Study process and developing imaginations

From Anthroposophy

Imaginations are pictures in the mind that contain a multidimensional insight or realization about something, in a way that surpasses the limits of our intellectual thinking and rational understanding. A form of higher knowing or seeing.

Our thinking logic usually approaches any subject from a single dimension and then proceeds sequentially in a process of logic. Reality is much more complex. Therefore in spiritual science any subject is studied from various aspects and perspectives, in a way that does not seek for a simple definition but openly accepts all the perspectives offered as information about the true nature of that subject.

It is a faculty of our mind and consciousness, that we can have realizations at a higher level than our rational thinking. This relates to the clairvoyance at the astral level also called 'imagination', but this however has nothing to do with phantasy. Rather the term is used to describe the language of images, pictures with higher or deeper content than an intellectual thought.

The work of studying spiritual science 'as a soul process' is to do this inner work, fed by not only reading and studying, but also contemplation, meditation, pondering .. living with questions. As a result, one slowly develops the faculty that images flash up whereby one 'sees' in ones mind and thereby 'knows', without actually having thought or received an explanation in our normal language. It is up to the person than to assimilate and integrate the 'vision' and translate in words or picture to try and communicate this insight. Note the use of metaphors, analogies, and images in general can be helpful in doing so, because in those cases too one conveys about higher qualities beyond the specifics of the image used.


Inspirational quote

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.


For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


Lecture coverage and references

Plato's seventh letter (341-344)

speaks beautifully about insights:

It is only when all these things, names and definitions, visual and other sensations are rubbed together and subjected to tests in which questions and answers are exchanged in good faith and without malice that finally, when human capacity is stretched to its limit, a spark of understanding and intelligence flashes out and illuminates the subject at issue.

and describes how such fruits of insight can only be the result of a dedicated way of life

.. not something that can be put into words like other branches of learning; only after long partnership in a common life devoted to this very thing does truth flash upon the soul, like a flame kindled by a leaping spark, and once it is born there it nourishes itself hereafter.


The following quote from 1911-10-31-GA132 is specifically about the importance of building imaginations.

This sending forth of the Archai gives a grand and powerful picture. And this picture placed before our souls is extremely impressive for certain imaginations, which can then lead us further and further into the realm of occult knowledge.

This is precisely what we have to attain; we must be able to transform the ideas we receive into imaginations, into pictures.

Even if the pictures are clumsily formed, even if they are anthropomorphic, even if the beings appear as winged angels, etc., that does not signify. The rest will be given to us later; and what they ought not to have will fall away. When we yield ourselves to these pictures we penetrate into imaginative perception.

If you take what I have just endeavoured to describe you will see that the soul will soon have recourse to all kinds of pictures unconnected with intellectual ideas.

These latter owe their existence to a much later period, so that we should not at first take such things intellectually. And you must comprehend what is meant when some minds describe things differently from the intellectualists; the intellectualist will never be able to understand such minds.

You see, precisely the most important thing for us is that we lift ourselves to what the ordinary intellect is unable to grasp.

Even though the ordinary intellect produces something as excellent as The History of Philosophy by Schwegler (for I have expressly called this a good book), it is still an example by which we must see how a splendid intellect is completely at a standstill before a spirit such as Jacob Boehme.


describes something that may be experienced quite naturally - more info in the GA138 cycle as a whole.

In this loneliness one has to wait, patiently wait. Much depends on whether one is able to wait, whether one has acquired sufficient moral force to wait. Then comes something of which it may be said, “Yes, you are absolutely alone in infinity, but in you there arises something like pure memories that yet are no memories.” I say, “Like memories that are no memories” because all our memories in ordinary life are such that we can recall anything with which we once came into contact, anything we once experienced. But imagine that you stand there with all that is innermost in your soul, while images keep rising up within you that need to be related to something. But you have never previously experienced them! You know that these images are related to beings, but you have never met these beings. This surging up within you of an unknown world, which you realise you bear within you as pure image — this is the next experience on the path of initiation.


It is difficult to describe these things in words because our language has been coined for the external, physical plane, so we have to exert ourselves when applying it to supersensible conditions. You could say that everything to which we ordinarily apply our understanding lives coarsely, densely in our soul because our brain is always at our disposal and is trained to deal with ideas and concepts relating to the physical plane. But to explain things which do not relate to the physical plane we have to exert our soul to such an extent that, when we study spiritual science, our brain plays an ever-decreasing part.

When we experience difficulties in understanding what spiritual science gives us, this is only because our brain impedes our understanding. Our brain is adjusted and adapted to the coarse concepts of the physical plane and we have to exert ourselves to acquire the subtler concepts — subtler only in so far as human comprehension is concerned —of the spiritual world. This exertion is entirely healthy, it is certainly good, because with spiritual science we then live in our soul in a new way, quite different from that required by physical knowledge and understanding and ideas. We transport ourselves into a world of mobile, subtle pictures and ideas, and that is significant.

It is possible for all of you to be aware of the point at which you are sufficiently within the sphere where the etheric body more or less lives on its own, using the brain only in faint vibrations. lt is the point at which you begin to feel that you no longer have to exert yourself to think the thoughts given by spiritual science, in the way in which you have to exert yourself to think everyday thoughts.

You know very well that you yourself make the thoughts which you think about everyday matters on the physical plane; you develop the concepts in accordance with the daily requirements and conditions of life, in accordance with sympathies and antipathies and with whatever is prepared by your senses and by your brain-bound understanding.

With spiritual science, however, once you really enter into it, you will begin to sense: I have not thought all this myself; it has already been thought before I think it; it is floating there as a thought and merely enters into me. When you begin to feel: This is floating in the objective thinking of the universe and merely enters into me — then you will have won a great deal. You will have experienced a relationship to that delicate etheric, floating and weaving world in which your soul lives. After that it is really only a matter of time, though it might be quite a long time, before you gradually enter that sphere which we share with those among the dead with whom we are karmically linked.

Luigi Morelli

in Chapter 8 of Aristotelians and Platonists, describes the process of developing imaginations by Rudolf Hauschka with the example of Hauschka’s portrayal of the alkalis (sodium, potassium, lithium, rubidium, cesium, etc.). In summary he comes to four steps for the coming to an image to capture an essence:

  1. Description of physical properties.
  2. Transitioning from properties to qualities.
  3. Building up of an imagination.
  4. Completing the imagination and linking it to a cosmic archetype.


[1] - Developing the faculty of imagination

- - draft (quick first shot, not edited, to be worked) - -


Imagination is the first of different stages of clairvoyance that uses the astral senses in the astral world.

In Franz Bardon's IIH as well as in Rudolf Steiner's teachings on initiation, concentration exercises are used to de-couple from the main physical senses and develop the astral senses. See more info on Initiation exercises#Concentration

The principle consists in mental 'visualization' of images, smells, sounds without these being there as impulses for the physical senses, hence the word 'imagination'. By concentrating for example on the visualization of any mundane object (eg a pencil, fork, ..) that one holds in mind without any distractions for say ten minutes, one trains the muscles of the astral senses. The image comes to live as if real before our mental eye. In IIH, this is then extended first the different senses, not just visual but also sounds, smells, etc., and secondly not just in meditate mode with closes eyes but combined with waking consciousness.

Rudolf Steiner gives many examples of using other concepts to be subject of the mental focus , eg the rose cross meditation going into the symbolic meaning of the wood, the roses etc in meditation.

Another example is the Gospel of John, see the explanations under: Gospel of John as an initiation document#Words of practice

The content of all biblical texts that belong to the above meditation must as far as possible be transformed into an image and conceived pictorially. My lectures contain the building blocks of esoteric Christian tradition, which can guide the soul in transforming biblical words into authentic images.

And yet another example is given here: Book of Revelation#1903-12-24-GA088 letter

The four sentences above are what one calls living sentences, that is: they germinate during meditation, and sprouts of knowledge grow from them.

More closely to the students of spiritual science, if one combines the study beyond the intellectual with contemplation and meditation, living with questions and content matter in one's heart and soul, and contemplating in an integrative way multiple perspectives on one subject, one also surpasses the literal or theoretical meaning and rises above that to an imaginative level of grasping or starting to grasp, based on soft fleety images that one starts to feel arise naturally as a form of fragile embryonal insight. One can sense this is about the same thing, detaching the intellectual conceptual thinking and rising from those fixed or frozen thought forms to the more fluid imaginative astral forms.

[2] - Illustrative imagery

Some illustrations on the site are scans of simple rough sketches of a few lines, 'scribblings' without much meaning. They were uploaded as examples of such images in the mind, together with the slightly worked out digital versions of the Schema.


Here are five examples:

  • Schema FMC00.238A and FMC00.238 on I-less human beings
  • Schema FMC00.438A and FMC00.438 on Overlapping evolutionary periods
  • Schema FMC00.427 and FMC00.427A on Evil
    • is another example of a simple sketch jotted down after the picture arose, as a composite of all aspects and perspectives studied. A tentative to allow people to use this for study was made with the first enriched version Schema FMC00.427A, which still only shows very little, relatively speaking.
    • the proposal is that a student can study the related topic pages on this wiki, and study all relevant lectures, meditate on the whole to stitch everything together into a mental image in one's mind .. and then come back and realize what is meant with the simple capture FMC00.427. One can then see how FMC00.427 is a pyramidion, top of a pyramid, that one can 'underbuild' with much layers and levels below. It represents a very simple statement, but one that does not make sense the underlying study and insight is not available.
  • Schema FMC00.190A on Planets hosting beings at various stages of evolution
  • Schema FMC00.077 with variants A and B on Creation of solar system came on Eastern, it relates ao to Schema FMC00.400 on Cosmic breath of Brahma. To explore its basis (read as: material to meditate upon) see Schema FMC00.276 on Overview of solar system evolution and Schema FMC00.413 on Old Saturn.
Personal note

When one receives an imaginative insight, the 'light goes on' and one feels it in the heart and also somewhere in the back of your mind. But then immediately one is also aware of the problem. Now how to convey 'what this was'? Because one is consciously aware of the gap with other people, the so many things that are in our soul and that we come to 'know', and then what happened when so many of these pieces, even without being complete, still showed the picture of what it was all about, how it really was and is. As described this is far from an intellectual process, but immediately afterwards one tries to lay out the puzzle pieces so as to be able to show others. Yet the light that went on, and what one saw, one cannot share. Not this way.

What one can try to do is to make a simple sketch and describe it's higher meaning. The process is a bit like creating a sigil in magic: the drawing is symbolic and it will be filled with meaning that is added to it mentally and through descriptions. The descriptions use building blocks of meaning, and these are what this site is about: to develop such a systematic reference framework of building blocks that can be used and referenced as building blocks of meaning. This way one can lay blocks upon eachother and 'move up' towards the meaning intended to convey by the sketch of FMC Schema.

For more info, see also:

  • D00.003 - theoretical aspects discussion regarding the study process#.5B2.5D - Train of thoughts on methods
  • for an introduction on sigils, see eg the work of Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956). Note that in magic the sigil is a symbol that is used to work imaginatively with one's emotional and mental powers (of feeling/desire and will). One can potentially see a similar process when a student uses a Schema to meditate and really study in depth, living with questions and a desire and will for gaining an understanding, to get to the higher knowledge that is in the Schema. The link made here may potentially be too far fetched for some people (as it does not have to be taken or interpreted literally - as in the context of magical practice) nevertheless one can see the idea of analogy.

[3] - Some case examples for study

If you have arrived here, you have reached the core of what this site is all about.

The problem

Fragmentation of information is normal and unavoidable on any structured site, or content management system or knowledge representation. This means that we are faces with knowledge that may be structured but is still scattered across topic pages and sections. For it to come to value and get meaning, we need to add something.

The solution to that problem is to use the integrative higher faculties of our consciousness soul. But for this we have to step up from plain reading and intellectual processing. What we can do on this site is provide a system to support this process. Even though it assumes and requires disciple to benefit from it.

The solution offered

The 'Discussion' section of certain topic pages (only some) contain notes that group various quotes and schemas, so as to support and guide the earnest student to study the various relevant topic pages, and then focus on the concatenated excerpts, holding these in one's mind for meditation and contemplation, in order to build an imaginative insight. This work is fully upto you, reader, as an earnest student of spiritual science.

The goal of this site is to support you in going beyond sequential reading and web browsing, hopping around content. The idea is that you can study a topic with dedication and concentrated efforts, and then use what is offered here as a 'bundle' for your meditation. To use the power of your consciousness soul, rather than your rational intellectual faculty. You will see, if you try this, that the content comes to lives at a higher level. As Rudolf Steiner writes so nicely, your soul work on the quotes and schemas germinates during meditation like seeds, and sprouts of knowledge grow from them. But what is key is that this has to be embedded in and supported by an habitual practice of meditation.

This is also why various complementary perspectives are offered, so as to not 'get stuck' in a linear or one-dimensional description. For more info, see Notes on the study process.

In what follows, we make the distinction between 'topic' and 'lesson':

  • a topic maps to a wiki topic page on this website, so it's a logical unit of scope
  • a lesson consists of a conglomerate of topics, with highlights of specific quotes and/or schemas to lay connections and highlighted interdependencies. It adds a sequence and/or reasoning logic or process to the various bits and pieces. Normally this is how a lesson or lecture is given in linear storytelling. In this case this format is not given (not yet, it may be added later). Rather, it is left as base material for the student. Like a bundle package with all the ingredients to cook a meal, but all the preparation and cooking is still yours. In the future, the lessons may be added as movie format. Experiments were done already years go, screen recordings with voice over while browsing and explaining schemas and connecting quotes, as a 'guided tour' but with the value of having an additional explanatory voice commentary.


Please note that one lesson or logical thread is not necessarily sufficient to develop a full grasp.

You will remark that the site has multiple places where commentaries are made in the Discussion area. This can seem confusing: where to find a certain insight or conclusion then? However it is a deliberate choice and approach to leave the perspectives (not 'scattered', but better) 'distributed' on the topic pages. The idea is to interconnect these various commentaries, so together they form the base material of the guided tours or explorations offered in the lessons. That last ambition is still under development, but some preliminary examples are given below.


The following (under development) are case instances of what is described above. They are a set of proposal subjects that can be seen as 'lessons' for the student to investigate.

Not exactly along the same lines of the above, but also an attempt at a 'guided' integration of scattered pieces of the insight puzzle:


Actually more examples exist on the site, they will be added iteratively (to this newly written section).

[4] - Other perspectives on the faculty of imagination

In anthroposophical spiritual science, imagination is a stage of ('astral') consciousness beyond contemporary mainstream (physical 'mineral' or) waking consciousness, it is the next faculty that is and will be developing in humanity. See more on Stages of clairvoyance where it is described extensively. It can be developed with initiation exercises and the study of spiritual science.

However many authors spoke about a higher faculty then waking consciousness, also from a non spiritual scientific perspective. Some came from philosophy, religion, theology, others from psychology. Below are some examples.

  • Henry Corbin (1903-1978) introduced the concept and term 'imaginal' as the basis for a worldview (Weltanschauung). The term is derived from the latin 'mundus imaginalis' and maps to various Persian/Arabic terms denoting the world of images and archetypal ideas. For Corbin this was a "a precise order of reality, corresponding to a precise mode of perception".
    • See oa:
      • Henri Corbin: 'Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi' (1958, in EN 1969, 1998)
      • Ali Shariat: Henry Corbin and the Imaginal: a look at the concept and function of creative imagination in Iranian philosophy. (paper, 2016)
  • Arnold Mindell (1940-) uses the terms Consensus Reality, Dreamland, Essence for denoting three different worlds, whereby 'Consensus Reality' is the experiential world where we agree by consensus of its reality based on our sensory experience and faculty of intellectual thinking. It is measurable, shared. Dreamland is a more imaginative world (incl. dreams, visions, etc), also found in the aboriginal culture. 'Essence' is an underlying (spiritual) archetypal reality. These principles are also used in systemic coaching such as ORSC (Path module), activating levels below our reality experience (dreaming, original myth)
    • See ao:
      • Arnold Mindell: 'Dreaming while awake' (2002)
  • Carl Jung (1875- 1961) developed the technique of 'active imagination' to translate or map the contents of one's sub-conscious into images, narratives, or personified as separate entities. Note the wikipedia page for active imagination also links to Steiner and Corbin.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Christof Lindenau:
    • 'Towards a spiritual practice of thinking: A guide for the study of anthroposophy' (EN, in DE as 'Der übende Mensch - Anthroposophie-Studium als Ausgangspunkt moderner Geistesforschung')
    • Im Grenzgang zu erringen: Zur Übungs- und Arbeitsweise geistiger Forschung
    • Staunen, Mitgefühl, Gewissen: Zur Anthroposophie als einer Versuchsmethode des Allgemein-Menschlichen
    • Freiheit erüben: Meditation in der Erkenntnispraxis der Anthroposophie (1993)