SUFFERING AS A PREPARATION
FOR ETHERIC VISION
HOW does destiny lead men to the revelation of the forces of etheric vision ? There is an answer to this question which the following considerations will attempt co present.
The development, both of single individuals and also of mankind in general, is of such a nature that in the process new capacities are produced at the expense of old ones. The appearance of a new faculty is preceded by the inhibition of an old one. For instance, speech became possible through the fact that a part of the forces which were previously used for movement were inhibited, and so were induced to seek another channel of activity. Thereby an inward turned movement arose, which was speech ; for speech is an inner movement, a gesture turned inward. Through the "silencing" of outer movement, speaking arose as an inner movement. Similarly, thinking is the result of the movement of speech turned inward. Thinking is 'internalized' speaking, just as speaking is 'internalized' movement ; for thinking is the life, on a higher level, of the forces which have been taken away from speech. It is born out of silence.
The general tendency of this process of development has been widely used (and misused). Thus there have been -- and are -- individuals and groups of people in Europe and Asia who have tried to develop higher faculties by inhibiting the lower. For instance, the objective of that type of asceticism in which a person freely renounces movement (some have spent years upon a column, a stone or other confined space) is the possibility of metamorphosing powers of movement into higher powers. In the same way, to willingly remain silent is a method for transforming lower powers into higher ones. So, for example, Mahatma Gandhi believes he cannot command the forces necessary to master the demands made upon him by his "dharma" without devoting one day of the week to silence. He intends, through the suppression of the activity of speech forces, to strengthen his cognitive forces.
Now this practice is subject to a danger. It is possible for the suppression of a power to not lead to the strengthening of it upon a higher level, but to lead to its degeneration onto a lower level. In other words, the hindered expression of a force can cause the strengthening of a lower instead of a higher force, and a downward metamorphosis can ensue. So, for instance, the suppression of speech forces can lead to a tremendous enhancement of the forces living in the metabolic limb system rather than the cognitive forces in the head system. And if the life of passions of the person in question has nor been purified, then what occurs is an intensification of these unpurified passions. Instead of higher cognitive life of the soul, there can arise an intensification of the instincts and passions. The opposite of what is intended can therefore actually happen.
The opposite of what was intended always happens when one particular requirement is not fulfilled. That this condition arises is due to the fact that, just as a small fire is blown out by a gust of wind but by the same gust a big fire is greatly increased, so within the soul realm, only the presence of a certain degree of higher activity assures, in the event of a suppression of its ordinary outlet of expression, the metamorphosis of a lower into a higher power. This same fact of soul-spiritual life is referred to when it states in the Gospel, "to those that have will be given, but from those chat have not will be taken away even that which they have." In other words, those who have developed a strong inner activity will find this growing and increasing when the mighty, unavoidable hindrances of the future will have to be met. Those, however, who have only produced a feeble inner activity will be deprived even of that -- it will be extinguished. Not only will it be extinguished in that it will disappear on the level where it was formerly active, but furthermore, it will be transformed into an activity of a lower nature. For this reason the Apocalypse, when describing the World Crisis (Last Judgement) in mighty pictures, speaks of the formation of two different humanities : the humanity with the "sign of the name of the Father, of the Lamb" on their foreheads ; and the humanity with the "sign of the Beast" on their brows. It is not men who lack the "Sign of the Lamb", but rather those bearing the other sign, the "sign of the Beast", who make up the second race. So the World Crisis will have these two effects : either soul forces are heightened above the earthly human level, or are changed into bestial forces that work below the level of the human.
This fact of the double metamorphosis of soul forces illustrated in the two preceding :examples, the one of Asceticism and the other from the Apocalypse, is relevant not only to each individual man but also to mankind as a whole. If we view it only in its relation to human evolution -- to history -- we are shown by the course of this history (that is, the complete world history as described by Rudolf Steiner) that 'crises' like that described in the Apocalypse have already taken place in the past. There was in very ancient times -- according to spiritual scientific investigations -- a mighty crisis from which there arose on the one hand an ego endowed humanity, and on the other the animal kingdom. For humanity this crisis signified an ascent, for it brought about the development of the organization of self-consciousness ; for the animal kingdom, however, it meant a descent. From their forebears, mankind rose higher, correspondingly higher as other beings descended and thereby became the animals. In the animal kingdom we meet with the results of a powerful metamorphosis downward which happened during the "Lemurian Epoch". But also for the actual faculty of free self-consciousness, humanity has to thank the same crisis, only that it caused for them an upward metamorphosis. And as the Lemurian crisis produced the differentiation into two realms, the human and the animal, so the human race today confronts an equally mighty crisis which will produce in the future the drastic separation of a new race from humanity. This is the meaning of the above-mentioned pictures in the Apocalypse.
Now there are, alongside the mighty crises of all mankind, crises which although they are smaller in scope are precursors of the greater ones. Yes, they even happen within the life of an individual man, while still exhibiting signs of following this same lawfulness ; that is, the law that through suppression a particular force is transformed into another. Had, for instance, our brain not been hindered in outer movement by the skull bones, had no prison of the brain been produced, it would not have become capable of being the organ of inner movement, of thinking. While it was bound with respect to outer movement, it was freed, on the other hand, for inner movement. Something similar is true for the soul-life of men. The inwardization of soul forces is also produced by way of inhibition. For this any new faculty, when developed on a natural path, is preceded by a corresponding measure of suffering. Again the Apocalypse points to this basic principle of development by speaking of chat part of mankind which bore "the name of the Father of the Lamb" as consisting of "martyrs". There it is written, concerning this portion of mankind, that "they are chose who underwent the great tribulation". (Apocalypse 7:14) Suffering raised them up. Through it they could develop forces in themselves which made it possible for them to "stand before the Throne". Through tasting the "enmity of this world", the strong power which is called "standing before the Throne" arose in them.
Suffering has, of course, this significance only when one is speaking of so-called 'natural' development ; chat is, chat which is caused by destiny. For should one impose human intentions into the sphere of suffering, it can cause the greatest disaster. This is a path chat muse be left to destiny. Suffering may not be produced willfully. But when the suffering which destiny produces is understood ; it is something which not only can bring comfort, but can even put 'broken' human souls back onto their feet.
And this comfort can also come to those people who ask with 'hearts that bleed' about the significance of the tremendous suffering which at present is borne by Middle and East European mankind -- the more so the latter. For this suffering has one special quality -- the suppression of all spiritual life of the human soul. In Middle Europe this is caused by enslavement within the realm of the economy -- through economic servitude, spiritual life is inhibited. All attention, all striving is forced to devote itself solely to overcoming economic needs. In East Europe there is not only economic slavery, but also a direct suppression of free spiritual life in any form.
What happens as a result? Just as the wind extinguishes a small fire and strengthens a large one, so through the suppression of European spiritual life there are results. On the one hand, there is an actual extinction of that passive, traditional spirituality which has given souls a certain spiritual life up to now. On the other hand, however, there is -- in the case of a small number of men -- a preparation for the breakthrough of a new spirituality.
What the first process looks like is well enough known to the world.
But how the second, more profound process happens, that is mentioned hardly at all in public. And yet it is taking place. At first it finds expression in chat the soul is filled with a mood of boredom, a mood of desolation in the face of all that is offered by a life devoid of spirit. Then within this emptiness arises a mighty yearning for the spirit. This yearning is directed, to begin with, toward other human beings. It appears as a tremendous hunger and thirst within souls 'to find the other person'. This need -- to find in the life of loving' something which may fill the terrible inner emptiness, which may satisfy the thirst for spiritual life -- becomes the life-nerve of the soul. And thereby the large measure of selfless interest for the other person which is necessary for that expansion of conscience spoken of in an earlier essay, "The Deepening of Conscience Which Results in Etheric Vision", is developed.
A man who feels himself to be empty can no longer satisfy himself. The power of his interest is freed from himself and directed toward others.
Now, through this yearning for the spirit, something else happens. The pain which fills the soul can cause certain half unconscious efforts of soul forces to arise. These are similar to those of remembrance. Only here the whole soul, yes, the whole man, is harnessed in the effort to "remember" -- not any particular thing -- but just to remember, to bring about a particular state of soul. This continuous tension of the deepest powers of remembrance can lead to a loosening of the consciousness from the body. The consciousness can then experience itself in the life body. And in this experience it can behold that which can quench its thirst for the life of spirit.
Through the inhibition of the spiritual life of the soul, a lifting up of that soul to experience in the etheric can occur. By going through the school of suffering, there develops in the soul a new, higher faculty. The suffering today laden upon spirit-seeking peoples is a path upon which is awakened a new faculty to be developed -- namely, the soul's capacity for having experiences in the life body. And this event will return to human beings the consciousness of things of highest moral significance in the form of experience, things which in tradition have grown ever paler and have threatened at last to disappear entirely from the consciousness of men.