“One of the fundamental principles of true spiritual science is that the one who devotes himself to the study should do so with full consciousness; he should attempt nothing and practice nothing without knowledge of the effect produced. A teacher of spiritual science who gives advice or instruction will, at the same time, always explain to those striving for higher knowledge the effects produced on body, soul and spirit, if his advice be followed. … For only those who know such things as they are here communicated can undertake in full consciousness the exercises that lead to knowledge of the higher worlds. Without the latter no genuine esoteric training is possible, for it must be understood that all groping in the dark is discouraged.” ~Rudolf Steiner
That phrase, Spiritual Science, causes many to scratch their heads in confusion, or just shake them in denial. To many, spirituality is either a fraud that has nothing to do with science, or a real thing that is not related in any way to science. Both groups are wrong. Spirituality can be practiced as a science, and should be.
As Mr. Steiner says, those who practice spiritual science should know, as far as possible, what they are in for, and the responsible school or teacher will make sure that the students do know that. He says that the student should not attempt anything without full knowledge of the possible effect of doing so, both positive and negative.
Today many spiritual groups pop up practically overnight who seem more interested in separating people from their money than in any genuine spiritual growth. These groups will usually tell people about wonderful positive things that can happen to them if they practice the spiritual disciplines of the school, but they completely ignore the negative. The result is often that when a student does experience the negative, he quits, or worse.
On the other hand, many of the conventional churches, approved by and often sponsored by the government, are constantly warning of the dangers of developing one’s own spiritual self instead of relying on the priest or minister to do it for you.
A Real Spiritual School
In a real spiritual school that practices and teaches spiritual science, the student is told what positive things will happen, what positive things may happen, what negative things will happen, and what negative things may happen. This is not to scare off students, except those who are not truly serious about spiritual studies, but to prepare them so they can deal with it appropriately.
Suppose, for example, a doctor told a patient with lung problems to move to a drier climate without warning them that such a climate, while good for the patient’s lungs, might dry out the skin. Or one who recommended a person start taking a drug every day for some chronic condition without warning of possible side effects. I would not think much of such doctors, and I have had doctors put me on prescription drugs with no mention whatsoever of side effects.
Both Sides Now
Even worse that those doctors, suppose you were offered an exotic fish in a restaurant, and the waiter assured you that it tasted wonderful, but failed to warn you that if you ate the wrong part, of if the chef didn’t prepare it perfectly, you will become very ill and possibly die from the poison in the fish. You wouldn’t think much of that waiter or that restaurant, would you? The same should be true of a spiritual teacher and school.
So what should we know? The teacher should tell us, on the positive side, that by awakening dormant spiritual faculties, we can become smarter, more creative, more aware, more knowledgeable. He should also warn us that while engaging in spiritual practices, we could be attacked by those dark beings generally called demons who do not want people to advance spiritually or achieve higher states of consciousness. She should tell the students that all of us advance at our own pace so we shouldn’t look at another and judge our results by theirs. He should remind us that innovating is discouraged because it can be dangerous. Of course, we all want to be creative, but don’t try doing things differently without talking with the teacher first. There may be good reasons why that method is not used, namely, it may invite more negative side effects.
So yes, spiritual development, true spiritual development, is every bit as much a science as is chemistry or psychology. Simply because the tools and the practices are different, doesn’t make it not a science.