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The Experiences of Sleep and their Spiritual Background

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The Experiences of Sleep and their Spiritual Background

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This is the 1st of 16 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Stuttgart, and dates from the Fall and Winter of 1922. The title of this series of lectures is: Spiritual Relationships in the Human Organism. They were published in German as: Geistiger Zusammenhaenge in der Gestaltung des Menschlichen Organismus. This lecture was translated from a shorthand report, unrevised by the lecturer, by an unknown translator. From Bn/GA 218.

A Lecture given
by Rudolf Steiner
Stuttgart, October 9th, 1922
Bn/GA 218

This is the 1st of 16 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Stuttgart, and dates from the Fall and Winter of 1922. The title of this series of lectures is: Spiritual Relationships in the Human Organism. They were published in German as: Geistiger Zusammenhaenge in der Gestaltung des Menschlichen Organismus. This lecture was translated from a shorthand report, unrevised by the lecturer, by an unknown translator. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From GA# 218.

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The Experiences
of Sleep
and their
Spiritual
Background




RUDOLF STEINER


Lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Stuttgart 9 October, 1922. Translation published by permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung. This lecture is the first of fourteen given between October and December 1922, eventually to be collected and published in one volume of the Complete Centenary Edition of Rudolf Steiner's works in the original German. (Vol. 218 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961.)

 
In speaking of the life of the soul, a certain expression in common use today is made to cover a great deal. I refer to the expression: the ‘unconscious.’ On the one hand it admits that in respect of the soul we are obliged to speak of forces or the like which do not play into the ordinary consciousness; but on the other hand, by the very word itself we confess our inability to say anything about these forces. We merely label them the ‘unconscious.’

In setting out to describe what is the essential nature of human knowledge, we have to say that man's search for knowledge has to be pursued in the external world by means of observation and experiment, aided by the understanding with its power of combination. But then we can go on to show that when we investigate our consciousness, we find in it all manner of manifestations — thoughts, feelings, impulses of will, etc. — of which we are aware that they cannot be fathomed in their true nature by following the method of external scientific investigation and working with experiment, observation and the combining power of thought. Neither does such vision as we can gain by practising self-observation enable us to penetrate to the nature and being of what thus reveals itself in the life of the soul, so long as our self-observation is carried out purely with the ordinary forces of consciousness. We speak accordingly of the ‘unconscious,’ but while we do so, at the same time we renounce all claim to be able to penetrate into its world. This renunciation is entirely justified if we want to restrict ourselves to those means of attaining knowledge which are in common acceptance today. For as a matter of fact, no one who relies on these methods alone can ever carry his observation of the life of the soul any further than that during waking life, ideas, feelings, impulses of will-expressions, that is, of the inner nature and being of man — surge up from the depths; they are obviously closely bound up with the external bodily nature, and it is quite impossible to demonstrate conclusively that what shows itself to begin with in such close dependence on bodily conditions can have any existence of its own beyond these bodily conditions.

Now as you know very well, in Anthroposophy we take this as our starting-point. We fully accept the fact that with such means of acquiring knowledge as are recognised today, the depths of man's soul-nature can never be fathomed. We fully accept the fact that as far as these means go we can do no other than refer simply to an ‘unconscious.’ We do not even need to consider birth and death — the two boundaries of physical life on earth; we need look only at the condition of ordinary sleep as it occurs every day of a man's life, and we shall be obliged to admit that, taking what can be learned about the experiences of the soul with the ordinary means of attaining knowledge, it is impossible to raise any objection when a conclusion such as the following is reached. It is asserted, for example, from the point of view of ordinary knowledge, that all thinking, feeling and willing, as they are present in consciousness in ordinary day-to-day life, show so great a dependence upon bodily conditions that it may well be inferred that experiences of soul emerge out of the bodily conditions as out of a subconscious region, and that what happens during sleep is simply that the purely organic life predominates as such and during such time allows no ideas or feelings or acts of will to flow forth from it. When such a statement is made there is nothing to be said. At the most we can point to the dream and suggest how dreams appear to come out of the life of sleep and to be simply remembered in the waking life. From the way the dream plays through the life of sleep the conclusion might be drawn that the soul-nature does in some way or other persist during sleep. Here, however, we are on uncertain ground; and the fact is, no serious and open-minded person can, with no more than the ordinary means of knowledge at his disposal, be expected to speak in any other way about the soul than to say it exhibits phenomena which are to all appearances absolutely dependent on bodily conditions.

Anthroposophical knowledge, however, just because it accepts in all seriousness this capacity — or rather incapacity — of the ordinary means of knowledge, must, on the other hand, endeavour to find other means of knowing the world. And, as you are aware, such have been attained; they have often been explained and described here Imaginative, Inspired, Intuitive Knowledge. By means of these special ways of knowing — ways of knowing that by dint of strenuous effort have to be developed as new faculties from out of the ordinary life of the soul we are then in a position to bring clarity into a realm where with the ordinary means of knowledge clarity can never be attained.

And now, on the basis of these three stages of higher knowledge, I should like to give you a picture of a very important region of the subconscious or unconscious in man, namely the region of soul-life between going to sleep and waking. I have already described this region to you many times from various standpoints. Today I will do so again from one particular aspect.

Let me begin by picturing to you quite simply the condition of sleep as seen by Imaginative, Inspired and Intuitive Knowledge. For ordinary consciousness all that we can say is that whereas from waking to going to sleep consciousness is filled with a content, on going to sleep this content first of all grows dim, is then gradually extinguished and a condition of unconsciousness ensues. During the consciousness of daytime man cannot, with ordinary means of knowledge, tell what his soul does during the time between going to sleep and waking. If the soul has any experience of this condition, the experience does not enter into ordinary consciousness. For ordinary consciousness darkness spreads over all that the soul undergoes — assuming, that is, that it undergoes any experience at all in sleep. But now, with the advent of Imaginative Knowledge, the condition of sleep begins to be lit up, the darkness begins to change into light, and it is possible to judge clearly of what is experienced by the soul during, at any rate, the early stages of sleep. And in Inspired and Intuitive Knowledge one can penetrate still farther into these experiences. Do not suppose that we can by this means look into sleep somewhat in the way we look into a peepshow; but through Imaginative, Inspired and Intuitive Knowledge we can experience conditions of soul that resemble sleep inasmuch as our relation to our body at such times is similar to the relation during sleep; only it is experienced, not unconsciously, but in full consciousness. And through being able thus consciously during waking life to experience in a similar manner to the way one experiences in sleep, the possibility is opened for us to behold what the soul of man undergoes during sleep, and to describe it.

When a man goes to sleep, you know how in the moment of doing so the consciousness, already growing vague and indistinct, is often confused by dreams. This dream-world can, to begin with, help us very little indeed towards a knowledge of the life of the soul. For all we can know about dreams in daytime consciousness with the ordinary means of knowledge remains something that is quite external. Dreams are obviously not things upon which we can build in a sure and well-defined way, until we have a knowledge about sleep itself by some other means. He who truly acquires a knowledge of the condition of sleep knows very well that dreams are in reality misleading rather than enlightening. What the soul experiences in sleep it experiences unconsciously. But now, since I am going to place a picture of it before you arising from Imaginative, Inspired and Intuitive Knowledge, I must portray it as if it were experienced consciously. I shall have to describe to you the experiences of the soul from going to sleep to waking as if they were experienced in consciousness. They are not; nevertheless, what I describe is truly experienced by the soul, although without knowing anything of it. It is present as an actual fact, and the effect of the experience is not limited to the time between going to sleep and waking. For it works into the physical organism of the human being, and it does so most of all during waking life. We carry within us during the day, from waking until going to sleep, the after-effects of the experiences of the night; and if it is true that for the civilization in which we live what we do with the instrumentality of consciousness is of great significance, it is no less true that all that goes on with our own selves depends very little indeed upon our consciousness, and very much upon what we experience unconsciously between going to sleep and waking.

When we have gone to sleep, and the sense-perceptions have been gradually paralysed and the will-impulses have ceased to work, we experience in the first place an undifferentiated condition of soul. In this undefined experience a strong sense of time is present, but all feeling of space is almost completely wiped out. It is an experience that is comparable with swimming; we are, so to speak, moving about in a general, indefinite world-substance. One has really to coin words to express what the soul goes through at this stage. One might say, the soul feels as if it were like a wave in a great sea, a wave that is organised within itself and yet feels itself surrounded on every hand by the sea and affected by the influences of the sea much as during the life of day the soul is affected by impressions of colour, tone or warmth, perceiving them in a quite definite and differentiated manner. In the life of day you feel yourself as a human being enclosed within your skin, and having a definite position in space. in the moment that follows the going to sleep, you feel — I say you ‘feel,’ I describe it all as if it were consciousness; the fact is there, it is only the consciousness of the fact that is lacking — you feel like a wave in a universal sea; you feel yourself now here, now there; as I said, the definite sense of space ceases. A general sense of time, however, persists.

But now this experience is united with another, namely, an experience of being forsaken and alone. It is like sinking into an abyss. If a man were to experience consciously this first stage of sleep without right preparation, he would in truth be exposed to great risk, for he would find it quite unbearable to lose in this way almost all sense of space and live merely in a general, universal feeling of time, to feel himself in this vague way merely a part of a universal sea of substance, where scarcely anything is distinguishable — where indeed the only thing one can distinguish is that one is a self within a universal world-existence. If consciousness were present, one would actually have the sensation of hovering over an abyss.

And now a still further experience is united with this one. A tremendous need for the support of the spiritual makes itself felt in the soul, a great need and longing to be united with the spiritual. In the universal sea in which one is swimming, one has, as it were, lost that feeling of security which comes from being in contact with the material things of the world of our waking hours. Hence one feels — one would feel, that is, if the condition were conscious — a deep yearning to be united with the divine and spiritual. And one may say too that this experience of movement in an undifferentiated world-substance carries with it the sense of being concealed and protected within divine-spiritual reality. Please observe the way I am describing all this. To repeat once more, I am describing it to you as if the soul experienced it consciously. It does not do so; but let me remind you that when you experience something consciously in waking life, a great deal is going on at the same time unconsciously in your organism. This is a simple fact. Let us say, for example, you feel joy. When you feel joy, your blood beats differently from the way it beats when you are sad. You experience the joy or sorrow in your consciousness, but not the difference in the pulsation of the blood. The pulsation of the blood is, notwithstanding, a fact. And it is the same here too. What I describe as swimming in an undifferentiated world-substance, and again what I describe as a need of God — there is a reality in the life of soul answering to each one of these descriptions. And Imaginative Knowledge does nothing else than lift this reality into consciousness, just as ordinary waking consciousness can lift into consciousness the pulsation of the blood which lies behind joy or sorrow. The facts are there, and they work on into our life of day; so that when we wake in the morning our whole organism is refreshed. The refreshment is due to the experience we have undergone during the night in our life of soul. What takes place in the soul when it is separated from the body during the time between going to sleep and waking is of great significance in its after-effects during waking life on the following day. We should not be able rightly to make use of our body on the following day if we had not raised ourselves up out of our connection with the external world of the physical senses and been immersed in this undefined experience which I have described. Nor would there rise up from the depths of our will during waking life something like a need and longing to relate all the differentiated world around us to a universal existence. The fact that we feel a need to relate the world of the senses to a divine existence is a direct result of this first stage of sleep.

The question may well be asked: Why is man not content merely to place the several objects of the world side by side? Why is he not content to go through the world accepting the existence of plants, animals, etc., without question? Why does he want to try to philosophize about it all? For the very simplest people do so; and incidentally, I may say they do it with far more understanding than the philosophers themselves! Why does man want to build up a philosophy of how the things hang together? Why does he relate the single example that meets his eye to a universal whole, and ask how the individual is rooted and grounded in the cosmos? He would not do so, if it were not that during sleep he enters in an intensely real and living way into the undefined existence I have described; nor would he ever in the waking state come to a feeling of God, were it not that he has experienced the corresponding fact in the first stage of sleep. We owe to sleep something that has untold significance for our deep inner nature as human beings.

As man continues asleep, he comes into other stages which are not accessible to Imaginative Knowledge, but require Inspired Knowledge for their perception. Something else now shows itself as a fact of the life of soul and is reflected for Inspired Knowledge in the way that the pulsation of the blood is reflected in joy and sorrow. To begin with, we find a disintegration of the soul into the greatest possible number of individual entities. The soul literally splits up its life into many parts, and this process is united with an experience which, when it lights up into consciousness, is felt as an experience of anxiety and fear. After the soul has passed through what we have described as a hovering over the abyss or as a swimming in a universal world-substance, and has experienced at the same time a longing for the divine-spiritual, it comes into this condition of anxiety — that is to say, into a condition that would be anxiety, if it were consciously experienced. The experience is due to the fact that the soul is no longer merely swimming in a general world-substance, but has, as it were, immersed itself in individual beings of soul-and-spirit. The soul comes into a certain relationship with these beings, and doing so severally, is now itself not one but manifold.

The anxiety of this stage of sleep has to be somehow met and overcome. In the time of the Earth's evolution that preceded the Mystery of Golgotha, teachings were given in the places of the Mysteries and found their way to the individual human beings; these teachings enabled the soul to experience other feelings in addition to those aroused by contact with the outer world of the senses. Such teachings were given in connection with the most varied religious practices, but they all awakened these feelings in the souls of men by giving them ideas and conceptions of God in such a way as was right for those ancient times. Men were then so constituted that even during waking life the spiritual world still shone into their consciousness. The farther we go back in the evolution of mankind on Earth, the more evident does it become that man had a kind of clairvoyance in very ancient times, traces of which remained on into later epochs; through this clairvoyance he perceived inwardly how he himself, before he began his life on Earth, had lived in pre-earthly existence as a being of soul-and-spirit. It was not something that he merely believed; it was for him a certainty; he experienced within himself something left over from a pre-earthly existence.

If I may be allowed to use a trivial comparison, I would remind you of how when someone has inherited a certain faculty from his parents, he is aware that this faculty has inserted itself into the course of his life through its own immediate existence; he has not acquired it, it has come over to him from his ancestors. In a similar way the men of an older time knew that certain experiences they had in their soul did not come to them from what they had seen with their eyes, but were an inheritance from a pre-earthly existence. They knew it from the experiences themselves. We have again and again to call attention to the fact that in the course of evolution man has grown free from such experiences, and that we live in an age when the ordinary consciousness has no experiences that are explicable as an inheritance from a pre-earthly existence. It was accordingly easier for the men of olden times to be taught by their spiritual leaders in the Mystery-centres how they should relate themselves in their feelings to what they already had in their soul as spiritual experience. Power came to them with the impulses they received from the Mystery-centres, and they were able to carry out of ordinary day life into the life of night, into the life of sleep, the strength to hold their own against the anxiety described above. The anxiety rose up out of the depths of the life of sleep. If a man was to have power to bring away with him out of this anxiety not general fatigue or exhaustion or the like, but instead a freshness of his whole organism, then he had to acquire that power on the previous day during the waking life.

Such is the connection between day and night. Night brings, at a certain stage of sleep, anxiety. Into this anxiety must flow power man has gained from religious or similar experience on the day before; and when these two things come together and unite — the power remaining over from the day before and the new and original experience of the night — then a reviving and refreshing force streams into the organism for the new day that follows.

A true spiritual science is not concerned to speak in general, abstract phrases and affirm the presence of a universal divine ordering in the world. It is not satisfied to describe the single objects of the world in their sense-aspect and then add: And now within this sense-appearance a general world-ordering holds sway. Spiritual science has to show in concrete detail how this divine ordering of the world works. If we would be adequate to the tasks of human evolution in the future, we cannot be content merely to say: I feel refreshed after a sound and healthy sleep; God has granted me refreshment. We should have to despair of science if we must insist upon a strict science for the world of the senses, and could not at the same time extend this strictness to what relates to the super-sensible, but there had to remain content with phrases, such as the general statement that a divine ordering lies at the foundation of the world. No, on the contrary, we learn to be more and more definite; and we can show how the anxiety which occurs in the second stage of sleep, is as it were blended and intermingled with the power drawn from the religious experience of the previous day that works on into the night, and how these then give rise in their union to the power with which the physical organism is refreshed for the next day.

In this way we come to see more and more clearly how the spiritual lives in the physical. The means of knowledge that hold good today admit only a physical content of the world, supplemented by a way of speaking in general terms of how in, or above, this physical content lives something spiritual. Humanity will, however, sink lower and lower in civilization and culture if men will not learn to extend to the spiritual world the strict exactitude practised in the study of the external world.

When, with Inspired Consciousness, we follow up further the stages of sleep and pass from the first to the second stage, the inner experience of the soul becomes altogether different from what it is in the life of day.

Now it is quite possible to recognise by means of ordinary natural science — if we will only follow it out to the consequences — that our life of soul is intimately attached to the processes of breathing and of blood-circulation, and to the process of nutrition that permeates the circulation; we can feel that something is taking place when, for example, we exert ourselves strongly in movement. We feel how the soul-and-spirit within us is united with the activities of our body, and when we try to form a picture of the breathing process or of the circulatory process, we know that we are picturing something in which, during waking life, dwells the experience of the soul, in which it is, as it were, embedded. The experience of the soul during sleep is not attached in any way to the senses, nevertheless it too is a well-defined inner life that can also be referred to something, in the same way that the inner life of day can be referred to the life of breathing and the life of circulation. Inspired Knowledge leads us to see how this inner life of night-time is connected with an unfolding of inner forces, comparable with the unfolding of the forces of breathing and of circulation, and is in fact a copy of the planetary movements of our system. Note well, I do not say that every night from going to sleep until waking we are ourselves within, or united with, the movements of the planets, but that we are inserted into something which is a copy, so to speak in miniature, of our planetary cosmos or rather of its movements. As our life of soul by day has its dwelling-place in the circulation of the blood, so our life of soul by night is inserted into something which is a copy of the planetary movements of our solar system. If we must say for the day-time: the white corpuscles, the red corpuscles circulate in us, the breathing power revolves in us, enabling us to breathe in and breathe out — then we must say for the night-time: there revolves in us a copy of the movement of Mercury, of the movement of Venus, of the movement of Jupiter. Our life of soul from going to sleep to waking is, so to say, in a little planetary cosmos. From being personal and human our life becomes cosmic during sleep. And Inspired Knowledge can then discover how when we are tired in the evening, the forces which have held our blood in pulsation during the day are able to keep vitality going during the night through their own faculty of persistence, but that in order to be turned again into the day life of soul, these forces require the fresh impulse that comes from the experience of a copy of the planetary cosmos during the night. In the moment of waking the after-effects are implanted into us of the experience we have received from the copies of the planetary movements.

This it is which unites the cosmos with our individual life. When we wake in the morning, the forces we need would not be able to stream into us in the right way so that consciousness is properly present, if we had not this after-working of the experiences of the night.

You will be able to see from this how little justification there often is when people complain bitterly of sleeplessness. As a general rule, they are deeply self-deceived. I will not, however, enter into this subject now. Naturally, those who labour under the delusion have themselves no idea of it. They think they are not asleep, whereas in reality they are in an abnormal sleep. They think that their soul is not outside the body and cannot experience this planetary existence. The fact is, they are in a condition which is certainly dull, but which yet admits of their experiencing the very same that another human being experiences when he is in a healthy sleep. But as I have said, I will not at the present moment enter further into these exceptional cases.

Speaking generally, the description I am now giving is true for man, namely that in the second stage of sleep he lives a cosmic life. I have indicated to you how in olden times before the Mystery of Golgotha, impulses went forth from the places of the Mysteries which gave man the power to come out of this anxiety, the power to withstand the tendency to dispersion and pass through in a sound and healthy way what he had to pass through at this time. That is to say, he was imbued with a power that enabled him to enter into the experience of the planets and not stop short at the experience of being dismembered and scattered. The anxiety was due to this latter experience, while the experience of being in the planets came as a result of taking with one out of the experience of the previous day the power I have described. Since the time of the Mystery of Golgotha it has been possible for men to possess themselves of the same power that was formerly given from the Mysteries, by directing their souls to the events of the Mystery of Golgotha. Whoever enters in a right and living way into an experience of the Mystery of Golgotha will have Christ for his strong guide in the moment when his soul comes into the realm of anxiety during the time between going to sleep and waking. Thus the humanity of modern times has through the Christ-experience what an older humanity had from the Mysteries.

Passing onward from the stage of sleep just described, man enters upon a stage which I may be permitted to name in plain terms; for after I have taken time to explain more fully the planetary experience, you will not take offence when I say at once that following on the planetary experience man has an experience of the fixed stars. Having lived during the second stage of sleep in the copy of the planetary movements, he now lives in the constellations, or rather in copies of the constellations, of the fixed stars of the zodiac. This experience is a very real fact during the third stage of the life of man by night. He begins then also to experience the difference between the Sun as a planet and as a fixed star. It is not at all clear to a man of the present day why in ancient astronomies the Sun counted at the same time as a planet and also in a sense as a fixed star. During the second stage of sleep the Sun has actually, in this experience, planetary qualities; we learn to know the conspicuous and distinct relation in which it stands to the whole life of man on Earth. In the third stage we learn to know the Sun in its constellation in relation to the other constellations of the stars, for example, of the zodiac.

In short, we live our way into the cosmos with far greater intensity than was the case in the previous stage of sleep. We have this experience of the fixed stars, and we retain from it deeper and still more important impulses for the life of the following day than we should be able to have from the planetary experiences alone. We owe it to the experience of the planets that our breathing process and circulatory process are, if I may so express it, ‘enfired;’ but in order for these processes to be permeated, as they need to be, with substance, in order that they may be continually carrying the means of nourishment to the whole of the organism, they require the stimulation that is given by the experience of the fixed stars. The activity that results is apparently a most material one; nevertheless it owes its origin to the working of higher forces than the mere movement of the blood in circulation. As physical human beings we are dependent in our soul-and-spirit on the way in which this or that substance circulates in us, and this dependence is connected, if I may so express it, with the highest heavens; it is connected with the fact that we, as beings of soul-and-spirit, feel within us during the third stage of sleep pictures of the constellations of the fixed stars, just as by day when we are awake we feel within us our stomach or our lung. We have already heard that, as by day our body is in movement inwardly, is filled with the movements of breathing and circulation, so by night our soul, the substance of our soul, is something that has within it copies of the planetary movements. And now we learn that as by day we have in us stomach and lung and heart, so by night we have in us the constellations of the fixed stars. They constitute our inner being. Thus during sleep man becomes in very truth a cosmic being. This third stage of sleep is the deepest of all. Out of it man emerges to return little by little to the waking life of day. Why does he return? He would not return into waking life, did not forces take hold in his soul which lead him again into his physical organism.

We have already approached these forces from many and varying points of view and described how they may be named. Today I want to describe them to you from their cosmic aspect. When through intuition we attain to a knowledge of the experience of the fixed stars, then we learn at the same time that the forces which lead man back again into the physical organism are Moon forces; that is to say, they are what corresponds in the realm of spirit to what appears in a physical picture as the Moon. The action of the forces does not, of course, depend on whether it is full Moon at the time or some other phase, for the Moon can shine through the Earth in a spiritual sense. The metamorphoses which come to expression in the visibility of the Moon do, it is true, enter into the working, but to explain how they enter in would take us to the consideration of much finer and subtler distinctions than we want to describe today. It is in general the forces of the Moon that lead man back.

We may express it in this way. Just as the soul of man is permeated from going to sleep to waking by the planetary forces and by the forces that reveal themselves in the constellations of the fixed stars, just as these forces permeate him through and through and remain with him — for the effects work on in the waking life of day- so is man permeated unceasingly with those spiritual forces which correspond in the cosmos to the physical Moon. It is in reality a marvellously complicated process, but if we want to find some way of expressing it, we might say it is like stretching out a piece of elastic. You know how if you stretch a piece of elastic, it goes a certain distance and then springs back. In a somewhat similar way we, as it were, stretch the Moon forces to a certain point and then are obliged to return. The point is reached in the third stage of sleep, and we are then led back stage by stage by the Moon forces, which are always intimately connected with the bringing into the physical world of soul-and-spirit. From the third, through the second and the first stage we are gradually led back.

It is a fact that the initiative man is able to carry in his powers of ideation and of feeling and thought during day-waking life, is an after-effect of the experience of the fixed stars during the night, whilst the powers of combination he is able to carry in them, the powers of wisdom and cleverness, are an after-effect of the planetary experience. That which rays into the life of day from the cosmos, coming from the experience of the night, is obliged however to enter by way of the body. The experience of the fixed stars shoots into our life of day by way of the metabolism of food. Our food would not enter our head in such a way as to enable us to unfold powers of initiative, were it not that the whole process of metabolism is fired by what we experience at night in connection with the stars. Nor would we be able to think intelligently unless we received into our breathing and blood-circulation during the day the after-effects of the planetary experience of the night.

Things like this are always correct only in a broad and general way; and when the facts appear to be contradictory, as in the case of people who suffer from sleeplessness, then it rests with us to explain the corresponding abnormalities. If such cases are looked into with real thoroughness, they will not be found to tell against these truths. On the contrary, these truths, which are correct in the main, open up for the first time the possibility of explaining the single instance in its real and essential nature.

A true understanding of the human being is alone possible when we become conscious in the widest sense of the fact that man lives not only in his physical body within his skin, but in the whole world. This life in the whole world is concealed from ordinary consciousness only because it is very much dulled and dimmed for the waking life of day. At most we can say that in the general sensation and experience of light we have something of an after-working of our share in the being of a universal cosmos. And there are perhaps other feelings, very dull and dim, wherein man has something left between waking and going to sleep of that sense of being within the cosmos. All such feelings, however, that are given to man remain silent within him by day in order that he may unfold his individual consciousness, in order that he may not be disturbed by whatever plays into his experience from the Cosmos. During the night the case is reversed. There man has a cosmic experience. True, it is a copy only, but it is a faithful copy, as I have indicated. By night man has in reality a cosmic experience and because he must pass through this cosmic experience, therefore is his day-consciousness darkened and paralysed.

The future evolution of mankind will consist in this, that man will more and more live his way into the Cosmos, and that the time will come when he will feel himself with his consciousness in Sun and Moon and Stars, in the same way as now he feels himself with his consciousness upon Earth. Then he will look from the Cosmos upon the Earth, just as now he gazes from the Earth into the Cosmos in his present waking condition. The looking, however, will be essentially different in kind.

If we want to take our stand for evolution in all sincerity and in a wide and comprehensive sense, we must recognise that human consciousness too is subject to evolution, that the body-consciousness man has today is a transition stage that leads over to another consciousness, which will also be a reflection in the soul of facts. Man already now experiences the facts every night. He has need of them; for through them alone in their after-effects can his life be maintained by day. Man's further evolution will consist in this, that he will be conscious in normal life of that which today constitutes for him the unconscious. For this, however, it is essential that he should find his way into Spiritual Science; for just as we need to bend our course in some direction or other when we are swimming, so do we need to give a direction to present-day ordinary consciousness. We cannot merely let ourselves be carried along, as is the case in the customary methods of obtaining knowledge. We need a clear direction. This guidance anthroposophical Spiritual Science alone is able to give, because it unveils, in so far as is necessary for present times, that which is living in man and of which he is not yet conscious. He must receive it into his consciousness, otherwise he can make no cosmic progress.

I have here portrayed for you one section of all that is commonly gathered up from the rubbish heap of modern knowledge and labelled the ‘unconscious.’ Having thus described man's unconscious experiences during sleep, I will try in the next lecture to describe for you the experiences that lie beyond birth and death.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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