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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[54. Perception at higher levels of consciousness]
This is the 54. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church"
by Frank L. Preuss
In this chapter we want to deal with perception at higher levels of consciousness, of worlds of higher reality, invisible to the organs of sense-perception.
This will include the study of the nature of these higher worlds and the methods by which knowledge of them is obtained.
One reason to deal with this subject is that it helps to also understand the negative side of it and how evil forces, seek to use this knowledge of the realities of the supersensible world for evil ends.
To understand the miracles of the end-time, which will not only come from the side of Christians, but also from the side of Antichrist, it will be necessary to understand what is going on.
Worlds of higher reality are not separate regions, spatially divided from one another, so that it would be necessary to move in space in order to pass from one to the other. The higher worlds completely interpenetrate the lower worlds, which are fashioned and sustained by their activities. What divides them is that each world has a more limited and controlled level of consciousness than the world above it. The lower consciousness is unable to experience the life of the higher worlds and is even unaware of their existence, although it is interpenetrated by them. But if the beings of a lower world can raise their consciousness to a higher level, then that higher world becomes manifest to them, and they can be said to have passed to a higher world, although they have not moved in space.
So it is about the relationship of levels of supersensible consciousness to one another and to our normal physical consciousness, and the processes by which they are attained.
Now we have dealt with this subject before and I refer therefore to the three chapters 22, 23 and 24 of this our book "The Man-Made Church."
I also refer to an article called Spiritual seeing and in this article is a quote from a book by Rudolf Steiner.
But in this chapter I am not bringing information from a book written by Rudolf Steiner, but from a book written about Rudolf Steiner.
The title of the book is "Rudolf Steiner – Scientist of the Invisible" and the author is A P Shepherd, 1954.
I will bring the information in the form of a table, similar to what was done in chapters 22 to 24 of our book "The Man-Made Church."
So now follows this table about higher faculties of perception latent in the human organism, their nature and the methods by which knowledge of them is attained:
|Number of element of being||1||2||3||4|
|Number of stage of higher consciousness||first||second||third|
|Names of element of being||physical body||life body or etheric body or body of formative forces||soul body or astral body||ego|
|Explanation of element||These formative-forces are found wherever there is life.
Organic life is not the product of matter, but is the constant expression of spirit, as life and form, in the medium of matter.
Forces, that fashion and sustain the physical body and its functions, interpenetrating it as an ever-mobile thought-structure, maintaining its organic life.
That which gives life and the powers of growth to the material element of man's body is provided by a "body" of formative-forces, the etheric body.
|That which imposes controlling form on the life-forces of man's etheric body, and which gives him consciousness and the capacity for feeling, is provided by a body of sentient forces, man's astral body.||At the centre of all is the immortal core of man's being, his ego, whose home is in the eternal spirit-world.|
|Vehicle of consciousness found in||mineral, plant, animal, man||plant, animal, man||animal, man||man|
|Name of level of higher consciousness||Imagination||Inspiration||Intuition|
|Explanation of name||To this first level of higher consciousness is given the name of "Imagination", from the developed power of thought to express itself in vivid images or pictures.||This second stage of higher consciousness Steiner calls "Inspiration", because the awareness of the spirit world it evokes flows into the emptied consciousness, just as the air is breathed into the physical body.|
|Dealing with||Great, however, as are the discoveries which are made at this higher level of consciousness, they deal only with the supersensible realities and processes at work in and behind man's own being and the physical world||It is a world of spirit-beings, in constant inter-relationship, who continuously send forth their activity into the etheric and physical worlds. The nature and activity of the spirit-beings is expressed in the endless and varying relations in which they stand to one another, just as the letters in the alphabet, in endless groupings and in varying order, express, to those who understand the language, an infinite variety of meaning. It is only by training up to the second level of higher consciousness that the significance of these spiritual relationships can be deciphered and understood. This is called "the reading of the sacred script".||When that happens, the seer is living as a dweller in the spirit-world, in complete union with it and in mutual inter-penetration of being.|
|Differences between it and previous level||In one sense there is a fundamental difference between the etheric and the physical worlds. In the etheric world there are no static objects, nothing is at rest. It is a world of constant movement and ever-changing life, form succeeding form in ceaseless metamorphosis. Particularly is this so in the matter of physical growth and decay. In the physical world life is succeeded by death, but in the etheric world there is always manifest behind physical life the constantly-evolving pattern of spirit-life. Even though the physical form is decaying into lifeless, motionless matter, behind it is already evolving the ceaseless pattern of spirit-life arising out of it, to be manifest later in another form.||
The etheric-physical world was discovered to be a world of the forces of life and growth and form. This world, which is called the "astral" world, is a world of soul-conditions, a world of desires and hopes, of fears and emotions, of attraction and repulsion. Moreover, just as the etheric forces were moulded into "form" or "body" which interpenetrated the physical body, so the seeker can perceive that there is in his earthly organism an astral body, inter-penetrating both his etheric and physical bodies, and that it is through this astral body that he possesses consciousness, and has the experience of emotion and desire. This astral vehicle of consciousness is found also in the animal world, but it is not present in the world of plants. In the animal world this consciousness and emotion work at a much more impersonal and undifferentiated level than they do in man. This is due to the fact that human consciousness is interfused with that self-consciousness which man alone possesses, and the nature of which he now begins to comprehend.
In this astral world, of which he has become aware, the seeker makes a most important discovery. He discovers that the real core and centre of his own being is not the selfconscious ego of his earthly existence, which he had always regarded as arising out of thought, feeling and will; but that it is an immortal self, whose home is in this spirit-world, from which it has descended into the physical world. He sees that it is the presence of this higher self, working through his astral body, that has awoken in him that self-consciousness which is the spur of his being, and which distinguishes him from the rest of the physical world. Nevertheless, by identifying that self too closely with his experience of the physical world, through which he has become aware of it, man has formed a distorted and false concept of himself, which almost completely obliterates his awareness of his true higher self.
Yet another feature of this astral world manifests itself to the individual who has reached this level of "Inspiration". He sees that it is a world no longer bounded by the earthly conditions of time and space, but that it is a qualitative world, where moral values have the same necessity as natural law in the physical world. This is indicated in the fact that its whole activity consists in personal relationships. He now sees the etheric tableau of his own earth-life in a new way. Just as in "Imagination" he saw that it had all been interpenetrated by etheric reality, so now he sees that it was also inter-penetrated by the higher astral reality. He perceives that the vital, eternal element in it consists of all the personal relationships that took place in it, and he also sees that the whole of it was inwrought by the activity of spirit-beings. His earth-life, therefore, now appears to him, not only as a time-reality, a continuum of events; but it is transmuted into a moral reality, a pattern of personal relationships, in regard to which he feels himself judged by his own higher self and by this world of spirit-beings.
|The discovery in the spirit-world of his higher self leads inevitably to the impulse to rise beyond mere perception of the spirit-beings of this world, and to enter into direct and conscious relationship with them, i.e. to live oneself as a spirit-being. This, however, necessitates a still further development of the spirit-organs by an intensive training, not of thought only, but of the will. It necessitates a moral self-discipline of the highest order, particularly a release from self-centredness, and the development of a pure disinterested love of others, before the third level of higher consciousness, "Intuition", is attained. When that happens, the seeker is living as a dweller in the spirit-world, in complete union with it and in mutual inter-penetration of being. Just as in Imagination he became aware of the time-significance of his earthly life and of the spirit-forces at work in his physical being, and as in Inspiration he discovered the moral significance of his life and the true nature and range of his existence as an eternal spirit.|
|World of||The etheric-physical world was discovered to be a world of the forces of life and growth and form.
Moreover, just as the etheric forces are moulded into "form" or "body" which interpenetrated the physical body . . . .
|This world, which is called the "astral" world, is a world of soul-conditions, a world of desires and hopes, of fears and emotions, of attraction and repulsion, through this astral body man possesses consciousness, and has the experience of emotions and desires.
He sees that it is a world no longer bounded by the earthly conditions of time and space, but that it is a qualitative world, where moral values have the same necessity as natural law in the physical world. This is indicated in the fact that its whole activity consists in personal relationships.
|Spirit and nature were present before my soul in their absolute contrast. There existed, for me, a world of spiritual beings. That the ego, which itself is spirit, lives in a world of spirits was for me a matter of direct perception.|
|Becoming aware of||Just as in Imagination he became aware of the time-significance of earthly life and of the spirit-forces at work in the physical being, . . .||. . . and as in Inspiration he discovered the moral significance of life and the true nature of his being, . . .||. . . so in Intuition he becomes aware of the nature and range of existence as an eternal spirit.|
|Man is a four-fold being||The material substance of the physical body||That which gives life and the powers of growth to the material element of his body is provided by a "body" of formative-forces, the etheric body. The sphere of etheric influence pours its life-giving forces and powers into man's physical being.||That which imposes controlling form on the life-forces of his etheric body, and which gives him consciousness and the capacity for feeling, is provided by a body of sentient forces, his astral body; from the great sphere of the astral world the subtler forces of consciousness and of moral and spiritual reality pour into his soul|
|Methods by which knowledge of the nature of higher worlds is attained||
We are all familiar with the power of thought to recover from the storehouse of our memory pictures of past events in our life, recalling them as they happened. It is this power of thought to form inner images that has to be developed. This is done by a process of concentrated meditation in which the whole personality, in its thought, feeling and will, is completely centred upon some object.
The purpose of this meditation is, in the first place, purely the training of our thinking and the development of the powers latent in it.
The thought-images that arise in connection with the meditation exercises gradually become as vivid as those of direct sense-perception.
It is an activity of thought that is not dependent upon our physical organism.
It is an acquired faculty of sense-independent, rational thinking.
|But although this life of ceaseless movement and change is clearly evident, it is difficult, at that stage, to interpret it or fully to understand it. The realities of the spirit-world itself are not yet revealed. For this a higher level of consciousness is required, and to attain it the faculties of the soul must be developed still further. The seeker has already attained the power of emptying his consciousness of sense-impressions and lifting it to the apprehension of the etheric world of formative forces working in the physical. He must now be able, by a continued process of concentrated thought-meditation, to discard from his consciousness these newly-acquired etheric-physical images and to hold the soul in conscious and expectant emptiness. Then there arises into this emptied consciousness, a world of supersensible beings and happenings. All possibility of illusion is excluded, inasmuch as the seeker retains his newly-acquired faculty of sense-independent thought. This gives him clear consciousness and power of judgement, against which the beings and events he witnesses reveal themselves in unquestionable objectivity. Moreover, he can at any moment return from this higher consciousness to his normal physical consciousness and, once he has acquired the power of emptying his consciousness, he can do so again at will at any time or place. In this way he is able to contemplate and assess his experience of this spirit-world, and to describe it in such a way that anyone with normal healthy intelligence can follow his explanation, even if he himself has not developed any powers of supersensible perception.||While, however, Steiner has shown that the path to higher knowledge proceeds in an orderly and rational manner, by an intensification of the normal faculties of the human being, it must not be assumed that higher knowledge is merely a matter of thought-development which anyone might expect to be able to achieve. Again and again Steiner speaks of it as a very difficult path, a goal which can only be attained by constant patience and perseverance. He also reveals that on the path to higher knowledge there will be met strange and in some ways alarming experiences, as indeed might well be expected when one passes to the knowledge and experience of a completely different state of consciousness. Such experiences call for great reserves of moral courage and understanding.||We have already noted that Steiner declared that it was impossible to advance to the third stage of higher knowledge, Intuition, except after special moral preparation. But such moral preparation is a necessary preliminary to any attempt to seek knowledge of the higher worlds. The seeker must attain certain moral qualities before he commences his search at all, and these qualities are not those most generally possessed today. The most essential of them is a complete humility and a sense of reverence towards one's fellow human beings. There must also be a mood of tranquillity, a realisation of the supreme importance of the inner life of thought and meditation, and an ever-increasing control over one's faculties of thought, feeling and will. Indeed, as one reads the moral requirements which Steiner sets out as necessary conditions in this search for higher knowledge, one is deeply reminded of the moral qualities which are set before men by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, as the necessary qualities for those who would enter into the kingdom of heaven.|
Now follows, also from the book "Rudolf Steiner – Scientist of the Invisible" by A P Shepherd, a section about time:
So far nothing in the nature of external, super-sensible reality has been revealed, but in the awakening of this new power of thought there develop long-dormant soul-organs of perception. These organs once functioned in primitive man in an instinctive and unselfconscious manner; but with the awakening of intellectual consciousness they have become atrophied. In the training for the development of higher knowledge they are reawakened and augmented to a higher activity, lit by the clear consciousness of the newly-acquired power of sense-independent thinking. Gradually there arises within the consciousness something else besides our thought-images. There appears a tableau of the whole of our inner life of thought, feeling and will, from the very beginning of our earthly existence. It is a well-known fact that such a tableau of the whole past life appears at times to a person, under a great shock or in imminent danger of death, but it is involuntary and only last for a short time. In this case, however, it is an experience which manifests itself objectively and can at any time be recovered.
This tableau is not only a recollection of the happenings of our earthly life, but the events are present to higher consciousness as actual experiences, as though they were being experienced again. In this respect we find ourselves in a new relationship to Time. Although these events happened in our physical experience separately and in succession, they now seem present to us as one unified whole. Their successive relationship has not disappeared, but they are unified into a higher entity – like separate notes of music that, sounded in a certain time-relationship, become a melody. The separate notes are still there, but, together with the time-relationship in which they were sounded, they have become a new entity which comprises them all. In this way Time, which to the seeker’s physical consciousness appeared as a medium within which he had a succession of experiences, is now part of his being, welding those successive experiences into one continuous whole. He sees himself, not as a being in Time, but as a Time-being. For what he sees is not just a picture of the events of his past life, which he can observe with his thought from outside, as he did on earth. He realises that in this living, inter-related continuity of experience he is beholding himself in a higher dimension of being, of which on earth he was unconscious.
Let us pause for a moment at this point and consider whether there is anything in our physical consciousness that will enable us to form a clearer concept of this metamorphosis from "successive" to "continuous" Time-consciousness; from Time as that "within which" events happen, to Time as part of one’s actual being. If we can begin to form some concept of this first step in the transformation of our consciousness, it will help us to understand the nature of the higher levels of consciousness which lie beyond it. Indeed, the understanding of the true nature of our Time-existence is the clue to the understanding of the true nature of the whole teaching of Spiritual Science.
Now, our earthly experience of Time is that of Past, Present and Future. Our past experience is behind us and is irrecoverable, the future is unknown and cannot be anticipated. It is only the present moment which we can control and which we immediately experience, and therefore we come to regard reality as, for us, bound up with each present moment. The real nature of our being we see as ever changing, but only definable in terms of its qualities at each successive "present" moment.
Nevertheless, we do not conceive of our existence as a series of completely detached, momentary experiences. We think and speak of ourselves as including in our existence experiences immediately preceding the actual "present" moment. We say that we are having a happy day, or enjoying a pleasant holiday. Again we conceive of a dramatic play which it may take two hours to experience or of a symphony to which we have listened for half an hour, as something which we experience as a single event.
Moreover, the discoveries of the phenomena of the Unconscious reveal that the realities of our past experience are still related to our present being, even though they lie quite outside the range of immediately remembered experience. Indeed, very often there is no memory of having had the experience. Furthermore, when they are brought into present consciousness by means of hypnosis, they can recur, not as memories, but as an actual experience. Again, the fact that the past experience was not properly related to the doer’s being, by reason of fear or shame or of some misconception in regard to it, can bring a diseased condition to his present consciousness.
Thus it appears that the whole of our past experience has a reality which survives the disappearance of the material objects and events which evoked it, and that it exists in a unity of being which is conditioned by moral and other considerations, which are not implicit in its material origin.
It would, therefore, not be an unnatural assumption to hold that the continued reality of our past experience is independent of the cessation of our material existence; in other words, that our whole earthly inner experience survives physical death and that the soul, after death, is immediately confronted by its whole earthly past, recoverable at any point, not as a mere memory, but as an actual experience.
Now it is this assumption that Higher Knowledge perceives directly as spiritual fact, and we see that our physical experience and the phenomena of the Unconscious both point towards it. It is not the nature of our earthly existence, but our consciousness of it, that has been transformed. Our life is still a chain of events, but our being is not identified with the last, or the last few, of its links, but with the whole chain as a unity. Moreover, what higher knowledge perceives is what has always existed and functioned in this way, but this was unperceived at the lower level of physical consciousness.
To return to the seeker, we find that he has made a further discovery. For he perceives that the tableau presents, not only the whole sequence of his conscious earthly experience, but also something of which he has hitherto been quite unconscious, namely the working of an ordered system of inner soul-forces, which have built up and maintained the whole life of his physical being from birth onwards. He perceives also that these forces were almost exclusively employed in forming and developing his body and its organs, and that it was only after his seventh year that they were released for the activity of thinking. But he can now see how, all through his life, these forces have fashioned and sustained his physical body and its functions, interpenetrating it as an ever-mobile thought-structure, maintaining its organic life.
In this quote was also this sentence, "Indeed, the understanding of the true nature of our Time-existence is the clue to the understanding of the true nature of the whole teaching of Spiritual Science."
Time is something that exists at this lowest of all states of consciousness, and only there. And it does exist, most probably, only at this material state of consciousness that we have here on this Earth. It is probably just a unique feature here on this planet.
Time has something to do with a limited state of consciousness.
Time has something to do with a state of consciousness that focusses on the present only.
The space-time-phenomenon one can explain by considering that two things, let us say two persons, cannot be at the same place at the same time. Person 1 stands on a place and person 2 can only then stand on that place when person 1 leaves it. Or person 2 can only then occupy the place when it pushes person 1 away. Wenn I now change the state of consciouness, assume the hypnagogic state, then a being can approach me and when it has reached me, then it simply carries on moving towards me and goes through me and then further. This state of consciousness also means that I no longer use my outer senses for perception, but my inner ones. I see with my inner eyes. But to see with my inner eyes I can explain still simpler, because I always use my inner eyes when I recall something from memory and imagin it. I can be at work and imagine my home and the home I then certainly do not see with my natural eyes, but with my inner sense organs. And this seeing with the inner eyes one can according to Rudolf Steiner train and improve. But here in this world two persons cannot stand on the same place at the same time. Either two persons occupy two different places or they stand on one place at two different times.
And now we come to the fact that God has put us into a situation where this space-time-phenomenon exists. A typical problem is that when person 1 sits on the throne then person 2 wants to sit there and have person 1 removed, may be even by force. And that causes relationship problems. And the solving of relationship problems is our main task here. And the way we have handled relatiosnhip problems is that outcome of our life that really counts, or actually the only one. It is reflected in our soul body, that body we take with us into the hereafter.
^ Four-fold being
We will now come to another quote from the book "Rudolf Steiner – Scientist of the Invisible" by A P Shepherd:
We have seen, then, that the path to higher knowledge set out in Anthroposophy is an ordered training of the human faculties of thought, feeling and will; to successively higher levels than that of their normal activity, in complete consciousness and clarity of judgement. We have also seen that in acquiring higher consciousness man makes a most important discovery about the nature of his earthly being. He discovers that man in his earthly organism is a four-fold being. In addition to the material substance of his physical body, he possesses three other elements of being, all inter-penetrating one another and his physical body, and each of them functioning according to the laws of its own level of existence. That which gives life and the powers of growth to the material element of his body is provided by a "body" of formative-forces, the etheric body; that which imposes controlling form on the life-forces of his etheric body, and which gives him consciousness and the capacity for feeling, is provided by a body of sentient forces, man's astral body; while at the centre of all is the immortal core of his being, his ego, whose home is in the eternal spirit-world.
All this he knows, not as a theory, but as an actual discovery in the process of acquiring higher knowledge through the development of the latent spirit-faculties of his being. At each stage he becomes immediately conscious of the functioning of the new level of being, by divesting himself of the consciousness of the lower level.
In this way he makes two important discoveries. In the first place he makes the discovery that the cessation of a lower level of consciousness only means an awakening to a higher level. This gives him an assurance of life after death. This assurance is made doubly sure by his actual perception, in the recovery of his own past existence in his higher knowledge, that several times already he has entered into and passed out of a physical existence.
The other discovery that he makes is that his earthly existence consists in the functioning of his eternal ego, through the inter-penetrating and inter-working of the three "bodies", astral, etheric and physical. The ego itself is most closely associated with the astral, or soul-body, the seat of consciousness, while the etheric is more closely attached to the physical body. This close association of the etheric and physical bodies is necessary for physical life and it only comes to an end with death. This is the explanation of the sudden tableau of the whole past life which has been known to arise under imminence of death from drowning or some other sudden event. It is a momentary flash of the etheric time-consciousness, partially released from the physical.
It is now plain that man’s earthly being, consisting in the inter-relation of these four vitally real elements, cannot be understood either in its history, or in its true function, or in the matter of education or of bodily health, if it is regarded merely as a physical reality, and if the activity of its other elements is explained as in some way proceeding from the material physical world.
In point of fact, Rudolf Steiner sheds light on one of the most universal and familiar human experiences – namely, waking and sleeping, with the intermediate stage of dreaming – by relating it to these new levels of higher knowledge. The discovery in higher knowledge that man’s being functions in three worlds – the spiritual, the astral, and the etheric-physical – reveals the fact that, in falling asleep, the human ego together with the astral body, its proper environment, dissociates itself from the etheric and physical bodies, which remain at rest in unconsciousness – the astral body being the vehicle of physical consciousness. The necessity for sleep is seen to be due to the fact that, in waking life, the activity of thinking is dependent upon the same etheric formative-forces which build and sustain the physical organism. In this way the waking life of conscious thought causes a disintegration in the physical organism, which can only be restored by withdrawing consciousness, so that the etheric formative-forces may concentrate upon the restoration of the physical body.
On the other hand, the experience of the ego and the astral body in deep sleep remains unconscious, because they are no longer in contact with the thought-forces of the etheric body and the sense-organs of the physical body, which alone in man’s physical existence stimulate the astral into consciousness. It is only when the ego has been able to develop an intensive thinking, not based in any way upon physical sense-experience, that it is able to carry consciousness into the astral sphere. This would enable it to retain consciousness in the condition of sleeping and dreaming.
^ Celestial bodies
And another quote, about celestial bodies, also again from the book "Rudolf Steiner – Scientist of the Invisible" by A P Shepherd:
In this experience of the passage from the astral to the spirit-world we recognise the third metamorphosis of consciousness to the level of "Intuition", on the path to Higher Knowledge. In both the etheric-physical and astral worlds the earthly life was seen to have a far higher significance than had been apparent to physical consciousness, and in certain respects, the experience of the soul was still related to the earthly conditions of space and time. But in the life of pure spirit, space and time no longer exist as a conditioning environment, but only as media of experience and self-expression, which a spirit-being can use freely and independently. In the spirit-world the personal relationships experienced on earth in time and space are metamorphosed into the spirit's actual being, and time and space in their earthly significance pass away. The only "environment" of pure spirit-existence is the eternal wisdom and will of God, with which all higher spirit-beings are freely and fully in harmony. It is in this vast pattern of related being, into which the deeds and relationships of earthly life are finally metamorphosed, that there is to be found that eternal, indestructible picture of all that has ever happened, which is called the Akashic Record. Rudolf Steiner declares that it is impossible to describe adequately, in the language of physical consciousness, the life of these regions of pure spirit, but for the human ego it is a mounting experience of the creative activity of the hierarchic beings, and a revelation of the interworking, in the physical universe, of spirit and matter, which is an experience of the purest bliss. In relation to the Time-frame of human evolution, the passage through the world of pure spirit occupies a vastly longer period than that spent in the astral world. Now, in regard to this ascent to higher worlds Steiner makes a revelation of great interest and importance, which it is impossible to deal with adequately in an introductory book of this sort. Nevertheless some reference must be made to it, as it keeps recurring from time to time in the descriptions which he gives of the spiritual worlds. This revelation may be called that of "Spiritual Astronomy". He reveals that man's life, physical and spiritual, is intimately related to the whole universe of stars, sun and planets. We have already pointed out that all material objects are a manifestation of spirit activity. In the same way the heavenly bodies are not mere meaningless masses moving through space, but they are the self-manifestation of spiritual beings, who radiate spiritual and moral forces within their spheres. These "spheres" are not to be identified with the luminous bodies we see in the heavens. So far as it can be spoken of spatially, the spiritual "sphere" of the planet is the field of operation of its forces, which is the whole sphere which is enclosed in the orbit which the visible planet describes in the heavens. The spiritual forces of these spheres inter-penetrate and are inter-related in manifold ways; but at certain points the influence of one sphere will pre-dominate.
And a final quote, about the future, also again from the book "Rudolf Steiner – Scientist of the Invisible" by A P Shepherd, 1954:
In the last of his Gifford Lectures, recently delivered at Edinburgh, Professor A. J. Toynbee (as reported in The Times) declared that for the last two or three centuries we have been probing the mystery of the universe from the mathematico- physical standpoint which was adopted by our Western fore-fathers, when, at the end of the seventeenth century, they deliberately abandoned a theological standpoint, because it had led their predecessors into controversy, strife and blood-shed. Today, he said, the time has come for us, in our turn, to abandon the exclusively mathematico-physical standpoint, that has armed mankind with deadly weapons, but has not redeemed it from original sin. We need to make a new start, by returning to the spiritual outlook that was abandoned in the seventeenth century, without repeating its fault by throwing away the technological and scientific achievements of the last two and a half centuries.
Steiner goes even further than this in his continual declaration that the rediscovery of the spirit must not be a return to the past, but must arise out of a development of true scientific thinking.
But the most striking appraisement of the situation is that given by Nicolas Berdyaev in his posthumous book, The Realm of the Spirit and the Realm of Caesar. It is remarkable how analogous to Steiner's is his diagnosis of the present situation. He divides human history into four periods, from the point of view of man's relation to the Cosmos. The first is the age of magic and myth; in the second, man begins to be free of cosmic powers, and civilisations arise. The third is the age of the scientific and mechanical control of Nature; while the fourth (the present age) is that of the disruption of the Cosmic Order, the terrified and terrifying power of man over Nature. It is the Age of Technics, "a world made by man, not existing in Nature." This is the exact description of the Ahrimanic world, of which Steiner so often speaks as threatening the spiritual destiny of Man and the Earth. It needs, to meet it, Berdyaev declares, "a spiritual movement, the work of freedom".
The similarity of diagnosis and remedy to that of Steiner is still more apparent in the final page of the book.The world is moving through darkness towards a new spirituality and a new mysticism. The new mysticism will not consider this objectivised world as final reality. ... In it will be revealed a true gnosis . . . and all the tormenting contradictions and divisions will be resolved in the new mysticism, which will be deeper than religions and ought to unite them. It will be the victory over false forms of social mysticism, the victory of the realm of the Spirit over the realm of Caesar. . . . The final triumph of the realm of Spirit presupposes a change in the structure of human consciousness. This can be envisaged only eschatologically.
It is a statement of sober fact to say that Rudolf Steiner had arrived at this diagnosis fifty years and more ago. It was in 1886, in his early twenties, that he had come to the decision, posited by Maurice Nicoll, that the way past the apparent limitation of human knowledge was to be found in the evolution of a higher level of consciousness. As we have seen, he spent his whole life expounding the possibility of this, and out-lining the spiritual remedies that will meet the situation. In doing this he cannot be charged as he sometimes has been charged with an arrogant assumption that man has his destiny entirely in his own hands, and is independent of divine help, such as J. G. Bennett speaks of, or as is implicit in Berdyaev's words that the new age "can be envisaged only eschatologically". No one has spoken more explicitly than Steiner of the constant work of the whole spirit-world in forwarding the eternal destiny of humanity; no one has more strongly asserted the complete dependence of man upon the unique work of Christ. But what others look for in an eschatological hope of which they have no immediate certainty, Steiner saw as a day that was already dawning, the redemption of human thinking that was the culmination of the redemptive work of Christ, and which He is at this moment offering to mankind.
The secret of the future lies in the transformation of man, by his rediscovery of himself.
This is the end of "Perception at higher levels of consciousness"
Go to the German version of this chapter: Wahrnehmung auf höheren Ebenen des Bewußtseins
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