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Excerpt from "Developing Supersensible Perception"

From the Introduction & Chapter One

by Shelli Renée Joye, Ph.D.


One of the most well-known psychonauts of the early twentieth century was the Austrian philosopher and noetic scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose research contributed a vast record of personal knowledge from his own direct experience of supersensory networks of consciousness. This book details Steiner’s techniques for activating these new sensory-cognitive systems with which to join the universe.

Those brave few who are willing to try these techniques will, according to Steiner, soon open their inner “eye” to new dimensions. Empowered with this new mode of viewing the universe, we can enter into networks and communities of communication far beyond those currently possible with twentieth-century hardware systems of fiber optics, copper cables, and orbiting communication satellites.

Steiner’s Supersensible Perception

In 1904 Steiner began his Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment with a sentence that well encapsulates the basic premise of his entire perception and teaching: “There slumber in every human being faculties by means of which he can acquire for himself a knowledge of higher worlds. . . . There remains only one question--how to set to work to develop such faculties for this purpose.”

Steiner himself worked diligently throughout most of his adult life to develop and improve his own faculties of “supersensible perception.” He used this new-found faculty to explore widely a new and fascinating dimension of reality that became increasingly apparent and significant to him in his daily life, but one which is beyond normal human sensory capabilities. This becomes a recurrent theme in his work. In his many lectures and books, we find described methods and means by which a human being can work to discover the ways to nourish, activate, and operate these latent systems of supersensory perception.

According to Steiner, this potential for supersensory perception is found in every human being at various stages of development, and he goes on to say that when the internal organs of supersensory perception have developed to the point at which they begin to open to this new awareness, one experiences it as an awakening to a “higher self”.

Chapter 1. Five Approaches to Supersensible Perception

It is Steiner’s conviction that humanity is now ready for a widespread acquisition of supersensible perception whereas in centuries past, the blossoming of supersensible perception was limited to a rare handful of mystics, philosophers, and gnostics, from whose writings and handed-down teachings we still might learn. In fact, the process required to develop higher faculties of perception has been well documented as far back as the fourth century CE, where we find in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra, IV.1., a description of five primary ways in which an individual finds his/her way to these powers of supersensible perception.

In this important sloka that opens the fourth and final chapter in the Yoga Sutra, the five ways of acquiring siddhis (“supersensible perception”) are, in order of efficacy, as follows:

1. By birth (“genetic”)

2. By drugs (“entheogens”)

3. By mantra (“prayer”)

4. By psychophysical exercises (“focus”)

5. By contemplative meditation (samadhi)

Acquisition by Birth (Genetic)

In his Yoga Sutra, Patañjali mentions acquisition by birth as a first and primary attribute for initial success in seeking to awaken the organs of supersensible perception. At birth, each newborn human possesses innumerable traits, characteristics, and potentials inherited from a broad and diverse stream of personalities through the unique genetic material contributed by father and mother. These genetic data recordings have been forged and accumulated during millenia of ancestral experience. The inherited traces remain superpositioned within the physical genome as information available as needed for the survival, growth, and development of the individual human being.

Rudolf Steiner was likely among the relatively small number of human beings to have been born with the genetic disposition optimized for early blossoming of the power of supersensory perception. However, for those without such specific genetic advantages at birth, there are the additional four approaches (drugs, mantra, heat, contemplation) listed by Patañjali in YS IV.1.

Acquisition by Drugs (Entheogens)

In 1885, the first annotated translation of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra was published by a Fellow of the Theosophical Society. Steiner himself had first become interested in the Theosophical Society as a first-year student in Vienna, and by 1885 the twenty-four year old enthusiastically attended most lectures and conferences offered by the Society. It is quite likely that he was familiar with this new translation of the Yoga Sutra, which was widely circulated within the Society that year.

According to Patañjali, many seekers discover that their initial experience of supersensory perception is attained most readily by ingestion of drugs (called o?adhi in the Sanskrit of the Yoga Sutra). Many of these traditional entheogens, perceptual-changing organic compounds created within certain plants and mushrooms, were discovered and widely used in the ancient world. The preparation and use of a psychedelic drink called soma is well documented in the Rig Veda, which is thought to have been composed in northern India over 3,500 years ago.

It seems reasonable to wonder whether Steiner himself may have experimented with such substances in his search for entry into other dimensions of perception. Many plant-derived drugs which are illegal now were perfectly legal during Steiner’s lifetime. From approximately 1880 to 1920, for example, the Viennese medical community documented the acceptable use of cannabis, opium, hashish, laudanum, cocaine, and other mind-altering substances derived from plant material. In modern terms such drugs are known as entheogens or psychedelics.

The early mind-expanding use of such substances as soma (currently thought to be psychedelic mushrooms or cannabis) has been described in ancient Vedic hymns (circa 2400 BCE). Adding to this, the hallucinatory rye ergot compound is known to have been used in Delphic oracle ceremonies by the ancient Greeks. Explorers of the psyche have discovered a wide range of these compounds which are classified as entheogens, psychotropic substances used for spiritual development.

Shelli Renée Joye, Ph.D., attended Rice University on a physics scholarship and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, she worked with John Lilly on interspecies communication and pursued contemplative practice with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She completed her doctorate in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The author of several books, including Tuning the Mind, she lives in Viola, California.

Developing Supersensible Perception by Shelli Renée Joye, Ph.D., © 2019 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com

Availability: Usually ships within 1-2 business days. Price: $21.99. To purchase this book visit B&N.com, Amazon.com, InnerTraditions.com, or your local bookstore.


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