By Harold Boulette
“Everyone can attain this knowledge; in each one of us lies the faculty of recognizing and contemplating for ourselves what genuine Mysticism, Spiritual Science, Anthroposophy, and Gnosis teach. Only the right means must be chosen. Only a being with ears and eyes can comprehend sound and colors; nor can the eye perceive if the light which makes things visible is wanting. Spiritual Science gives the means of developing the spiritual ears and eyes, and of kindling the spiritual light; and the method of spiritual training: (1) preparation; this develops the spiritual senses. (2) Enlightenment; this kindles the spiritual light. (3) Initiation; this establishes intercourse with the higher spiritual beings.” ~Rudolf Steiner
The knowledge Steiner is talking about is Gnosis: the knowledge of truth, the knowledge of the spiritual worlds and the beings that live there, the knowledge of our origins and destination. This knowledge is obtainable by almost everyone (obviously, someone with severe mental problems may not be able to, as well as a few others). Of course, as with all things, it may be easier for some than for others to awaken those spiritual faculties that Steiner mentions. It is like saying that everyone can travel to Rome, but a person who lives in a suburb of Rome will have a much easier trip than someone who live in Alaska. But sometimes it is worth while doing the things that are difficult instead of seeking out that which is easy.
Steiner tells us that we need physical ears to hear sounds and physical eyes to see, and that is true with rare exceptions. His point is not to explain how vision or hearing works, but to point out that the correct organs must be used to experience the thing. While there are a few people who can hear colors or feel scents (Synesthesia), most of us have to use the nose to experience scent, the eyes for vision, the ears for sound, the tongue for taste, and the hands for touch. If you keep your eyes shut all the time, then complain that you can’t see what others claim to see, that does not mean those people are defective or having hallucinations, nor does it mean that your eyes are defective. It means you are not trying, then complaining when you can’t. If you do open your eyes while standing on a beach and your friends are telling you of a huge ship sailing by, if you have your back to the sea and refuse to turn around, you still won’t see it.
No one knows for sure, but it is speculated that when a baby first opens it’s eyes, all it sees are blobs of color. It takes someone to point out individual objects before the baby can start to recognize them. Likewise, it takes time for the baby to recognize mom and dad’s voice as distinguished from other sounds.
This is all very much true on a spiritual level as well. First, you cannot rely on physical senses to reveal the spiritual to you anymore than you can rely on the eyes to hear. The physical senses are for the physical world and the spiritual senses do much the same thing on the spiritual planes of reality. Much like the physical senses,though, we must be taught to some degree how to use them and understand the results. Many people have the strange idea that things in the spiritual world are much the same as on the physical. That is simply not true. But if you believe that it is, your beliefs cause your mind to alter what you see to match those beliefs much like certain Christians see Jesus is ever blob of rust that vaguely resembles a human face. So, as Steiner says, the first step is preparation. In this step, we study the writings of the great spiritual adepts, great saints and others who have much insight into the spiritual. This is to help us know what to expect. I think Steiner has steps two and three reverses, at least in the way that spiritual schools of today mean them. So initiation come next, in which the student is taught the techniques for awakening the spiritual faculties, how to understand what he experiences when he does, and how to protect himself fro attacks from demons while doing his spiritual practices. And one the person has become immersed in truth, in Gnosis, and has raised his vibrations to a high enough frequency, he achieves the exalted state called Enlightenment in which he is fully aware of the truth, fully knowledgeable of spiritual truths, and his spiritual and physical sides have become completely integrated. To do this generally requires the help of a reputable spiritual school.
A slightly different version of this article was previously published on the blog Solar Wind.