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Traditional Versus Modern Spiritual Paths

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           - answers for the 21st Century


From the viewpoint of an overview of the evolution of humanity, Rudolf Steiner gave some important indications to weigh, in terms of spiritual practice.

For example, whereas the ideal progression for working with the chakras used to be from the bottom up, the modern way is now from the top down.  The esoteric background on this has to do with how the vibrational energy of the planet has been inverted, from descent to ascent.  Traditionally, one worked from the bottom up, because it acted as a counterpoint to the descending, or densifying, trajectory that the Earth’s course was following.  Now, since the Resurrection event (see Esoteric Christianity), the counterpoint is for ascension, therefore a downward moving practice through the chakras is more appropriate.


The practice of repeating a mantra, of embracing the vibrational quality of a given esoteric expression over a period of time, builds up a cognitive structure in the mind.  Mantras from long ago were appropriate in their time, but now, because of our evolutionary progress, they can actually impair development.  And it takes a good while to “unwind” such a mental structure, to replace it with something more resonant with this modern era.

          On a side note, the Sanskrit language has a primordial power to it.  Those who developed it meditated on an object until they “heard” the vibrational sound at its core. That sound became the name of the object.  Thus, when using the language one is resonating on a rarefied level of potency with that which is being spoken of.  This aspect, in turn, lends more power to those traditional mantras.  In a way, a practitioner of the old Sanskrit mantras gets “swept away” all the more so by its primordial power.

         A typical ancient mantra was “I AM THAT,” which was used while gazing out into the cosmos, effectively becoming one with it all. This was an excellent practice for that time.  Now, because we want to incorporate the leading edge of human spiritual development, which at this time is the Ego, dissolving our “self-ness” into the cosmos is counter-indicated by the impulse to stand focused as an individual.  During this phase, during this era, the more appropriate mantras have become those spoken by the transcending Initiate, those the Christ used while on the Earth  - such as, I AM LOVE, I AM TRUTH, I AM LIFE, and others.  (Even by dropping “THAT” from the ancient mantra, I AM THAT, the mantra can resonate with today.)


Breathing exercises of past eras, also, can be debilitating to the thrust of modern development.  Steiner pointed out that “prana,” which once resided in the breath, now lives in the thinking process.  Prana in India, is chi in China, or ki in Japan, or etheric energy for a Western spiritual practitioner.

         Breathing practices create energetic patterns, and alter the inter-relationship of the four bodies, or sheathes, of our overall constitution. The question becomes: are the particular breathing exercises being used conducive to where the individual wants to go next? Are they altering the spiritual constitution in a modern, progressive way?


We live in a time in which practices are being engaged in that are of questionable value, no matter what path they are derived from.  To re-assert Steiner’s central indication entailed in this issue  - exercise caution with activity that works toward dissolution of the ego, such as trance-oriented, or any activity that causes an individual to lose the sense of self.

          Individuality, the Ego, is the modern “jewel in the lotus.”  It is incumbent upon humanity to protect and enhance this faculty, and to promote and engage the Ego in its over-lighting function with the rest of our being  - in a spirit of meeting both gifts, and challenges, that the Egoic process presents to us at this time, during our modern spiritual age.





Further Resources



Esoteric Christianity  - an Insight21 article


The Four-Fold Human  - an article from Insight21



Georg Kuhlewind:


From Normal to Healthy


Working with Anthroposophy




Freeing the Soul from Fear  - Robert Sardello




Rudolf Steiner’s Knowledge of Higher Worlds  - an online resource:




The Imagination of Pentecost 

- Rudolf Steiner and Contemporary Spirituality  by Richard Leviton,M1






The foregoing article was written by Josef Graf, coordinator of the Earth Vision project and Insight21  - presenting nature in the light of spiritual ecology, and answers for the 21st Century.



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