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An Outline of Occult Science by Rudolf Steiner


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The nature of waking consciousness cannot be fathomed without observing that condition which man experiences during sleep, and the problem of life cannot be approached without studying death. Any one failing to perceive the importance of occult science may distrust the manner in which it studies sleep and death. Occult science is, however, capable of appreciating the motives from which such distrust arises. For there is nothing incomprehensible in the assertion that man exists for an active, purposeful life, that his acts depend on his devotion thereto, and that absorption in such conditions as sleep and death can result only from a taste for idle dreaming, and can lead to nothing else than vain imaginings.

The refusal to accept anything of so fantastic a nature may readily be regarded as the expression of a sound mind, while indulgence in such "idle dreaming" is accounted morbid, and a pursuit fit only for people in whom the joy and ardour of life are lacking, and who are incapable of "real work." It would be wrong to set this assertion aside at once as an injustice, for it contains a certain grain of truth. It is one quarter truth, and must be completed by the remaining three quarters belonging to it. Now if we dispute the one quarter which is right, with one who recognizes that one quarter quite distinctly but who does not dream of the other three quarters, we only rouse his suspicions. For it must be indeed granted absolutely that the study of that which lies hidden in sleep and death is morbid if it leads to weakness or to estrangement from real life. No less must we admit that much of that which has always called itself occult science in the world, and which is even now practised under that name, bears the impression of what is unhealthy and hostile to life; but this certainly does not spring from _genuine occult science_.

The real fact of the matter is this, that just as a man cannot always be awake, so neither is he sufficiently equipped for the actual conditions of life, in its entire range, without that which occult science has to offer him. Life continues during sleep, and the forces which work and labour during the waking state draw their strength and refreshment from that which sleep gives them. It is thus with the things under our observation in the manifested world. The boundaries of the world are wider than the field of this observation; and what man recognizes in the visible must be supplemented and fertilized by what he is able to know of the invisible world. A man who did not continually renew his exhausted forces by sleep, would bring his life to destruction; and in the same way a view of the world which is not fertilized by a knowledge of the unseen, must lead to a feeling of desolation.

It is similarly so with regard to death. Living creatures fall a prey to death in order that new life may arise. It is occult science which throws light on Goethe's beautiful phrase: "Nature invented Death in order to have much Life." Just as in the ordinary sense there could be no life without death, so can there be no real knowledge of the visible world without insight into the invisible. All discernment of the visible must plunge again and again into the invisible in order to develop. Thus it is evident that occult science alone makes the life of revealed knowledge possible. When it emerges in its true form it never enfeebles life, but strengthens it and ever renews its freshness and health, when, left to its own resources, it has become weak and diseased.