Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Knowldge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment -- Rudolf Steiner -------- 2.5 Stars
So, on Saturday, we were crushed with 16 inches of snow in about 24 hours. On the bad side, this shut down our little road (which still has not been plowed... let's get going City of Alexandria) and, on the good side, canceled school from now until 2010. This has thus provided me with ample time to read some books that I have been looking forward to and what better way to pass time on a snow day/Winter Break than learning Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment? This was a book written in the early 1900s by a philosopher, scientist and educator named Rudolf Steiner. Like me, you probably have never heard of him or the book.
In fairness of full disclosure, mother's are always right. I saw this book that last time I visited my parents and was intrigued by the title. I mean, honestly, who wouldn't want knowledge of the higher worlds? I asked my mom if I could borrow it and she said sure but she then added you aren't ready for it in your life and probably won't understand. Well there was a challenge if I ever heard one -- not ready for it? not ready to understand? -- hogwash.
As it turns out my mother was quite right. Definitely wasn't ready for it and understood only parts of it. This is part of the reason I have already written three paragraphs and not mentioned the book. So here we go: The book is basically a guide for how to literally understand the higher worlds and attain greater spiritual knowledge. The book steps you through, in fairly clear scientific detail, how to get to those levels.
Okay, first the good points. The ideas in this book are really quite cool and would be wonderful to ascertain. You have to go in with an open mindset reading this book (otherwise the idea of your lotus opening up your dreams to your soul's full control might be beyond you). The entire text reminded me a great deal of the teachings of Buddhism (and yes, my one semester of Buddhism at Mary Washington makes me an expert). Steiner seems to consistently refer to Buddhist ideas of dealing with suffering, using shakras, and understand 'right duty' and 'right action'. He even mentions Buddha in some passages. The best, and not coincidentally most easy to understand, parts of the book are in the first half. Here he talks about truly living a good, moral life filled with altruism, humility and truthfulness. These concepts can be understood and followed by anyone and would certainly improve their life and the world.
I did have some problems with the text, which ultimately garnered the 2.5 star rating. First, to do what he is asking is incredibly hard. I guess this shouldn't be shocking and really shouldn't take away from the review of the book but becoming more attuned with your spiritual side takes a lot of effort (too much for me at 29). Second, and perhaps the biggest issue, the book is written in very intellectual language with some difficult vocabulary. Here's a typical example "When esoteric development has progressed so far that the lotus flowers being to stir, much has already been achieved by the student which can result in the formation of certain quite definite currents and movements in his etheric body." Yeah, try 270 pages of that. Third, the book starts go into some really, for a lack of a better word, "heavy" stuff in the second half of the book. Once you have done the initiation and gone through the esoteric training, you then can look at splitting your personality during spiritual training and understanding more about the guardian of the threshold. There' really some wacky stuff that you don't ever hear or read about in your daily life so be prepared.
Overall, as crazy as this stuff sounds, I can't knock it. I haven't tried to follow his methods and guide and will not state that's unreal as incredible as it sounds. If anybody out there is interested in undertaking this awesome journey to higher spiritual attainment, this book is for you. You will need to go through it quite slowly but it seems quite possible that it is legit.
As for me, I always follow my mom's advice: I am certainly not ready for it yet.