This provides explanatory background - through Rudolf Steiner lecture excerpts - as a commentary 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 'Knowledge of the Higher World' (KHW) and Daskalos' 'The Esoteric Practice'
An ounce of practice is better than tons of theory.
Kikis Christofides (Kostas in Markides' books)
You should always keep in mind the principle of limits that we find in Nature. Ice will remain ice until a certain critical point in temperature which will transform it into water. Water will remain in its liquid form until a certain point in temperature which will transform it into vapor. It is the same with the exercises. You may struggle for years to accomplish a certain feat and you may get desperate that you are not progressing. Yet you are progressing towards the critical limit without being aware of it. Some day, unexpectedly, you will wake up and begin to live consciously within the astral and spirit worlds. But unless you persist and persevere you cannot go very far.
spiritual unfoldment is self-discipline
we make an impression on the physical body through every ideation and feeling .. whether we perceive it or not. .. things are different in a meditation .. meditations stimulate the etheric body and not the physical body; the etheric brain oscillates while the physical body is quiet. Thereby the etheric body can imprint its meditative experiences on the astral body and thus develop the organs it needs in it. And this has a salutary effect on the physical body.
on initiation exercises in general
The exercises have an effect not only on the astral and etheric bodies but also on the pineal gland. And when the effects are very penetrating, they go from the pineal gland out to the lymph vessels and from there into the blood.
(SWCC) - see also Kundalini
When a person meditates, this awakens forces in and develops the hypophysis (pituitary gland), it begins to to shine brighter and brighter, sends forth rays, and gradually with its rays it encompasses the pineal gland lying in front of it, and stimulates it. This process organizes the organic formation of the astral body, from the chaos of feelings and sensations, into spirit-self or manas. When the pituitary gland causes golden threads to flow around the pineal gland, then the time has come when [the transformation of the astral body into spirit-self, into manas], has progressed far enough ... for the etheric body to be transformed into buddhi
full lecture on Alchemy#1924-06-11-GA327
What are we actually doing when we meditate?
Meditation as we ought to practise it only slightly touches the breathing process; our soul is living and weaving in concentration and meditation. But all these spiritual exercises have a bodily counterpart, however subtle and intimate. In meditation, the regular rhythm of breathing, which is so closely connected with Man's life, undergoes a definite if subtle change. When we meditate we always retain a little more carbon-dioxide in us than in the ordinary everyday consciousness. We do not, as in ordinary life, thrust out the whole bulk of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere where nitrogen is everywhere around us. We hold some of it back.
Now consider: If you knock your head against something hard, like a table, you become conscious only of your own pain. But if you gently stroke the surface of the table, then you will become conscious of the table. The same thing happens in meditation. It gradually develops an awareness of the nitrogen all around you. That is the real process in meditation. Everything becomes an object of knowledge, including the life of the nitrogen around us.
For nitrogen is a very learned fellow. He teaches us about the doings of Mercury. Venus, etc. because he knows, or rather senses them. All these things rest upon perfectly real processes.
This exercise is part of IIH Step 1.
[Conscious breathing] A Man has an organ in himself that fills with air when he inhales and loses this air when he exhales. It fills up with outside air right into its finest branches on inhalation. But spirit lives in the air around us. When a man inhales he breathes spirit in, and when he exhales he puts some of the spirit that lives in him into the exhaled air. The spirit develops in him ever more and also outside in the world through the rhythmicized, spirit-filled breath. The spiritual man's growth is promoted through breathing in and out. The most important thing is the spirit that a Man puts into his exhaled breath. The spirit is built up by thoughts. A man builds up and streams out his spirit through every thought that he gives along with the exhalation.
notes by Anna Weissmann from an esoteric lesson
Those who strive for inner development must begin already today to get these forces gradually more and more under their control.
They do this by learning consciously to inhale and exhale. When humans inhale, then the forces of the 'I' become active, the forces that connect them with the powers of the universe, the forces that radiate outward from the heart.
And when human beings exhale, and when they hold their breath, then those forces of the 'I' become active which push toward the middle point, toward the heart, and create for them there a solid center.
Thus pupils are learning already today, when they consciously carry out their breathing exercises in this sense, gradually to become master of the forces of their 'I.'
However, no one should believe that he or she is allowed independently to undertake such exercises if he or she has not yet received any instructions for them. [editor: Rudolf Steiner warned many times for inappropriate special/excessive breathing exercises such as pranayama and others, this is different for conscious breathing as in modern 20th century esoteric practice such as the teachings by Bardon or Daskalos]
see: Etherization of blood#1909-04-10-GA109
spiritualization of the physical body begins with the spiritualization of the breath
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.
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.
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.
Karl Brandler-Pracht (1936)
wrote the book: 'Der Suggestions-Atem' with the subtitle 'Ein Weg zur Erhaltung der körperlichen und geistigen Vollkraft bis in das hohe Alter', published in 1936
On skin brushing and / for pore breathing
in 'Praktische Vorbereitungen Zur Magie', translated as 'Practical preparations for magic', this is covered also (see extract below, freely translated)
The skin is, besides the lungs, the most important breathing and exchange organ, and this not just in relation to magic, but in fluidic and astral radiations.
The countless pores of the skin is a complex apparatus of a very fine art of functioning, like an type of antenna or polarity apparatus for very fine electromagnetic skin processes.
Blockages of skin pores disable or paralyze this important double function and will show in noticeable signs of congestion that can be experienced, as they spread across and infringe functioning of organs and thereby negatively influence vitality and hamper the radiation of the vital force 'od' by the magician.
In esoteric magical development methods of the ancient sciences, this personal hygiene or care was described in ritual fashion and existed out of particular, often quite complex cleansing exercises.
Justin B magician
As for the pore breathing exercise, I think brushing is a great exercise ... .. by brushing you are stimulating the nerves and senses, making them very receptive and drawing awareness into the body spot. This increases vital power. It will, through doing this, allow you to be able to draw in more vital force (or chi) because of the repeated experience of tingling there. It is like a full body meditation that stimulates the skills that produce the magical abilities you will need later on.
Regarding 'give us our daily' breath and how Man's bodies are sustained by the life ether and lower ethers, there lies much into the study of the two schemas FMC00.015A and FMC00.463 on Human breath together. We breathe air, but as a microcosm we also inhale the ethers through fine cosmic breathing. These schemas relate the physiological functioning to what we can experience in meditation practice.
Breathing exercises 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.
This exercise is part of IIH Step 1.
Conscious eating is described as a reverse ritual by which Man has a communion with the spiritual world and an act of trans-substantiation.
See also: Transmutation and through the The heart's two blood circuits and ganganda greida (on Parsifal).
Today, when a man eats — that is, unites external nourishment with his organism — he thinks: There inside is the organism, which cooks the stuff and takes from it what it needs, and lets the rest pass away unused, and so it goes on. On the other hand, I look out into the world through my senses. I take up the perceptible and transform it by my understanding; I take it into my soul, as I take nourishment into my body, What is out there, what eyes see and ears hear, I then carry within me as a mental picture; what is out there as wheat, fish, meat or whatever, I carry inside me, after having digested it.
Yes, but this leaves out the fact that the substances used in nourishment have their inner aspect. The experience of food through our external senses is not related to our deeper being. With what your tongue tastes and your stomach digests, in the way that can be confirmed by ordinary scientific research, you can maintain your daily metabolism; but you cannot take care of the other metabolism, which leads for example to the change of teeth about the age of seven.
The essential thing in this other metabolism lies in the deeper forces at work in it, which are not observed today by any chemical study.
What we take as food has a deep spiritual aspect, and this is very active in man, but only while he sleeps.
In your foods live the spirits of the highest hierarchies, the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. Hence in your food you have something cosmically formative, and therein lie the forces which provide imperceptibly for the change of teeth, for adolescence, and for the later transformations of the human being.
Only the daily metabolism is brought about by the things known to external science. The metabolism which goes through life as a whole is cared for by the highest Hierarchies.
And behind the sense-perceptible world are the beings of the third hierarchy (H3): Angels, Archangels, and Archai. Hence we can say:
- sense-perception, third hierarchy H3
- foodstuffs, first hierarchy H1
- and in between is the second hierarchy H2, which lives in the breathing, in all the rhythmic activities of the human organism.
[editor note - Bardon uses conscious breathing (H2), conscious eating (H1), and senses (H3)]
The Bible describes this quite truly. The spirits called the Elohim, together with Jahve, are led into men through the breath. The ancient wisdom was quite correctly aware of these things, in an atavistic way. Thus you are led through a real study of man into a true cosmology.
Spiritual Science re-inaugurates this way of looking at things. It looks for man again in the external world, and brings the entire universe into man. This can be done only if one knows that man is really a trinity, a threefold being. Today both revelation and experience are suppressed; man does not do them justice. He does not do justice to his sense-perceptions, or to the foods he eats, for he regards them merely as material objects. But that is an Ahrimanic distortion, which ignores the deeper life that underlies all created things, of which foodstuffs are an example.
Spiritual Science does not lead to a contempt for matter, but to a spiritualisation of it. If anyone were to look at food with contempt, he would have to learn that Spiritual Science says, in a way that would seem grotesque to him: the highest hierarchies (H1), Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones, they are alive in nutriments.
also talks about conscious eating & drinking
To begin with we will confine ourselves to the fact that man is related to the outer world during the waking state through his senses and through his metabolism. We will consider this at first in connection only with things that are common knowledge.
Let us then start from the fact that during his waking state man takes foodstuffs into himself from the outside world, inner activity being promoted by the process of digestion. But it must not be forgotten that while, in the waking state, after the food has been taken, inner physical and etheric activity proceeds under the influence of the intaken foodstuffs, this physical and etheric organism of man is permeated by his I-organization and astral body.
It is also the case that during the waking state, man's I and astral 'being' take command of what goes on in the physical and etheric bodies in connection with the process of nourishment.
But what thus takes place under the influence of the I and astral being does not continue during sleep. During sleep the physical and etheric bodies of man are worked upon by forces that issue, not from the Earth but from the cosmic environment of the Earth—from the world of the Stars.
It might be said—and not in a figurative sense for it has real meaning—that
- day man eats the substances of the Earth and
- by night takes into himself what the stars and their activities give him.
In a certain sense, therefore, man is bound up with the Earth while he is awake and removed from the Earth while he is asleep; heavenly processes take their course in his physical and etheric bodies during sleep.
Materialistic [or mineral] science thinks that when a man is asleep, the substances he has consumed simply activate their own forces in him, whereas in reality, whatever substances a man takes into himself are worked upon during his sleep by the cosmic forces in the environment of the Earth. Suppose, for instance, we consume white of egg—albumen. This albumen is only fettered to the Earth through the fact that during the waking state we are permeated by our soul and spirit—our astral body and I. During sleep this albumen is worked upon by the whole planetary system from Moon to Saturn, and by the world of the fixed stars. And a chemist who wished to study the inner processes taking place in man during sleep would have not only to be versed in earthly chemistry but also in a spiritual chemistry, for the processes then are different from those that take their course during waking life.
The I and astral being of man are, as you know, separated from the physical and etheric bodies during sleep and are not directly related with the world of the stars ; but they are directly related with the Beings of whom the Sun, Moon and Stars are the physical mirror-images—namely, with the beings of the hierarchies.
Man asleep is a duality; his I and astral body - I could equally well say, his spirit and soul - become subject to the spiritual Beings of the higher kingdoms of the Universe. His bodies, the physical and etheric bodies, are subject to the physical reflections, the cosmic-physical mirror-images of these higher Beings.
Aware of himself as an earthly being, man has become more and more a materialistic philistine under the influence of intellectualism. Almost as aptly as the modern age is called the epoch of intellectual and scientific progress, it could be called the epoch of materialistic philistinism. For man is not conscious that he is dependent on anything else than sense-impressions coming from the Earth, the rhythmic processes set going in him by earthly processes, the metabolic processes also occasioned in him by earthly conditions. Hence he does not know his real place in the Universe. The factors in operation here are of tremendous complexity. As soon as the veil that is spread before man in order that he may see only the sense-world and not the spiritual world behind it, is drawn aside, life becomes extraordinarily complex.
takes the above as part of a series of lectures in GA219 and frames into the context of a reverse ritual. longer extract, link on that page.
For it is a fact that when we take something that serves us as food and look upon its form, then we find in it a copy of the constellations of the fixed stars. We take it into ourselves. With the substance of the Earth that is contained in Earth-activity, we take into us the being of the stars, the being of the heavens. But we must be conscious that we as human beings, by a deliberate, loving act of human will, transform that which has become matter, back again into spirit. In this manner we perform a real act of trans-substantiation. We become aware of our own part in the world and so the spiritual thought-life is quickened within us.
In Earth-activity draws near to me,
Given to me in substance-imaged form,
The Heavenly Being of the Stars.
In Willing I see them transformed with Love!
And when we think of that which we take into ourselves to permeate the fluid part of our organism, the circulation of the blood and juices, then that, in so far as it originates on Earth, is a copy not of the heavens or of the stars but of the deeds of the stars, that is to say, the movements of the planets. And I can become conscious how I spiritualize that, if I stand rightly in the world; and I can speak the following formula:
Books on this topic
The concentration exercise is so key there are many books only on this exercise, five examples are:
- Mounu Sadhu: 'Concentration - a guide to mental mastery' (1959)
- Swami Sivananda Saraswati:
- 'Concentration – the master key to success'
- 'Concentration and meditation' (1945, 14th edition 2009)
- Ernest Wood: 'Concentration: an approach to meditation' (1949)
- Hamid Bey: Practical method mental-efficiency concentration (1951)
- Christmas Humphreys: 'Concentration and Meditation: A Manual of Mind Development' (1968)
whereby the Sivananda and Mouno Sadhu books have become classics. But see also:
- Franz Bardon IIH: steps 2 and 3
- Rudolf Steiner explains, as part of the Rosecrucian path, the training of imagination by contemplation of symbols
PS: Also on the use of the faculty of imagination
- Ophiel (Edward C. Peach, 1904-1988): The art and practice of creative visualization
- Draja Mickaharic: 'Gaining Life Experiences' (2011)
- contains info about vicarious visualization. That is: to visualize as lively so it becomes real, and use this technique to learn about oneself and reactions to certain (extreme) circumstances.
describes how the concentration exercises and working of the astral body are a foundation (necessary but not solely sufficient) for developing clairvoyant faculties and the process of illumination
When in his daily life Man lets the impressions of the senses work upon him, these impressions bring certain fruits for the ordinary life on the physical plane. These impressions pass over into the astral body, which in turn transmits them to the I. But these impressions are such that Man cannot hold them fast when, with his astral body and I, he slips out of his physical and etheric bodies during the night. What Man receives in this way from the physical plane does not penetrate into him so strongly that he can retain it as a permanent impression.
But when a person performs the exercises of meditation and concentration, these are so adjusted, in accordance with thousands of years of experience, that the astral body no longer loses the impressions, but retains them when it slips out of the physical body in the night. Through the exercises the astral body receives plastic impressions, which shape and member it as the physical organs have been membered. Thus the astral body is worked on for certain periods through these exercises. Thereby the super-sensible organs of vision are imprinted on the astral body.
It would be a long time, however, before Man could use his organs of vision if they were imprinted only into his astral body. Something further must take place so that the astral body, when it returns into the etheric body, may stamp upon that body, like the impression of a seal, what has taken shape within itself. Only when what has taken shape in the astral body imprints itself upon the etheric body, only then does the illumination take place that makes it possible for the person to see the spiritual world as he sees the physical world today.
Here follows an example of a relevant explanation.
explains how this exercise is about separating blood-nerve interaction (SWCC). See also longer extract and Schema FMC00.159 on Blood and nerves.
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.
People will more and more feel the need really to concentrate their thoughts, to focus their whole soul activity on sharply defined thoughts which they place in front of their consciousness. Whilst they would otherwise let their senses roam from one thing or fact to another, they will more and more often direct their thought life to certain things of their own choosing; even if only for a short time, they will concentrate on a definite thought, so as to focus their soul activity on this thought. They will then discover something that a lot of you know very well. Everyone makes a certain discovery in the course of concentrating.
If we place a thought in the centre of our consciousness and focus all our soul activity on it, we shall notice the thought growing stronger and stronger. Certainly it does.
But then there comes a point where it does not get stronger any more but gets weaker and fades away. This is an experience lots of you will have had. The thought has to fade away, it has, as it were, to die away inside. For the kind of thoughts we have to begin with and the way we think, are through the instrument of the physical body, and we concentrate the kind of thinking we do by means of the instrument of the physical body until the moment the thought dies, then we slip out of the physical body.
We would go into the unconscious altogether if, parallel with this concentration exercise, we did not attempt to do something else to maintain our consciousness when we have slipped out of our physical body. What we have to do to maintain our consciousness when we are outside, is what we call leading a calm and composed life and accepting the things of the world calmly. We can do even more than accept things calmly. We can take seriously a theory we know so well, namely the concept of karma. What do I mean?
and continues to make the link with karma (see full lecture for context)
It is more difficult to form a union with your destiny in this way than to resist it, but what we lose when our thought passes away can only be regained by drawing into ourselves, like this, what is outside us. We cannot stay in what is within our skin if the thought fades when we concentrate on it, but it will carry us out of ourselves if we have taken hold of our destiny, our karma, in the true sense. We thus awaken ourselves again. The thought dies, but we carry forth the identification we have grasped between our I and our destiny, and it carries us about the world.
This composure with respect to our destiny, this sincere acceptance of destiny, is what gives us existence when we are outside our body. Obviously this does not need to alter our life on the physical plane. We cannot always do that. But the attitude we have to acquire in a corner of our soul must be there, for the moments when we really want to be able to live consciously outside our body.
Two maxims can be our guiding principles and can mean a very great deal to us. The first of these to impress upon our minds is:
Strive for the dying away of the thought in the universe.
For the thought becomes a living force outside, only when it dies away in the universe. Yet we cannot unite ourselves with this living force unless we work at the content of the second maxim:
Strive for the resurrection of destiny in the ‘I’.
If you achieve this, you unite what has been reborn in the thought with the resurrected I outside you.
Daskalos in MOS Ch 13.
.. you must learn how to create, through the imprinting property of the etheric-double, noetic [mental] images.
It implies learning how to transform the formless vitality or substance of Mind which is everywhere within the universes into thought forms. Unless you master thought you can accomplish nothing. It means in reality mastering the power of concentration. If you are to materialize an object, you must first construct it in your mind and through undistracted intense concentration you charge it with etheric vitality. But with the slightest distraction the materialization vanishes.
You must understand that the key to mastering matter is in concentration.
Elemental balance - 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.
One could also say this is finding the balanced way between luciferic and ahrimanic elements in one's soul constitution.
Books on this topic
- Franz Bardon community (Falcon Books): 'Equipoise: Insights Into Foundational Astral Training'
- Virgil: 'The Elemental Equilibrium: Notes on The Foundation of Magical Adepthood' (2017)
- William R. Mistele: 'The four elements' (2019)
- Johannes H. von Hohenstätten: 'Der hermetische Seelenspiegel' (2014) and 'Das magische Gleichgewicht' (2016)
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'.
1908-11-08-GA266/1 and 1908-11-11-GA266/1 and 1908-12-06-GA266/1
- effects of ambition, vanity, envy, anger on the astral body; understanding for others, strictness for oneself
- permeation with wisdom as protection against ambition and vanity, with beauty against envy, great words against anger
- ambition and vanity ruin the life of thought, envy the life of feeling, anger the will life
hindrances in the esoteric life and their overcoming: selfishness (astral body), inclinations, habits (etheric life), worries (physical body)
If we become accustomed to not seek but in ourselves the causes of our failures, we will notice that we make progress, not only in our sublime problems, but even in those of daily life. Conceiving that idea in truth, we will more easily solve the problems that our environment presents us and so we overcome whatever exists in us of bad mood, hypochondria, complaints and lament and we will find our way more firmly.
A person who never gets away from his I, who is so dependent upon his narrowly limited ways of feeling and perception that when things go wrong he always blames others and never himself; a person who is always filled with the idea that the world, or a part of his environment, is against him; a man who never gets beyond the results of applying ordinary thinking to whatever can be learnt from exoteric Theosophy — such a person will find progress particularly difficult. Hence it is well that in order to develop equanimity and calmness of soul we should make ourselves familiar with the idea that when something does not succeed, particularly on the occult path, we must blame not others but ourselves. This does most to help our progress. What helps least is always wanting to lay the blame on the world outside, or always wanting to change our training methods. Our attitude in such matters is more important than perhaps appears. It is better to test carefully, at all times, how little we have learnt, and to seek the fault in ourselves when progress is not made. It is a quite significant advance when we can make up our minds always to seek the fault in ourselves. Then we shall see that we are making progress not only in farther off things but also in matters of external life. Those who have some experience in this field will always be able to testify that by accepting the blame for their own non-success, they have found something that makes precisely their external life easy and bearable. We shall get on much more easily with our environment when we can truly grasp this fact. We shall rise above much grumbling and hypochondria, above complaining and lamenting, and pursue our way more calmly. For we should reflect that in every true modern Initiation he who gives advice is under the strictest obligation not to penetrate into the innermost sanctuary of the soul. With regard to this most inward part of the soul, therefore, we have from the start to undertake something for ourselves, and we should not complain that we are perhaps not getting the right advice. The advice may be right and yet the results may not be satisfactory, if we fail to make the resolve I have indicated.
One must practice self-observation and try to bring home to oneself, without either mercy or consideration, the really grievous faults one knows oneself to possess, so that there comes before the soul a feeling, into which one must live deeply, of how little one corresponds to the great ideal of humanity.
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
Depth point concentration
See IIH step 5
is a lecture about the visual arts and architecture, but worth reading in full (and what an opportunity for us to now be in the audience almost 100 years later). In this lecture Steiner discusses space, and then invites us to imagine a different kind of etheric space (underlined below).
.. I touch here on a secret pertaining to our human way of looking at the world - a secret that our present-day perception has, one might almost say, quite lost.
You will permit me to set out from a way of looking at things that is apparently - but only apparently - quite abstract, theoretical. But this excursion will be brief; it is intended only as an introduction to what will be able to come before our minds' eyes in a much more concrete form.
When we intend to apply to objects in this world the space of which I spoke yesterday - we apply it, of course, geometrically, using, in the first place, Euclidean geometry - we set out, as you all know, from a point and set up three axes at right angles to one another. But there is another space than this ..The secret of this space is that one cannot set out from one point and relate all else to it. One must set out from the counterpart of this point. And what is its counterpart? ..
Nothing other than an infinitely remote sphere to which one might look up as at, let us say, the blue vault of heaven.
Imagine that I have, instead of a point, a hollow sphere in which I find myself, and that I relate all that is within it to this hollow sphere, determining everything in relation to it, instead of to a point by means of coordinates. So long as I describe it to you only in this way, you could rightly say: Yes, but this determination in relation to a hollow sphere is vague; I can form no mental picture when I try to think it. Well, you would be right; one can form no mental picture. But Man is capable of relating himself to the cosmos — as we, yesterday, related ourselves to the human being (the “anthropos”). As we looked into the human being and found the three dimensions — as we can determine him in relation to these three dimensions, saying: his body extends linearly in one of the dimensions; in the second is the plane of the extended arms and all that is symmetrically built into the human organism; and in the third dimension is all that extends forwards and backwards, backwards and forwards — so, when we really look at the “anthropos” as an organism, we do not find something extended in an arbitrary way in three dimensions. We have before us the human organism built in a definite way.
We can also relate ourselves to the cosmos in the same way. What occurs in the soul when we do so? Well: imagine yourself standing in a field on a clear, starry night, with a free view of the sky. You see regions of the vaulted sky where the stars are closely clustered, almost forming clouds. You see other regions where the stars are more widely spaced and form constellations (as they are called). And so on. If you confront the starry heavens in this merely intellectual way — with your human understanding — you achieve nothing. But if you confront the starry heavens with your whole being, you experience (empfinden) them differently.
We have now lost the perceptive sense for this, but it can be reacquired. Facing a patch of sky where the stars are close together and form almost a cloud, will be a different experience from facing constellations. One experiences a patch of sky differently when the moon is there and shines. One experiences a night differently when the moon is new and not visible. And so on. And precisely as one can “feel” one's way into the human organism in order to have the three dimensions — where space itself is concrete, something connected with man — so one can acquire a perception of the cosmos, that is, of one's cosmic environment (Umkreis). One looks into oneself to find, for example, the three dimensions. But one needs more than that. One can now look out into the wide expanses and focus one's attention on their configurations. Then, as one advances beyond ordinary perception, which suffices for geometry, one acquires the perception needed for these wide expanses; one advances to what I called, yesterday and the day before, “imaginative cognition”.
If one were simply to record what one sees out there in cosmic expanses, one would achieve nothing. A mere chart of the starry heavens, such as astronomers make to-day, leads nowhere. If, however, one confronts this cosmos as a whole human being, with full understanding of the cosmos, then, in face of these clusters of stars, pictures form themselves within the soul — pictures like those one sees on old maps, drawn when “imaginations” took shape out of the old, instinctive clairvoyance. One receives an “imagination” of the whole cosmos. One receives the counter-image of what I showed you yesterday as the basis, in man, of the three geometrical space-dimensions. What one receives can take an infinite variety of shapes.
Men have, indeed, no idea today of the way in which men once, in ancient times, when an instinctive clairvoyance still persisted among them, gazed out into the cosmos. People believe today that the various drawings, pictures - “imaginations” - which were made of the zodiacal signs, were the products of phantasy. They are not that. They were sensed (empfunden); they were perceived (geschaut) on confronting the cosmos. Human progress required the damping-down of this instinctive, living, imaginative perception, in order that intellectual perception, which sets men free, should come in its place. And from this, again, there must be achieved — if we wish to be whole human beings — a perception of the universe that attains once more to “Imagination”.
If one intends to take, in this way, one's idea of space from the starry heavens, one cannot express it exhaustively by three dimensions. One receives a space which I can only indicate figuratively. If I had to indicate the space I spoke of yesterday by three lines at right angles to one another, I should indicate this space by drawing everywhere sets of figures (Konfigurationen), as if surface forces (Kräfte in Flächen) from all directions of the universe were approaching the Earth and, from without, were working plastically on the forms upon its surface.
One comes to such an idea when, advancing beyond what living beings — above all, human beings — present to physical eyes, one attains to what I have been calling “Imagination”. In this the cosmos, not the physical human being, reveals itself in images and brings us a new space. As soon as one gets so far, one perceives Man's second body — what an older, prescient, instinctive clairvoyance called the “etheric body”. (A better name is “body of formative forces” (Bildekräfteleib).) This is a super-sensible body, consisting of subtle, etheric substantiality and permeating man's physical body. We can study this physical body if, within the space it occupies, we seek the forces that flow through it.
But we cannot study the etheric body (body of formative forces) which flows through the human being if we set out from this space. We can study this only if we think of it as built up out of the whole cosmos: formed plastically from without by “planes of force” (Kraftflächen) converging on the Earth from all sides and reaching Man.
 - Guardians of the Thresholds
As part of the process of initiation and diligent practice of initiation exercises, Man works the constitution of his bodily principles starting with the astral body. As a result, he first encounters his own structure and the construct and threads that hold him together.
- The double with the various formative forces connecting the lower bodies (his engine or mirror of reflection for waking consciousness ) to his higher self (see Man's higher triad) of which he is unconscious.
- And the threads of the Third Hierarchy connecting him to the group souls of various granularity and through which he is part (and takes part in the karma of) family, nation, race.
At first waking consciousness is not able to make sense of the astral encounter with the lesser guardian, and Man has to be balanced and firm to proceed, which is the purpose of the initiation systems such as IIH.
 - see eg Schema FMC00.391 on Stages of clairvoyance
from Knowledge of the Higher World
The important experiences marking the student's ascent into the higher worlds include his meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold. Strictly speaking, there are two Guardians: a lesser and a greater.
- The student meets the lesser Guardian when the threads connecting willing, feeling, and thinking within the finer astral and etheric bodies begin to loosen, in the way described in the foregoing chapter. The lesser Guardian is a sovereign being. He does not come into existence, as far as the student is concerned, until the latter has reached the requisite stage of development. Only some of his most important characteristics can here be indicated.
- The greater Guardian is encountered when this sundering of the connections extends to the physical parts of the body, that is, at first to the brain.
1906-06-01-GA094 describes the lesser guardian threshold in context of the stages of Christian initiation
The Crowning with Thorns
At this stage Man must learn to brave the world morally and intellectually, to desist from anger when all that is most dear to him is being attacked. The capacity to remain aloof when everything is tumbling about our ears, to say “Yea” when the rest of the world says “Nay” — that is what must be acquired before the next step can be taken. This gives rise to a new symptom, namely a dissociation, or rather the power of a momentary dissociation of three faculties which, in man, are united: the faculties of willing, feeling and thinking. We must learn to separate and to re-unite them at will. So long, for example, as some outer event carries us away with uncontrolled enthusiasm, we are immature, for such enthusiasm comes from the event, not from ourselves, and we may even exercise a shattering influence of which we are not master.
The enthusiasm of the disciple must have its well-spring in the depths of his inner life. He must therefore be able to remain impassive in the face of any event, no matter how catastrophic. That is the only way to reach freedom. The dissociation of feeling, thinking and willing produces in the brain a change that is symbolised by the Crown of Thorns. If this test is to be passed without danger, the powers inherent in the personality must be sufficiently intense and in perfect equilibrium. If the disciple has not reached this stage, or if he receives wrong guidance, the change in the brain may lead to insanity. Insanity is nothing but an involuntary separation of these faculties without the possibility of their re-union by dint of the inner will. The disciple brings about the separation by an act of conscious volition. A flash of his will re-establishes the link between the organs and the activities of soul. In the lunatic, the cleft may be incurable and produce a physical lesion in the nerve-centres.
In the course of the stage in the Christian initiation known as the Crowning with Thorns, there arises the phenomenon known as the Guardian of the Threshold — the appearance of the lower double of Man. The spiritual being of Man, composed of his impulses of will, his desires and his thoughts, appears to the Initiate in visible form. It is a form that is sometimes repugnant and terrible, for it is the offspring of his good and bad desires and of his karma — it is their personification in the astral world, the Evil Pilot of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This form must be conquered by Man before he can find the higher Self. The Guardian of the Threshold which has been a phenomenon of astral vision from times immemorial, is the origin of all the myths concerning the struggles of Heroes with monsters, of Perseus and Hercules with the Hydra, of St. George and Siegfried with the dragon.
The premature appearance of the astral world and the sudden apparition of the Double or Guardian of the Threshold may lead a man who is not fully prepared or who has not taken all the precautions necessary for the disciple, to madness and insanity.
Esoteric Lessons, Lesson 23
Meditation has a technical part and one that's carried over into life, that is, the way a man thinks, feels and acts change through correct meditation. Meditation requires patience and conscientiousness.
What does a Man do when he meditates?
He imitates what divine spiritual beings in the higher hierarchies did millions of years ago, giving rise to our present earth. Everything around us is condensed thoughts of the Gods. The divine spiritual beings thought, and namely they thought rhythmically in cycles according to the principle that steady dripping hollows the stone.What they thought frequently with brief intervals between has become harder earth substance, such as diamonds. It has a creative effect to imagine things that don't exist in the physical world, but thinking about existing things doesn't.
I'm an egoist. I'm not a Christian. These are two very fruitful sentences for meditation. A man must become acquainted with the monster that he is. The meeting with the guardian of the threshold is something that's terrible for everyone. One can say this to an esoteric. The seeing of beautiful things and figures is astral maya, is Lucifer. The hearing of masters and the like is etheric maya, is Ahriman. One must investigate what one sees and hears there; then one will see the true state of affairs.
As well as:
- The double#1910-GA013
- Frequency of incarnation#1905-09-27-GA093a
- Man and the spiritual hierarchies#1920-02-13-GA196
- about Goethe's experience: Green snake and beautiful lily#1919-01-12-GA188
for an overview, see also
Terje Sparby: Rudolf Steiner and the ‘Guardian of the Threshold’ (article online at steiner-studies.org, see part I here and part II here)
References and further reading
- Rudolf Steiner: Knowledge of the higher worlds (KHW)
- Franz Bardon: Initiation into Hermetics (IIH)
- Daskalos: 'The esoteric practice', see Daskalos and Initiation
For more literature on meditation and initation exercises, see the reference section on Rudolf Steiner and initiation