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An Outline of Occult Science by Rudolf Steiner


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At the present stage of evolution there are three possible conditions of soul in which man ordinarily lives his life between birth and death: waking, sleeping and, between the two, dreaming. The last-mentioned will be briefly dealt with in a later part of this book; for the moment we shall consider life simply as it alternates between its two main conditions--waking and sleeping. Before he can "know" for himself in higher worlds, man has to add to these two a third condition of soul.

During waking life the soul is given up to the impressions of the senses, and to the thoughts and pictures that these evoke in it. During sleep the senses cease to make any impression, and the soul loses consciousness. The whole of the day's experience sinks down into the sea of unconsciousness. Let us now consider how it would be if man were able to become conscious during sleep, notwithstanding that all impressions of the senses were completely obliterated, as they are in deep sleep. Now would any memory remain to him of what had happened while he was awake. Would his soul find itself in a state of vacuity? Would it be incapable of having any experiences? This is a question that can only be answered if conditions like or similar to those under discussion can actually be brought about. If the soul is capable of experiencing anything, even when sense-activities and recollection of such activities are lacking, then that soul would, so far as the external world is concerned, be "asleep"; and yet the soul would not be sleeping but awake to a world of reality.

Now such a condition of consciousness can be attained if man makes these psychic experiences possible toward which occult science guides him. And everything that occult science tells us about those worlds beyond the sensible, has been found through such a condition of consciousness. In the foregoing parts of this book certain communications have been made concerning the higher worlds; and in the following pages, as far as is possible in a book of this kind, methods will be discussed whereby the state of consciousness requisite for such investigations may be acquired. This state of consciousness resembles that of sleep, in only one respect, namely: that through it, all outward sense activity ceases, and also all thoughts that might be aroused by the action of the senses, are obliterated. But although the soul has no power to experience anything consciously in sleep, yet it receives this power through this very state of consciousness. And through it a capacity for experiencing is awakened in the soul which in every day life can be awakened only through sense impressions. The awakening of the soul to this higher state of consciousness is called _Initiation_.

The methods of initiation lead man away from the state of ordinary day-consciousness into such a soul activity as enables him to use his spiritual organs of perception. Like germs these organs lie dormant in the soul and must be developed. Now it may be that a person, at some particular moment of his earthly life, makes the discovery that these higher organs have developed within his soul without previous preparation. It is a kind of involuntary self-awakening. Such a person will become conscious of a change affecting his entire being; his soul's experiences will have been enriched beyond measure and he will find that no experiences of the sense-world can bring him such spiritual happiness, such soul satisfaction and inner warmth as that which now opens up to him, which no physical eye can see and no hand can touch. From the spiritual world strength and a sense of security in all situations in life, will flow into his will. There are instances of such self-initiation; but they should not give rise to the idea that the only right course is to wait for the coming of such self-initiation, and to do nothing toward bringing about initiation through regular training. We need not here give further space to the subject of self-initiation, since it may take place without regard to rules of any kind whatsoever.