DREAM-LIFE AND EXTERNAL
8th February, 1924
N the last lectures I have
already drawn your attention to the way the Science of Initiation must
speak of the alternating states of sleeping and waking, which are known
to us from ordinary consciousness and through which we can really find
a path of approach — one path of approach — to the
secrets of human life. It is a life that finds expression while
we sleep — soul life, dream life, a life that ordinary consciousness,
if free from mystical or similar tendencies, does not take seriously at
first. This attitude is certainly justified; the sober-minded man does
not take his dream-life seriously and, to a certain extent, he is right,
for he sees that it shows him all kinds of pictures and reminiscences
of his ordinary life. When he compares his dream-life with his ordinary
experience, he must, of course, hold fast to the latter and call it
reality. But the dream-life comes with its re-combinations of ordinary
experiences; and if man asks himself what it really signifies for the
totality of his being, he can find no answer in ordinary consciousness.
Let us now consider this dream-life as it presents itself to us. We
can distinguish two different kinds of dreams. The first conjures pictures
of outer experiences before our soul. Years ago, or a few days maybe,
we experienced this or that in a definite way; now a dream conjures
up a picture more or less similar — usually dissimilar — to
the external experience. If we discover the connection between
this dream-picture and the external experience, we are at once struck
by the transformation the latter has undergone. We do not usually relate
the dream-picture to a particular experience in the outer world, for
the resemblance does not strike us. Nevertheless, if we look more closely
at this type of dream-life that conjures outer experiences in transformed
pictures before the soul, we find that something in us takes hold of
these experiences; we canmot, however, retain them as we can in the
waking state, when we have full use of our bodily organs and experience
the images of memory which resemble external life as far as possible.
In memory we have pictures of outer life that are more or less true.
Of course there are people who dream in their memories, but this is
regarded as abnormal. In our memories we have, more or less, true pictures,
in our dreams, transformed pictures of outer life. That is one kind
There is, however, another kind, and this is really much more important
for a knowledge of the dream-life. It is the kind in which, for example,
a man dreams of seeing a row of white pillars, one of which is damaged
or dirty; he wakes up with this dream and finds he has toothache. He
then sees that the row of pillars ‘symbolises’ the row of
teeth; one tooth is aching, and this is represented by the damaged or,
perhaps, dirty pillar. Or a man may wake up dreaming of a seething stove
and find he has palpitation of the heart. Or he is distressed in his dream
by a frog approaching his hand; he takes hold of the frog and fords
it soft. He shudders, and wakes up to find he is holding a corner of
his blanket, grasped in sleep. These things can go much further. A man
may dream of all kinds of snake-like forms and wake up with intestinal
So we see that there is a second kind of dream which gives pictorial,
symbolic expression to man's inner organs. When we have grasped this,
we learn to interpret many dream-figures in just this way. For example,
we may dream of entering a vaulted cellar. The ceiling is black and
covered with cobwebs; a repulsive sight. We wake up to fund we have
a headache. The interior of the skull is expressed in the vaulted cellar;
we even notice that the cerebral convolutions are symbolised in the
peculiar formations constituting the vault. If Nye pursue our studies
further in this direction we find that all our organs can appear in
dreams in this pictorial way.
Here, indeed, is something that points very clearly, by means of the
dream, to the whole inner life of man. There are people who, while actually
asleep and dreaming, compose subjects for quite good paintings. If you
have studied these things you will know what particular organ is depicted,
though in an altered, symbolic form. Such paintings sometimes possess
unusual beauty; and when the artist is told what organ he has really
symbolised so beautifully, he is quite startled, for he has not the
same respect for his organs that he has for his paintings.
These two kinds of dream can be easily distinguished by one who is prepared
to study the world of dreams in an intimate way. In one kind of dream
we have pictures of experiences undergone in the outer world; in the
other, pictorial representations of our own internal organs.
Now it is comparatively easy to pursue the study of dreams as far as
this. Most people whose attention has been called to the existence of
these two kinds will recall experiences of their own that justify this
But to what does this classification point? Well, if you examine the
first kind of dreams, studying the special kind of pictures contained,
you find that widely different external experiences can be represented
by the same dream; again, one and the same experience can be depicted
in different people by different dreams.
Take the case of a man who dreams he is approaching a mountain.
There is a cave-like opening and into this the sun is still shining.
He dreams he goes in. It soon begins to grow dark, then quite dark.
He gropes his way forward, encounters an obstacle, and feels there is
a little lake before him. He is in great danger, and the dream. takes
a dramatic course.
Now a dream like this can represent very different external experiences.
The picture I have just described may relate to a railway accident in
which the dreamer was once involved. What he experienced at that time
finds expression now, perhaps years afterwards, in the dream described.
The pictures are quite different from what he had experienced. He could
have been in a ship-wreck, or a friend may have proved unfaithful, and
so on. If you compare the dream-picture with the actual experience,
studying them in this intimate way, you will find that the content of
the pictures is not really of great importance; it is the dramatic sequence
that is significant: whether a feeling of expectation was present, whether
this is relieved, or leads to a crisis. One might say that the whole
complex of feelings is translated into the dream-life.
if we start from here and examine dreams of this (first) type, we find
that the pictures derive their whole character chiefly from the nature
of the man himself, from the individuality of his ego. (Only, we must
not study dreams like the psychiatrists who bring everything under one
hat.) If we have an understanding of dreams — I say, of dreams,
not of dream-interpretation — we can often learn to know a man
better from his dreams than from observing his external life. When we
study all that a person experiences in such dreams we find that it always
points back to the experience of the ego in the outer world.
other hand, when we study the second kind of dream, we find that what
it conjures before the soul in dream pictures is only experienced
in a dream. For, when awake, man experiences the form of his organs
at most by studying scientific anatomy and physiology. That, however,
is not a real experience; it is merely looking at them externally,
as one looks at stones and plants. So we may ignore it and say that,
in the ordinary consciousness of daily life, man experiences very little,
or nothing at all, of his internal organism. The second kind of dream,
however, puts this before him in pictures, although in transformed
if we study a man's life, we find that it is governed by his ego —
more or less, according to his strength of will and character. But the
activity of the ego within human life very strongly resembles the first
kind of dream-experience. Just try to examine closely whether a person's
dreams are such that in them his experiences are greatly, violently
altered. In anyone who has such dreams you will find a man of strong
will-nature. On the other hand, a man who dreams his life almost as
it actually is, not altering it in his dreams, will be found to be a
man of weak will.
you see the action of the ego within a man's life expressed in the way
he shapes his dreams. Such knowledge shows us that we have to relate
dreams of the first kind to the human ego. Now we learnt in the last
lectures that the ego and astral body are outside the physical and etheric
bodies in sleep. Remembering this, we shall not be surprised to learn
that Spiritual Science shows us that the ego then takes hold of the
pictures of waking life — those pictures that it otherwise takes
hold of in ordinary reality through the physical and etheric bodies.
The first kind of dream is an activity of the ego outside the physical
and etheric bodies.
What, then, is the second kind of dream? Of course it, too, must have
something to do with what is outside the physical and etheric bodies
during sleep. It cannot be the ego, for this knows nothing of the symbolic
organ-forms presented by the dream. One is forced to see that it is
the astral body of man that, in sleep, shapes these symbolic pictures
of the inner organs, as the ego the pictures of external experience.
Thus the two kinds of dreams point to the activity of the ego and astral
body between falling asleep and waking up.
We can go further. We have seen what a weak and what a strong man does
in his dreams; we have seen that the weak man dreams of things almost
exactly as he experienced them, while the strong man transforms and
re-arranges them, colouring then by his own character. Pursuing this
to the end, we can compare our result with a man's behaviour in waking
life. We then dis-cover the following intensely interesting fact. Let
a man tell you his dreams; notice how one dream-picture is linked to
another; study the configuration of his dreams. Then, having formed
an idea of the way he dreams, look at the man himself. Stimulated by
the idea you have formed of his dream-life, you will be able to form
a good picture of the way he acts in life. This leads us to remarkable
secrets of human nature. If you study a man as he acts in life and learn
to know his individual character, you will find that only a part of
his actions proceeds from his own being, from his ego. If all depended
on the ego, a man would really do what he dreams; the violent character
would be as violent in life as in his dreams, while one who leaves his
life almost unchanged in his dreams, would hold aloof from life at all
points, let it take its course, let things happen, shaping his life
as little as he shapes his dreams.
And what a man does over and above this — how does that happen?
My dear friends, we can very well say that it is done by God, by the
spiritual beings of the world. All that man does, he does not do himself.
In fact, he does just as much as he actually dreams; the rest is done
through him and to him. Only, in ordinary life we do not train ourselves
to observe these things; otherwise we would discover that we only actively
participate in the deeds of life as much as we actively participate
in our dreams. The world hinders the violent man from being as violent
in life as in dreams; in the weak man instincts are working, and once
more life itself adds that which happens through him, and of which he
would not dream.
It is interesting to observe a man in some action of his life and to
ask: what comes from him, and what from the world? From him proceeds
just as much as he can dream, no more, no less. The world adds something
in the case of a weak man, and subtracts something in the case of a
violent man. Seen in this light, dreams become extraordinarily interesting
and give us deep insight into the being of man.
the things I have been saying have, it is true, dawned upon psycho-analysts
in a distorted, caricatured form. But they are not able to look into
what lives and weaves in human nature, so distort it all. From what
I have put before you today in a quite external way, you can see the
necessity of acquiring a subtle, delicate knowledge of the soul if one
wants to handle such things at all; otherwise one can know nothing of
the relations between dreams and external reality as realised by man
in his life. Hence I once described psycho-analysis as dilettantism,
because it knows nothing of man's outer life. But it also knows nothing
of man's inner life. These two dilettantisms do not merely add, they
must be multiplied; for ignorance of the inner life mars the outer,
and ignorance of the outer life mars the inner. Multiplying d x d we
get d-squared: d x d = d2. Psycho-analysis is dilettantism
raised to the second power.
study the alternating states of waking and sleeping in this intimate
way, we can perceive and understand so much of the essential nature
of man that we are really led to the portal of the Science of
something else that I told you in these lectures: the fact that man
can strengthen his soul forces by exercises, by meditations; that he
then advances beyond the ordinary more or less empty, abstract thinking
to a thinking inherently pictorial, called ‘imagination’.
Now it was necessary to explain that man, progressing in
‘imagination’, comes to
apprehend his whole life as an etheric impulse entering earthly life
through conception and birth — strictly speaking, from before
conception and birth. Through dreams he receives reminiscences of what
he has experienced externally since descending to earth for his present
life. ‘Imagination’ gives us pictures which, in the way they
are experienced, can be very like dream-pictures; but they contain, not
reminiscences of this earthly life, but of what preceded it. It is quite
ridiculous for people who do not know Spiritual Science to say that
imaginations may be dreams too. They ought only to consider what it is
that we ‘dream of’ in imaginations. We do not dream of what
the senses offer; the content represents man's being before he was endowed
with senses. Imagination leads man to a new world.
there is a strong resemblance between the second kind of dream and
imaginative experience when first acquired through soul exercises. We
experience pictures, mighty pictures — and this in all clarity, we
might say exactness. We experience a universe of pictures, so wonderful,
so rich in colour, so majestic that we have nothing else in our
consciousness. If we would paint these pictures, we should have to paint
a mighty tableau; but we could only capture the appearance of a single
moment just as we cannot paint a flash of lightning, but only its
momentary appearance, for all this takes its course in time. Still, if
we only arrest a single moment we obtain a mighty picture.
Let us represent this diagrammatically. Naturally, this will not be
very like what we behold; nevertheless, this sketch will illustrate
what I mean.
at this sketch I have drawn. It has an inner configuration and includes
the most varied forms. It is inwardly and outwardly immense. If, now,
we become stronger and stronger in concentrating, in holding fast the
picture, it does not merely come before us for one moment. We must seize
it with presence of mind; otherwise it eludes us before we can bring
it into the present moment. Altogether, presence of mind is required
in spiritual observation. If we are not only able to apply sufficient
presence of mind in order to seize and become conscious of it at all, but
can retain it, it contracts and, instead of being something all-enibracing,
becomes smaller and smaller, moving onward in time. It suddenly shrinks
into something; one part becomes the human head, another the human lung,
a third the human liver. The physical matter provided by the mother's
body only fills out what enters from the spiritual world and becomes
man. At length we say: what the liver is we now see spiritually in a
mighty picture in the pre-earthly life. The same is true of the lung.
And now we may compare it with the content of the second kind of dream.
Here, too, an organ may appear to us in a beautiful picture, as I said
before, but this is very poor compared to what imagination reveals.
Click image for large view
Thus we gain
the impression that imagination gives us some-thing created by a great
master-hand, the dream something clumsy. But they both point in the same
direction and represent, spiritually, man's internal organisation.
It is but a
step from this to another and very true idea. When, through imagination,
we discern the pre-earthly human being as a mighty etheric picture,
and see this mighty etheric picture crystallise — as it were —
into the physical man, we are led to ask what would happen if the
dream-pictures, those relating to the inner organs, began to develop the
same activity. We find that a caricature of the inner organs would arise.
The human liver, so perfect in its way, is formed from an imaginative
picture that points to the pre-earthly life. If the dream-picture were to
become a liver, this would not be a human liver, not even a goose-liver,
but a caricature of a liver. This gives us, in fact, deep insight into the
whole being of man. For there is really some similarity between the
dream-picture and the imaginative picture, as we now see quite clearly.
And we cannot help asking how this comes about.
Well, we can go still further. Take the dream pictures of the first
kind, those linked to outer-experiences. To begin with, there is nothing
resembling these in imaginative cognition. But imaginative cognition
reaches back to a pre-earthly experience of man's, in which he had nothing
to do with other physical human beings. Imaginative vision leads to
an image of pre-earthly experiences of the spirit. Just think what this
we look into man's inner life we receive the impression that certain
symbolic pictures, whether they arise through imagination or in dreams
[of the second kind], refer to what is within man, man's internal
organisation; on the other hand, the imaginations which refer to outer
experiences are connected, neither with man's internal organisation nor
with outer life, but with experiences of his pre-earthly state. Beside
these imaginations one can only place dream experiences of the first kind,
those relating to external experiences of earthly life; but there is no
inner connection here between these imaginations and these
dreams. Such a connection only exists for dreams of the second kind.
Now, what do I intend by all these descriptions? I want to draw your
attention to an intimate way of studying human life, a way that propounds
real riddles. Man really observes life in a most superficial manner
today. If he would study it more exactly, more intimately, he would
notice the things I have spoken about in this lecture. In a certain
sense, however, he does notice them; only, he does not actually know
it. He is not really aware how strongly his dreams influence his life.
He regards a dream as a flitting phantom, for he does not know that
his ego is active in one kind of dream, his astral body in another.
But if we seek to grasp still deeper phenomena of life, the riddles
to which I referred become more insistent. Those who have been here
some time will have already heard me relate such facts as the following:
There is a pathological condition in which a person loses his connection
with his life in memory. I have mentioned the case of an acquaintance
of mine who one day, without his conscious knowledge, left his home
and family, went to the station, bought a ticket and travelled, like
a sleep-walker, to another station. Here he changed, bought another
ticket and travelled further. He did this for a long time. He commenced
his journey at a town in South Germany. It was found later, when the
case was investigated, that he had been in Budapest, Lemberg (Poland),
etc. At last, as his consciousness began to function again, he
found himself in a casual ward in Berlin, where he had finally landed.
Some weeks had passed before his arrival at the shelter, and these were
quite obliterated from his consciousness. He remembered the last thing
he had done at home; the rest was obliterated. It was necessary to trace
his journey by external inquiries.
You see, his ego was not present in what he was doing. If you study
the literature of this subject you will find hundreds and hundreds of
cases of such intermittent ego-consciousness. What have we here? If
you took trouble to study the dream-world of such a patient you would
discover something peculiar. To begin with, you would find that, at
least at certain periods of his life, the patient had had the most vivid
dreams imaginable, dreams that were especially characterised by his
making up his mind to do something, forming certain intentions.
if you study the dreams of a normal person you will find intentions
playing a very small part, if any. People dream all sorts of wonderful
things, but intentions play no part, as a rule. When intentions do play a
part in a dream, we usually wake up laughing at ourselves for entertaining
them. But if you study the dream-life of such people with intermittent
consciousness, you will find that they entertain intentions in their
dreams and, on waking, take these very seriously; indeed, they take
these so seriously that they feel pangs of conscience if unable to carry
them out. Often these intentions are so foolish in the face of the external
physical world that it is not possible to carry them out; this hurts
such people and makes them quite excited. To take dreams seriously —
especially in regard to their intentions (not wishes)
— is the counterpart of this condition of obliterated
is able to observe human beings can tell, in certain circumstances,
whether a person is liable to suffer in this way. Such people have
something which shows they never quite wake up in regard to certain inner
and outer experiences. One gradually finds that such a person goes too far
with his ego out of his physical and etheric bodies in sleep; every
night he goes too far into the spiritual and cannot carry back into
the physical and etheric bodies what he has experienced. At last, because
he has so often not brought it completely back, it holds him outside
— i.e. what he experiences too deeply within the spiritual holds
the ego back and he passes into a condition in which the ego is not
in the physical body.
In such a radical
case as this it is especially interesting to observe the dream-life.
This differs from the dream-life of our ordinary contemporaries; it
is much more interesting, but of course this has its reverse side. Still,
objectively considered, illness is more interesting than health; from
the subjective side — i.e. for the person concerned, as well as
from the point of view of ordinary life, it is another matter. For a
knowledge of the human being the dream-life of such a patient is really
much more interesting than the dream-life of an ordinary contemporary.
In such a case you actually see a kind of connection between the ego
and the whole dream-world; one might say, it is almost tangible. And
we are led to ask the following questions: What is the relation of the
dream pictures that refer to internal organs, to the imaginations that
also refer to internal organs?
viewed ‘externally’, the pictures of man's inner organisation
that are given in imagination, point to what was within man before he
had his earthly body, before he was on the earth; the dream-pictures
arise when once he is here. The imaginations point to the past, the
dream-pictures to the present. But though an ordinary dream-picture
that refers to an internal organ would correspond to a caricature of
that organ, while the imagination would correspond to the perfect organ,
nevertheless the caricature has the inherent possibility of growing
into a perfect organ.
This leads us to the studies we shall be pursuing tomorrow. They centre
in the question: Does the content of such an imagination relate
to man's past life, and is the dream the beginning of the imagination
of the future? Will a dream-picture of today evolve into the imagination
to which we shall be able to look back in a future life on earth? Is the
content of the dream perhaps the seed of the content of the
This significant question presents itself to us. What we have gained
through a study of dreams is here seen in conjunction with the question
of man's repeated lives on earth. You see, moreover, that we must really
look more deeply into the life of man than we usually find convenient;
otherwise we shall find no point of contact with what the Science of
Initiation says about the being of man.
By such a lecture as this I wanted especially to awaken in you some
idea of the superficial way man is studied in the civilisation of today,
and of the need of intimate observation in all directions. Such intimate
observation leads at once to Spiritual Science.