Initiation exercices

From Anthroposophy

This provides explanatory background through Rudolf Steiner lecture excerpts, commenting on what takes place in main initiation exercises that one finds back in all or most contemporary spiritual paths and schools of initiation, a.o. in Franz Bardon's Initiation into Hermetics but also in Steiner's own Knowledge of the Higher World (KHW).

Conscious breathing


In the breathing process, the I flows into the astral body, but then it goes directly into the lungs along with the air. Thus something from the super-sensible man also underlies the breathing process, but not in the same way as occurs in the nerve-sense process, where the I takes hold of the physical organization directly. In the breathing process, the I permeates itself with the astral forces, taking hold of oxygen and only then, no longer as pure I organization but as I-astral organization, does it take hold of the organism with the help of the breathing process.

1917-12-11-GA179 gives an introduction to the etheric breath and breathing

With what can we perceive this? Man already possesses the instrument needed for such a perception, but on a stage of evolution that still renders a real perception impossible. What we would thus perceive cannot reach the eye, nor the ear — cannot enter any sense organ.

Instead — please grasp this well — it is breathed in, it is sucked in with the breath. The etheric foundation of our lung (the physical lung is out of the question, for, such as it is, the lung is not a real perceptive organ) that which lies etherically at the foundation of our lung, is really an organ of perception, but between birth and death the human being cannot use it as an organ of perception for what he breathes in. The air we breathe, every breath of air and the way in which it enters the whole rhythm of our life, really contains our deeper reality between birth and death. …

Let us imagine the physical organization of the head and the physical organization of the lung; from the universe come cosmic impulses that express themselves rhythmically in the movements of the lungs. Through our lungs we are related with the entire universe, and the entire universe works at our etheric body. When we pass through the portal of death, we lay aside the etheric body. We enter that which is active in our lung-system, and this is connected with the entire universe. This accounts for the surprising consonance to be found in the rhythm of human life and the rhythm of breathing.

1953-10-18-KK015 (Karl König)

In the sphere of our senses, we actually inhale warmth, and in this inhaled warmth, light sound and life are contained. The exhaled warmth does not go to the outer world, it flows into our body. In our chest system, we inhale air and exhale warmth containing light sound life. These two streams meet and settle in what science calls the lymphs. This cosmic stream carries light, sound and life as it descends, and in descending it leaves the light behind in our head where it becomes our inner light. The sound is left behind to change into the inner activity of our rhythmic system. The life goes right down into physical substance, and this is what really fills and nourishes us. This life ether takes hold of carbon, the sound unites with oxygen and nitrogen, and light works together with suplhur and phoshorus.

Breathing exercices before MoG


[from the synopsis:]

Originally not the brain but the rhythm of the breath was to have been the foundation for cognition. A wonderful harmony exists between the rhythm of the human breath and rhythms in the cosmos. Before the Mystery of Golgotha man had imaginative clairvoyance because the Angeloi were active in his intellect. Man's senses were then exposed to luciferic influences. After death the Angeloi were active in the memories of his earthly perceptions.

[from the lecture]

There were people of deeply religious natures in the Orient who strove, before the Mystery of Golgotha, to bring consciousness into their breathing. To imitate this procedure today is harmful. The aim of the breathing exercises, described in Oriental writings, was to irradiate the process of breathing with consciousness. But in regard to certain higher knowledge man's earthly consciousness is doomed to be powerless. These ancient practices are being imitated today because it is not realized that through Lucifer man has been deprived of the possibility to irradiate his breathing with knowledge.


The concentration exercise is so key there are many books only on this exercise, see eg:

  • Mounu Sadhu: Concentration A Guide To Mental Mastery
  • Franz Bardon IIH: steps 2 and 3
  • Swami Sivananda Saraswati:
    • Concentration – 'the master key to success'
    • Concentration and meditation
  • Ernest Wood: Concentration
  • Rudolf Steiner explains, as part of the Rosecrucian path, the training of imagination by contemplation of symbols

Here follows an example of a relevant explanation.

1911-03-21-GA128 explains how this exercise is about separating blood-nerve interaction (SWCC)

Let us suppose for a moment that we artificially interrupt the connection between the nerve and the circulation of the blood, that we artificially put a man in such a condition that the activity of the nerve should be severed from the circulation of the blood, so that they could no longer act upon each other. We can indicate this by a diagram in which the two parts are shown more widely separated, so that a reciprocal action between the nerves and the blood can no longer take place. In this case the condition may be such that no impression can be made upon the nerve. Something of this sort can be brought about if, for example, the nerve is cut. If it should come to pass by some means that no impression is made upon the nerve, then it is also not strange if the man himself is unable to experience anything especial through this nerve. But let us suppose that in spite of the interrupting of the connection between the nerve and the blood a certain impression is made upon the nerve. This can be brought to pass through an external experiment by stimulating the nerve by means of an electric current. Such external influence on the nerve does not concern us here. But there is still another way of affecting the nerve under conditions in which it cannot act upon the course of the blood normally connected with it.

It is possible to bring about such a condition of the human organism; and this is done in a particular way, by means of certain concepts, emotions and feelings which the human being has experienced and made a part of himself, and which, if this inner experiment is to be truly successful, ought, properly speaking, to be really lofty, moral or intellectual concepts.

When a man practises a rigorous inner concentration of the soul on such imaginative concepts, forming these into symbols let us say, it then happens, if he does this in a state of waking consciousness, that he takes complete control of the nerve and, as a result of this inner concentration, draws it back to a certain extent from the course of the blood.

For when man simply gives himself up to normal, external impressions, the natural connection between the nerve and the circulation is present; but if, in strict concentration upon his I, he holds fast to what he obtains in a normal way, apart from all external impressions and apart from what the outside world brings about in the I, he then has something in his soul which can have originated only in the consciousness and is the content of consciousness, and which makes a special demand upon the nerve and separates its activity then and there from its connection with the activity of the blood. The consequence of this is that, by means of such inner concentration, which actually breaks the connection between the nerve and the blood, that is, when it is so strong that the nerve is in a certain sense freed from its connection with the blood-system, the nerve is at the same time freed from that for which the blood is the external instrument, namely, from the ordinary experiences of the I.

This finds its complete experimental support through the inner experiences of spiritual training designed to lead upward into the higher worlds, that as a result of such concentration the entire nerve-system is removed from the blood-system and from its ordinary tasks in connection with the I.

As the consequence, whereas the nerve-system had previously written its action upon the tablet of the blood, it now permits what it contains within itself as working power to return into itself, and does not permit it to reach the blood. It is therefore possible purely through processes of inner concentration, to separate the blood-system from the nerve-system, and thereby to cause that which, pictorially expressed, would otherwise have flowed into the I, to course back again into the nerve-system.

The peculiar thing is that once the human being actually brings this about through such inward exertion of the soul, he has then an entirely different sort of inner experience. He stands before a completely changed horizon of consciousness which may be described somewhat as follows:

When the nerve and the blood have an appropriate connection with each other, as is the case in normal life, man brings into relation with the I the impressions which come from within his inner being and those which come from the outer world. The I then conserves those forces which reach out along the entire horizon of consciousness, and everything is related to the I.

But when, through inner concentration, he separates his nerve-system, lifts it through inner soul-forces out of his blood-system, he does not then live in his ordinary I. He cannot then say “I” with respect to that which he calls his “Self,” in the same sense in which he had previously said “I” in his ordinary normal consciousness. It then seems to the man as if he had quite consciously lifted a portion of his real being out of himself, as if something which he does not ordinarily see, which is super-sensible and works in upon his nerves, does not now impress itself upon his blood-tablet or make any impression upon his ordinary ego. He feels himself lifted away from the entire blood-system, raised up, as it were, out of his organism; and he meets something different as a substitute for what he has experienced in the blood-system. Whereas the nerve-activity was previously imaged in the blood-system, it is now reflected back into itself. He is now living in something different; he feels himself in another I, another Self, which before this could at best be merely divined. He feels a super-sensible world uplifted within him.

Transformation of soul mirrors

Transformation of soul mirrors maps to Step 2 in IIH.

See also: Man's transformation and spiritualization: by practicing initiation exercices through conscious choice and free will, using the consciousness soul, Man causes a purifying transformation by which the astral, etheric and physical bodies are transformed into the spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man higher principles.


Let us now consider the principle which in Christian esoterics was called 'the Father'. We know that not only the astral body, but also the ether body and the physical body are transformed through the I. They are transformed unconsciously by people, but consciously so by an esotericist or occultist or someone undergoing esoteric training.

Everything that influences only the astral body is mere preparation for the actual esoteric or occult training.

Occult training begins when we leam to work into the ether or life body, when the human being is enabled, through the instruction given by the occult teacher, to transform temperaments, inclinations and habits, thus becoming a different person. This alone will give insight into the true higher world—that the person changes.

You can study the theory of physics and this will only affect your astral body. You can learn all kinds of things, and they will only affect the astral body.

It is only when teachings have such power that they are able to transform the human being that organs develop from inside that allow us to look into the higher world. Then the ether body is transformed and also the physical body.

And because the transformation of the physical body comes from the breathing process, bringing rhythm into breathing, a physical body illumined by conscious awareness is called atman. The Christian esoteric term is `the Father'.

In 1922-11-17-GA218 Steiner covers what he calls exact clairvoyance and ideal magic, and at a certain point comes to describe:

When we survey our life with our ordinary consciousness, we perceive that in a certain sense we underwent a change with the years and decades that passed by. Though slowly, our habits gradually changed. We acquired certain capacities and certain others disappeared. One who observes himself honestly in regard to certain capacities pertaining to his earthly life can say that whenever he acquired a new capacity he became a different person. This is how life transforms us. We completely surrender to life and life educates and trains us and develops the configuration of our soul.

But those who wish to enter the supersensible world with full knowledge — in other words, those who wish to acquire ideal magic must not only intensify thought, as described, so that it enables them to recognise a second form of their existence. But they must also emancipate their will from the physical body on which it depends in ordinary life. We can only activate our will through the fact that we use our physical body, our legs, our arms, our instruments of speech. The physical body is the foundation of our volitional life.

The following can be done, and this has to be done quite systematically by those spiritual investigators who wish to attain to ideal magic in addition to exact clairvoyance. Such strong will-power should be unfolded, that at a certain moment of life they can say to themselves: I must lose a certain habit and my soul must assume a new habit.

When we apply our will-power strongly in order to change certain forms of experience completely, a few years may sometimes be needed for this — but it can be done. We can be educated as it were not only by life itself, through the means of the physical body, but we ourselves can take in hand this education, this self-training.

Such strong exercises of the will, which are also described in the above-mentioned books, lead those who wish to be initiates in the modern meaning to new experiences besides those that imply the retrospection of our daytime experiences during sleep.

In this lecture he also covers out of body experiences during sleep, etc

1923-04-06-GA224 - Forming of Destiny in Sleeping and Waking

1922-12-22-GA219 - sensory perception / breathing / astral body / waking&sleeping

Senses = astral body in contact with air breathing rhythm

Sphere of senses – angels

Sphere of breathing – archangels

Sleeping/awaking – astral body in/out -> memory effect

When breathing becomes conscious, you enter spiritual world

process of sense-perceptions as a way how the astral body is in contact with the air breathing rhythm; difference between how:

  • When awake, the astral body in the physical body connects to the outside world
  • When asleep, the astral body if out
  • When waking .. memory effect arises


Related pages

References and further reading