Nothing is such a joy as to learn something new, so enjoy each time you are wrong, you get wiser.
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observations and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason; conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. (Chop Wood, Carry Water p. 281)
Buddha was once asked, “What is truth?” He replied, “Truth is that which can be used.”
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect of church better than Christianity, and end by loving himself better than all.
The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. 1897
Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.
Every formula of every religion has in this age of reason, to submit to the acid test of reason and universal assent.
Faith… must be enforced by reason… when faith becomes blind it dies.
Those who know how to think need no teachers.
And, not least
Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.
Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.
Lie, n. :
A very poor substitute for the truth, but the only one discovered to date.
Sometimes we have to spend more time trying to understand, instead of pretending that we already do. Katherine gm
The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.
Beware the man of one book.
Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.
The truth is a trap: you cannot get it without it getting you; you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you.
The reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp. I can — if I may put it this way — find that Archimedian point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it.
Knowledge resides in brains that are filled with the thoughts of others, but wisdom resides in the souls of those who attentively listens to their own thoughts.
Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though ’twere his own.
Oblivion is full of people who allow the opinions of others to overrule their belief in themselves.
First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.
Common sense is the genius of humanity.
Few people have the imagination for reality.
We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.
Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action.
Not to keep from error, is the duty of the educator of men, but to guide the erring one, even to let him swill his error out of full cups — that is the wisdom of teachers. Whoever merely tastes of his error, will keep house with it for a long time, … but whoever drains it completely will have to get to know it.
Sokrates could save his life if he renounced his teachings, but he said: “I think it’s better to have my lyre or a chorus that I might lead out of tune and dissonant, and have the vast majority of men disagree with me and contradict me, than to be out of harmony with myself, to contradict myself, though I’m only one person.”
True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.
Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.
Follow that will and that way which experience confirms to be your own.
In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.
The word “belief” is a difficult thing for me. I don’t believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it – I don’t need to believe it.
Truth never triumphs — its opponents just die out.
It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.
New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
No matter where and how far we look, nowhere do we find a contradiction between religion and natural science. On the contrary, we find a complete concordance in the very points of decisive importance. Religion and natural science do not exclude each other, as many contemporaries of ours would believe or fear. They mutually supplement and condition each other. The most immediate proof of the compatibility of religion and natural science, even under the most thorough critical scrutiny, is the historical fact that the very greatest natural scientists of all times — men such as Kepler, Newton, Leibniz— were permeated by a most profound religious attitude.
Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.
No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
Reserve your right to think.
For even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.
Consequently he who wishes to attain to human perfection, must therefore first study Logic, next the various branches of Mathematics in their proper order, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics. He, however, who begins with Metaphysics, will not only become confused in matters of religion, but will fall into complete infidelity.
Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.
Being wrong is erroneously associated with failure, when, in fact, to be proven wrong should be celebrated, for it elevates someone to a new level of understanding.
What we are trying in all these discussions and talks here, is to see if we cannot radically bring about a transformation of the mind. *Not accept things as they are* – but to understand it, to go into it, examine it, give your heart and your mind with every thing that you have to find out. A way of living differently. But that depends on you and not somebody else. Because in this there is no teacher, no pupil. There’s no leader, there is no guru, there’s no master, no savior. You yourself are the teacher, and the pupil, you’re the master, you’re the guru, you are the leader, you are everything! And, to understand is to transform what is“.
You must understand the Whole of life, not just one little part of it.
That is why you must read,
that is why you must look at the skies,
that is why you must sing and dance,
and write poems,
for all that is life.
The more one knows, the more one simplifies.
One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.
If you can’t answer a man’s argument, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.
If you live by what I say, you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And do not marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
So, you have full responsibility for what you believe!
If the root be in confusion, nothing will be well-governed.
We journalists… are also extremely impressed with scientists, and we will, frankly, print just about any wacky thing they tell us, especially if it involves outer space.
It sounds paradoxical to say the attainment of scientific truth has been effected, to a great extent, by the help of scientific errors.
“If only the sun-drenched celebrities are being noticed and worshiped, then our children are going to have a tough time seeing the value in the shadows, where the thinkers, probers and scientists are keeping society together.”
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.
Nevertheless, one feature, at any rate, we have in common with the scientific method of investigation. We take nothing on faith, and we go beyond and higher than any dogmatic religion or materialistic physical science, since our motto—“There is no religion higher than truth” is followed by the principle enunciated by Arago: “outside of pure mathematics never pronounce the word impossible.”
I speak “with absolute certainty” only so far as my own personal belief is concerned. Those who have not the same warrant for their belief as I have, would be very credulous and foolish to accept it on blind faith. Nor does the writer believe any more than her correspondent and his friends in any “authority” let alone “divine revelation”!
Intellect may arrive at certain inferences, but intellect is an unconscious phenomenon. You are almost behaving sleepily. Intelligence is awakening, and unless you are fully awake, whatsoever you decide is bound to be wrong somewhere or other. It is bound to be so, it is doomed to be wrong, because it is a conclusion arrived at by an unconscious mind.
To bring intelligence into activity you don’t need more information, you need more meditation. You need to become more silent, you need to become more thoughtless. You need to become less mind and more heart. You need to become aware of the magic that surrounds you: magic that is life, magic that is God, magic that is in the green trees and the red flowers, magic that is in people’s eyes. Magic is happening everywhere! All is miraculous, but because of your intellect you remain closed inside yourself, clinging to your stupid conclusions arrived at in unconsciousness or given to you by others who are as unconscious as you are.
Savita, intelligence is certainly creative because intelligence brings your totality into functioning — not only a part, a small part, the head. Intelligence vibrates your whole being; each cell of your being, each fiber of your life starts dancing, and falls in a subtle harmony with the total. That’s what creativity is: to pulsate in absolute harmony with the total. That’s how one becomes a Buddha, Christ, Zarathustra. These are the real creative people.
Many people think that they’re working for the good of mankind from morn till eve, but this is questionable. A clairvoyant can see that efforts coming from materialistic thinking have the wrong effect, and it may lie in some people’s karma that they should wait until they can do certain things. Then a higher being can whisper such a task in his ear, so that it’s not induced by outer circumstances. Life is a destructive process for someone who only devotes himself to outer sense impressions. A meditating esoteric doesn’t let his life be determined by outer circumstances as much. One who makes repeated meditational efforts isn’t exposed to astral confusions at night and makes himself ready to receive the instructions of spiritual beings. And it’s very necessary that we be instructed in this way.
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The fact is, no art of any kind can be mastered without humour, especially the art of dealing with human beings. This means that part of the art of education is the elimination of ill-humour and crossness from the teachers, and the development of friendliness and a love full of humour and fantasy for the children, so that the children may not see portrayed in their teacher the very thing he is forbidding them to be.
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Nevertheless one will sometimes have great trouble in controlling the children’s liveliness. You will succeed in controlling it if you possess a thing not sufficiently appreciated in this connection, namely humour. The teacher must bring humour into the class room as he enters the door.
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That is what you need – an enthusiasm in the experience of truth. This enthusiasm is an absolute sine qua non. For years it has been so terribly painful to me, the way the members of the anthroposophical movement stand there as if they were rooted to the spot – and the young too, almost as much as the old. But now consider what it means, that they can stand there so impassively. Look at Nietzsche! What a different sort of fellow he was – even if he did get ill from it! He made his Zarathustra become a dancer. Can’t you become dancers – in the sense Nietzsche meant it? Why, you should be leading lives of joy – deep inner joy in the truth! There is nothing in the world more delightful, nothing more fascinating than the experience of truth.
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The right attitude for raising oneself into the higher world is never a sentimental one. Mere sentimentality is of no use for the man who wants to toil up the spiritual heights, in the right way, for it always smacks of egoism. You know how often, when the highest spiritual subjects are being discussed, I mix with our considerations something not designed to take you out of the mood, but simply to banish any egoistic sentimentality from it. A genuine ascent to the spiritual must be undertaken in purity of soul (which is never destitute of humour), not from a motive of egoistic sentimentality.
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Theosophists also often tend to turn away from the outer world. But a loving interest in our surroundings is absolutely necessary if one wants to make progress. One doesn’t have to neglect what one is striving for theosophically thereby.
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The mood of meditation should not be: I will inwardly lie down in a warm nest, which must become warmer and warmer for me. Rather, our mood must be that we are about to dip into reality, to grasp something real. Devoted attention to little things, indeed to the least thing, is what it comes down to.
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“Never should the phrase be heard that truths are accepted simply because I have voiced them! We should sin against the truth were we to say any such thing. One thing or another may be grounded on confidence; but that can never be made into a principle. Someone else may perhaps be better able to tread the path; but the rule to which every individual should adhere is this: not to accept things on authority, but to put them to the test.
Truth has to conquer its domain with complete disinterestedness. That is why, at bottom, nothing is more hated than the truth, the unvarnished truth. And so there may be many adherents here and there who actually cherish hatred deep down within them. No wonder that this hatred sometimes cuts through the force that builds a wall against it — cuts through this force because the hatred has been accumulating for so long. Such hatred is far more widespread than is imagined and it is a factor that must be reckoned with.
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The occultist will never dream of imposing dogmas. He is one who tells what he has seen and tested in the astral and spiritual worlds or what has been revealed to him by trustworthy and reliable teachers. He does not desire to convert but to quicken in others the sense that has awakened in him and to enable them to see likewise.
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The Rosicrucian way, which leaves the pupil with the greatest possible independence. … When we are on the physical plane, we perceive with the physical senses only what is to be found on that plane. Astral perceptions are valid for the astral plane; devachanic hearing is valid only in Devachan. Thus each plane has its own specific form of perception. But one activity — logical thinking — goes through all worlds. Logic is the same on all three planes. Thus on the physical plane you can learn something which is valid also for the higher planes; and this is the method followed by Rosicrucian training when on the physical plane it gives primary attention to thinking, and for this purpose uses the means available on the physical plane. A penetrative thinking can be cultivated by studying theosophical truths, or by practising mental exercises. Anyone who wishes further training for the intellect can study books such as Truth and Science, and The Philosophy of Freedom, which are written deliberately in such a way that a thinking trained by them can move with certainty on the highest planes. Even a person who studies these books and knows nothing of Theosophy might find his way about in the higher worlds. But, as I have said, the teachings of Theosophy act in the same way.
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The first condition is the cultivation of absolutely clear thinking. For this purpose a man must rid himself of the will-o’-the-wisps of thought, even if only for a very short time during the day – about five minutes (the longer, the better). He must become the ruler in his world of thought.He is not the ruler if external circumstances, occupation, some tradition or other, social relationships, even membership of a particular race, the daily round of life, certain activities and so forth, determine a thought and how he works it out.
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There is, in truth, no difference between esoteric knowledge and all the rest of man’s knowledge and proficiency. This esoteric knowledge is no more of a secret for the average human being than writing is a secret for those who have never learned it. And just as all can learn to write who choose the correct method, so, too, can all who seek the right way become esoteric students and even teachers….He must begin with a certain fundamental attitude of soul. In spiritual science this fundamental attitude is called the path of veneration, of devotion to truth and knowledge.Without this attitude no one can become a student. The disposition shown in their childhood by subsequent students of higher knowledge is well known to the experienced in these matters. There are children who look up with religious awe to those whom they venerate…. Only it must not be thought that this disposition leads to submissiveness and slavery. What was once a childlike veneration for persons becomes, later, a veneration for truth and knowledge. Experience teaches that they can best hold their heads erect who have learned to venerate where veneration is due; and veneration is always fitting when it flows from the depths of the heart. …If we do not develop within ourselves this deeply rooted feeling that there is something higher than ourselves, we shall never find the strength to evolve to something higher. The initiate has only acquired the strength to lift his head to the heights of knowledge by guiding his heart to the depths of veneration and devotion. The heights of the spirit can only be climbed by passing through the portals of humility. You can only acquire right knowledge when you have learned to esteem it. Man has certainly the right to turn his eyes to the light, but he must first acquire this right. … A person who darts from one impression of the outer world to another, who constantly seeks distraction, cannot find the way to higher knowledge. The student must not blunt himself to the outer world, but while lending himself to its impressions, he should be directed by his rich inner life.
This life of the soul in thought, which gradually widens into a life in spiritual being, is called by Gnosis, and by Spiritual Science, Meditation (contemplative reflection). This meditation is the means to supersensible knowledge. But the student in such moments must not merely indulge in feelings; he must not have indefinite sensations in his soul. That would only hinder him from reaching true spiritual knowledge. His thoughts must be clear, sharp and definite, and he will be helped in this if he does not cling blindly to the thoughts that rise within him. Rather must he permeate himself with the lofty thoughts by which men already advanced and possessed of the spirit were inspired at such moments. He should start with the writings which themselves had their origin in just such revelation during meditation. In the mystic, gnostic and spiritual scientific literature of today the student will find such writings, and in them the material for his meditation. The seekers of the spirit have themselves set down in such writings the thoughts of the divine science which the Spirit has directed his messengers to proclaim to the world.
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For through his ego the human being attains to control of his sensations, feelings, thoughts, instincts, passions, and desires. Perception and thought cannot be left to themselves in the soul. They must be regulated through attentive thinking. It is the ego that employs these laws of thinking and through them brings order into the life of visualization and thought. It is similar with desires, instincts, inclinations, and passions. The ethical principles become guides of these soul powers. Through moral judgment the ego becomes the guide of the soul in this realm. If the human being now draws a higher ego out of his ordinary ego, the latter becomes independent in a certain sense. From this ego just as much of living force is withdrawn as is bestowed upon the higher ego. Let us suppose, however, the case in which the human being has not yet developed a sufficient ability and firmness in the laws of thought and in his power of judgment, and he wishes to give birth to his higher ego at this stage of development. He will be able to leave behind for his everyday ego only so much thought power as he has previously developed. If the measure of regulated thinking is too small, then there will appear a disordered, confused, fantastic thinking and judgment in the ordinary ego that has become independent. Because the new-born ego can only be weak in such a personality, the disturbed lower ego will gain domination over supersensible perception, and man will not show equilibrium in his power of judgment in observing the supersensible world. If he had developed sufficient ability in logical thinking, he would be able, without fear, to permit the ordinary ego to have its independence. — This is also true in the domain of the ethical. If the human being has not attained firmness in moral judgment, if he has not gained sufficient control over his inclinations, instincts, and passions, then he will make his ordinary ego independent in a state in which these soul powers act. It may happen that the human being in describing the knowledge he has experienced in the supersensible is not governed by the same high sense of truth that guides him in what he brings to his consciousness in the physical outer world. With such a demoralized sense of truth, he might believe anything to be spiritual reality that in truth is only his own fantastic imagining. Into this sense of truth there must act firmness of ethical judgment, certainty of character, keenness of conscience, which are developed in the lower, first ego, before the higher, second ego becomes active for the purpose of supersensible cognition.
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In earthly existence we live in a world that is but a copy of true reality. Indeed, we only understand this physical world aright when we realize it to be this copy of reality. It behooves us, however, to feel the true reality within us; we must be aware of our connection with the spiritual world. And this is only possible if the bond that links us with pre-earthly existence remains intact.
This bond is strengthened by a love of truth and Integrity. Nothing establishes man’s true and original sense of existence so firmly as a feeling for truth and truthfulness. To feel himself in duty bound first to “prove all things” he utters, to set due restraint on all his words — this helps to consolidate the sense of existence that is worthy of his being. To be aware of the spirit within the physical body — with this, indeed, the sense of being is connected. There is, in effect, an intimate kinship between the physical body and this ideal of Truth.
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After Atlantis was destroyed by water, continued evolution resulted in our contemporary fifth race, during which deductive reasoning was a special achievement. This enabled the human race to bring art and science to a high level of development, which previously had not been possible.
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People think often enough that it is unnecessary to talk about the principles of man’s being, or the evolution of humanity or the different planetary evolutions, they would rather acquire beautiful feelings, they do not want to study earnestly. Nevertheless, however many beautiful feelings one acquires in one’s soul it is impossible to rise into the spiritual worlds by that alone. Rosicrucian theosophy does not try to arouse the feelings, but through the stupendous facts of the spiritual worlds to let the feelings themselves begin to resound. The Rosicrucian feels it a kind of impertinence to take people by storm with feelings. … It is only an empty phrase to say one should address oneself direct to the feelings, that is just indolence. Rosicrucian theosophy lets the facts speak, and if these thoughts flow into the feeling nature and overpower it, then that is the right way.”
Rosicrucian Theosophy does not wish to revel in feelings, it wishes to bring the facts of the spirit before your eyes. The pupil must take part, must let himself be stimulated by the facts which have been described, feelings and sensations must be aroused in him through them. In this sense Spiritual Science should become a powerful impulse for the sphere of feeling, but at the same time be that which leads us direct into the facts of supersensible perceptions, which lets them first arise as thoughts and then leads the seeker upwards into the higher worlds.
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Just think how abstract modern thinking has become when it uses abstract words for something which, in its reality, is not understood!
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Reality is not contained in the abstract concept; it is, however, contained in thoughtful observation, which does not one-sidedly consider either concept or percept alone, but rather the union of the two. PoF
Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.
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How does a fanatic behave? He wants to convert people as quickly as possible — while they, as a rule, do not want to be converted. Everybody is expected immediately to believe what the fanatic wants them to believe and he is angry when this does not happen. In our day, when someone sets out to expound a particular subject, people simply do not believe that his aim may be not to voice his own views but something quite different, namely, the thoughts and opinions of the one of whom he is writing. For many years I was held to be a follower of Nietzsche because I once wrote an absolutely objective book about him. People simply cannot understand that the aim of a writer may be to give an objective exposition. They think that everyone must be a fanatic on the subject of which he happens to be speaking!
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Where knowledge exists, knowledge is imparted and there is no particular desire for discussion. Where there is desire for discussion, however, there is as a rule no knowledge of the truth. Discussion begins only when there is a lack of knowledge, and it is always and everywhere the sign of a decline regarding the seriousness of a subject when it is discussed. Disintegration of a particular trend is always proclaimed by discussions. It is important that in spiritual science we come increasingly to understand that the wish for discussion may really be taken as a sign of ignorance. On the other hand, the opposite of discussion, the will to learn, the will gradually to comprehend what is in question, should be cultivated.
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The pupil now, however, begins to perceive his etheric body more directly. The most striking change that takes place in the etheric body, which many do not appreciate at all, and which is not recognised as a change in the etheric body, although it is such, is that as a result of esoteric or theosophical development it becomes very distinctly evident that the power of memory begins somewhat to diminish. Through esoteric development, the ordinary memory almost invariably suffers diminution. At first one’s memory becomes poorer. If the student does not wish to have a less efficient memory, he cannot undergo an esoteric development. Especially does that memory cease to be strongly active which may be described as the mechanical memory, best developed in human beings in childhood and youth, and generally meant when memory is alluded to. Many esotericists have to complain of the diminution of their memory, for it soon becomes perceptible. In any case, this depreciation of the memory can be observed long before one perceives the more delicate things which have just been explained. But as the student, by pursuing correct theosophical training, can never suffer injury in his physical body — in spite of its becoming more mobile — neither will his memory be injured for long. But care must be taken to do the correct thing. As regards the physical organisation, while the external body is growing more flexible, while inwardly its organs are becoming more independent, so that it is more difficult to bring them into harmony than before, inner strength must be sought. This is done by means of the six exercises described in the second part of my book, An Outline Of Occult Science (chapter V.). The student who takes care to acquire these qualities in the right way will find that he gains as much inner strength as he loses forces through esoteric development, so that he is able to keep under control his more mobile physical body.
Now, as regards the memory, we must also do the correct thing. We lose the memory belonging to the external life: but we need suffer no injury if we take care to develop more interest, a deeper interest in all that affects us in life, more concern than hitherto. We must especially acquire a sympathetic interest for the things which to us are important. Previously we developed a more mechanical memory, and the working of this mechanical memory was fully reliable for a time, even without any particular liking for the things observed; but this ceases. It will be noticed that when undergoing a theosophical or esoteric development it is easy to forget things. But only those things fly away for which one has not a sympathetic interest, which one does not particularly care for, which do not become part of one’s soul, as it were. On the other hand, that which appeals to one’s soul fixes itself in the memory all the more. Therefore, the student must try systematically to bring this about. The following may be experienced. Let us imagine a man in his youth, before he came to Theosophy when he read a novel he was quite unable to forget it; he could relate it again and again. Later, when he has come into Theosophy, if he reads a novel, it very often vanishes from his mind; he cannot recount it. But if a student takes a book, of which he has been told — or tells himself — that it might be valuable, and reads it through once and then tries directly afterwards to repeat it mentally, and not only to repeat it, but repeat it backwards, the last matters first and the first last; if he takes the trouble to go through certain details a second time, if he becomes so absorbed in it that he even takes a piece of paper and writes brief thoughts on it, and tries to put the question: — what aspect of this subject specially interests me — then he will find that in this way he develops a different kind of memory. It will not be the same memory. By using it, the difference can be accurately observed. When we use the human memory, things come into our soul as remembrances; but if, in the manner just described, we systematically acquire a memory as an esotericist or theosophist, then it is as though the things thus experienced had remained stationary in time. We learn to look back into time, as it were, and it really seems as though we were looking at what we were remembering; indeed, we shall notice that the things become more and more picture-like and the memory more and more imaginative. If we have acted in the manner just described — for instance, with a book — then, when it is necessary to bring the matter to mind again, we need only meet with something in some way connected with it, and we shall look back, as it were, at the occasion when we were studying the book, and see ourselves reading it. The remembrance does not arise, but the whole picture appears. Then we are able to notice that, while previously we only read the book, now the contents actually appear. We see them as at a distance in time; the memory becomes a seeing of pictures at a distance in time. This is the very first beginning, elementary to be sure, of gradually learning to read the Akashic Record. The memory is replaced by learning to read in the past. And very often a man who has gone through a certain esoteric development may have almost entirely lost his memory, yet he is none the worse for it, because he sees things in retrospect. He sees those with which he himself was connected, with special clearness. I am now saying something which, if it were said to anyone not connected with Theosophy, would only make him laugh. He could not help laughing, because he could not form any idea of what it means when an esotericist tells him that he no longer has any memory, and yet that he knows quite well what has happened, because he can see it in the past. The first man would say: ‘What you have is in reality a very excellent memory,’ for he cannot conceive of the change that has taken place. It is a change in the etheric body that has brought it about.
Then, as a rule, this changing of the memory is connected with something else, viz., we form, we might say, a new opinion about our inner man. For we cannot acquire this retrospective vision without at the same time adopting a certain standpoint as regards our experience. Thus when at a later date a man looks back at something he has done, as in the case described above about the book, for instance, when he sees himself in that position, he will, of course, have to judge for himself whether he was wise or foolish so to occupy himself. With this retrospect there is closely united another experience, viz., a sort of self-criticism. The pupil at this stage cannot do otherwise than define his attitude towards his past. He will reproach himself about some things; he will be glad he has attained others. In short, he cannot do otherwise than judge the past he thus surveys, so that, in fact, he becomes a sterner judge of himself, of his past life. He feels within him the etheric body becoming active, the etheric body which — as may be seen by the retrospect after death — has the whole of his past within it; he feels this etheric body as included in himself, as something that lives in him and defines his value. Indeed, such a change takes place in the etheric body that very often he feels the impulse to make this self-retrospect and observe one thing or another, so as to learn in quite a natural manner to judge of his own worth as a man. While in ordinary life one lives without being aware of the etheric body, in the retrospective view of one’s own life it can be perceived, and this gradually rouses in the student an impulse to make greater efforts when he undergoes an esoteric development. The esoteric life makes it necessary for one to pay more attention to one’s merits and demerits, errors and imperfections. [GA-145]