Six Essential Keys to Spiritual Development

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Adapted from Start Now! a book of soul and spiritual exercises, by Rudolph Steiner (Steiner Books, 2004).

May my soul bloom in love for all existence. —Rudolph Steiner

The great teacher and spiritual leader Rudolph Steiner spent his lifetime searching for keys to living more consciously. He boiled down the wisdom of generations into six clear, powerful, simple guidelines. Here, then are the six essential keys to a more aware and spiritually developed life.

  1. Control of thoughts. We must master our thoughts, particularly our train of thought. Just consider the way thoughts whirl about in our souls, how they flit like will o’-the-wisps; one impression arises here, another there, and each changes our thinking. It is not true that we govern our thoughts; our thoughts govern us completely. We must reach the point where, at a given time in the day, we can become so absorbed in a thought that no other thought can enter and disturb our soul. In this way, we hold the reins of thought life for awhile.
  2. Control of our actions. Here it is necessary, occasionally at least, to act in ways that are not precipitated by anything external. Whatever is initiated by our place in life, our profession, or our situation does not lead more deeply into higher life. Higher life depends upon such intimate matters as one’s resolve to do something that springs completely from one’s own initiative–even if it is something absolutely insignificant. No other actions contribute anything to the higher life.
  3. Equanimity. People fluctuate back and forth between joy and sorrow. Thus we allow ourselves to be rocked on the waves of life. We must reach equanimity and steadiness. One must become steadfast and even-tempered.
  4. Understand every being. Nothing expresses more beautifully what it means to understand every being. Try always to approach what is wonderful in every phenomenon of outer reality. You will see that everything contains an aspect that can be affirmed.
  5. Complete openness. Most people judge new things according to the old things they already know. But we must not confront a new communication immediately with our own opinion. We must instead always remain alert for the possibility of learning something new. We must develop the ability to listen, because it enables us to encounter matters with the greatest possible openness.
  6. Inner harmony. We receive this after we have developed the first five keys. Those who have the other qualities are also inwardly harmonious.

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