The Parameters of Spiritual Science

Spiritual research requires the same degree of corroboration as research done in the natural sciences. The problem is that the physical world and its laws provide the researcher the ideal parameters to test the validity of an insight. This is not present in research into spiritual matters.

This problem comes to a head in the research conducted in the realm of the elemental spirits. The elemental realms provide an interface for the world of spiritual beings and the manifest world. The temptation here is the tendency to believe that what has been “experienced” by the researcher in the physical world is a communication from a being living in the spiritual world.

This experience often has an element of inflation for the researcher because of a feeling that he or she is being chosen by spiritual beings for a communication. These temptations to inflation and feeling special can be overcome with a feeling for cognition, coupled with a flexible imagination. The following is an account of such a communication and the psychic parameters surrounding it.  

A warm, steady rain for two days had left the ground sodden. The surrounding tree-covered mountains oozed moisture as the morning sun appeared and disappeared into oppressive banks of fog. Outside, mists obscured the summits of the large, long-shouldered mountain ridge across the broad valley to the west.

My lodging was on a rounded hilltop on a ridge on the eastern side of the valley. A road circling the knob was a 45 minute walk taking me first to the west down the front slope of the ridge. From there a road wound south back up across the ridge then northeast along the backside of the knob, to a crossroad heading west to my lodging. The knob was part of a long north/south ridge of mountains to the west. After twenty minutes of walking, I reached the bottom of the ridge and turned uphill, just as the sun penetrated weakly through the fog.

As I walked towards the top of the ridge, wisps of vapor rose off of the rock walls along the road. A bit higher and the tops of the western ridges became perceptible. Streamers of shredded fog rose off of the distant hills. Nearing the top of the ridge I suddenly heard an unusual sound that started in the distance and approached my position.

As I passed under the boughs of an enormous oak, it started raining under the tree. Startled, I looked up and saw the leaves of only that tree swaying in a breeze dropping water. The unusual sound that I had heard was the advance of a breeze that inexplicably stopped at the oak under which I was standing. The sudden appearance of the phenomenon was unusually evocative in the stillness of the morning. I stood a bit and let the event sink into me.

Continuing upward, I met the road on the back ridge. It was a long looping curve that would bring me back to my starting point. The sun was now high enough to bring out the heat of the morning and give rise to massing cumulus clouds that were building off of the mountains to the west. The clouds were driven by a prevailing westerly wind off of the mountains. The building clouds blew across the ridge on which the knob was situated.  

I made the northeast turn towards the crossroad that would return me to my starting point. I stopped at the crossroad. The road veered sharply downslope towards the northeast, far down into the valley. An inner urge told me to continue down towards the valley. I started down the long hill. Suddenly I heard a sound like the whining of trucks on a distant highway. Faint at first, it seemed to grow in strength and drop in pitch. Then once again for the second time that morning it began raining only where I was standing. I looked up and saw the breeze stirring a single tall maple. It was a singularly mystical experience.  

My thoughts began to travel along magical, elemental paths. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I looked at the shimmering tree. The sun cast sunbeams in a multicolored corona in the moist air. A single maple tree was engulfed in a gale while the others to either side were standing perfectly still. The breeze suddenly stopped and I waited on the side of the road in silent expectation. Moments passed in the pregnant silence and then a car came up the hill and broke the spell. The road and forest once again turned into just road and forest and I was just a person standing on the side of the road, not a magician in the middle of an elemental conjuring. A great surge of thoughts about spiritual beings communicating to me rose up in my mind.  

I slowly continued down the hill immersed in visionary, mystical thoughts. Rounding a bend in the road I saw a long, descending straightaway towards the valley bottom. I stopped. The walk was over. Inner images of elemental beings were replaced with images of a cup of tea. I turned and started back up the hill towards the crossroad. My thoughts continued in the direction of tea. I unconsciously approached the area near the maple tree. I heard the breeze start up from afar and then, once again, the breeze stopped directly overhead as the same maple tree began to sway.  

This time instead of my imagination taking a mystical flight, I reined in my fantasy and had the presence of mind to ask my angel what this was about. I immediately saw an inner picture of something I had seen earlier in the morning but that had failed to register in my thinking. It was a picture of the ridge of higher mountains to the west with the shreds of clouds streaming off of them. This time in my mind’s eye I saw currents of warm air rising off the mountains carrying the moisture from the trees and forming clouds. I then saw the shreds of clouds rising off the slopes and floating towards the ridge on which I was standing. My mind leaped to include an image of the oak tree being stirred earlier on my walk.

I hurried to the starting point of my walk on the top of the knob and surveyed a panorama that suddenly became intimate to me. Across the valley I saw the rising air forming into cloud shapes. I saw the clouds float across the valley. Then a low flying cloud reached a point where it could not quite pass over the summit of the ridge. The cloud ran into the side of the ridge. As it hit the ridge I saw the breeze from that cloud stirring one small group of trees. I saw that this was happening at a specific spot on the ridge due to the prevailing winds and the general circulation of the whole landscape. Then I realized that the impact of the cloud stood at about the same elevation as the maple tree.

I saw next that the oak tree was simply on the other side of the knob and that the two phenomena were related through the relationship between the westward mountains and the position of the knob in the prevailing winds of that locale. In an instant my soul spread to include in my inner vison the whole of the landscape. In my imagination I saw the wholeness of the atmospheric circulation of the region manifesting in a very unusual and isolated phenomenon.  

In reflecting since on my experiences of that morning, I realized that my consciousness had shifted through three distinct stages of identification with the phenomenon. The first was a state of wonder at the suddenness and unusual appearance of the breeze only stirring one oak tree as I walked under it. The second time, with the maple tree, there was a feeling of awe at the transcendent and mystical nature of the event, the unusualness and singularity of the phenomenon. I felt my soul inflate in the temptation to be the one who was having a mystical experience.

The third time, my soul had somehow grown large enough to keep an emotional balance that could resist the temptation to inflation. Instead, I experienced harmony with the phenomenon. I could think along with it instead of allowing the complexity and wonder of it to obscure my capacity to reflect it inwardly in a cognitive experience. The third level allowed me to embrace the phenomenon with my thinking and in my mind’s eye to surrender to it without needing to feel special in myself.

When my thinking had embraced the phenomenon and I could picture it fully in my inner eye, a deep reverence for the wisdom and intelligence of the world filled my soul. That reverence replaced the prior ecstatic awe that I had somehow been chosen to be in dialogue with the elemental world. A deeper, more cognitive, more sober penetration of the phenomenon helped me to participate more fully in world because I had, for that moment, overcome my own emotional needs to feel special.

As I understand it, this is a challenge for all persons seeking higher stages of dialogue with elemental worlds. I consider my third experience a deeper communication with the elemental beings that were living in the phenomena of the place.

For me this was a very clear lesson in the stages of consciousness outlined as a path of understanding in the work by Rudolf Steiner known as World of the Senses, World of the Spirit.

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Dennis Klocek is Director of the Goethean Studies Program at Rudolf Steiner College. Dennis trained as a painter and holds an M.F.A. degree from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and a Waldorf Teacher Education Diploma from Rudolf Steiner College. He taught for nine years at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey and has studied broadly in the life sciences, focusing on botany, geology, meteorology and biology. The Goethean approach to science has inspired much of his teaching, writing, and research. He lectures extensively on education, bio-dynamic gardening, inner development, and aspects of Goethean science throughout the United States. He is author of Seeking Spirit Vision, Drawing from the Book of Nature, Weather and Cosmos, A Bio-Dynamic Book of Moons, and numerous articles that have appeared in professional journals.

First published in Lilioph Magazine in 2006 and reprinted with their permission with our gratitude.


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AnthroposophyDevasElementals and nature spiritsMeditationSubtle energy