How Many Paths?
To XXX, who wrote:
>>This again clearly exemplifies the case that there are four paths to be found within AP Studies: The esoteric path (as in Occult Science and Theosopy); the Rosicrucian Path (as in: Rosicrucian Wisdom and Modern Rosicrucian Initiation); The philosophic path (as in Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) and the more obscure but valid for some- Christian mystic path of devotion and prayer (The Gospel series and Anthro-Sophia studies).<<
Sorry, XXX, but I must beg to differ, if you mean that RS recommend four distinct Paths. (Of course, he may *talk about* other paths, here and there.)
(You might want to read my post to ZZZ, which discusses some closely related themes.)
First, the Rosicrucian Path: IMO, Steiner was revising and updating the Rosicrucian Path for the 20th Century; he was working in the same "stream". The close relation is indicated in many places, for instance in his use of the term *study* (in *OS*) for the first stage of Higher Knowledge. This special usage of the term is derived from the Rosicrucians, as is made very clear in quotations given by Otto Palmer, beginning on page #85 of his book that I have mentioned. As here, from "The Initiation of the Rosicrucians":
"When Rosicrucians use the word 'study' they do not mean it in the usual sense. The Rosicrucian meaning conveyed rather 'living in pure thought'. . . . I tried to write a book -- my *PoF* -- for people wanting to develop sense-free thinking. . . . It is a thought organism, intended as guidance for what the Rosicrucians called 'study".
And from *The Theosophy of the Rosicrucians*, the relation to what Joel Wendt calls "content":
"Rosicrucian theosophy is supersensible knowledge of this kind, and its study comprises the first stage of Rosicrucian training. My lecturing on theosophy is done not for any external reasons, but in support of the first stage of Rosicrucian initiation."
There are other indications of the close connection, as in *Stages of Higher Knowledge*, where RS contrasts the free chela-guru relations in Rosicrucian schooling to the less free ones in ancient Oriental and early Christian esotericism.
But RS [. . .] could not present Rosicrucianism in the same form that CRC gave it in the 14th-15th Centuries. Things had changed since then. Such "things" as the beginning of the Michael Age in 1879.
-- I'm not sure exactly which Christian mystic path you're talking about, but if you mean the seven steps of the Washing of the Feet, the Crowning with Thorns, etc. -- RS does describe it here and there, but he does not recommend it for us in modern times.
-- About the supposed path of *PoF* as being distinct from that of *KoHW*: Joel Wendt has been promulgating this doctrine; he mentions the book by Florin Lowndes, *Enlivening the Chakra of the Heart*. The passage that Joel quoted (actually misquoted partially) from *OS* plays a central part in Lowndes' argument. IMO both Joel and Lowndes misconstrue Steiner's meaning. Here is the crucial passage from *OS*:
"(The path is absolutely safe upon which the communications of spiritual science lead us to sense-free thinking. There is, however, still another path that is safer and above all more exact, but it is also more difficult for many human beings. This path is presented in my books, A Theory of Knowledge Based on Goethe's World Conception, and Philosophy of Freedom. These writings offer what human thought can acquire if thinking does not give itself up to the impressions of the physical-sensory world, but only to itself. It is then pure thought, which acts in the human being like a living entity, and not thought that merely indulges in memories of the sensory. In the writings mentioned above nothing is inserted from the communications of spiritual science itself. Yet it is shown that pure thinking, merely active within itself, may throw light on the problems of world, life, and man. These writings stand at an important point intermediate between cognition of the sense world and that of the spiritual world. They offer what thinking can gain when it elevates itself above sense- observation, while still avoiding entering upon spiritual research. Whoever permits these writings to act upon his entire soul nature, stands already within the spiritual world; it presents itself to him, however, as a world of thought. He who feels himself in the position to permit such an intermediate stage to act upon him, travels a safe path, and through it he is able to gain a feeling toward the higher world that will bear for him the most beautiful fruit throughout all future time.)"
Very noticeably, the "paths" that RS is discussing here are *not* Paths of Initiation as such, he explicitly says that the second, *PoF* path does not (in itself) lead to "spiritual research". These are paths that "lead us to sense-free thinking". This point is made even more clear when one reads the quoted passage in the context of the immediately preceding pages. After discussing the meditational exercises that are designed to lead to Imagination, RS says:
"The inner excellence of the stage of imaginative cognition is attained through the fact that the soul meditations described are supported by what we may call familiarizing oneself with sense-free thinking."
He then goes on to describe how the study of the verbal results of spiritual research is a good training in "sense-free thinking". Then follows the passage in which he mentions the other path to sense-free thinking. He does *not* say that sense-free thinking (of either path) is a replacement for or an alternative to the meditational Path leading to Imagination. On the contrary he says that "study" *supports* (in at least one respect) the meditational Path by leading to sense-free thinking, implying that the *PoF* path is equivalent in this regard.
RS does *not* say that the *PoF* path can replace the "study" path in all regards. He does not say anything to deny the essential, necessary part that "study" plays in the overall Path of Knowledge, this part as shown in some of the quotes in my post to ZZZ.
This IMO is Steiner's meaning: "Study" of the narrated (major) results of spiritual research (occult anthropology and cosmology) is a necessary, integral component of the Anthroposophical Path of Knowledge; the student who attains clairvoyance without this background of Study will be lost in the soul- spiritual worlds. *This* study is also inherently a training in sense-free thinking. Another way of attaining sense-free thinking is the practice of "pure thought" as taught in *PoF*. *This* thinking "still avoid[s] entering upon spiritual research". -- RS does not say, or imply, that the "path" of *PoF* is an Anthroposophical Path of Knowledge (leading to Initiation) distinct from the Path outlined in *KoHW* and *OS*; the path of *PoF* is only another way of attaining "sense-free thinking".
Now, it may well be that sense-free thinking (of a non-pictorial, logical-conceptual kind) can be so intensified that it in itself becomes a form of "meditation". RS did say that verses could be objects for meditation, and he did give special verses to some of his students. And he seem to imply (IMO) the general proposition in the first chapter of his booklet *The Threshold of the Spiritual World*. Here he says:
". . . [thinking] is not merely something which [the thinker] is cultivating in himself as a human force of the soul, but also something which quite independently of him and his soul bears within it self some Being of a cosmic nature, a Being to whom he must work his way, if he intends to live in something which belongs at the same time to him and to the world that is independent of him."
"It may be a good preparation for the apprehension of spiritual knowledge to have felt frequently what invigorating force there is in the attitude of soul which say, 'I feel myself to be one in thought with the stream of cosmic events.'"
I can testify from experience that in concentrated, sense-free, logical-conceptual thinking one really does feel a greater, cosmic "energy" or will working in oneself, though not in a passive way for the individual thinker; paradoxically, this cosmic will does not "work" unless one puts one's own will into the thinking. This sort of logical-conceptual meditation is far more natural and (usually) more effective for me than is, say, visualization-meditation. And still, I don't at all conceive that this sort of "meditation" is distinct from the Path of *KoHW* and *OS*, but that *this* thinking-meditation is, or can be, an integral part of this Path. (IMO)
And I don't know that this logical-conceptual- meditation can or should replace altogether the feeling and visualization meditations that RS gives. (I do *try* to practice these also, sometimes.)
So: how many Paths? -- Strangely, Lowndes virtually gives the answer to this question when he quotes Steiner thusly:
"In such a book as *KoHW*, one can really only communicate what is to be said about human development in a way that is applicable to each and every human individual who sets out on a path toward the higher worlds. In consequence, such a book acquires a more abstract, semi- theoretical character, however many specific instances it describes. For one thing we must be clear: self-development is not the same in each case! There is no self-development as such, no general self-development, but only this or that or the other person, and of every single, different individual. There must be as many different processes of self-development in the world as there are human beings. That is why the truest description of a general path of occult knowledge must be characterized by the way it is *not* identical with any single, individual path of self-development. If one wants to describe self-development truly as it appears to perception of the world of the spirit, this can only happen by describing the self-development of a single individual, by transposing into individual terms what is universally true for all. Whereas *KoHW* contains the starting-point of the secret of every [EVERY!] human being's self-development, . . . . And in the process [of describing the story of one man's development], something that is contained in this 'knowledge of higher worlds' had to be almost wholly turned around, reversed." [GA 125; 31 Oct. 1910,; Berlin]
So, there is one Anthroposophical Path, but in another sense there are at least as many Paths as there are students. In a book such as *KoHW* RS describes the Path in a general way; he give exercises and lists qualities that the student must acquire, etc., but he is vague as to how the reader is to apply the general principles. Each human being is unique, and so to some extent the "right" Path for him is unique.
But Steiner does not say or imply that there are more than one *general* Paths of Anthroposophical training. On the contrary, he repeatedly speaks of a single (general) Path, the necessary essentials of which he outlines - - as in this snip from the opening chapter of *OS*:
". . . one holds in mind the nature of the course of development that is indicated by THE training appropriate to our age. We shall speak here about THIS path." [my emphasis]
(BTW, I think that, despite its defects, the book by Lowndes can be very helpful, if only because he collects many Steiner-saids from so many places and organizes them. And he does (rightly IMO) bring out the central, necessary place in the Path that the Six Attributes connected with the Heart Chakra have. RS in *KoHW* lists these qualities and warns of the potentially catastrophic consequences of neglecting them; but he does not (in *KoHW) give precise instructions for "exercises" to develop them. And Lowndes does, for instance, give a plausible solution to the problem of the eight-petalled chakra. -- This IMO can be a valuable book, if one takes Lowndes with a grain of salt here and there.)
Student to student,
(Addendum Oct. 2015)
(*PoF* = *The Philosophy of Freedom* = *The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity*
*KoHW* = *Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment*
*OS* = *Occult Science, an Outline*)
YYY quoted from Steiner's 'The Boundaries of Natural Science':
'Today I would like to describe the path into the spiritual world that conforms to the needs of Western civilization and is particularly suited to anyone immersed in the scientific life of the West.
Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, I have described an
entirely safe path leading to
the supersensible, but I describe it in such a way that it applies for
everybody, above all for those who
have not devoted their lives to science. Today I shall describe a path
into the supersensible that is much
more for the scientist.
As I said before, immediately before this passage Steiner says:
"For Western civilization, the path leading into the spiritual worlds is that of Imagination. . . . This can come about in the most varied ways . . . ."
Also, after that passage Steiner goes on to say:
"And now let us imagine a reader who simply sets about working through The Philosophy of Freedom within the context of his ordinary consciousness in the way I have described: he will, of course, not be able to claim that he has been transported into a super-sensible world. For I intentionally wrote The Philosophy of Freedom in the way that I did so that it would present itself to the world initially as a purely philosophical work."
"I will now assume that The Philosophy of Freedom has been worked through already with one's ordinary consciousness in the way described. Now we are in the right frame of mind for our souls to undertake in a healthy way what I described yesterday, if only very briefly, as the path leading into Imagination."
"By having acquired the capacity for the kind of thinking that gradually emerges from The Philosophy of Freedom, one can become capable of such acute inner activity that one can exclude and suppress conceptual thinking from the process of perception and surrender oneself to bare percepts. But there is something else we can do in order to strengthen the forces of the soul and absorb percepts unelaborated by concepts. One can, moreover, refrain from formulating the judgments that arise when these percepts are joined to concepts and create instead symbolic images, or images of another sort . . . ."
I'm trying to clarify the sense in which Steiner takes *PoF* to be a "path". In the first quote Steiner says that *PoF* is a "path into the spiritual world" and "a path into the supersensible". One might jump to the conclusion that Steiner is putting forth *PoF* as a path leading to the kind of spiritual experience that Steiner spoke from, and as a path comparable to that of *KoHW*, and more, as a path that might take the place of that of *KoHW*.
But IMO we need to put these remarks in the context of Steiner's other writings and lectures. For instance, in the famous paragraph from *Occult Science* Steiner says that working with such books as *PoF* can put one "within the spiritual world", but that this world is experienced "as a world of thought". One should further note that RS says that on this "path" one "avoid[s] entering upon spiritual research", while it does "lead us to sense-free thinking". One should further note that this paragraph is embedded in a section that concerns "familiarizing oneself with *sense-free thinking*", but only as a *support* for "the soul meditations" that RS is describing (in the chapter on "Cognition of the Higher Worlds -- Initiation".
If one keeps these clarifications in mind, one might see that the rather inexact wording about a "path" into "the spiritual world" and "the supersensible" takes on a clearer meaning. IMO Steiner is saying that *PoF* (by itself) leads only into the "spiritual world" or the "supersensible" "as a world of thought", that *this* "path" (by itself) "avoid[s] entering upon spiritual research".
These considerations should clarify such remarks as Steiner made following after his initial ones about *PoF* being a "path". For instance, we might see what Steiner means when he says that one (only) working with *PoF* would "not be able to claim that he has been transported into a super-sensible world", that *PoF* is "a purely philosophical work". That is, *PoF* (by itself) leads into the supersensible, but only as a "world of thought" -- that this supersensible world is experienced "abstractly", not as any kind of "perception".
In the next passage quoted, RS says, "Now we are in the right frame of mind . . . ." The word *now* is a strong hint that he is indicating a process that might occur *after* "The Philosophy of Freedom has been worked through already". This *further* process is intended as being "to undertake . . . . the path leading into Imagination". In other words, the study of *PoF* (in itself) is not a "path" that leads to Imagination, the first stage of super- sensible perception.
This conclusion is further strengthened by consideration of the next passage quoted. Steiner refers to "something else", that is, other than *PoF*, namely the creation of "symbolic images". He is apparently referring to visualization meditations such as outlined in *OS* and *KoHW*. Again, he is apparently talking about a need to go further than one can go *only* through the work with *PoF*.
-- If one reads attentively the *whole* of the lecture "The Boundaries of Natural Science", together with the famous paragraph from *OS*, one might be reluctant to jump to the conclusion that RS is recommending *PoF* as an alternative "path" leading to supersensible perception. He is clearly pointing toward some practice that goes beyond *PoF*, a practice that might lead to real "spiritual research".
We get a further strong clue as to how Steiner regards the work with *PoF* (in relation to a "path") from this passage from the lecture "The Nature of the Virgin Sophia and of the Holy Spirit" in the cycle *Gospel of John* (Hamburg)
"The re-fashioning of the astral body indirectly through Meditation and Concentration, is called by an ancient name, 'katharsis,' or purification. Katharsis or purification has as its purpose the discarding from the astral body all that hinders it from becoming harmoniously and regularly organized, thus enabling it to acquire higher organs. It is endowed with the germ of these higher organs; it is only necessary to bring forth the forces which are present in it. We have said that the most varied methods can be employed for bringing about this katharsis. A person can go very far in this matter of katharsis if, for example, he has gone through and inwardly experienced all that is in my book, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, and feels that this book was for him a stimulation and that now he has reached the point where he can himself actually reproduce the thoughts just as they are there presented."
In other words, Steiner is saying that the work with *PoF* can lead to a kind of "catharsis" of the astral body. But where does "catharsis" stand in Steiner's Path of Cognition? -- He answers this question rather clearly in this passage from *The East in the Light of the West*, Lecture II:
"We imprint the plastic form of our astral body on the etheric body, and we ascend from ‘preparation’ to ‘illumination’ — the next stage of clairvoyant research. The first stage, by which our astral body is changed in such a way that it receives organs, is also called ‘purification,’ because the astral body is purified and purged from the forces of the outer world, and conforms to the inner forces — purification, cleansing, Catharsis."
RS is clearly indicating that "catharsis" is the same as "Preparation" in his Path of Cognition. (He lists the stages of esoteric schooling as "Preparation, Enlightenment, Initiation" in *KoHW*.) He is saying that work with *PoF* might accomplish "Preparation", "catharsis", but not further. To go further, one need to imprint the purified astral body upon the etheric body, thus ascending to the stage of Enlightenment (illumination).
In his description of "Preparation" in *KoHW* Steiner says: ". . . . the ardent study of what the spiritual researchers impart to the world. In all esoteric training such study belongs to the preparatory period . . . . " Here the word *study* has a special meaning, which might be missed if one be not sufficiently attentive. Steiner clarifies this special meaning in the lecture "The Initiation of the Rosicrucians" (quoted from Otto Palmer's book): *Rudolf Steiner on his Book The Philosophy of Freedom*
"When Rosicrucians use the word 'study' they do not mean it in the usual sense. The Rosicrucian meaning conveyed rather 'living in pure thought.' . . . I tried to write a book -- my *Philosophy of Freedom* -- for people wanting to develop sense-free thinking. . . . It is a thought-organism, intended for guidance for what the Rosicrucians call 'study.'"
Steiner expands on this theme in the lecture *Esoteric Development*: Lecture VIII: "The Path of Knowledge and Its Stages":
"What is highly essential for the Rosicrucian training is not sufficiently attended to in all occult trainings. This is the cultivation of clear and logical thinking, or at least the striving for it! All confused and prejudiced thinking must first be eliminated. A man must accustom himself to viewing the relationships in the world broadly and unselfishly. The best exercise for one wishing to undergo this Rosicrucian path unpretentiously is the study of the elementary teachings of spiritual science. It is unjustified to object: What good does it do me to learn about the higher worlds, the different races and cultures, or to study reincarnation and karma when I can't see and verify it all for myself? This is not a valid objection because occupying one's thoughts with these truths purifies the thinking and disciplines it so that people become ripe for the other measures that lead to the occult path. For the most part, people think in ordinary life without bringing order into their thoughts. The guiding principles and epochs of human development and planetary evolution, the great viewpoints which have been opened by the Initiates, bring thought into ordered forms. All of this is a part of Rosicrucian training. It is called the Study. The teacher will therefore suggest that the pupil think deeply into the elementary teachings about reincarnation and karma, the three worlds, the Akashic-Chronicle, and the evolution of the earth and the human races. The range of elementary spiritual science as it is diffused in modern times is the best preparation for the simple man.
"For those, however, who wish to cultivate even sharper
faculties of thinking and to undertake a still more
rigorous molding of the soul life, the study of books
written expressly for bringing thinking into
disciplined paths is recommended. Two books written for
this purpose — in which there is no mention of the word
“theosophy” — are my two books, Truth and Science, and
The Philosophy of Freedom. One writes such a book in
order to fulfill a purpose. Those who have a foundation
in an intensive training in logical thinking and who
wish to arrive at a wider study would do well to submit
their spirits once to the 'gymnastics for soul and
spirit' which these books require. That gives them the
foundation upon which Rosicrucian study is erected.
One who therefore schools himself in orderly thinking through this study in the physical plane will find in this thinking a good guide in the higher worlds. He will not falter as easily as one who seeks to enter the spirit realms with confused thinking. Therefore, the Rosicrucian training advises a person to discipline his thinking in order to move freely in the higher worlds. He who reaches up into these worlds learns new methods of perception, which were not there on the physical plane, but he can master these with his thinking."
Steiner is saying that work with *PoF* can accomplish (at least partially) what the "study" of the results of spiritual investigation can accomplish: namely, "Preparation", that is, "catharsis", the purification of the astral body. We are told that the astral body is the organ of feelings; to purify the astral body means to purify the feelings. Thus, learning to do the kind of "pure thinking" that is taught in *PoF* can help to eliminate such impure, unhealthy feelings as anger, lust, greed, fear, etc. – and cultivate more healthy feelings such as "admiration, respect, and veneration for the world and for life", which are recommended at the beginning of *KoHW* as good food for the soul.
The more important point here is that the "path" of working with *PoF* is not intended to replace the whole "path" to "knowledge of the higher worlds", that is, Preparation, Enlightenment, and Initiation. Steiner intended to convey that work with *PoF* might accomplish *much the same* as "Preparation", "study", "catharsis". This much only; for further progress on the Path of Cognition one must enter into Enlightenment, and might go on to Initiation. Further work is necessary on the Path of Cognition, work such as the visualization of "symbolic images", and so on -- exercises such as are given in *KoHW* and *OS*.
With such considerations, one can see why in the famous paragraph from *Occult Science* Steiner said that "These writings [such as *PoF*] occupy an important place *midway* [emphasis RM] between knowledge of the sense world and knowledge of the spirit." . . . and that such work "stops short of embarking on spiritual research".
Thus, we should not IMO on the basis of Steiner jump to the conclusion that *PoF* can be a Path of Cognition alternative to that given in *KoHW* and *OS*. At most the conclusion is warranted that work with *PoF* can be an alternative "path", or at least an adjunct, to the early stage of "Preparation" on the Path of Cognition.>> Back to Top