new age spirituality

This Classic work is now copyright expired and therefore in the public domain.

An Outline of Occult Science by Rudolf Steiner


page 1 of 4 | An Outline of Occult Science - home

When the higher principles of man are observed with clairvoyant vision, the mode of perception is never precisely the same as that which comes from the outer senses. If we touch an object, and experience a sensation of warmth, we must distinguish between that which comes from the object, that which, as it were, streams out from it, and our own psychic experience. The inner psychic experience of perceiving warmth is something distinct from the heat which streams from the object. Now let us imagine this psychic experience quite by itself without the outer object. Let us call up the experience of a sensation of heat in our soul, without the presence of any external physical object to cause it. If such a sensation simply existed _without_ cause, it would be mere fancy. The student of occult science experiences such inner perceptions without any physical cause. But at a certain stage of development they present themselves in such a manner that he knows (it has been shown that by the very nature of the experience he can know) that the inner perception is not fancy, but is caused by a psycho-spiritual being belonging to a supersensible world, just as the ordinary sensation of heat, for example, is caused by an external physical-sense object.

It is the same with the perception of colour in the supersensible world. Here we must distinguish between the colour associated with the outer object, and the inner colour-sensation in the soul. Let us call up the soul's inner sensation when it perceives a _red_ object in the physical, outer world of the senses. Let us imagine that we retain a very vivid recollection of the impression, but that we are looking away from the object. Let us imagine what we still retain as a memory-picture of the colour, to be an inner experience. We shall then distinguish between that which is an inner experience of the colour, and the external colour itself. These inner experiences differ entirely in their content from impressions of the outer senses. They bear much more the impress of what is felt as joy and sorrow than that of normal physical sensation. Now let us imagine an inner experience of this kind arising in the soul, without any suggestion from an outer sense object. A clairvoyant may have an experience of this kind, and may know too, in that case, that it is no fancy, but the expression of a psycho-spiritual being. Now if this psycho-spiritual being excites the same impression as does a red object of the physical-sense world, then that being is red. There will, however, always be the external impression first, and then the inner experience of colour, in the case of the physical-sense object; in that of the genuine clairvoyance of a man of to-day, it _must_ be the contrary,--first the inner experience, shadowy, like a mere recollection of colour, and then a picture, growing more and more vivid. The less heed we pay to this necessary sequence of events the less we are able to distinguish between actual, spiritual perception and the delusions of fancy (illusion, hallucination, etc.).

The vividness of the picture in a psycho-spiritual perception of this kind, whether it remains quite shadowy, like a dim concept, or whether it impresses us as intensively as an outer object, depends altogether upon the clairvoyant's stage of development. Now, the general impression obtained by the clairvoyant of the etheric body, may be thus described. When the clairvoyant has strengthened his will power to such a degree that, in spite of the fact that an individual stands before him in a physical body, he can abstract his attention from what the physical eye sees,--he is then able to see clairvoyantly into the space occupied by the man's physical body. Of course, a great increase of will power is necessary, in order to withdraw the attention not only from something in the mind, but from something standing before one, in such a way that the physical impression is quite extinguished. But this increase of will is possible, and is brought about by exercises for the attainment of supersensible cognition. The clairvoyant can then first have a general impression of the etheric body. Within his soul there arises the same inner sensation which he has, let us say, at the sight of a peach blossom; then this becomes vivid, so that he is able to say that the etheric body has the colour of peach blossoms. He next perceives the separate organs and currents of the etheric body. A further description of the etheric body may be given by relating the psychic experiences which correspond to sensations of heat or of sound-impressions, etc., for this etheric body is not merely a colour phenomenon. The astral body and the other principles of the human being, may also be described in like manner. He who takes this into consideration will understand just how descriptions should be taken which are given by occult science.