The capacities by which we can gain insights into higher worlds lie dormant within each one of us. Mystics, gnostics, and theosophists have always spoken of a world of soul and spirit that is as real to them as the world we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. Listening to them, we can say to ourselves at every moment: “I know that I, too, can experience what they talk about, if only I unfold certain forces within me that today still lie dormant there.” All we need to know is how to begin to develop these faculties for ourselves. Only those who have already developed such powers for themselves can help us to do this. From the beginning of the human race, a form of schooling has always existed in which persons possessing higher faculties guide those who seek to develop these faculties for themselves. Such schooling is called esoteric or mystery schooling; and the instruction one receives there is called esoteric or occult teaching. By their very nature, these terms invite misunderstanding. Hearing them, we might easily be led to believe that those who provide this kind of schooling wish to form a privileged class of human beings who arbitrarily withhold their knowledge from their fellows. We might even think that perhaps there is nothing much to this kind of knowledge. Were it genuine knowledge, we are tempted to think, there would be no need to make a secret of it; it could be made public and its benefits shared by all.
Those initiated into the nature of esoteric knowledge are not in the least surprised that the uninitiated should think like this. After all, the secret of initiation can be understood only by those who have themselves, to some degree, undergone initiation into the higher mysteries of existence. How, we may well wonder, under these conditions, are the uninitiated to develop any human interest whatsoever in this socalled occult knowledge? Why and how should one seek for something of whose nature one can have no clear idea? Such questions are based on a completely false idea of the nature of esoteric knowledge. In actuality, esoteric or inner knowledge is no different from other kinds of human knowledge and ability. It is a mystery for the average person only to the extent that writing is a mystery for those who have not yet learned to write. Just as, given the right teaching methods, anyone can learn to write, so too anyone can become a student of esoteric knowledge, and, yes, even a teacher of it, if he or she follows the appropriate path. Ordinary knowledge and ability differ from esoteric knowledge in one respect only. A person may not have the possibility of learning to write because of the cultural conditions or poverty he or she is born into, but no one who seeks sincerely will find any barriers to achieving knowledge and abilities in the higher worlds.
Many people believe that they must seek out masters of higher knowledge wherever such masters may be found in order to receive teachings from them. There is a twofold truth to this. On the one hand, if our aspiration to higher knowledge is sincere, we will certainly spare no effort and avoid no obstacle in our quest for an initiate able to lead us into the higher mysteries of the world. On the other hand, we can be certain that, if our striving for knowledge is sincere and worthy, initiation will find us whatever the circumstances. There is a universal law among initiates that the knowledge due a seeker cannot be withheld. But there is also another universal law that esoteric knowledge may not be imparted to anyone not qualified to receive it. The more perfect the initiate, the more strictly these two laws are observed. The spiritual bond uniting all initiates is not an outward one, but the two laws just mentioned are what hold its members together. You may live in close friendship with one who has been initiated, but until you yourself have been initiated something will always separate you from that initiate’s inmost being. You may enjoy an initiate’s full heart and love, but the initiate will not share the secret with you until you are ready. You may flatter, you may torment, but nothing will induce the initiate to betray anything that should not be divulged to you if, at the present stage of your development, you do not yet understand how to prepare a proper welcome for this secret in your soul.
Quite specific methods prepare us to receive such secrets. Their course is traced out with indelible, eternal letters in the spiritual worlds where initiates preserve the higher secrets. In ancient, prehistoric times, the temples of the spirit were outwardly visible, but today, when our life has become so unspiritual, they no longer exist where we can see them with our physical eyes. Yet spiritually they are still present everywhere, and whoever seeks can find them.
Only within our own souls can one find the means of opening an initiate’s mouth. But before one can receive the highest treasures of the spirit, one must develop definite inner qualities to a specific high degree.