Spiritual consciousness

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Spiritual consciousness, also called intuition (from Latinintuitio "immediate contemplation", to Latin intueri "to look at, contemplate, see into", from in "into" and tuere "to see") or conscious all-consciousness, the most immediate non-discursive form of cognition, is an all-encompassing holistic consciousness through which, finally, the spiritual events in the whole cosmos can be experienced. It is the transformed trance-consciousness, connected with clear self-awareness, which man had on Old Saturn and which the minerals have today. Man will have it fully developed only on the Vulcan. Through spiritual training, intuitive consciousness can already be developed to a certain extent now, when the sentient soul is transformed into the intuitional soul. A preliminary stage to this is clear fully conscious intuitive thinking. Intuition corresponds to the "unio mystica", the "becoming one with God", experienced with full clarity of thought and not merely emotionally, which the mystics strove for.


By no means should what Rudolf Steiner calls intuition be confused with the semi-conscious, dream-like gut feeling that is colloquially referred to as intuition and is only a last remnant of a very old form of cognition that is no longer contemporary today and that is ultimately based on the widespread gut clairvoyance of early times. In contrast, the spiritual consciousness described by Steiner is three levels above the present waking day consciousness in terms of clarity and degree of consciousness and is thus the highest and most conscious form of cognition accessible to man today - at least in his earliest beginnings.

„Here it should only be pointed out that what is called "intuition" in occult science has nothing to do with what the word "intuition" is often applied to in popular usage at present. It is used to describe a more or less uncertain "idea" in contrast to a clear, logical understanding of reason. In the occult science, 'intuition' is nothing unclear and uncertain, but a high kind of cognition, full of the brightest clarity and the most undoubted certainty.“ (Lit.:GA 12, p. 67f)

„Intuition is not that trivial thing which is usually understood by it today, where someone believes to be able to recognise something through dark feeling; that is a misuse of the word. In the initiate schools, intuition is used for the highest conceivable level of consciousness, where the soul is one, identical with the beings, where it is within the beings and identifies with them. In spite of the fact that the soul remains completely individual, it is within all the things and entities of its field of vision.“ (Lit.:GA 104, p. 196)

„There is the greatest confusion at the present time about the concept of intuition. One should realise that present-day science only knows the concept of the intuitive in the field of mathematics. But among our sciences, mathematics is a form of knowledge based purely on inner perception. But such an inner perception exists not only for spatial dimensions and numbers, but also for everything else. Goethe, for example, tried to establish such an intuitive science in the field of botany. His "Urpflanze" in its various metamorphoses is based on inner perception. This is reason enough for the fact that present-day science has no idea whatsoever of what Goethe was aiming at in this respect. For much higher fields, Theosophy brings about knowledge through inner contemplation. Its statements about re-embodiment and karma are based on this. It is not to be wondered at that people who have no idea of what Goethe is concerned with are quite unable to understand the sources of the theosophical teachings. It is precisely the immersion in such valuable writings as Goethe's Metamorphosis of Plants, for example, that could serve as an excellent preparation for Theosophy.“ (Lit.:GA 34, p. 398f)

„Through inspiration one comes to recognise the relationships between the beings of the higher world. Through a further stage of cognition, it becomes possible to recognise these beings within themselves. This level of knowledge can be called intuitive knowledge. (Intuition is a word that is misused in ordinary life for an unclear, undefined insight into a matter, for a kind of idea that sometimes coincides with the truth, but whose justification cannot be proven at first. Of course, what is meant here has nothing to do with this kind of "intuition". Intuition here denotes a realisation of the highest, most light-filled clarity, of which, when one has it, one is conscious in the fullest sense). - To recognise a sense being is to stand outside it and judge it according to outward impression. To recognise a spiritual being through intuition means to have become completely one with it, to have united with its inner being. The spiritual disciple ascends step by step to such realisation. Imagination leads him to no longer feel the perceptions as external qualities of beings, but to recognise in them outpourings of the soul-spiritual; inspiration leads him further into the beings' inner being: Through it he learns to understand what these entities are for each other; in intuition he penetrates into the beings themselves.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 357)

What intuition already means on the level of thinking was already formulated by Rudolf Steiner in his "Philosophy of Freedom" thus:

„Intuition is the conscious experience, proceeding in the purely spiritual, of a purely spiritual content.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 146)

In intuition lives the power of love in a spiritual way:

„No other human soul activity will be so easily misjudged as thinking. Wanting, feeling, they warm the human soul even in the after-experience of its original state. It is all too easy for thinking to leave the soul cold in this after-experience; it seems to dry up the life of the soul. But this is only the strongly asserting shadow of its light-woven reality, warmly submerged in the world-appearances. This submersion takes place with a power flowing in the activity of thought itself, which is the power of love of a spiritual kind. One must not object that he who thus sees love in active thinking is transferring a feeling, love, into it. For this objection is in truth a confirmation of what is asserted here. For he who turns to essential thinking finds in it both feeling and will, the latter also in the depths of their reality; he who turns away from thinking and only to "mere" feeling and willing loses from these the true reality. He who wants to experience intuitively in thinking will also do justice to the emotional and volitional experience; but emotional mysticism and the metaphysics of the will cannot do justice to the intuitive-thinking penetration of existence. The latter will only too easily come to the conclusion that they stand in the real; the intuitive thinker, however, without feeling and alienated from reality, forms in "abstract thoughts" a shadowy, cold conception of the world.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 143f)

In intuitive thinking, man therefore already has a purely spiritual experience:

„The spiritual world of perception cannot be anything alien to man as soon as he experiences it, because in intuitive thinking he already has an experience that is purely spiritual in character.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 181)

„In intuitively experienced thinking, the human being is transferred into a spiritual world even as a perceiver.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 256)

„One can very easily misunderstand the expression intuition, because, for example, he who has imagination, who has poetic faculty, already calls the emotional sensations of the world he has intuition. But this is a dark, merely felt intuition. It is, however, related to what I call intuition here. For just as man has his sensual perception completely here as an earthly man, so he has a reflection of the highest kind of knowledge of intuition through earthly feeling and earthly will. Otherwise he could not be a moral being. Thus that which darkly, forebodingly manifests itself to man in his conscience is a reflection, as it were a shadow-image of the highest, which now only appears in true intuition, in the highest kind of knowledge possible to man at first as an earthling.

Man, as an earthling, really has something of the lowest, and again a shadow-image of the highest, which is only attainable in intuition. It is precisely the middle regions that he at first completely lacks as an earthling. He must acquire them: Imagination and inspiration. He must also acquire intuition in the pure, light-filled inwardness; but it is precisely in moral feeling, in the content of moral conscience, that he has an earthly image of that which then appears as intuition. So that one can also say: When man as an initiate, a knower, rises to a real intuitive knowledge of the world, then the world, which he otherwise knows only in natural laws, becomes so inward, so connected with him, as for him as an earthly man otherwise only the moral world is. And this is precisely what is significant in the human being on earth, that we cling as with an innermost dark foreboding to the Most High, which in turn is accessible only to developed knowledge in its true form.“ (Lit.:GA 227, p. 59)

„From inspiration, the spiritual observer can ascend to intuition. In the expression of secret science, this word means in many respects the exact opposite of what it is often used for in ordinary life. In the latter, one speaks of intuition when one has in mind an idea that is darkly felt to be true, and which in itself lacks clear, conceptual determination. One sees in it more a preliminary stage of cognition than cognition itself. Such an "idea" may - according to this definition - illuminate a great truth as if in a flash of lightning; it can only be regarded as cognition when it is substantiated by conceptual judgements. Intuition is sometimes also used to describe something that one "feels" to be true, of which one is completely convinced, but which one does not want to burden with intellectual judgements. People who are approached by secret-scientific knowledge often say: "That was always intuitively clear to me. All this must be left aside if we are to understand the true meaning of the term "intuition" as it is used here. Intuition, in this application, is not a cognition which lags behind understanding in clarity, but which far surpasses it.“ (Lit.:GA 12, p. 76f)

„The life of things in the soul is intuition. It is to be taken quite literally when one says of intuition: one creeps through it into all things. - In ordinary life, man has only one intuition, that of the "I" itself. For the "I" cannot be perceived in any way from outside, it can only be experienced within. A simple consideration can make this clear. It is a consideration that psychologists, however, do not make with the desirable sharpness. However inconspicuous it may be, it is of the most far-reaching significance for those who fully understand it. It is this: Every thing in the external world can be called by the same name by all men. The table can be addressed by everyone as "table", the tulip by everyone as "tulip", Mr. Müller by everyone as "Mr. Müller". But there is one word that everyone can only speak to themselves. This is the word "I". No one else can say "I" to me, for everyone else I am a "you". Likewise, everyone else is a "you" to me. Only he can say "I" to himself. This comes from the fact that one does not live apart from, but in the "I". And so one lives in all things through intuitive realisation. The perception of one's own "I" is the model for all intuitive realisation. In order to enter into things in this way, however, one must first step out of oneself. One must become "selfless" in order to merge with the "self", the "I", of another entity.“ (Lit.:GA 12, p. 20f)

„One has only grasped something intuitively when one has come to the sensation towards this "something": a being expresses itself in it which is of the same kind and inner unity as one's own "I".“ (Lit.:GA 12, p. 78)

More concretely, from the supersensory experience, intuition is the complete becoming one with other spiritual beings by immersing oneself in them or they in us, but without losing one's own identity. The subject-object split is completely overcome and one's own self is nevertheless maintained fully consciously at the same time.

„... only in intuition does it merge with beings that are self-contained, themselves. In the right sense, this can only happen when this merging is not the case with extinction, but with complete maintenance of its own beingness. All "losing oneself" to a foreign being is evil. Therefore, only an I that is solidified in itself to a high degree can submerge itself in another being without harm. - One has only grasped something intuitively when one has come to the feeling towards this "something": a being expresses itself in it which is of the same kind and inner unity as one's own I.“ (Lit.:GA 12, p. 79f)

Then there is no longer any difference between me and the other spiritual beings, one is, as it were, standing in God - and yet it is precisely then that one is most of all with oneself. A paradox that Paul already pointed out with the word that Rudolf Steiner usually quotes: Not I, but the Christ in me. Meister Eckhart put it this way:

„The eye through which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God's eye are one eye and one seeing and one recognising and one feeling.“ (Lit.: Pfeiffer, p. 312)

In intuitive cognition, the human being makes use of those forces that work on the formation of the physical body until the change of teeth in the seventh year of life.

„... the forces which are used in intuition, in intuitive knowledge, are the same forces with which one grows up to the seventh year in such a way that this growth finds its expression in the change of teeth. These dormant forces, which are active in human nature up to the seventh year, are used in supersensible knowledge in order to arrive at intuition.“ (Lit.:GA 191, p. 32)

„When the exercises for intuition are done, they have an effect not only on the etheric body, but also on the supersensible powers of the physical body. One should not imagine, however, that in this way effects take place in the physical body which are accessible to the ordinary observation of the senses. They are effects which can only be judged by super-sensible cognition. They have nothing to do with all external cognition. They occur as the success of the maturity of consciousness, when it can have experiences in intuition, even though it has separated all previously known outer and inner experiences from itself. - But the experiences of intuition are delicate, intimate and subtle, and the physical human body, at the present stage of its development, is coarse in relation to them. It is therefore a powerful obstacle to the success of the intuition exercises. If these are continued with energy and perseverance and in the necessary inner calm, they finally overcome the formidable obstacles of the physical body. The spiritual disciple notices this by the fact that he gradually gains control over certain manifestations of the physical body which previously took place entirely without his consciousness. He also notices that for a short time he feels the need, for example, to arrange his breathing (or the like) in such a way that it comes into a kind of harmony with what the soul is doing in the exercises or otherwise in inner contemplation. The ideal of development is that no exercises at all, not even such breathing exercises, should be done by the physical body itself, but that everything that has to happen to it should only occur as a consequence of the pure intuition exercises.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 371f)

The thinking of the secret scientist

„The thinking of the secret scientist is different, it is such that grasps units, overlooks great connections at once, it is lived experience, a seeing of higher realities. Man makes a collective concept out of details. The secret scientist gets an intuitive concept all at once through inner experience and is not dependent on making so and so many individual experiences. It is just as a person who has seen a lion, for example, can form the concept "lion".

So the secret scientist also gets the concept of astral and mental entities all at once, because he sees things all at once. For all spiritual things there are archetypes. Just as a painter can have a certain intuitive picture in his head and paint a hundred pictures according to this picture, so there are archetypes for all things on the higher planes, which the clairvoyant sees. Reading in the archetypes of things, in the spiritual primordial grounds, is called in occultism: reading in the ten-leaved book.“ (Lit.:GA 89, p. 289)

Intuition, warmth organism and I

Only in the physical body do we live directly in the physical-sensual presence of the earth. In the etheric body, which is closely connected with the fluid in us, something of the spiritual existence that we experienced shortly before birth already continues to have an effect. The astral body connects especially with the air element, with the breathing, and in it there is an after-effect of what we experienced in life between death and new birth. Only in the warmth does the I work directly with all the forces that it has brought with it from previous incarnations and at the same time prepares the future incarnation. In the warmth, the I is active through intuition and impulses the will.

„Man has his physical body. Through it he lives at every moment in the physical presence of the earth. Man has his etheric body. Through it he actually lives continuously until a little before his birth, when he has gathered his etheric body from the general ether of the world. Now he has his astral body. Through it he lives through the whole of existence between his previous death and this descent to earth. And then he has his ego. There he lives into his previous life on earth. So that wherever we speak of man's structure, we must speak of his extension in time. We carry our previous I-consciousness subconsciously within us in the present. And how do we carry it within us? Yes, if you want to study how we carry it within us, then you must become attentive to the fact - and this is also the way to approach the I - that here in the physical world man is not only a solid body, not only a liquid man, an air-formed man, but that man is a warmth organism. Primitively, at least very partially, everyone already knows this; when he takes a fever, he gets different indications of the temperature, according to the different parts of the organism where he takes the temperature. But it is like that throughout the whole human organism. You have a different temperature at the top of the head, another in the big toe, another internally in the liver, another internally in the lungs. You are not only that which you find drawn in fixed contours in an anatomical atlas; you are a fluid organism which is in constant movement; you are an air organism which constantly penetrates you, as if a mighty symphonic, musical organism were always pushing through you. And in all this you are a surging, warm-cold organism, a warmth organism, and you yourself live inside this warmth organism. You also feel that. After all, you do not have a very strong consciousness that you live, let us say, in a shin bone or in another bone, nor do you have a strong consciousness that you live in your liver or in the juices of your vessels. But you have a strong consciousness that you live in your warmth, even if you do not differentiate it, even if you do not say: There is my warmth hand, there is my warmth leg, there is my warmth liver and so on; but it is there, and once it is disturbed, if the humanly appropriate differentiation in the warmth organism is not present, then you feel it as a disease, as pain.

When one looks at the etheric, when one has reached the pictoriality, the imagination, with the developed consciousness, then one has weaving images. If you perceive the astral, you have the music of the world spheres. It penetrates us, or it also penetrates out of us. For our own astral body leads us back into our pre-earthly existence. And if we go on to that cognition which soars up to the most intense love, where the power of love becomes the power of cognition, where we first see our own existence from a previous earthly life flooding into our present earthly life, we feel this previous earthly life in the normal differentiation of our warmth organism in which we live within. That is the real intuition. That is where we live inside. And when some impulse arises in us to do this or that, it does not only work out of the spiritual world, as it does in the astral body, but from even further back from the previous earth life. The former earthly life has an effect on the warmth of your organism and produces this or that impulse. If we see the physical body in the earthly solid human being, the etheric body in the liquid one, the astral body in the aeriform one, then we see the actual I in the warmth of the human being. The I of the present incarnation is never finished; it is formed. The real I, working in the subconscious depths, is that of the previous life on earth. And before the seeing consciousness a human being appears to you in such a way that you say: Here he stands; I first see him as he stands there, with my outer senses. Then I see the etheric, I see the astral, but then behind him I see the other human being who he was in the previous incarnation.

Indeed, the more this consciousness is formed, the more appears - perspective makes it so (it is drawn) - the human head of the present incarnation, a little above it the human head of the previous incarnation, a little above it the human head of the still more remote incarnation. In civilisations which have still divined something of these things through an instinctive consciousness, you will find pictures where behind the clearly drawn countenance, which is related to the present earth-life, there is another, somewhat less clearly painted, and a still less clearly painted one as a third. There are such Egyptian pictures. He who beholds how actually behind the man of the present rises the man of the previous incarnation and of the incarnation further back, understands such pictures. And it is only a reality to speak of the I as the fourth member of human nature if one at the same time extends the temporal existence back to the previous incarnations.

Drawing from GA 234, p. 96 (plate 6)
Drawing from GA 234, p. 96 (plate 6)

All this works in the warmth man. Inspiration still comes to you from the outside or from within. In the warmth you stand inside yourself. There is intuition, true intuition. One experiences warmth quite differently from anything else about oneself.“ (Lit.:GA 234, p. 93ff)

Intuition and the Christ Experience

„When the spiritual disciple has acquired an experience of intuition, he not only knows the images of the soul-spiritual world, he cannot only read their relationships in the " Hidden Scriptures ": he comes to the knowledge of the beings themselves, through whose interaction the world comes into being to which the human being belongs. And through this he learns to know himself in that form which he has as a spiritual being in the soul-spiritual world. He has come to a perception of his higher self, and he has noticed how he must continue to work in order to master his double, the " lesser guardian of the threshold". But he has also had the encounter with the " greater guardian of the threshold ", who stands before him like a constant summoner to continue working. This " greater guardian of the threshold " now becomes his model, whom he wants to aspire to. When this feeling arises in the spiritual disciple, then he has attained the possibility of recognising who actually stands before him as the " greater guardian of the threshold". This guardian transforms himself in the perception of the spiritual disciple into the Christ-figure, whose essence and intervention in the development of the earth is evident from the preceding chapters of this book. The spiritual disciple is thereby initiated into the sublime mystery itself, which is connected with the name of the Christ. The Christ shows Himself to him as the "great human earthly model". - If in this way the Christ is recognised in the spiritual world through intuition, then it also becomes understandable what took place historically on earth in the fourth post-Atlantean period of development of the earth (in the Greco-Latin period). How the high Sun Being, the Christ Being, intervened in the evolution of the earth at this time, and how it continues to work within this earth evolution, becomes a self-experienced knowledge for the spiritual student. It is therefore an insight into the meaning and significance of the development of the earth, which the spiritual disciple receives through intuition.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 394f)


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.
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.