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Sandro Botticelli, Augustine at the writing desk, c. 1480, Florence
Augustine advocated a Christian doctrine of illumination, with Christ himself being the inner teacher ("magister interior") who answers to the asking.
Mahabodhi tree next to the Mahabodhi Temple, which was built at the place where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, attained enlightenment.

Enlightenment or illumination (Latinilluminatio, from illuminare: "to illuminate, to enlighten"; Greekφωτισμός photismos, or also ελλαμπσις ellampsis or εκλαμπσις eklampsis "to shine forth") denotes that stage of higher spiritual perception at which the activity of the soul organs trained through meditation begins to be expressed in the etheric body and thereby the imaginative consciousness lights up. The spiritual world is thus experienced in mental (not sensual) images, which, however, cannot yet be grasped in their true spiritual meaning at this level of cognition. For this, the still higher level of inspiration is necessary. The concept of illumination was also taken up by the ancient church fathers, namely by Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who advocated a Christian doctrine of illumination.


In Buddhism, enlightenment, the moment of spiritual awakening, is called Bodhi (Sanskritबोधि "awakening, perfect knowledge or wisdom"). It is no coincidence that the word bodhi is phonetically closely related to buddhi, the higher spiritual member of man that Rudolf Steiner also called the life spirit. Sufficient development of this higher member is necessary in order to reach the state of enlightenment.

According to Buddhist tradition, Siddhartha Gautama experienced enlightenment sitting under a bodhi tree (ficus religiosa). As Rudolf Steiner said, the bodhi tree, like its relative the common fig (ficus carica), is closely related to the powers of natural clairvoyance. This ancient clairvoyance, which man had in ancient times, was fed by the same pure etheric forces that underlie reproduction. These forces are indicated by the fig tree or the fig leaf. Since antiquity at the latest, therefore, figs, in which, as in all fruits, astral forces are also active in addition to etheric forces, have always been regarded as aphrodisiacs. The initiates of pre-Christian times were able to make use of the pure etheric powers for spiritual vision. This is also indicated in the Gospel of John through the conversation of the Christ with Nathanael:

„47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”“

Formation of the soul organs necessary for enlightenment

„When in daily life man allows the impressions of the senses to work upon him, these impressions are, however, such that they bear fruit for the ordinary life on the physical plane. These impressions are carried on into the astral body of man, and this first transmits them to the I. But these impressions are not such that man is able to hold on to them when he slips out of his physical and etheric body at night with his astral body and ego. What the human being thus receives from the physical plane does not penetrate him so strongly that he can retain it as a lasting impression. But then, when man does the exercises of meditation and concentration, these are so arranged, according to thousands of years of experience, that the astral body does not lose them, but retains them when it slips out of the physical body at night. Then the astral body receives plastic impressions which structure and form it, just as the physical organs have been structured. Thus, through these exercises, the astral body is worked on through certain periods of time. In this way the supersensible organs of vision imprint themselves on the astral body. Man would not be able to use his organs of vision for a long time if they were only imprinted on the astral sphere. More must happen so that the astral body, when it returns to the etheric body, impresses on the etheric body like seal marks that which has been formed in it. Only at the moment when what has formed in the astral body is imprinted in the etheric body, only then does the enlightenment occur which makes it possible for man to see the spiritual world as he sees the physical world today.“ (Lit.:GA 106, p. 144)

„What must now be done in order that these higher senses may be developed? For spiritual science, the human being is not only an outer physical body, but for higher vision he also has the otherwise invisible etheric body and the astral body, the bearer of pleasure and suffering. You know what sleep represents for spiritual research. The physical and etheric bodies remain in bed, while the astral body and the I act on the physical body from outside. On awakening, the astral body returns to the physical and etheric body, and the sense world emerges anew. Thus sleep is an emergence of the astral body and the I from the physical body. How can man hear and see the sense world? With eyes and ears, otherwise the world would be colourless, lightless, soundless. When the astral body leaves the physical body, it is certainly in the spiritual world, but it has no organs. If it had such organs, it could perceive the spiritual environment as it perceives its environment in the physical world. If man is to perceive the spiritual world, he must develop spiritual senses. This happens through the methodical training of the soul life. When the astral body comes out of such a person who has been trained according to spiritual methods, it is in a quite different position from that under ordinary circumstances. It is as if what was previously a chaotic mass in the astral body were subdivided and organs formed. What was formerly a misty, smoky mass becomes beautifully formed. This takes a long time. Since ancient times, this process has been called catharsis, purification or purification. The inside of the human being is then cleansed of drives, desires and passions. This is the first stage.

This first stage is followed by a second stage. When man returns in the morning to his physical-etheric shell, the outer organs have the stronger forces, they drown out the fine new tones in the inner organs. These are always present, but weak as long as they are drowned out by the forces of the etheric body in the sense organs. Later the human being learns to handle the inner organs so that he also sees the spiritual perceptions in addition to the sense perceptions. This process is called enlightenment, photismos.“ (Lit.:GA 125, p. 188f)

„One can call the individual spiritual-soul organs "lotus flowers", corresponding to the form which the supersensible consciousness must (imaginatively) make of them. (Of course, one must be clear that such a designation has no more to do with the matter than the expression "wings" when one speaks of "lung-wings"). Through certain kinds of inner contemplation the astral body is acted upon in such a way that one or the other spiritual-soul organ, one or the other "lotus flower" is formed. After all that has been said in this book, it should be superfluous to emphasise that these "organs of observation" are not to be imagined as something which, in the conception of its sensuous image, is an imprint of its reality. These "organs" are supersensuous and consist in a definite soul activity; and they exist only insofar and as long as this soul activity is practised. Something that can be looked at as sensuous is as little in man with these organs as there is some "vapour" around him when he thinks. Whoever wants to imagine the supersensible in a sensuous way will get into misunderstandings. In spite of the superfluousness of this remark, it may stand here because there are always confessors of the supersensible who want to have only a sensuous thing in their conceptions; and because there are always opponents of supersensible knowledge who believe that the spiritual researcher speaks of "lotuses" as of finer sensuous formations. Every regular meditation made with a view to imaginative cognition has its effect on one organ or the other. (In my book "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment" some of the methods of meditation and practice are given which have an effect on one or other organ). Regular training arranges the individual exercises of the spiritual disciple in such a way and lets them follow one another in such a way that the organs can train themselves individually with or one after the other. This training requires a great deal of patience and perseverance on the part of the spiritual disciple. He who has only such a measure of patience as is usually given to man by the ordinary conditions of life, will not suffice with it. For it takes a long time, often a very, very long time, until the organs are so far developed that the spiritual disciple can use them for perceptions in the higher world. At this moment there occurs for him what is called enlightenment, in contrast to the preparation or purification which consists in the exercises for the training of the organs (We speak of "purification" because through the corresponding exercises the pupil purifies himself of all that for a certain region of inner life which comes only from the sensuous world of observation).“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 345f)


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References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.