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Open-mindedness, unprejudicedness, unbiasedness or faith in the occult sense is the fifth of the so-called subsidiary exercises, which according to Rudolf Steiner are a necessary precondition for any spiritual training. Steiner has occasionally also called the fourth subsidiary exercise, which is directed towards finding the spark of positivity even in the worst things, impartiality, but it is not the name but the meaning of the exercise that is to be paid attention to here above all. The main point is openness for new experiences and ideas, however unbelievable they may seem.

„In the fifth month, then, try to form in oneself the feeling of facing each new experience with a complete lack of bias. The esoteric student must break completely with the attitude that we encounter when people say to something they have just heard or seen: 'I have never heard that before, I have never seen that before, I don't believe that, it is a deception'. He must be prepared to accept a completely new experience at any moment. What he has hitherto recognised as lawful, what has appeared to him as possible, must not be a fetter for the reception of a new truth. It is indeed radically expressed, but quite true, that if someone comes to the esoteric disciple and says to him: "You, the steeple of X church has been completely leaning since this night", the esotericist should leave a back door open for the possible belief that his previous knowledge of the laws of nature could yet experience an extension through such an apparently outrageous fact. Whoever, in the fifth month, directs his attention to being so minded, will notice that a feeling creeps into his soul, as if something were alive in that space spoken of in the exercise in the fourth month, as if something were stirring in it. This feeling is extraordinarily fine and subtle. One must try to grasp this subtle vibration in the surroundings attentively and let it flow in, as it were, through all five senses, namely through the eye, the ear and through the skin, insofar as the latter contains the sense of warmth. Less attention should be paid at this stage of esoteric development to the impressions of the lower senses, taste, smell and touch. It is not yet well possible at this stage to distinguish from the numerous bad influences which mingle with the good ones also present in this region; therefore the pupil leaves this matter to a later stage.“ (Lit.:GA 245, p. 15ff)

The fifth subsidiary exercise is about freeing oneself from all prejudices, even putting aside all acquired prior knowledge in the first place, and striving to judge a thing or a situation entirely from within oneself.

„Faith. The next thing is faith. Faith, in the occult sense, expresses something different from what is understood by it in ordinary language. When one is in occult development, one should never allow one's past to determine one's future in one's judgement. In occult development one must, under certain circumstances, disregard all that one has hitherto experienced, in order to be able to face each new experience with new faith. The occultist must do this consciously. For example, if someone comes and says: The tower of the church is leaning, it has tilted 45 degrees - everyone would say: That cannot be. - But the occultist must leave a loophole open. Yes, he must go so far as to be able to believe every successful thing he encounters in the world, or else he will be obstructing the way to new experiences. One must make oneself free for new experiences; thereby the physical and the etheric body are put into a mood which can be compared with the voluptuous mood of an animal creature which wants to hatch another.“ (Lit.:GA 95, p. 119)

Open-mindedness is essential to develop the spirit self (manas) and thus consciously enter the spiritual world.

„In the fifth stage we develop manas or spirit self. There we must not commit ourselves to what we have seen, learned and heard so far. We must learn to refrain from all that, to keep ourselves completely emptied of everything that confronts us. Manas can only be developed when we learn to perceive everything we have acquired through our own thinking as something inferior to what we can acquire by opening ourselves to the thoughts that flow in from the God-woven cosmos. Everything that surrounds us has arisen from these divine thoughts. We have not been able to find them through our previous thinking. That is where things hide it from us. Now we learn to sense this divine behind everything like a hidden riddle. More and more we learn to see in humility how little we have fathomed of these mysteries so far. And we learn that we must actually remove from our soul everything we have learnt so far, that we must approach everything in a completely unbiased way, like a child - that the divine riddles that surround us only present themselves to the unbiasedness of the soul. The soul must become childlike in order to be able to penetrate the realms of heaven. The hidden wisdom - Manas - then flows towards the childlike soul like a gift of grace from the spiritual world.

It is not necessary for the human being to go further, because through these five steps he establishes contact with the spiritual world. Now, through constant repetition of these five exercises, the harmony of interaction must be established between the various faculties which are to be attained through them. This is effected by the sixth exercise.“ (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 245f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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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.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - 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.