Since the Industrial Revolution, society has rapidly adopted a materialistic perspective. This has also led to gross misunderstanding of spirituality and religion. For example, many people think that Christianity promises heaven after death for those who believe in God. Some people do not even consider the importance of doing virtuous deeds while alive. This is a big mistake.
Dr. Rudolf Steiner has written several books and spoken many times on the commonality among different religions. He holds the view that all religions are similar in terms of their practices and objectives; however, because of differences in time, location, and audience, the practices promulgated have been difference. Dr. Steiner believes that the desire to surpass oneself is a good start-subsequent continuation with spiritual practice will allow one to experience and see the spiritual world. After that? This may surprise you, but Dr. Steiner also discusses the method of “overcoming life and death”, which has the objective of enabling people to serve and sacrifice for all others, just as Jesus did.
In the book “Knowledge of the higher world and its attainment”, Dr. Steiner points out humans has the natural ability to see the spiritual world. According to ancient mystics, what they document about the spiritual world are as real as what we see in this physical world with our eyes. Training based on the method proposed by these high-ability mystics is called occult training, and the method is called occult teaching or spiritual science.
Some people may think that if occult teaching is so important, it should not be made a secret. In actual fact, it is like learning to write. Those who have not learned how to write do not know how. However, with the correct method, they can learn how to do so. In fact, those who have learned the method can even be teachers. Furthermore, you do not need to specially look for a teacher. As the Taoists say, it is not the disciple who seeks the teacher; rather, it is the teacher who seeks the disciple. Spiritual initiates agree on three principles: (a) not to withhold the teachings to those who deserve to be taught, (b) not to teach those who do not deserve to be taught, and (c) not to control the will of others.Dr. Steiner says that it was easy to engage in spiritual training in the past because the spiritual temples or abodes were observable to the naked eye. However, these are not observable these days as the modern society is less spiritual. However, these spiritual temples are everywhere, and those who are willing to find them can do so.
The first prerequisite prior to training is that you must have a special trait embedded deep in your soul or true nature. If you don’t, you will need to put in the effort to develop it. This special trait is the respectful mind, that is, the mind that respects and seeks the true method. It is a blessing to have this trait and is particularly rare among children. If we do not have the attitude that “there are beings or things that are superior to us and deserve our respect”, we will not have the strength to elevate ourselves to higher levels of spiritual practice. Hence, we can say that “to climb the spiritual stairway, we need to go through the door of humility”. Only through respect will you get the true teaching.
Dr. Steiner points out that the respectful mind is particularly important in the modern era because modern culture is characterized by criticism and blame of others, not respect for and service to others. Every criticism you levy against others weakens your spirituality; in contrast, a respectful attitude enhances your spirituality. Spiritual practice was easier in the past when life was simpler because ordinary things in life would engender the positive energies of praise and respect. These positive energies have been substituted by negative energies in the highly materialistic world, and spiritual practice is now made more difficult; hence, we need to practice harder to improve ourselves. This positive attitude does not come from research and listening, but from actual practice in our daily lives, from continuous internal reflection, and from generation of an aspiration to serve others. If I keep criticizing others, I am weakening my practice; if I praise his virtues, I am accumulating energies for my practice. Only spiritual practitioners will know the great importance of avoiding evil and promoting the virtuous.
Besides externally observing this “precept” of not criticizing others, it is important to thoroughly transform our internal mindset to serve and not criticize others. This will open our spiritual eyes, and we will find that the people, events, and things that we encounter are no longer the same, and that our experiences have a new meaning. We may look the same, but our minds have changed. Just as sunlight will bring life to living things, respect and the calling to serve others can lead us to have a new lease of life in terms of how we view others.
In the beginning, it may be hard to believe how these attitudes have anything to do with the power of our spiritual sensitivity. This disbelief stems from our thinking that spiritual sensitivity and our souls have nothing in common. Note that the soul needs feelings just like the body needs food. The feelings of respect and serving others are food for our souls, particularly our spiritual sensitivity. In contrast, disrespect, loathe, and underrating others are feelings that hurt our spiritual sensitivity. People who have opened their spiritual eyes can sense all these from a person’s aura. Respect can also awaken one’s compassion within the soul and attract positive energies around us. Thus, respect is very important.
At this time, we can engage in another practice to enhance the strength that arises from respect. This practice involves not being distracted by stray thoughts and events around us and requires that we turn our focus inwards to discover the spiritual life-force within us. The outside world may be filled with pristine brightness, but we have to experience the spiritual holiness within us before we discover the holiness outside.
We need to set aside some quiet time every day to be with ourselves and re-experience what has gone by during the day. Over time, we will discover that it is almost like experiencing a brand-new external world. We will feel joy, but do not be fixated on it; just realize the message in these experiences. Otherwise, we will increase our attachments and violate the objectives we set out to achieve. Understand that our practice is not for ourselves. The transmission of occult teaching has a basic principle – “For all practices, if the purpose is for one’s own benefit, then one has strayed from the correct path.” If the purpose of the practice is for the universe and to purify human nature, then one has progressed.
FORMAL PRACTICE – THEQUIET WITHIN
In terms of formal practice, seek to achieve calmness and quiet internally. Quieten down, and while in this state of quietude, contemplate on what is non-moving and essential (termed the “owner”), and what is constantly moving and non-essential (termed “temporary defilements”).
You must be sincere and strict in carrying out this practice. Set aside some time every day to reflect on the joy and sorrow encountered during the day. Contemplate on what you cared about, experienced, did, and felt-re-assess everything again from a third person’s perspective. For example, something very unfortunate happened to me today. If it happened to my neighbor, how would I feel? Would I be uncaring, or would I rejoice in his misfortune? In other words, we should be objective, face our true nature (free of any pretenses), and assess ourselves. If we attained a real quietude, the “owner” and “temporary defilements” will be separated! Before we reach this stage, we have to sincerely preserve on this practice. Those who preserve to the end will open their spiritual eyes and see a brand-new world.
Those who practice this method will discover that the power of concentration enables them to be stronger, and not to be perturbed and influenced by things around them. They are no longer angry at things that would have angered them in the past. Nor are they frightened by things they had feared in the past. They gradually develop the ability to determine the impact that external things have on themselves. For example, while they would have been hurt in the past when scolded by others, they can be immune from it due to their power of concentration. In the past, they would have been very impatient in a long queue; now, they take their time to observe their minds. The space within which we grow comes from the quiet in our minds. Understand that we will not grow if we are influenced by external events-under such circumstances, we are not the owners of our reactions as we are controlled by external events. If external events determine whether I am angry, I have not found my true “owner”,
After reflecting on ourselves, we need to surpass ourselves and put our aspirations on advanced spiritual attainment. In this way, we will gradually have internal realizations and understand that we belong to an advanced spiritual world. We will then shift our lives’ focus to this internal true nature. The spiritual practitioners can hear their own inner voices while they are in concentration. They can now transcend what goes on in their daily lives – everything has quietened down, the external world is quiet, and they enter into a world of pure thoughts.
At this time, learn how to experience this world of thoughts. Be blissful at this focus on the spiritual nature. Experience how this world of pure thoughts is even more real than the external world. The thoughts being observed are more real than the material things around us. During this stage, we will discover that our thoughts seem to have images and sounds. In the past, our ears are the only organs that hear. Now, the sounds float into our spiritual worlds, and we discover a new internal language. Students who experience this stage will have a great sense of joy. As a result, a radiance coming from within will shine forth on the external world, and a brand new life begins within each of them.
This new life is termed meditation and is the tool that allows one to surpass our sense organs and mundane knowledge. At this point in time, confused students who are attached to this sense of joy will be unable to realize the true spiritual knowledge. The student has to maintain a sense of clarity to move on. If problems are encountered at this stage, read existing literature related to meditation, or consult an experienced meditation master. Be observant of all that happens at this time; the point is not to lose connection with the practical world. In fact, the student will realize that everything that he does has its meaning and involves a lesson to be learned. The student now understands that the purpose of all his sufferings and exhaustion in the past is so that he can learn, and that they have a bigger meaning associated with the universe and spiritual nature. Hence, meditation allows him to be strong and not be festered by feelings of suffering and exhaustion. Meditation also allows his indestructible true nature (that is unrestricted by death) to surface.
Hence, meditation is the only key to spiritual knowledge. However, further practice is necessary. Spiritual science teaches the following three methods:
- Preparation: Opening the spiritual senses,
- Enlightenment: Igniting the spiritual light, and
- Initiation: Connecting with the higher spiritual world.