Steiner Rudolf - An Outline of Occult Science

Author : Steiner Rudolf
Title : An Outline of Occult Science
Year : 1913

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Preface to the Fourth Edition. One who undertakes to represent certain results of scientific spiritual research of the kind recorded in this book, must above all things be prepared to find that this kind of investigation is at the present time almost universally regarded as impossible. For things are related in the following pages about which those who are today esteemed exact thinkers, assert that they will probably remain altogether indeterminable by human intelligence. One who knows and can respect the reasons which prompt many a serious person to assert this impossibility, would fain make the attempt again and again to show what misunderstandings are really at the bottom of the belief that it is not given to human knowledge to penetrate into the superphysical worlds. For two things present themselves for consideration. First, no human being will, on deeper reflection, be able in the long run to shut his eyes to the fact that his most important questions as to the meaning and significance of life must remain unanswered, if there be no access to higher worlds. Theoretically we may delude ourselves concerning this fact and so get away from it; the depths of our soul-life, however, will not tolerate such self-delusion. The person who will not listen to what comes from these depths of the soul will naturally reject any account of supersensible worlds. There are however people—and their number is not small—who find it impossible to remain deaf to the demands coming from the depths of the soul. They must always be knocking at the gates which, in the opinion of others, bar the way to what is “incomprehensible.” Secondly, the statements of “exact thinkers” are on no account to be despised. Where they have to be taken seriously, one who occupies himself with them will thoroughly feel and appreciate this seriousness. The writer of this book would not like to be taken for one who lightly disregards the enormous thoughtlabour which has been expended in determining the limits of the human intellect. This thought-labour cannot be put aside with a few phrases about “academic wisdom” and the like. In many cases it has its source in true striving after knowledge and in genuine discernment. Indeed, even more than this must be admitted; reasons have been brought forward to show that that knowledge which is to-day regarded as scientific cannot penetrate into supersensible worlds, and these reasons are in a certain sense irrefutable. Now it may appear strange to many people that the writer of this book admits this freely, and yet undertakes to make statements about supersensible worlds. It seems indeed almost impossible that a person should admit in a certain sense the reasons why knowledge of superphysical worlds is unattainable, and should yet speak about those worlds. Yet it is possible to take this attitude, and at the same time to understand that it impresses others as being inconsistent. It is not given to every one to enter into the experiences we pass through when we approach supersensible realms with the human intellect. Then it turns out that intellectual proofs may certainly be irrefutable, and that notwithstanding this, they need not be decisive with regard to reality. Instead of all sorts of theoretical explanations, let us now try to make this comprehensible by a comparison. That comparisons are not in themselves proofs is readily admitted, but this does not prevent their often making intelligible what has to be expressed. Human understanding, as it works in everyday life and in ordinary science, is actually so constituted that it cannot penetrate into superphysical worlds. This may be proven beyond the possibility of denial. But this proof can have no more value for a certain kind of soul-life than the proof one would use in showing that man's natural eye cannot, with its visual faculty, penetrate to the smallest cells of a living being, or to the constitution of far-off celestial bodies. Just as the assertion is true and demonstrable that the ordinary power of seeing does not penetrate as far as the cells, so also is the other assertion which maintains that ordinary knowledge cannot penetrate into supersensible worlds. And yet the proof that the ordinary power of vision has to stop short of the cells in no way excludes the investigation of cells. Why should the proof that the ordinary power of cognition has to stop short of supersensible worlds, decide anything against the possibility of investigating those worlds? One can well sense the feeling which this comparison may evoke in many people. One can even understand that he who doubts and holds the above comparison against this labor of thought, does not even faintly sense the whole seriousness of that mental effort. And yet the present writer is not only fully convinced of that seriousness, but is of opinion that that work of thought may be numbered among the noblest achievements of humanity. To show that the human power of vision cannot perceive the cellular structure without the help of instruments, would surely be a useless undertaking; but in exact thinking, to become conscious of the nature of that thought is a necessary work of the mind. It is only natural that one who devotes himself to such work, should not notice that reality may refute him. The preface to this book can be no place for entering into many “refutations” of former editions, put forth by those who are entirely devoid of appreciation of that for which it strives, or who direct their unfounded attacks against the personality of the author; but it must, none the less, be emphasized that belittling of serious scientific thought in this book can only be imputed to the author by one who wishes to shut himself off from the spirit of what is expressed in it. Man's power of cognition may be augmented and made more powerful, just as the eye's power of vision may be augmented. Only the means for strengthening the capacity of cognition are entirely of a spiritual nature; they are inner processes, belonging purely to the soul. They consist of what is described in this book as meditation and concentration (contemplation). Ordinary soul-life is bound up with the bodily instrument; the strengthened soul-life liberates itself from it. There are schools of thought at the present time to which this assertion must appear quite senseless, to which it must seem based only upon self-delusion. Those who think in this way will find it easy, from their point of view, to prove that “all soul-life” is bound up with the nervous system. One who holds the standpoint from which this book has been written, can thoroughly understand such proofs. He understands people who say that only superficiality can assert that there may be some kind of soul-life independent of the body, and who are quite convinced that in such experiences of the soul there exists a connection with the life of the nervous system, which the “dilettantism of occult science” merely fails to detect. Here certain quite comprehensible habits of thought are in such sharp contradiction to what has been described in this book, that there is as yet no prospect of coming to an understanding with many people. It is here that we come to the point where the desire must arise that it should no longer be a characteristic of our present day culture to at once decry as fanciful or visionary a method of research which differs from its own. But on the other hand it is also a fact at the present time that a number of people can appreciate the supersensible method of research, as it is presented in this book, people who understand that the meaning of life is not revealed in general phrases about the soul, self, and so on, but can only result from really entering into the facts of superphysical research. Not from lack of modesty, but with a sense of joyful satisfaction, does the author of this book feel profoundly the necessity for this fourth edition after a comparatively short time. The author is not prompted to this statement by lack of modesty, for he is entirely too conscious of how little even this new edition approaches that “outline of a supersensuous world concept” which it is meant to be. The whole book has once more been revised for the new edition, much supplementary matter has been inserted at important points, and elucidations have been attempted. But in numerous passages the author has realized how poor the means of presentation accessible to him prove to be in comparison with what superphysical research discovers. Thus it was scarcely possible to do more than point out the way in which to reach conceptions of the events described in this book as the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions. An important aspect of this subject has been briefly remodelled in this edition. But experiences in relation to such things diverge so widely from all experiences in the realm of the senses, that their presentation necessitates a continual striving after expressions which may be, at least in some measure, adequate. One who is willing to enter into the attempted presentation which has here been made, will perhaps notice that in the case of many things which cannot possibly be expressed by mere words, the endeavour has been made to convey them by the manner of the description. This manner is, for instance, different in the account of the Saturn evolution from that used for the Sun evolution, and so on. Much complementary and additional matter has been inserted in this edition in the part dealing with “Perception of the Higher Worlds.” The endeavour has been made to represent in a graphic way the kind of inner soul-processes by which the power of cognition liberates itself from the limits which confine it in the world of sense and thereby becomes qualified for experiencing the supersensible world. The attempt has been made to show that these experiences, even though gained by entirely inner ways and methods, still do not have a merely subjective significance for the particular individual who gains them. The description attempts to show that within the soul stripped of its individuality and personal peculiarities, an experience takes place which every human being may have in the same way, if he will only work at his development from out his subjective experiences. It is only when “knowledge of supersensible worlds” is thought of as bearing this character that it may be differentiated from old experiences of merely subjective mysticism. Of this mysticism it may be said that it is after all more or less a subjective concern of the mystic. The scientific spiritual training of the soul, however, as it is described here, strives for objective experiences, the truth of which, although recognized in an entirely inner way, may yet, for that very reason, be found to be universally valid. This again is a point on which it is very difficult to come to an understanding concerning many of the habits of thought of our time. In conclusion, the author would like to observe that it would be well if even the sympathetic reader of the book would take its statements exactly as they stand. At the present time there is a very prevalent tendency to give this or that spiritual movement an historical name, and to many it is only such a name that seems to make it valuable. But, it may be asked, what would the statements in this book gain by being designated “Rosicrucian,” or anything else of the kind? What is of importance is that in this book a glimpse into supersensible worlds is attempted with the means which in our present period of evolution are possible and suitable for the human soul; and that from this point of view the problems of human destiny and human existence are considered beyond the limits of birth and death. It is not a question of an endeavor which shall bear this or that old name, but of a striving after truth. On the other hand, expressions have also been used, with hostile intention, for the conception of the universe presented in this book. Leaving out of account that those which were intended to strike and discredit the author most heavily are absurd and objectively untrue, these expressions are stamped as unworthy by the fact that they disparage a fully independent search for truth; because the aggressors do not judge it on its own merits, but try to impose on others, as a judgment of these investigations, erroneous ideas about their dependence upon this or that tradition,—ideas which they have invented, or adopted from others without reason. However necessary these words are in face of the many attacks on the author, it is yet repugnant to him in this place to enter further into the matter. RUDOLF STEINER. June, 1913. ...

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