written by Rudolf Steiner approx 1888, translated from the German by Robert Sturmheit.
The world of ideas is the primary source and the principle of existence. In it is infinite harmony and blissful peace. Existence not enlightened by it, would be dead and lifeless, and would play no part in the totality of the world. Only that, which recognizes its existence as having originated from the idea, means something, as far as the universal tree of creation is concerned. The idea is the spirit, which in itself is clear and lucid and independently satisfied with itself. The individual must have the spirit within himself, otherwise he will drop like a dry leaf from said tree, and he would have existed for no good reason, and without purpose.
The human being but feels and recognizes himself as an individual only once he has awakened to full consciousness. In this process, he has implanted the longing for the idea. This longing drives him to overcome his selfishness, and to let the spirit be revived within him, and to be in conformity with it.
Everything that is egotistical, that which defines him as this particular, singular being, he must abolish and lay aside, because this is what darkens the light of the spirit. The egotistical human wants only that, which arises out of his sensuality, his urges, desires and passions. For this reason he must deaden within himself these egotistical wants, and as an individual he must want instead that, which the idea, the spirit wants in him. Let the individuality move there, and follow the voice of the idea within, because the idea only is the divine.
Whatever the individuality wants, is in the context of the totality of all there is, without value, and therefore worthless, disappearing within the flow of time. Whatever one wants in the spirit is in the center, and independent of time, because the central light of the universe lights up within us. If we act as a selfish individuality, then we lock ourselves out from the closed chain of creation, and we detach our selves. The banning from oneself of all that is selfish, creates the basis for a higher life. He, who deadens the egotistical within himself, lives in eternal existence. To the extent to which we can let the selfishness within us die, to that extent we are immortal. That, which is mortal in us, is selfishness. This is the true meaning of the saying: “he who does not die before he dies, decays, when he dies”. This means, he who does not deaden the selfishness within himself, during his lifetime, has no part in the universal life, which is immortal; he has never been, and he has never experienced true existence.
There are four spheres of human activity within which the human being devotes himself to the spirit, while banning all selfish activity: realization, art, religion and the loving devotion, spiritually, to a personality. He who does not live within one of these four spheres, does not live at all.
Realization is surrender to the universe in mind, art in contemplation, religion in heart and soul, and love with the totality of all the power of spirit, of something, which appears to us as a precious being within the totality of all there is.
Realization is the most spiritual, love the most beautiful form of selfless devotion. Love is a truly heavenly light in ordinary everyday life. Pious, devout and true spiritual love enobles our existence down to its innermost fibre, and uplifts all that lives within us. This pure, devout love, changes the whole soul life into another, which is related to the world spirit. To love, in this most elevated manner, means to carry the breath of God to where the most abominable egoism, and the most disrespectful passions can be found. One has to know something of the holiness of love because only then can one speak of piousness.
If a human being has, through one of the four spheres, out of his singleness, familiarized himself with the godly life of the idea, then he has achieved that, for which the seed of striving toward, has been implanted in his breast, namely his merging with the spirit, which is his true destiny. He, who lives in the spirit, lives freely. He has removed himself from subordination. Nothing can compel him, other than what he wishes to be freely compelled by, because he has recognized it as the highest calling.
Let the truth rule your life; lose yourself only to find yourself again within the world of spirit!