If you study mankind you will find that they fall into different categories. There is one group which lives exclusively in the past. That is to say, they begin to understand only after something has passed. As a result they can neither truly rejoice in something that is happening, nor intuitively perceive the full gravity of a matter. Only afterwards do they begin to talk about it, to enthuse about it, or to feel regret. And while constantly speaking of the past, either feeling happy or regretful about it, they continually overlook present events. It is only after something has become old, bygone, that they begin to value it.
Then there is another group which lives in the future. They set all their wishes and hopes on the future, and thereby forget that the present has so much to offer them. They also forget to bestir themselves sufficiently for many of their dreams about the future to become reality.
Both groups, to which the majority of men belong, haven't really lived on earth at all. They just fritter away their time.
Then there will be men who, on hearing the call to: “live in the present” will imagine something entirely wrong, thinking perhaps that I would encourage them to relish and savor every moment, encouraging them to live a certain frivolous lifestyle. There are more than enough of such people who stagger through life mindlessly indulging the moment in this fashion.
With this call I do indeed demand full enjoyment of every minute, but inwardly, not superficially or only outwardly. Every single hour of the present must become a real experience for a human being, sorrow as well as joy! With mind, thoughts and intuitive perception, he must be open wholeheartedly to the present moment and thus be awake. Only in this way can he gain the intended benefit from his life on earth. Neither in his thoughts about the past, nor in his dreams of the future can he find real experiences strong enough to impress a stamp on his spirit which he can take with him into the beyond as his gain.
If he does not live in the present he cannot mature, for maturing depends upon experiencing alone.
If during his life on earth he has not always experienced the present within himself, then he will return empty-handed and must once more wander through the time he lost, because he was not awake and did not make anything his own through experiencing.
Life on earth is like one step in the entire existence of a man, one so great that he cannot skip over it. Unless he sets his foot firmly and securely on this step, it will be quite impossible for him to ascend to the next one, for he needs the preceding one as a foundation. If a man envisages his whole existence from this earth back to the Light as it rises upwards in steps, he must realize that he cannot reach the next step unless he has properly fulfilled the previous one and stands firmly upon it. It may be expressed even more strongly: only through the complete and absolute fulfillment of each step to be experienced can the next higher one develop. If a man does not fulfill the step on which he currently finds himself through experiencing, which alone can serve him to mature, then the new step will not become visible to him. He needs the experiencing of the previous step. Only when he is equipped with these experiences does he receive the power to recognize and ascend to the next higher step.
And so it continues on from one step to another. If he keeps his eyes fixed only on the high goal, without paying careful attention to the individual steps leading him there, he will never reach it. The steps which he must build for his own ascent would then be far too insubstantial and flimsy and would collapse at any attempt to climb them.
But there is a safeguard against this danger in the natural course of events, inasmuch as the next step can only develop after the complete fulfillment of the present step. Thus he who does not wish to spend half his existence standing upon one and the same step, nor to return there again and again, should force himself always to belong completely to the present, to grasp it aright within himself, and to experience it so as to gain spiritual benefit from it.
In doing so he will also not lack earthly benefit, for the first advantage he will gain is that he will not expect either from people or from the time more than they can really give him! Thus he will never be disappointed, and he will also be in harmony with his environment.
If, on the other hand, he lives only in the past or dreams only of the future, his expectations may well let him reach beyond the framework of the present, which must bring him into disharmony with the present time and cause suffering not only to him but also to his immediate environment. Although one should think of the past in order to learn its lessons, and also dream of the future in order to receive motivation, one should live fully and consciously only in the present!