On Spiritual Development


My way of seeing this, is that Steiner gave many, many different "exercises" in most of his lectures, beyond the "methods" explained systematically in KHW and in "Occult Science". The principles behind them were always similar, and, in my view, were related to the attitudes of the soul required for the "fruition" to take place, for the "soul" of things --being made of spiritual beings-- to become alive in one's consciousness. If the soul is spiritually healthy, the correct "attitude" will be there, and the "exercises" are really etherical gestures and movements of the soul... 

This is learned and done through a lot of work, and requires great awareness and concentration  and a powerful/healthy mind. But it is an organic process, it doesn't follow "a method". It works against method, and it is when method is broken that the etheric forces begin to appear in thinking...

I don't mean all exercises, or rather, a certain and consistent type of them that Steiner suggests directly or indirectly in his lectures. Soul qualities that he evokes and illustrates for his listeners, like wonder and veneration, devotion, the state of grace, the experience of eternity, the intensification of love, the qualities and attitudes of flowers... Trying to imagine what Steiner is describing is an exercise in itself. It's never passive, and its essence is the correct attitude or gesture that enables us to listen and be impregnated by the spirit in the world. He usually describes in such a way that you are able to experience a lot, like in story-telling. The soul is not passive in this, it is making an effort, it is learning and exercising an attitude, it is generating movement, it is dancing, crying and smiling, it is wondering...

I believe this is what Steiner always strove to achieve in his listeners and readers, by way of his gestures and words, by way of the power of the imaginations, inspirations and intuitions that he conveyed through those gestures and those words. They were --are-- images and ideas with virtue, they crack-through, they are not addressed to the intellect but to the dormant forces in us.

It doesn't matter if I don't understand (heresy!). I don't have to understand from the start. Understanding comes in due time. What matters is that I can feel and relate to what is being said, which to a large extent comes through the person who is speaking. It is to him or her that I relate to, not intellectually to the words, but to the person who is saying the words.

This is why reading Steiner or "hearing him" is a spiritual experience in itself. I feel the same thing, the same virtue and power, the same "crack", when I read the Gospel of John or certain passages of St. Paul. Also when I listen to certain music, and I listen a lot of music -physically audible or not-- in many situations: there is music in people's biographies, in their testimonies, there is music in numbers. I just listen to the music, and the music works on me.

It is the virtue that works on me, not me that works on the virtue.

Often spiritual beings make themselves present when you are giving or receiving a lecture, or when you are having a conversation or interview with another person. It "happens". You don't bring it out deliberately. It is like receiving a visit. One opens the door gently and gracefully, and the being leaves when it is time to leave, also gently and gracefully. "Communion" within a group or between two persons is just this, the presence of a being that transcends us and "includes" us, we become one inside this other being. This is only an example, but there is no esoteric training necessary to experience this, just the correct  attitude, the state of receptivity, the freedom and health necessary not to pervert the experience or the "visitation". And you are transformed through the experience, never being the same again. You experience power, and humbleness. Your brain needs a special education to properly assimilate this, and enables you to understand many other spiritual things.

I repeat that this is only an example of what I am referring to. It is not easy to write briefly about these things. One can only explain very partially. There are other instances, other situations in the path towards knowledge. I believe that the key is the realization that relationships --with knowledge, with things, with people-- are alive, are not abstractions but spiritual beings. We move in them. They move in us...


Of course, I am talking about spiritual matters. They are not the same as psychological matters. There is no way out of psychological self-knowledge and balance, nor that it requires enormous powers on concentration and will. I see Buddhism --and many of Steiner's exercises-- as exercises in self-knowledge. They are without question a pre-requisite for a healthy spiritual life. But spiritual matters are not psychological matters. As far as I am concerned, the spirit is free and should be left free to take care of itself (heresy! heresy!)

The spiritual or occult path is not psychotherapy. One needs first this psychological health and self-knowledge before embarking in a spiritual path or project. I am full of garbage, full of darkness, and also full of light. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness is still there. In the way I am using the terms, the psychological aspect has to do with healing the wounds and dealing with the darkness, so that I can find my inner peace. It is like enlightenment. Then comes the spirit of the world and begins its work on me, or through me, or with me.

Once the "seal" of the etheric body is broken, healing ensues, and psychology ends.

I agree about the importance of constancy and discipline. This is for any work that you want to do properly. But I believe there is a lot of spiritual work going on in a simple conversation and in everyday living. There is a lot of work in the act of listening, of reading, of imagining. To me, it is completely dispensable whether I am having an objective experience of spiritual matters or not, because I don't think that is an aim or *the* goal for everyone. I accept and understand that some people want to "achieve" this. I am not interested. I cannot see life like this, but I don't reject it. Probably what I would reject is the rigidity of people who believe that "esoteric training" is indispensable in Anthroposophy. I have heard this about Eurythmics, that without Eurythmics there is no Anthroposophy, that Eurythmics is the "practical" side of it. I find this rigid and not very intelligent, coming from people who cannot experience the life and the struggle and the work and the transformations present --for example-- in learning about Cosmogenesis.

The exercises are the means, not the end. The exercises are meant to serve life, not the other way around. Logically, I need a very special training if I want to become a spiritual researcher.  As when you want to become a therapist, or an actor, etc. Nothing can be done without training and discipline. But personally, I don't think pre-programmed esoteric training is necessary for attaining "soul strength and organs of perception". Long term commitment to the developmental and spiritual dimension of life, yes!


How do I relate to knowledge? There is the scientist in me, the one who wants to know and understand anything that is vital and comes to focus in my life and perception. But it is not I who knows, but the eternal spirit that knows through me. I am me, not my knowledge. I have what I need: my life, my love, my warmth, my hope, my grace. The eternal spirit gets what it needs through my wonderful and never-ending learning that is my glory, but I am here, I am home.

I'd like to quote something from Mabel Collin's "Light on the Path", which, to me, has always been the light on the path:

<<Grow as the flower grows, unconsciously, but eagerly anxious to open its soul to the air. So must you press forward to open your soul to the eternal. But it must be the eternal that draws forth your strength and beauty, not desire of growth. For in the one case you develop in the luxuriance of purity, in the other you harden by the forcible passion for personal stature.>>

In the spiritual sense things are not the same as in the physical. The nature of the soul world, as Steiner many times explained, is the opposite of the physical, and physical laws do not apply there. For example, in Steiner words, the closest distance between 2 points in the soul world is anything *but* the straight line, because it is taken in freedom. He also says (in the same lectures of 1923 at Penmaenmaw) that everything that shines in the soul world, all the light that comes from the spiritual beings, is invariably borne out of a transformation of pain.

In "Methods of Spiritual Research" Steiner mentions 3 characteristics of spiritual experiences:

- they work against habit
- they are completely individual
- they come unexpectedly.

This, in my opinion, puts in evidence the difference between "growth in the spirit", which is really growth in grace and in truth, and becoming a spiritual researcher. I don't think they are the same thing. To grow spiritually, from my perspective, man's heart has to crack, the heart must be transformed. Personally, I don't think this is achieved gradually as a result of "spiritual exercises", I think the crack is done by life, death, and love.

The spiritual life is a paradox. It is the result of my own work but is also a gift that I receive. Spiritual life means being related to spiritual beings spiritually (please forgive me for the abuse of this word). Knowledge, in the Rosicrucian and Christian sense, is not like intellectual knowledge. It is more like relating to someone: that someone grows in me out of grace and freedom. I let it come. I choose to open the door or keep it closed.

This may sound like "mediumistic", but it is only Christian. It requires an enormous will power to be spiritually alive, to live, to love, to learn, to be oneself, to hold oneself together. Let me be "possessed" by this light, by this life, by this gratitude. Let my blood be taken by this passion; let me die for it...


Sometimes I like to think that Steiner was too much of a thinker to remain "Steinerian" himself. Real thinkers never stop, never come to rest, and are always overflowing and superseding themselves because the thinking has gone beyond the chains of the brain and has become organic, etheric, alive, and nothing can stop it in its creative, transformational and liberating flow. Krishnamurti referred to thinking as a never-ending movement that has no point of rest, and this a good spiritual description of Steiner in his last years.

There is enough in Anthroposophy to keep one studying for a lifetime, and even then time would not be enough to encompass it. There is a lot of meditative work and "spiritual exercise" that I haven't done, and maybe I will never do. I am no clairvoyant, I cannot read the Akasha chronicle, I cannot inquire in the after-life or communicate face to face with the hierarchies...

But I have the gift of life, amidst all the death that pervades my being and my body. This life goes dormant often, overpowered by death or by the mighty physical forces of my brain and my body that want me to become stagnant and drown. I can only describe it as a light that always awakens and stands up when the time is ripe. It (or she, the light), or my life, my "I", seems to go away quite often, but it always comes back to dictate and me to obey...

It is like a seed of light, non-intellectual, pure quality and virtue, and power. It's the Word that I was fortunate to listen through Steiner's words. But if they are going to have their cracking power, I have to awaken them in me, I have to transform them and pervade them with the life of my "I", with my own forces and my own words; with my gestures, and not Steiner's. Then I can be in the river with him, thanks to him, by just being me, without having to become like him, thanks to the miraculous power of the spiritual imagination present in my hands and my breath, and in the life/death passion of my blood. Then my brain becomes my servant, the bridge, but no longer the dictator of my perception.

I become liquid, I hear the Word coming from your voice that is also mine, flowing like a spiritual wind that makes your soul audible...

This was Steiner's gift to me.

Juan Antonio Revilla
San Josť, Costa Rica, September 4, 1999.

see also:

"Objectivity and subjectivity"
"On Kharma and Christianity"
"Pain and suffering, sickness and time"
"Cultural Epochs and Astronomy"

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