself that thinking is semblance and I want to immerse myself in this semblance, I must begin to revere this etheric being.

Therefore the Guardian of the Threshold speaks the following words for thinking's self-awareness:

 

[written on the blackboard:]

 

See in yourself  the weaving thoughts:

Cosmic semblances confront you,

Selfhood as such hides from you;

Plunge beneath the semblances:

Etheric essence flows in you;

Selfhood as such should revere the

Guiding beings of your spirit.

 

That is the Guardian of the Threshold' earnest warning concerning our attitude towards thinking. We especially emphasize the words “revere” and “guiding beings” [both are underlined], because when thinking recognizes itself as semblance, it must feel itself as revering. And we sense our etheric being as our guide from the earth out to the all-encompassing cosmos. Only then, my dear friends, having departed from the physical world, which we are accustomed to regard as robust, strong and rough, do we find the way to the finer, more intimate etheric realm. If we wish to transfer these thoughts from their crude physical existence, where they are dead, to an existence which is finer, where they are alive, we must choose the intonation for such a mantra which begins every line with a stressed beat, followed by an unstressed beat, that is, a trochaic meter. We must be clear, my dear friends, that what we express with words at first only touches the spirit at the threshold. Words, as we use them today in civilization, have become so physical that they are like bodies. Only when we feel that words become rhythmic, just as in humans matter becomes rhythmic in the circulation of blood and breathing, do we sense words carrying us up into the spiritual world. So that we feel the blood circulation of the spirit in us when we make such a forceful mantric verse alive, and we feel its rhythm carrying us into the spiritual world just as we feel our own lives carried by our blood's circulatory rhythm. The thought-admonition that the guardian of the Threshold speaks to humanity must be trochaic.  

 

[The word “trochaic” is written alongside the first verse of the mantra; the trochaic rhythm is noted at the beginning of all seven lines while the verse is spoken with the corresponding emphasis.]

 

 

See in yourself  the weaving thoughts:

Cosmic semblances confront you,

Selfhood as such hides from you;

Plunge beneath the semblances:

Etheric essence flows in you;

Selfhood as such should revere the

Guiding beings of your spirit.

 

Feeling in this way again and again, so that one can forget everything else in earthly life and can live only in this context and rhythm, carries the normal human thinking from out of the physical world and above to the etheric world. Added to all other meditations, my dear sisters and brothers, if you practice this verse now and then, or as often as you like, it can raise you out of your thinking and into the spiritual world.

When we pass from human thinking to human feeling things are quite different. Thinking is pure semblance, a true corpse, dead; it was alive before we descended to the physical world. Feeling on the other hand is like dreaming. Feelings are not more intense than dreams. The feeling person dreams, but in his dreaming there is something of reality; semblance and reality mix together in human feeling.

But we also feel that we don't want to submerge in this reality which begins in us as feeling. We always prefer to retain the semblance of thinking which exists in the physical world. In this way we never reach true being, reality. We must have the courage to plunge into the semblance of reality. We must have the courage to completely enter our feeling, the innermost element of our soul, and then the semblance to which our thinking is accustomed will reveal something of the reality. Then we will perceive the cosmic forces, which otherwise are everywhere outside, beginning to appear within us.

Then we should begin to be adroit in our feeling, we should begin to be attentive in our feeling – just as we began to revere when we wanted the semblance of thinking to rise to its true being. Then we come upon the living forces of being within us.

This is the second, the feeling-admonition, which the Guardian of the Threshold offers us:         

 

 Perceive within the flow of feeling:

when semblance and being within you blend,

Your selfhood tends towards resemblance;

So plunge into the semblance of being:

In you the cosmic-psychic forces;

Your selfhood then should ponder well

Your own soul's living powers.

 

That is the second admonition, the admonition toward orientation of feeling: the second one which comes from the earnest Guardian: 

[The second verse is written on the blackboard.]

 Perceive within the flow of feeling:

when semblance and being within you blend,

Your selfhood tends towards resemblance;

So plunge into the semblance of being:

In you the cosmic-psychic forces;

Your selfhood then should ponder well

Your own soul's living powers.

 

And then if we want to pass, by feeling, from semblance to reality, we must leave the etheric realm and enter the astral realm. For this we must exert a special force, like the one we need when climbing a mountain that grows continually steeper. Therefore the meaning of the words, by unfolding rhythmically, takes on a growing force. The Guardian's words of admonition relating to the experience of feeling must be iambic. And indeed they are iambic:

 

[The word “iambic” is written alongside the second verse. At the beginning of each line the iambic rhythm signs are written and spoken with the corresponding intonation.] 

   

Perceive within the flow of feeling:

when semblance and being within you blend,

Your selfhood tends towards resemblance;

So plunge into the semblance of being:

In you the cosmic-psychic forces;

Your selfhood then should ponder well

Your own soul's living powers.

 

We should feel the rhythm in such a vivid way that the meaning of the words live within us, then we immerse ourselves correctly in feeling and stride further on the path to the spiritual world. For the mere meaning of the words cannot do it alone; we must bring our soul to a perception, to a feeling for the rhythm in the mantric words:   

 

Perceive within the flow of feeling:

when semblance and being within you blend,

Your selfhood tends towards resemblance;

So plunge into the semblance of being:

In you the cosmic-psychic forces;

Your selfhood then should ponder well

Your own soul's living powers.

 

We immerse ourselves still deeper from semblance to true being, to true cosmic reality when we descend to the Will. But there, in order to take the right path, we must listen to the Guardian's words that he speaks on the Threshold. The Will is the strongest force in the human soul also here on earth. But we don't feel it if we only experience the will as though asleep. We are awake, really awake, only in thinking; in feeling we are dreaming; in willing we are sleeping.

We must repeatedly consider how we make a decision – how it is first a thought and then we see it again being carried out. What happens in between, the transition to Will, is as unknown to ordinary consciousness as what we experience spiritually between falling asleep and waking. As feeling is immersed in dreams, the Will is immersed in sleep. But in this willing we sleep through the reality of existence. We must become more and more able to retrieve what we experience when sleeping, and we must become able to retrieve from the Will what we experience from it.

That is the Guardian's third admonition, about the Will, so that we can find the right paths into the spiritual world. Then, if we are able to observe this admonition, we become filled with the spirit within us.

Yes, my dear sisters and brothers, we experience that we have blood flowing in us, that we are sated by food, that we have thoughts that are illusions, and dream-feelings. But in ordinary consciousness we are unaware of the spirit flowing through us like our blood. If we attend to what the Guardian tells us as the third admonition, then we can be aware of the Will in us, then we can experience how the spirit rules in us. When I raise my hand or my arm, I have willed it. What has happened? Substance has burned in me, a living combustion process has taken place in the act of willing. Normally this stays in the unconscious. Every time a willed decision takes place in our own bodies, a living burning process occurs. The chemists and the physicists speak of a process of combustion. But just as the human body is not a mineral, but a living thing interspersed by spirit, it is no common fire in the human body, but a living fire interspersed with spirit. It is not a fire like the flame we see on a candle, no combining of carbon and oxygen. Just as the human being is ensouled, so are all the processes in him ensouled. Whoever talks about the processes within man as he does about the exterior process in nature doesn't know what he's talking about. For no natural process extends to within the human being: each one is different within the human being. Nature is not inside human skin; a metamorphosis of nature is inside human skin, the spiritualization of nature. Nothing stays within us as it is in exterior nature. We couldn't live for even a moment if anything were to stay as it is in exterior nature.

In order to describe the Will, we must use an image for it to become a living imagination for us. We walk. Walking is one of the commonest activities of everyday life, although the world's greatest puzzles are manifest when one takes even a single step. Imagine: the person walks, the arms move while walking and fire streams out of him.

When we observe ourselves as living beings becoming flame, we find the connection to what a willing being truly is. We will find ourselves if we have the courage to imaginatively conceive of ourselves as fiery, flaming, beings of Will. Then we will be seized by the creative forces of the universe, will leave our self within our skin and expand our self to the cosmic-self so that we can be human beings and feel ourselves at one with the entire universe as willing beings. But we must learn to become a flame of will in the cosmic fire. Fire in fire.

The Guardian of the Threshold speaks of this. And he speaks of a thrust of will, because the will thrusts within the reality of being.                           

Let strive in you with thrust of will:

Which rises out of semblance-being

With creative self it rises up;

Convert your life in full to this

With cosmic-spirit-force it's filled;

Your inner self should truly grasp

 Creative cosmic force in the spirit-I.

 

These are the words, innerly felt, which guide our will into the spiritual world. 

 

[The third verse is written on the blackboard.] 

 

Let strive in you with thrust of will:

Which rises out of semblance-being

With creative self it rises up;

Convert your life in full to this

With cosmic-spirit-force it's filled;

Your inner self should truly grasp       

Creative cosmic force in the spirit-I.

 

In ascending from thinking to its reality, we have to develop reverence; if we want to ascend from appearance to reality through feeling, we have to develop careful thinking – here in the first mantra “revere” for thinking and “ponder” well for feeling. Now here [in the third mantra] we have “grasp”. Grasp, that is closer, more within, is here in the third verse for the will. We have further escalations in these phrases:

 

“Guiding beings” for thinking;

“Your own soul's living powers” for feeling;

“Creative cosmic force” is for the will.

 

This is the escalation. [The words “Guiding beings”, “Your own soul's living powers”, and “Creative cosmic force” are underlined.]

But, as I said: fire in fire, reality that merges with the reality of the universe itself: that is where the Guardian of the Threshold is pointing. We must be more closely within this than during the descent in thinking, where we descended from the crude, robust semblance to intimate reality, where it was trochaic: stressed, unstressed; in feeling, where we had to climb up as on a mountain, where it is iambic: unstressed, stressed; here in the will it's again different: spondaic – stressed on stressed.

 

[The word “spondaic” is written next to the third stanza, the spondaic rhythm sign is entered and spoken correspondingly.]    

 

Let strive in you with thrust of will:

Rise out of semblance-being          

With creative self it rises up;

Convert your life in full to this

With cosmic-spirit-force it's filled;

Your inner self should truly grasp,

 World creative force in the Spirit-I.

 

Lass walten in dir den Willens-Stoss:

Der steigt aus allem Scheineswesen

Mit Eigensein erschaffend auf;

Ihm wende zu all dein Leben:

Der ist erfüllt von Welten.Geistes-macht;

Dein Eigensein, es soll ergeifen

Weltschöfermacht im Geistes-Ich.


The stressed sounds in the two first syllables of each line should be felt rhythmically. We should gain firmness when the Guardian directs the third admonition to us.

 

We should be aware, my dear sisters and brothers, how the words of the Guardian lead us to knowledge. First these words made us aware of how our thinking, feeling and willing have the images of the three beasts in them; then the Guardian of the Threshold leads us further to how we can strengthen this thinking, strengthen this feeling, strengthen this willing so that they can overcome the three beasts, rise above the three beasts, in order for the soul to “grow wings” as it was called in the previous lesson and fly over to the spiritual world.

Therefore, after the three beasts have stood before us, the Guardian of the Threshold tells us in the previous lesson:

 

Only when you've defeated the three

Will wings sprout upon your soul

To fly the abyss over,

Which separates you from the knowledge fields

To which your heart desires

To consecrate itself in healing.

 

But at the same time the Guardian gives us the last mantra – which I will now pass on – what we should do to strengthen ourselves in order that the wings to knowledge might grow.

 

Include in your meditation, my sisters and brothers, what is given in these three mantras. It is what the classes which have been introduced since the Christmas Conference should lead to, so that esoteric knowledge may flow through the anthroposophical movement. Include this admonition in your meditation from the Guardian of the Threshold. It is not I who is speaking to you; I am speaking to you for the Guardian of the Threshold, who wishes to speak these words to you through me. For this School is an institution of the spiritual world itself.

Therefore let us take these words as those of the Guardian of the Threshold. Then they will be strengthening and encouraging words after the shattering impression of the previous lesson. In contrast we now have the prospect of strenghtening the soul. The person must first be beaten down by what he experiences in the sensory world in order to rise up strong in the spiritual world, so that he grows wings to fly over the abyss from which light pours from out of the abyss, from out of the darkness born of humanity.

 

Therefore the Guardian of the Threshold speaks these words in order that we may again arise from the shattered debris:

 

See in yourself  the weaving thoughts:

Cosmic semblances confront you,

Selfhood as such hides from you;

Plunge beneath the semblances:

Etheric essence flows in you;

Selfhood as such should revere the

Guiding beings of your spirit.

 

Perceive within the flow of feeling:

when semblance and being within you blend,

Your selfhood tends towards resemblance;

So plunge into the semblance of being:

In you the cosmic-psychic forces;

Your selfhood then should ponder well

Your own soul's living powers.

 

Let strive in you with thrust of will:

Rise out of semblance-being   

With creative self it rises up;

Convert your life in full to this

With cosmic-spirit-force it's filled;

Your inner self should truly grasp,

World creative force in the Spirit-I.

 

And by having spoken these words, he returns, following the rhythm, to those words with which he gave us a perspective of what we are to achieve, what shines from the spiritual world on the other side of the Threshold:

 

From the distant beings in space

Who experience existence in light,

From the stages of the course of time,

Which finds expression in creating,

From the depths of heart-felt feeling

Where in the Self the world is fathomed:

They resound in the speech of the soul,

They gleam in the spirit-thoughts,

From divine curative powers,

In the cosmic formative forces

The undulating existential words:

O thou man, know thyself.


 


Home