How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation

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SteinerBooks, 1994 - Philosophy - 259 pages
This is the classic account of the modern Western esoteric path of initiation made public by Steiner in 1904. He begins with the premise that "the capacities by which we can gain insights into the higher worlds lie dormant within each one of us." Steiner carefully and precisely leads the reader from the cultivation of the fundamental soul attitudes of reverence and inner tranquility to the development of inner life through the stages of preparation, illumination, and initiation.

Steiner provides practical exercises of inner and outer observation and moral development. By patiently and persistently following his guidelines, new "organs" of soul and spirit begin to form, which reveal the contours of the higher worlds thus far concealed from us.

Steiner in this important work becomes a teacher, a counselor, and a friend whose advice is practical, clear, and effective. The challenges we face in life require increasingly deeper levels of understanding, and Steiner's text helps readers to cultivate the capacities for such insights and places them at the service of humanity.

This is Steiner's most essential guide to the modern path of initiation he advocated throughout his life. It has been translated into many languages and has inspired hundreds of thousands of readers around the world. How to Know Higher Worlds has been admired by some of the most brilliant minds of our time.


  • Foreword by Arthur Zajonc
  • Prefaces by Rudolf Steiner
  • How to Know Higher Worlds
  • The Stages of Initiation
  • Initiation
  • Practical Considerations
  • Requirements for Esoteric Training
  • Some Effects of Initiation
  • Changes in the Dream Life of the Esoteric Student
  • Achieving Continuity of Consciousness
  • The Splitting of the Personality in Esoteric Training
  • The Guardian of the Threshold
  • Life and Death: The Great Guardian of the Threshold
  • Epilogue (1918)
  • Afterword by Arthur Zajonc
  • Index

"A true classic of spiritual literature. It is one of the best ways I know for opening up one's life to the spiritual realms in a manner that is balanced, integrated, and loving. It is the product of a great soul who pointed out new routes into the interior." --David Spangler, author of Blessing: The Art and the Practice

"It is not only a personal guide to the spirit, but also a path through self-knowledge to compassionate action in the world."--Arthur Zajonc, author of Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind


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This is one of Steiner's best books for the beginner, and it should be read in conjunction with "Theosophy." Whereas "Theosophy" is mostly theory, "How to Know Higher Worlds"' gives the individual some concrete practices that will enable him or her to begin to liberate the soul from its attachment to the sensory world and train it to begin to perceive the spirit world.
How is this done? According to Steiner, there are three primary faculties that can be awakened for spiritual training and initiation. These are Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. He gives an example of a concrete practice that will enable the individual to awaken Imagination. He says that you can imagine how the pure green sap of a plant is purified into the red petals of the rose as an analogy to the process of imagining how the red blood in the human being can likewise be purified of the desires and passions of the astral body. He says that you should picture in your mind the image of a black cross that gives birth to a circle of seven red roses. The black cross corresponds to the base elements that are to be purified, whereas the red roses correspond to the purified blood. This is the first stage of liberating the soul from its imprisonment in matter, since the symbols used for this exercise have no connection to the external world. This allows the soul to withdraw its attention entirely from the outer world by focussing on a purely visionary image.
In the case of Inspiration, the image that is imagined in the mind is gradually blinked out,and one is to focus on the corresponding process that is going in the soul. Here the mind begins to transcend images and moves into the etheric realm whereby one begins to perceive spirit beings. Intuition,however, goes further in that it confers knowledge of the inner nature of higher beings through a process of identifying with them, becoming one with them. Only Intuition can confer knowledge about karma or past lives. Thus, whereas Imagination awakens the chakras in the astral body, Inspiration awakens a new center at the level of the heart in the etheric body, and this etheric extension begins in the head and is gradually expanded over time with spiritual exercises until it covers the larynx and then encompasses the heart, like a halo. The more highly developed a person's capacity for perceiving the spirit world is, the larger will this invisible etheric halo become. Intuition, furthermore, affects the physical body, though not in a way that is visible to the senses. Breathing exercises, for example, are involved.
Thus Steiner provides the initiate with exercises that will enable him to use the tools of his ego in order to construct what he calls the Spirit Self, or the higher spiritual capacities of the human being. Eventually, if one follows the practices that he outlines on a daily basis, one will develop not only the lost human capacity for perceiving into the spirit world, but one will also begin to perceive and remember one's past lives.
This is the sort of material covered in this wonderful book by Steiner.
--John David Ebert, author of Celluloid Heroes & Mechanical Dragons: Film as the Mythology of Electronic Society


Foreword by Arthur Zajonc

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About the author (1994)

Austrian-born Rudolf Steiner was a noted Goethe (see Vol. 2) scholar and private student of the occult who became involved with Theosophy in Germany in 1902, when he met Annie Besant (1847--1933), a devoted follower of Madame Helena P. Blavatsky (1831--1891). In 1912 he broke with the Theosophists because of what he regarded as their oriental bias and established a system of his own, which he called Anthroposophy (anthro meaning "man"; sophia sophia meaning "wisdom"), a "spiritual science" he hoped would restore humanism to a materialistic world. In 1923 he set up headquarters for the Society of Anthroposophy in New York City. Steiner believed that human beings had evolved to the point where material existence had obscured spiritual capacities and that Christ had come to reverse that trend and to inaugurate an age of spiritual reintegration. He advocated that education, art, agriculture, and science be based on spiritual principles and infused with the psychic powers he believed were latent in everyone. The world center of the Anhthroposophical Society today is in Dornach, Switzerland, in a building designed by Steiner. The nonproselytizing society is noted for its schools.

Christopher Bamford is Editor in Chief for SteinerBooks and its imprints. A Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, he has lectured, taught, and written widely on Western spiritual and esoteric traditions. He is the author of The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (1990) and An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (2003). He has also translated and edited numerous books, including Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness (1982); Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science; and The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz (all published by Lindisfarne Books). HarperSanFrancisco included an essay by Mr. Bamford in its anthology Best Spiritual Writing 2000.

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