- Rudolf Steiner's exercises for spiritual development
Rudolf Steinerdeveloped exercises aimed at cultivating new cognitivefaculties he believed would be appropriate to contemporary cultural and individual development. According to Steiner's view of history, in earlier periods people were capable of direct spiritual perceptions, or clairvoyance, but not yet of rational thought; more recently, rationality has been developed at the cost of spiritual perception, leading to the alienation characteristic of modernity. Steiner proposed that humanity now has the task of synthesizing the rational and contemplative/spiritual components of cognition, whereby spiritual perception would be awakened through intensifying thinking.
A central principle of Steiner's proposed path to spiritual development is that
self-development- inner transformation - is a necessary part of the spiritual path: "for every step in spiritual perception, three steps are to be taken in moral development." According to the spiritual philosophy Steiner founded, anthroposophy, moral development:Peter Schneider, "Einführung in die Waldorfpädogogik", Klett-Cotta, 1982, ISBN 3-608-93006-X] Johannes Hemleben, "Rudolf Steiner: A documentary biography", Henry Goulden Ltd, 1975, ISBN 090482202-8, pp. 91-94 (German edition: Rowohlt Verlag, 1990, ISBN 349950079-5)] Lía Tummer, "Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy for Beginners", Writers and Readers Publishing, 2001, ISBN 086316286-X, pp. 79-84]
* reveals the extent to which a person has achieved control over his or her inner life;
* ensures that he or she lives in harmony with the surrounding natural and social world;
* correlates with his or her progress in spiritual development, the fruits of which are given in spiritual perception; and
* guarantees the capacity to distinguish between true perceptions and illusions, or to distinguish in any perception between the influence of subjective elements and objective realities.
Steiner described three stages of meditative progress: imaginative cognition, inspiration and intuition.Olav Hammer, "Claiming Knowledge", ISBN 900413638X, pp. 424ff]
*In imaginative cognition, the meditant aims to achieve thinking independent of sensory perception through concentration on either visual forms of symbolic significance never encountered in the sensory world (e.g. a black cross with a circle of seven red roses superimposed upon it), metamorphoses (e.g. the growth cycle of a plant from seed to mature flower), or mantric verses spoken aloud or silently (e.g. verses for each week of the year intended to connect the meditant with the rhythms of nature).
*In inspiration, the meditant seeks to eliminative all consciously chosen meditative content to open a receptive space in which objective spiritual content (impressions stemming from objective spiritual beings) may be encountered. The meditative activity established in imaginative cognition is set forth without concrete content.
*The stage of intuition is achieved through practicing exercises of will (e.g. reviewing the sequence of the day's events in reverse order).Carlo Willmann, "Waldorfpädogogik: Theologische und religionspädagogische Befunde", Böhlau Verlag, 1998, ISBN 3-412-16700-2, pp. 11-14] At this stage, the meditant seeks unity with the creative forces of the cosmos without any loss of his or her individualized consciousness.
Preliminary requirements for embarking on a spiritual training
Steiner believed that in order for a spiritual training to bear "healthy fruits," a person would have to attend to the following:
*Striving to develop a healthy body and soul.
*Feeling connected with all of existence; to recognize oneself in everything, and everything in oneself; not to judge others without standing in their shoes.
*Recognizing that one's thoughts and feelings have as significant influence as one's deeds, and that work on one's inner life is as important as work on one's outer life.
*Recognizing that the true essence of a human being does not lie in the person's outer appearance, but rather in the inner nature, in the soul and spiritual existence of this person.
*Finding the genuine balance between having an open heart for the demands of the outer world and maintaining inner strength and "unshakeable endurance."
*The ability to be true to a decision once made, even in the face of daunting adversity, until one comes to the conclusion that it was or is made in error.
*Developing thankfulness for everything that meets us, and that universal love that allows the world to reveal itself fully to me.
Steiner suggested that a special group of general exercises should accompany all spiritual training as he believed their influence on inner development would be beneficial whatever the spiritual path. These six exercises are:
* Practicing self-control over one's thinking. For example: for a period of time – normally a few minutes, not longer – contemplate any object and concentrate one's thoughts exclusively on this object. (A crystal or a paper clip might do.)
* Development of initiative. For example, choose any positive but free deed, i.e. one that nothing is influencing you to do, and choose a regular time of day or day of the week to practice this.
* Equanimity. Quiet reactive emotions.
* Positivity. See the positive aspects of everything, and make the best out of every situation.
* Open-mindedness. Be open to new experiences and ideas, never letting expectations based upon the past close your mind to the lessons of the moment.
* Harmony. Find a harmonious, balanced relationship between the above five qualities, practicing them regularly and becoming able to move dynamically between them.
The initial three exercises are intended to enable a person to attain self-discipline in
thinking, willingand feeling.Robert A. McDermott, "Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy", in Faivre and Needleman, "Modern Esoteric Spirituality", ISBN 0-8245-1444-0, pp. 303ff]
Exercises developed in anthroposophy include:
*Review of the day. Each evening, go backwards through the day recalling its events, its sequential unfolding (experienced here reversed in time), the people one met, etc.
*Experience the year's unfolding. Exercises Steiner suggested here include:
**Drawing the same plant or tree or landscape over the course of a year.
**Meditating the sequence of 52 mantric verses that Steiner wrote to deepen one's experience of the course of the seasons and the year and to bring the inner life of the soul into dialogue with nature, the "Soul Calendar".
* [http://www.calendarofthesoul.net The Calendar of the Soul]
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