Rudolf Steiner: How to Know Higher Worlds

August 30, 2009

steinerRecently, I re-read Rudolf Steiner’s book How to Know Higher Worlds. The book is about developing ‘supersensible knowledge’ which is a refinement of the organs of perception so that we see, hear, taste, touch and smell more subtle aspects of creation.

Steiner encourages seekers to pay close attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise within because this is where supersensible knowledge is found. By attending to these impulses we receive the whisperings of Spirit.

Our habit as humans is to ignore nature and to treat the world as just a collection of objects. We talk at the world and have no time for listening to the world or ourselves.

However, with a lot of introspection we can learn to see everything subjectively. The birds, trees, bugs, stars, wind, rivers… everything elicits a feeling in us. If we pay attention to that feeling and let it arise unobstructed then we will hear the voice of Spirit.

The key indicator of true supersensible knowledge (opposed to just psychic perception) is a deep feeling of joy. Any factual information gained is nothing compared to the joy of deeper perception. The benefit of supersensible knowledge is not in the utility that it can provide, but in the spontaneous appreciation and delight in life.

Of course, this knowledge is barred from the ordinary mind which is blunt, loud and boisterous. To such a mind, supersensible knowledge is just fantasy and impractical. Intuitives with knowledge of the higher worlds must keep quiet about their perceptions or face ridicule from those who do not understand.

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5

Higher knowledge comes at a cost – recognition of lower knowledge. From a higher point of view, the average man’s behaviour is adolescent; crude, offensive and sometimes just plain stupid. Like the way we treat animals and pollute the world.

I found Steiner’s book to be more descriptive than prescriptive. It is very helpful if you already have a taste of supersensible knowledge, but if you don’t then this book is like describing colour to a blind man. However, if your soul is called to this knowledge, then it will no doubt help in the unfolding of supersensible perception.

Fortunately there are many other methods for spiritual development that are much easier and lay a good foundation for this kind of study.

The other thing I’d say about this work is that it is not transcendental – it is worldly, sensory knowledge – even if very refined. In Vedic terms Steiner is teaching the Samkhya school of Indian philosophy. This is in contradistinction to the Vedanta teaching of Ramana Maharshi which advises ignoring the senses – subtle or otherwise – and aiming for nirguna Brahman.

If you are a Raja Yogi and you are attracted to refinement of the senses, then Steiner’s work has a lot to offer, if you can wade through his heavily intellectual style.

The Gratitude Effect

August 24, 2009

t4_imageEvery once in a while I find a book that I know has a really important lesson for me. The Gratitude Effect by Dr John Demartini is one of those books.

It is also one of those books which we look at the title and think, “Yes, gratitude, that’s an important idea. I get it. I don’t need to read that book.”

These thoughts rolled through my head when I first saw it, but I picked it up because I’ve read other books by Dr Demartini and have found them to be very profound.

I knew after a few sentences that I had to read this book. So I did.

Dr Demartini puts forward the basic idea that the quality of our life goes up significantly if we cultivate the habit of appreciating life. The key of this book is the method he gives to make us grateful.

Most of us find it easy to appreciate the good things in life, but the area that needs the most attention is the things that we don’t appreciate – ie the things that are annoying and painful – past and present.

Dr Demartini’s method is to understand how we gain from our losses and vice versa.

His philosophy is that life is governed by a divine order and is always in balance. When we learn to see the ever-present harmony in the events of life, then we become harmonious too.

Our gains and losses are like the peaks and troughs of waves – they always occur side by side at the same time. The higher the peak the lower the trough. For example, Barack Obama gained the presidency and power of the world, but lost the freedom to walk down the street by himself.

Our tendency is to assume that we live in a world of polarity – that we are either grateful or ungrateful, appreciative or bitter. But Dr Demartini adds a different dimension to that spectrum. He says that the middle ground – the point of balance – is actually the point of gratitude, peace and true perspective.

If we only see one side of the equation then we lose true perspective and we either undervalue or overvalue what we see – either we are ungrateful or infatuated. The middle ground appreciates the whole spectrum.

Dr Demartini says that when we look at the lives of others and believe that they are better or worse off than us, then we are not truly appreciating the fullness and balance of life at that moment. If someone is gaining in life, they are also losing in some way to the same degree – everything comes at a price. Conversely, if someone appears to be losing, there is a simultaneous benefit there too.

It is up to us to find that balanced perspective and see the two sides of each situation. If we don’t find it, then we are engaging in a polarised (some would say illusory) point of view and it will further feelings of attachment and aversion. When we see that good and bad always appear together, then we are freed from running away from one and grasping at the other.

On the basis of this method of perception, we come to appreciate the whole of life rather than just one half of life.

I like to read practical books about how to increase one’s capacity to enjoy life. And my tendency is to read a book with full intention to do the prescribed exercises, but usually get caught up in the next book before getting a chance to do the exercises. However, this book is different for two reasons: 1) there is an easily achievable practical and valuable benefit 2) the method can be applied anywhere/anytime.

This is one book that I plan to keep around.

Eckhart Tolle and Ashtvakra

August 19, 2009

I once heard a great yogi say that Eckhart Tolle’s teaching is not really helpful to seekers.

I pointed out that Eckhart’s teachings sound similar to the Ashtavakra Gita – a shining gem in Vedic literature.

He said the two teachings are different. Apparently, Ashtavakra said to King Janaka, “Give me your mind.”

In Defence of Neo-Advaitins

August 14, 2009

Over the years I’ve met a number of neo-advaitins and they have all been sincere in their desire to help others. Certainly, I learnt a lot from them and I am very grateful for their time and effort.

Spending time with someone who has had some kind of awakening is very helpful for those who seek the same thing. And I can see no problem with awakened people sharing their experiences and their story.

This kind of sharing is particularly valuable to gyana yogis and mature seekers. In fact, it is probably good for all seekers to hear because it will sow a seed in their consciousness.

The problems arise when the neo-advaitin starts claiming authority and discouraging people from their natural path. Each person evolves according to their temperament and they should be encouraged in their path in the same way that children should be encouraged in their education and development.

The majority of seekers want to know: “How can I get enlightened” and “What can I do to get enlightened.” These people are attached to knowledge and action – that is where they are at. Best not to disturb them but to point them in the direction of finer and finer action until they realize for themselves the truth about action.

As the saying goes, “Traveling people should not be stopped.”

Discouraging seekers (who don’t know any better) from their practices and confusing them with abstract knowledge is not fair on them. Most people aren’t gyanis and such a path should not be oversold to them. In fact, even those on the path of gyana can benefit from asanas, pranayama, mantra, etc – a little bit can go a long way.

I feel that pointing seekers in the direction of the Bhagavad Gita or the Tao Te Ching is appropriate for all seekers from beginners to advanced. These texts have something for everyone. They contain moral principles, mental and emotional advice and spiritual practices. These texts also eloquently juxtapose mystical concepts like action and actionlessness. Best of all they inspire without confounding.

Heliocentric Astrology

August 10, 2009

Following on from the analogy in the last post, the movement of the Sun around the Earth actually has a very esoteric application.

Most astrology is based on the movement of the planets around the Earth – this is called geocentric. The alternative is considering the movement of the planets around the Sun – this is called heliocentric. Both are valid points of view but they yield different results.

Geocentric astrology relates to the observed reality (ie our worldly experiences on Earth) and heliocentric astrology deals with the considered reality (the hidden matters of the soul – like your dharma in this incarnation).

Thus heliocentric is the nuclear physics of the astrology – very powerful but requires a lot of abstract thinking before that power becomes available for conscious application.

On the surface, the deep thinking required for matters of the soul looks like idle and useless speculation. But it is not. It leads to real power and resources beyond imagination.

In a similar way, the nuclear physicist’s quiet contemplation on the fabric of the universe unlocks the real power of nuclear energy.

The meek shall inherit the Earth – Matthew 5:5

Reconciling Duality

August 10, 2009

On Saturday I had a discussion with the author of The Western Canon blog (my brother Stephen) about the co-existence of apparent opposites.

My stock example of co-existence is the movement of the Sun. From our Earth-bound point of sensory observation we see that the Sun rises in the east, moves across the sky and sets in the west. This reality is the product of observation. The alternative reality appears to conflict with the observation – that the Sun does not move at all. This alternative reality is the product of thinking.

So while it is true that the Sun moves across the sky, it is also true that the Sun does not move at all.

These two points of view are also reflected in the apparent differences between Newtonian physics and quantum physics. In all cases of this perennial duality, the observed reality is more immediate and worldly while the thinking reality is more abstract and powerful.

In the curious book Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path, Rudolf Steiner discusses the problems of trying to reconcile multiple points of view. He says:

By itself, a process or object that is merely observed suggests nothing about its connection to other processes or objects. The connection only becomes evident if observation is linked to thinking. Insofar as we are conscious of it, observation and thinking are the two points of departure for all human spiritual striving.

Reconciling duality is definitely a curly conundrum – even for the monist. My current point of view is that this problem can be temporarily relieved by determining what practical outcome you want and then adopting a point of view that suits that end. I know this sounds rather weak – but I think it has some merit.

If you look at the various approaches of mystics around the place and how they dealt with duality – they all had great success by defining a philosophy and sticking to it. Sri Ramana, Sri Aurobindo and Joel Goldsmith all had definite and different philosophical points of view about the nature of manifest reality.

Finding the best philosophical approach reminds me of a survey of Wall Street millionaires to determine which system was best for making money (trading, value investing, growth…) The conclusion was that there was no “best” system – all can provide dramatic results – but rather it is a matter of finding an approach that suits the person and sticking to it.

Quote from Rudolf Steiner

August 9, 2009

This quote is taken from Rudolf Steiner’s book Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path found online here.

Thinkers seek the laws of phenomena, striving to penetrate in thinking what they experience through observation. Only when we have made the world content into our thought content do we re-discover the connection from which we have sundered ourselves. We shall see later that this goal is reached only when the tasks of scientific research are understood much more profoundly than often occurs.

The whole relation between the I and the world that I have portrayed here meets us on the stage of history in the contrast between a unitary worldview, or monism, and a two-world theory, or dualism.

Dualism directs its gaze solely to the separation that human consciousness effects between the I and the world. Its whole effort is a futile struggle to reconcile these opposites, which it may call spirit and matter, subject and object, or thinking and phenomenon.

It feels that a bridge between the two worlds must exist, but it is incapable of finding it.