“The development [of the Soul] proceeds in the following manner. The student must apply himself with care and attention to certain functions of the soul hitherto exercised by him in a careless and inattentive manner. There are eight such functions. The first is the way in which ideas and conceptions are acquired. In this respect people usually allow themselves to be led by chance alone. … As long as this is the case, the sixteen petals of the lotus flower remain ineffective. It is only when the student begins to take his self-education in hand, in this respect, that the petals become effective. The second of these is functions is concerned with the control of resolution. The student must not resolve upon even the most trifling act without well-founded and thoughtful consideration. Thoughtless and meaningless actions should be foreign to his nature.” ~Rudolf Steiner
The development of the soul is mostly a matter of awakening what is already there. Nonetheless, care must be taken in awakening the soul and gradually realizing its potential. There are a number of things you can do to aid that process, and an equal number of things you can do to hinder it. Mr. Steiner says there are eight “functions” you need to control in this regard, other writers come up with a different number, but most agree on what need to be done.
Control Ideas and Conceptions
Soul development does require that we control our idea, thoughts and beliefs, though not in the way you might expect. The first, and probably most important thing, is to have an open mind. We must be prepared to listen to both sides of an argument—or more accurately, to all opinions—before coming to a conclusion. Even if you are in a position where you know beyond any doubt that a particular source of information and idea expresses only the truth, you still need to know what others are saying so you are ready to counter the lies and educate those who need to be educated.
We live in a time when what passes for news media is actually, in almost all cases, propaganda machines trying to force their beliefs (or their owner’s beliefs) on us rather than simply revealing what is actually known and allowing us to form our own opinions. We live in a time when a television “News” network defended themselves in court when accused of lying on the air by saying that they had every right to lie and there is no requirement that they tell the truth on TV. The judge agreed with them! Unfortunately, most people only listen to one such network, whether it be conservative or liberal, and never even hear the other side.
Beyond having an open mind, though, we need to learn to discern those sources of information that are reliable and can be trusted rather than blindly accepting any source recommended by friends, parents, or teachers. Then soul development can take place.
Steiner says we have to control how we resolve problems. We have to think things through before we try something and have it become a disaster for us or others. It was not long ago that environmentalists were telling us to give up paper bags and use plastic because forests were being destroyed to make paper bags that were usually used once, then burned. In their haste to stop a problem, they didn’t truly consider the effects of the alternative and we now know that they are worse than the problem they were supposed to solve. Plastics are doing a lot more harm to the environment than the paper bags ever did. And then there was the case of those who brought Kudzu vines to the southern states in the U.S. After learning that they would grow almost anywhere. Now those state spend billions every year fighting this invasive and destructive weed.
For the spiritual student, the primary concern should be to take actions that promote spiritual growth, in himself and others, and not hinder it. Punching someone in the nose, as recommended by a certain presidential candidate, is obviously a solution that does not do that. Not only does it not encourage either you or the other person to grow spiritually, but the negative energy he will send back at you for your actions will harm your growth.
Calmly telling the other person that his actions, or statements, are wrong is a better solution. Sometimes, it will surprise the person so much he will actually start to listen to you. Other times, it will merely frustrate him because he failed to make you angry and violent which was his goal all along, so don’t give in to it. Some Christians are found of pointing out how Jesus himself became violent at seeing the money lenders and , most important of all, sellers of animals to be sacrificed in the temple as a justification for using violence. What they conveniently leave out is that after that attack of anger, Jesus went out into the wilderness to pray to God for forgiveness.
Soul Development and the Lotus Flower
The Lotus Flower in the Steiner quote is not about gardening. The Lotus is a symbol of the Soul in many Eastern spiritual schools. Telling us to open the petals of the lotus is simply an allegorical way of saying awakening the soul and allowing soul development to happen.
Just as a child may still grow to some degree with poor nutrition, but will grow faster and healthier with good nutrition and adequate food and care, so to the Soul. In rare cases, the soul may awaken ad develop on its own, but with adequate “nutrition” from the spiritual Light of the Spiritual Sun it will awaken and develop faster and in a healthier way.