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The Way of Initiation

Rudolf Steiner


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The Way of Initiation is an early version of the first half of 'Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment'. Chapters include: The Personality of Rudolf Steiner and His Development; The Superphysical World and Its Gnosis; How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds; The Path of Discipleship; Probation; Enlightenment; Initiation; The Higher Education of the Soul; and, The Conditions of Discipleship.

This book has 71 pages in the PDF version. This translation by Max Gysi was published in 1910.

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Excerpt from 'The Way of Initiation'

In this practical age and because of the many various claims of the day, it is but natural that people, who hear of transcendentalism should at once ask the question: "How may we for ourselves know the truth of such statements?" Indeed, it is noticeable, as a characteristic of the majority, that they will accept nothing on faith, or mere "authority," but wish rather to rely entirely upon their own judgment. Therefore, when a mystic undertakes to explain something of the superphysical nature of man, and of the destiny of the human soul and spirit before birth and after death, he is at once confronted with that fundamental demand. Such doctrine, they seem to think is important only when you have shown them the way by which they may convince themselves of its truth.

This critical inquiry is quite justified; and no true mystic or occultist will dispute its fairness, yet it is unfortunate that with many who make the demand, there exists a feeling of skepticism or antagonism toward the mystic or any attempt on his part to explain anything occult. This feeling becomes especially marked when the mystic intimates how the truths which he has described may be attained. For they say, "Whatever is true may be demonstrated; therefore, prove to us what you assert." They demand that the truth must be something clear and simple, something which an ordinary intellect may comprehend. "Surely," they add, "this knowledge cannot be the possession of a chosen few, to whom it is given by a special revelation." And in this way the real messenger of transcendental truth is frequently confronted with people who reject him, because—unlike the scientist, for example, he can produce no proofs for his assertions, of such a nature as they are able to understand. Again, there are those who cautiously reject any information pertaining to the superphysical because to them it does not seem reasonable. Thereupon they partially satisfy themselves, by claiming that we cannot know anything of what lies beyond birth or death, or of anything which cannot be perceived through our five ordinary physical senses.

These are but a few of the arguments and criticisms with which to-day the messenger of a spiritual philosophy is confronted; but they are similar to all those which compose the key-note of our time, and he who puts himself at the service of a spiritual movement must recognize this condition quite clearly.

For his own part, the mystic is aware that his knowledge rests upon superphysical facts; which to him are just as tangible, for example, as those that form the foundation of the experiences and observations described by a traveller in Africa or any strange land. To the mystic applies what Annie Besant has said in her manual, "Death and After?"

"A seasoned African explorer would care but little for the criticisms passed on his report by persons who had never been there; he might tell what he saw, describe the animals whose habits he had studied, sketch the country he had traversed, sum up its products and its characteristics. If he was contradicted, laughed at, set right, by untravelled critics, he would be neither ruffled nor distressed, but would merely leave them alone. Ignorance cannot convince knowledge by repeated asseveration of its nescience. The opinion of a hundred persons on a subject of which they are wholly ignorant is of no more weight than the opinion of one such person. Evidence is strengthened by many consenting witnesses, testifying each to his knowledge of a fact, but nothing multiplied a thousand times remains nothing."

Here is expressed the mystic's view of his own situation. He hears the objections which are raised on every side, yet he knows that for himself he has no need to dispute them. He realizes that his certain knowledge is being criticized by those who have not had his experience, that he is in the position of a mathematician who has discovered a truth which can lose no value though a thousand voices are raised in opposition.

Then again will arise the objection of the skeptics: "Mathematical truths may be proven to anyone," they will say, "and though perhaps you have really found something, we shall accept it only when we have learned of its truth through our own investigation." Such then have reason to consider themselves to be in the right, because it is clear to them that anyone who acquires the necessary knowledge can prove a mathematical truth, while the experiences professed by the mystic if true depend upon the special faculties of a few elect mystics, in whom they assume they are expected to blindly believe.

For him, who rightly considers this objection, all justification for the doubt immediately vanishes; and mystics can here use the very logical reasoning of the skeptics themselves, by emphasizing the truth that the way to Higher Knowledge is open to anyone who will acquire for himself the faculties by which he may prove the spiritual truths herein claimed. The mystic asserts nothing which his opponents would not also be compelled to assert, if they did but fully comprehend their own statements. They, however, in making an assertion, often formulate a claim which constitutes a direct contradiction of that assertion.

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