Knowledge of the truths made known by Theosophy can be gained by each man for himself. Descriptions of the kind given in this book present a thought-picture of the higher worlds. And they are in a particular respect the first step toward personal vision. For man is a thought-being. He can only find his path of knowledge when he makes thinking his starting point. A picture of the higher worlds given to his intellect is not unfruitful for him even if for the time being it were only as an account of higher facts into which he has not yet gained insight through his own vision. For the thoughts which are given him represent in themselves a force which continues working in his thought world. This force will be active in him, and it will awaken slumbering capacities. He who is of the opinion that it is superfluous to make oneself receptive to such a thought-picture is mistaken. He regards thought as something unreal and abstract. But thought is a living force. It is for him who has the higher knowledge a direct expression of what can be seen in the spirit, and it therefore acts in him to whom it is communicated like a germ, which brings forth from itself the fruit of knowledge.
Anyone disdaining the application of strenuous intellectual exertion to the attainment of the higher knowledge, and preferring to make use of other forces in man to 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 him who asks, “How can I gain personal knowledge of the higher truths of Theosophy?” the answer must be given, “Begin by making yourself acquainted with what is communicated by others concerning such truths.” And should he reply, “I wish to see for myself, I do not wish to know anything about what others have seen,” one must answer, “It is in the very assimilating of the communications of others that the first step toward personal knowledge consists.” And if he should answer, “Then I am forced to have blind faith to begin with,” one can only reply that in regard to something communicated it is not a case of belief or unbelief but merely of an unprejudiced consideration of what one hears. The theosophist never speaks with the intention of awakening blind faith in what he says. He merely says, “I have experienced this in the higher regions of existence, and I narrate these my experiences.” But he knows also that the reception of these experiences by another and the penetrating of his thoughts with such an account are living forces making for spiritual development.
One cannot, in fact, emphasize strongly enough how necessary it is that anyone who wishes to develop his capacity for higher knowledge should undertake the earnest cultivation of his powers of thinking. This emphasis must be all the stronger because many persons who wish to become “seers” actually estimate lightly this earnest, self-denying labor of thinking. They say, “Thinking cannot help me to reach anything; the chief thing is ‘sensation, 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 accustomed himself to the life of trained thought. In this connection a certain inner laziness plays an injurious rôle with many persons. They do not become conscious of this laziness because it clothes itself in a contempt of “abstract thought” and “idle speculations,” etc.
But one completely misunderstands what thinking is if one confuses it with a spinning of idle, abstract trains of thought. For while this “abstract thinking” can easily kill supersensible knowledge, vigorous thinking, full of life, must be the groundwork on which it is based.
It would indeed be more comfortable if one could reach the higher power of seeing while shunning the labor of thinking. Many would like this. But in order to reach it there is necessary an inner firmness, an assurance of soul to which thinking alone can lead. Otherwise there merely results a meaningless flickering of pictures here and there, a distracting display of soul or astral phenomena, which indeed gives pleasure to many, but which has nothing to do with a true penetration into the higher worlds. Further, if one considers what great changes take place in the man who really enters the higher world, one will understand that the matter has still another aspect. Absolute healthiness of the soul life belongs to the condition of being a “seer.” There is no better means of developing this healthiness than the true kind of thinking. In fact, it is possible for the health to 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 correctly thinking man still healthier and more capable in life, it is also true that vague dreamings about these things, all attempts to develop while shirking the effort of thought, are dangerous to the health both of body and soul. No one who wishes to develop himself to higher knowledge has anything to fear if he pay heed to what is said here, but the attempt should only be made under the above conditions.
Unfounded disbelief is injurious. It works in the recipient as a repelling force. It hinders him from receiving the fructifying thoughts. Not faith, but just this reception
of the theosophic conceptions and teachings, is the requisite for the development of the higher senses. The theosophist approaches his scholar with the injunction, “You are not required to believe what I tell you but to think about it, make it part of the contents of your own thought world, then my thoughts will work in you and of themselves enable you to recognize them as true.” This is the attitude of the teacher of Theosophy. He gives the stimulus; the power to accept as true what is given him springs forth from the inner being of the learner himself. And it is with this attitude of mind that the theosophic views of life should be studied. Anyone who has the self-control to steep his thoughts in them may be sure that in a shorter or longer time they will lead him to personal vision.
In what has been said here there is already indicated one of the first qualities which everyone wishing to arrive at a personal vision of higher facts has to develop. It is the unreserved, unprejudiced, laying of oneself open to that which is revealed by human beings or the world external to man. If a man approaches a fact in the world around him with a judgment arising from his previous experiences, he shuts himself off by this judgment from the quiet, complete effect which this fact can have on him. The learner must be able each moment to make himself a perfectly empty vessel into which the new world flows. Knowledge is received only in those moments in which every judgment, 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 unreasoning child has something to reveal to the greatest sage. And if he approach the child with his prejudgment, be it ever so wise, he pushes his wisdom like a dulled glass in front of what the child ought to reveal to him. Complete inner selflessness is necessary for this constant accessibility to the revelations of the new world. And if a man test himself to find out in what degree he possesses this accessibility he will make astonishing discoveries regarding himself. Anyone who wishes to tread the path of higher knowledge must train himself to be able each moment to obliterate himself with all his prejudices. As long as he obliterates himself the other flows into him. Only a high grade of such selfless accessibility enables one to receive the higher spiritual facts which surround man on all sides. One can develop this capacity in oneself of set purpose. One tries, for example, to refrain from passing any judgment on people in one’s neighborhood. One should obliterate within oneself the gauge of good and bad, of stupid or clever, which one is accustomed to apply, and try without this gauge to understand persons purely through themselves. The best exercises can be made with people for whom one has an aversion. One should suppress this aversion with all one’s power and let everything that they do affect one unbiased. Or, if one is in an environment that excites this or that judgment, one should suppress the judgment and, free from criticism, lay oneself open to impressions. One should allow things and events to speak to oneself rather than speak oneself about them. And one should extend this even to one’s thought world. One should suppress in oneself that which prompts this or that thought and allow only what is outside to produce the thoughts. Only when such exercises are carried out with holiest 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 accessibility and freedom from prejudice are true producers of force. Just as heat conducted to the steam boiler is transformed into the motive power of the engine, the habitual exercise of selfless, spiritual accessibility in man is transformed into the power of seeing in the spiritual worlds.
By this exercise a man makes himself receptive to all that surrounds him. But to this receptivity correct valuation must also be added. As long as a man is inclined to value himself too highly, at the expense of the world around him, he closes up the approach to higher knowledge. He who in regard to each thing or event in the world yields himself up to the pleasure or pain which they cause him, is enmeshed by such an overvaluation 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 man, I feel to begin with nothing but my relation to him. If I make myself entirely dependent on this feeling of pleasure, of sympathy, as regards my judgment and my conduct, I place my personality in the foreground, I obtrude it upon the world. I wish 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 acting in it. In other words, I am tolerant only of what harmonizes with my personality. Toward everything else I exercise a repelling force. As long as a man is enmeshed by the sensible world, he acts in an especially repelling way on all influences that are supersensible. The learner must develop in himself the capacity to conduct himself toward things and people in accordance with their peculiar natures and to give to each its due worth and significance. Sympathy and antipathy, liking and disliking must be made to play quite new rôles. There can be no thought of eradicating these, of blunting oneself to sympathy and antipathy. On the contrary, the more a man develops in himself the capacity to refrain from allowing each feeling of sympathy and antipathy to be followed immediately by a judgment, an action, the more fine will be the sensitiveness he develops in himself. He will find that sympathy and antipathy of a higher kind awaken in him if he curb those which he already has. Even something that is at first most unattractive has hidden qualities; it reveals them if a man does not in his conduct obey his selfish feelings. He who has developed himself in this respect feels more finely in every direction than one who has not, because he does not allow his own personality to lead him into lack of receptivity. Each inclination that a man follows blindly blunts the power to see the things in his environment in their true light. By obeying inclination we thrust ourselves, as it were, through the environment instead of laying ourselves open to it and feeling its true worth.
A man becomes independent of the changing impressions of the outer world when each pleasure and each pain, each sympathy and each antipathy, no longer calls forth in him an egotistical response and egotistical conduct. The pleasure one feels in a thing makes one at once dependent on it. One loses oneself in the thing. A man who loses himself in the pleasure or pain caused by each varying impression 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 in the moment of surrender. I ought to use the pleasure only in order through it to arrive at an understanding of the thing that arouses pleasure in me. The important point ought not to be that the thing has aroused the pleasure in me; I ought to experience the liking and through it the nature of the thing. The pleasure should only be an announcement 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, it is only that I am expending myself; if the pleasure is to me only the opportunity of experiencing a quality or property of the thing itself, I enrich my inner being through this experience. To the learner pleasure and displeasure, joy and pain, must be opportunities for learning about things. The learner does not become blunted to pleasure or pain through this, he raises himself above them in order that they may reveal to him the nature of the things. He who develops himself in this respect will learn to understand what instructors pleasure and pain are. He will feel with every being, and thereby receive the revelation of its inner nature. The learner 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 on him. By this means a complete change takes place in the man. Formerly he responded to this or that impression by this or that action, because these impressions caused him joy or dislike. But now he allows pleasure and displeasure to become merely the organs by which things tell him how he should conduct himself toward them. In him, pleasure and pain change from being mere feelings to being organs of sense by which the external world is perceived. Just as the eye does not act itself when it sees something, but allows the hand to act, so pleasure and pain bring about nothing in the learner, but merely receive impressions; and what is learned 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 mere organs of transmission, they build up for him within his soul the very organs through which the soul world opens up to view. The eye can serve the body only by being an organ for the transmission of sensible impressions; pleasure and pain become the eyes of the soul when they cease to have any value in themselves and begin to serve one purpose alone, that of revealing to the inner soul the souls outside it.
By means of the faculties mentioned the seeker of the Path places himself in such a condition as to enable what is really present in the world around him to affect him without disturbing influences from his own personality. But he has also to adapt himself to the spiritual world around him in the right way. For he is, as thinking being, a citizen of the spiritual world. He can be this in a right way only if he guides his thoughts in accordance with the eternal laws of truth, the laws of the “Spirit-land.” For only in this way can that land act on him and reveal its facts to him. A man never reaches the truth as long as he yields to the thoughts continuously coursing through his ego. For if he does, his 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 is absorbed in an intellectual activity, determined primarily by his physical brain, has an appearance of irregularity and confusion. In it a thought enters, breaks off, is driven out of the field by another. Any one who tests this by listening to a conversation between two people, or who observes himself in an unprejudiced way, 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, his confused succession of thoughts will always be brought into order again by the facts of the 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 most confused, but if I wish to walk along a certain road in the town I must accommodate myself to existing facts. The mechanic can enter his workshop with ever so varied a whirl of ideas, but the laws of his engines 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 their worlds with already strictly controlled thinking. Unless my thinking shows me the right, sure standpoint, I cannot find the proper paths. For the spiritual laws prevailing within these worlds are not condensed into the sensibly perceptible kind, and therefore they do not exert on me the compulsion referred to above. I am able to obey these laws only when they are related to those which govern me personally as a thinking being. Here I must be my own sure guide. The seeker of the Path must therefore make his thinking strictly regulated in character. 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.
The seeker of the Path must constantly 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 severely exact contents of the thought world. The transition from one idea to another must correspond with the strict laws of thought. He must as thinker be to a certain extent constantly a copy of these thought laws. He must shut out from his train of thought all that does not flow out of these laws. Should a favorite thought present itself to him, he must put it aside if the correct sequence will be disturbed by it. If a personal feeling tries to force upon his thoughts a direction not inherent in them, he must suppress it. Plato required of those who wished to be in his school that they should first go through a course of mathematical training. And mathematics with their strict laws, which do not yield to the course of ordinary sensible phenomena, form a good preparation for the seeker of the Path. If he wishes to make progress in the study of mathematics he has to strike out all personal, arbitrary choice, all disturbances. He learns by it to follow purely the requirements of the thought. And he has to learn to do this in all his thinking. His thought-life must itself be a copy of the unchanging mathematical methods of stating premises and forming conclusions . He must strive wherever he goes and whatever he does to think after this manner. Then the intrinsic lawfulness of the spirit world will flow into him instead of passing over and through him without leaving a trace, as it does when his thinking bears the ordinary confused character. Regulated thinking brings him from sure starting points to the most hidden truths. What has been said, however, must not be looked at in a one-sided way. Although mathematics act as a good discipline for the mind, one can arrive at pure, healthy thinking without the study of mathematics.
And what the Path seeker strives to have in his thinking, he must also strive to have in his actions. These must obey the laws of the nobly Beautiful and the eternally True without any disturbing influences from his personality. These laws must constantly direct him. Should he begin to do something that he has recognized as right and fail to content his personal feelings, he may not for that reason forsake the road he has entered on. But, on the other hand, he may not pursue it because it gives him joy if he finds that it is not in accordance with the laws of the eternally Beautiful and True. In everyday life people allow their actions to be decided by what contents them personally, by what bears fruit for themselves. In this way they force upon the course of the world’s events a direction influenced by their personality. They do not bring to realization the True that is already prescribed in the laws of the spirit world, they realize the demands of their self-will. They act in harmony with the spiritual world only when they follow its laws alone. The Path seeker may not ask, “What brings me advantages, what will bring me success?” but only, “What have I recognized as the Good?” Renunciation of the fruits of action in the interest of his personality, renunciation of all self-will, these are the weighty laws which he must prescribe for himself. Then he treads the paths of the spiritual world, his whole being becomes penetrated by these laws. He becomes free from all compulsion from the sensible world; his Spirit-man raises itself out of the sensible sheath. Thus he makes actual progress on the path toward the spiritual, and thus he spiritualizes himself. One cannot say, “Of what use to me are all my resolutions to follow purely the laws of the True when I am perhaps mistaken as to what is the True?” The important thing is the striving and the spirit in which one strives. Even he who is mistaken possesses in his very striving after the True a force which turns him away from the wrong road. This force seizes him should he be mistaken and guides him to the right road. The very objection, “But I can be mistaken,” is itself harmful unbelief. 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 egotistical views, but that he should selflessly yield himself up to the guidance of the spirit itself. It is not the self-seeking will of man that can prescribe for the True; on the contrary this true itself must become lord in man, must penetrate his whole being, make him a copy of the eternal laws of the Spirit-land. He must fill himself with these eternal laws in order to let them stream out into life. As the Path seeker must hold strict guard over his thinking, so must he also over his will. Through this he becomes in life a messenger from the world of the True and the Beautiful. And through becoming this he rises to be a participant in the spirit world. Through this he is raised from stage to stage of development. For one cannot reach the spiritual life by merely seeing it; on the contrary, one has to reach it by experiencing, by living it.
If the Path seeker observes the laws here described his soul experiences will take on an entirely new form. He will not longer live merely in them. They will no longer have a significance merely for his personal life. They will develop into soul perceptions of the higher world. In his soul the feelings of pleasure and displeasure, of joy and pain, grow into soul organs, just as in his body eyes and ears do not lead a life for themselves merely, but selflessly allow external impressions to pass through them. As a result calmness and assurance become inherent qualities in the soul of the Path seeker. A great pleasure will no longer make him jubilant, but will be the messenger to him of qualities in the world which have hitherto escaped him. It will leave him calm, and through the calm the characteristics of the pleasure-giving beings will reveal themselves to him. Pain will no longer fill him with grief, but will tell him the qualities of the being which causes the pain. Just as the eye does not desire anything for itself but shows man the direction of the road he has to take, so will pleasure and pain guide the soul safely along its path. This is the state of balance of soul which the Path seeker must reach. The less pleasure and pain exhaust themselves in waves which they throw up in the inner life of the Path seeker, the more will they form eyes for the supersensible world. As long as a man lives in pleasure and pain he cannot gain knowledge through them. When he learns through them how to live, when he withdraws from them his feeling of self, then they become his organs of perception, then he sees by means of them, and through them attains to knowledge. It is incorrect to think that the Seeker of the Path becomes a dry, colorless being, incapable of pleasure or suffering. Pleasure and suffering are present in him but in a transformed shape; they have become “eyes and ears.”
So long as one lives in a personal relationship with the world, things reveal only that which links them with our personality. But that is the transitory part of them. If we withdraw ourselves from the transitory part of us and live with our feeling of self, with our “I,” in our permanent part, then our transitory parts become intermediaries for us; and that which reveals itself through them is an Imperishable, an Eternal in the things. This relationship between HIS own Eternal and the Eternal in the things must be established by the seeker of the Path. Even before he begins other exercises of the kind described, and also during them, he should direct his thought to this imperishable part. When I observe a stone, a plant, an animal, a man, I should remember that in each of them an Eternal declares itself. I must ask myself what is the permanent that lives in the transitory stone, what will outlast the transient, sensible phenomenon? One ought not to think 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 color, every cadence will remain vividly perceptible to the senses; nothing will be lost; only an infinitude is gained. Indeed, the person who is not able to observe even the meanest thing in nature with interest will only attain to pale, bloodless thoughts, not to spiritual sight. All depends on the attitude of mind we acquire in this direction.
What stage we will succeed in reaching depends on our capacities. We have each moment to do what is right and leave everything else to the future. 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 through this awaken in us. We must wait until it is given. And it is given at the right time to each one who with patience waits and works. A man soon notices during such exercises what a powerful transformation takes place within him. He learns to consider each thing as important or unimportant only in so far as he recognizes it to be related to a Permanent, to an Eternal. He comes to a different appreciation and estimate of the world from the one he has hitherto had. His whole feeling takes on a new relationship toward the entire surrounding world. The transitory no longer attracts him for its own sake as formerly; it becomes for him a member, an image of the Eternal. And this Eternal, that lives in all things, he learns to love. It becomes familiar to him, just as the transitory was formerly familiar to him. This again does not cause him to become estranged from life, he only learns to value each thing at its true worth. Even the vain trifles of life will not leave him quite unaffected; but the man no longer loses himself in them, he recognizes them at their limited worth. He sees them in their true light. He is a poor discerner who prefers to go awandering in the clouds and lose sight of life; a true discerner from his high summit, with his power of clear survey and his just and healthy feeling for everything, will be able to assign to each thing its proper place.
In this way there opens out to the Path seeker the possibility of ceasing to obey the incalculable influences of the external world of the senses, which turn his will now here, now there. Through higher knowledge he has seen the Eternal Being in things. By means of the transformation of his inner world he has gained the capacity to perceive this eternal being. When he now acts from out himself, he acts also from out the Eternal Being of the things. For the things give utterance in him to this being of theirs. He therefore acts in harmony with the eternal World Order when he directs his action from out the Eternal living within him. He becomes in this way no longer impelled by the things, he impels them according to the laws implanted within them which have become the laws of his own being.
This ability to act from out his inner being can only be an ideal toward which one strives. The attainment of the goal lies in the far distance. But the Path seeker must have the will to tread this road. This is his will for freedom. For freedom is action from out of one’s inner being. And only he may act from out of his inner being who draws his motives from the Eternal. He who does not do this acts according to other motives than those implanted in the things. Such a one opposes the World Order. And this must prevail against him. That is to say, what he plans to carry through by his will can not take place. He can not become free. The arbitrary choice of the individual annihilates itself through the effects of its deeds.
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He who directs his inner life in such a way steps upward from stage to stage. The fruits of his exercises will be that certain vistas of the super-sensible world will unfold to his spiritual perception. He learns the real meaning of the truth communicated about this world; and he will receive confirmation of them through his own experience. If this stage is reached, an experience comes to him which can only be his through treading this path.
Through Beings whose significance can now for the first time become clear to him through the “great Guides of the Human Race” there is bestowed on him what is called consecration (initiation). He becomes a “Disciple of the Wisdom.” What the Seeker of the Path now experiences can only be indicated here. He receives a new home. He becomes a conscious dweller in the super-sensible world. The River of Wisdom flows to him now from a higher source. The Light of Knowledge from this time forth does not shine upon him from without; he is himself placed in the fountain eye of this Light. In it the problems which the world supplies are solved. Henceforth he holds converse no longer with the things which are shaped through the spirit, but with the Shaping Spirit itself. The separate life of the personality only exists now in order to be a conscious image of the Eternal. Every lingering doubt that could formerly arise in him vanishes; for only he can doubt whom things delude regarding the spirit that rules in them.
And since the “Disciple of the Wisdom” is able to hold intercourse with the spirit itself, each false form in which he had before imagined the spirit vanishes. The false form which man ascribes to the spirit in his conceptions is superstition. The initiate is above all superstition, for he knows what the true form of the spirit is. Freedom from personality, doubt, and superstition, these are the characteristics of him who has attained to discipleship in the Path of the higher knowledge. One must not confuse this state in which the personality becomes one with the comprehensive spirit of life with a disappearance of the personality in the “All-Spirit.” Such a disappearance does not take place in a true development of the personality. It remains preserved as personality at the highest stage of its perfection. It is not the subjection of the personality but its highest development that takes place. If one wishes to have a simile for this coincidence or union of the individual spirit with the “All-Spirit” one cannot choose that of different circles which, coinciding, are lost in the One, but one must choose the picture of many circles of which each has a quite distinct shade of color; these differently colored circles coincide, but each separate shade preserves its existence within the whole. Not one loses the fullness of its individual power, and the whole is the resultant of these individual powers.
The further description of the Path will not be given here. It is given so far as is possible in “Occult Science,” which forms a continuation of this book.
The Way of Man passes through many lives (incarnations). Patience ought to flow out of the real understanding of this fact. He who uses his present incarnation for his development prepares for those stages in which he will attain to (intuitive) seeing, to clairvoyance, to the full possession of his higher being (Spirit-self, Life-spirit) as well as to the remembrance of his former lives and to still higher experiences. It is possible for this to take place in his present life or perhaps, it may be, in a following one.