Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib
Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document
Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy
Experiences of the Soul in Sleep
EXPERIENCES OF THE SOUL IN SLEEP
WE speak to-day of the Unconscious of
Subconscious, when we wish to signify that the
soul-experiences of ordinary consciousness observation,
representation, realization, volition are dependent on a state
which is not included in this consciousness. That knowledge which
would base itself only on these experiences can no doubt, by logical
sequence of argument, point to such a subconscious; but
that is all it can do. It can bring no contribution to a definition of
The imaginative, inspired and intuitive knowledge which has been
described in the foregoing considerations, can give such a definition.
Now we shall try to do the same for the soul-experiences of man
The sleep-experiences of the soul do not enter upon ordinary
consciousness, for this rests on the basis of the physical
organization; and during sleep the experience of the soul is outside
the body. When in waking the soul begins, with the help of the body,
to imagine, to feel, and to will, it joins up in its memory with those
experiences which took place before sleep on the basis of the physical
organization. The experiences of sleep reveal themselves only to
Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. They do not appear in the
guise of memory, but as if in a psychic review of it.
I shall now have to describe what is revealed in this review. Because
it is hid from ordinary consciousness, such a description of this
review must, when the consciousness is faced with it unprepared,
naturally appear grotesque. But the foregoing explanations have shown
that such a description is possible, and how it is to be taken.
Although it may even be laughed at from some quarter or another, I
shall give it as it emerges from the states of consciousness already
At first, in falling asleep, a man finds himself in an inwardly vague,
undifferentiated state of being. He sees there no difference between
his own being and that of the universe; nor any between separate
objects or people. His state of existence is universal and vague.
Taken up into the imaginative consciousness, this experience becomes
an Ego-feeling, in which the universe-feeling
is included. He has left the sphere of the senses, and has not yet
clearly entered upon another world.
We shall now have to use expressions such as Feeling,
longing, etc., which also in ordinary life refer to
something known; and yet we shall have to use them to denote processes
which remain unknown to the ordinary soul-life. But the soul
experiences them as facts during sleep. Think, for instance, how in
daily life joy is experienced consciously. Physically an enlargement
of the small blood vessels takes place, and other things, and this
enlargement is a fact; when it takes place, joy is consciously felt.
Similarly, the soul goes through real experiences in sleep; and this
will be described in terms which refer to corresponding experience of
the imaginative, inspired and intuitive consciousness. If, for
example, we speak of longing we shall mean an
actual soul-process which is imaginatively revealed as longing.
Thus the unconscious states and experiences of the soul will be
described as if they were conscious.
Simultaneously with the feeling of vagueness arid the absence of
differentiation, there arises in the soul a longing for rest in what
is spiritual and divine. The human soul evolves this longing as a
counterbalance to the feeling of being lost in infinity. Having lost
the sphere of the senses, it craves for a state out of the spiritual
world that will support it.
Dreams interweave themselves into the state of soul just described.
They traverse the unconscious with half-conscious experiences. The
real form of sleep experiences is not made clearer through ordinary
dreams, but still less clear. This lack of clearness applies also to
the imaginative consciousness if this latter is clouded by dreams
arising spontaneously. One perceives the truth on the further side of
life both awake and in dream by means of that conception of the soul
which is attained by free will through the exercises previously
The next state through which the soul lives then is like a division or
partition of itself into inner happenings which are differentiated
from each other. During this period of sleep, the soul feels itself to
be not a unity but an inner plurality, and this state is one suffused
with anxiety. Were it felt consciously, it would be soul-fear. But the
human soul experiences the real counterpart of this anxiety every
night, though remaining unconscious of it.
In the case of modern man there appears at this moment of sleep the
soul-saving effect which corresponds in the waking condition to his
self surrender to Christ. It was different, of course, before the
events of Golgotha. Then men, when awake, received from their
religious beliefs the antidote which carried over into the condition
of sleep and was the medicine for this fear. For the man who lives
after the events of Golgotha are substituted the religious experiences
which he has in the contemplation of the life and death and being of
Christ. He overcomes his fears through the working of this into his
sleep. This fear prevents, as long as it is present, the inner vision
of that which should be experienced by the soul in sleep, as the body
prevents it in the waking state. The leadership of Christ overcomes
the inner division and transforms the plurality into a unity. And the
soul comes now to the point of having an inner life different from
that of the waking condition. The physical and etheric organisms
belong now to its outer world. On the other hand in its present
inner self it experiences a reflection of the planetary movements. The
soul experiences something cosmic in place of the individual,
conditioned by the physical and etheric organisms. The soul lives
outside the body; and its inner life is an inner reflection of the
planetary motions. This being so, the inspired consciousness is aware
of the corresponding inner processes in the manner which has been
described in our previous studies. This consciousness perceives also
how that which the soul receives through its contact with the planets
continues to have an after-effect in the consciousness after waking.
This planetary influence continues in awakeness as a stimulant in the
rhythm of breathing and blood-circulation. During sleep the physical
and etheric organisms are subjected to the effect of the
planet-stimulation, which by day influence them, as described, as the
after-effect of the previous night.
There are other experiences side by side with these. In this phase of
its sleep-existence, the soul experiences its relation to all human
souls with which it had come into contact in earthly life. Considered
intuitively this leads to certainty on the subject of repeated earth
life; for these earth-lives reveal themselves in their relation to the
soul. And the connection with other spirit-beings, which live in the
world without ever assuming a human body, is also one of the soul's
experiences. But in this condition of sleep the soul experiences also
what point to good and evil tendencies, and good and evil events in
the predestined course of earthly life. In fact, what older
philosophers have termed Karma is now presented to the
In daily life all these happenings of the soul have so much effect
that they help to cause the feelings, the general mood of the soul, of
happiness or unhappiness.
In the further course of sleep another state of the soul is added to
the one just described. It goes through a copy or imitation of state
of the Twin Stars. As the bodily organs are sensed in waking, so a
reconstructing of the fixed constellations is now attempted. The
cosmic experience of the soul is widening. It is now a spirit amongst
spirits. Intuition sees the sun and the other fixed stars
as physical projections of spirits, in the manner just described.
These adventures of the soul reverberate during daily life as its
religious leanings, its religious feeling and willing. It can be said
indeed that the religious longing, stirring in the depth of the soul,
is in awake life the aftermath of the stellar experience during the
state of sleep.
But it is significant above all that in this state the soul is faced
with the facts of life and death. It sees itself as a spirit-being,
entering into a physical body through conception and the life of the
cell, and unconsciously it sees the event of death as a passing over
into a purely spiritual world. That the soul in its waking state
cannot believe in the reality of what outwardly represents itself to
the senses as the events of birth and death is therefore not only the
imaginative picturing of a longing but a vaguely-felt reliving through
things presented to the soul in sleep.
If man could recall to his consciousness everything he lives through
unconsciously from falling asleep to waking up, he would have a
consciousness-content giving the experiences of truth to his
philosophical ideas in the first occurrence in which sense-phenomena
merge Into a universal inner cosmic life, and in which a kind of
pantheistic knowledge of God occurs. If he was conscious of this
planet and fixed-star life of sleep he would indeed have a cosmology
full of content. And the conclusion could be formed from the
experience of star-life, that a human being has a life as spirit among
From falling asleep, through further states of sleep, man actually
becomes an unconscious philosopher, cosmologist, and God-filled being.
From the depths of experiences otherwise only possible in sleep,
Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition lift up that which
shows what kind of being man himself really is; how he is part of the
Cosmos and how he becomes one with God.
This last happens to man in the deepest stage of sleep. From there the
soul begins to return to the world of the senses. In the impulse
leading to this return the intuitive consciousness recognizes the
activity of those spirit beings which have their physical counterpart
in the moon. The spiritual moon-activities are the ones recalling men
in their sleep back to their presence on earth. Naturally these same
lunar activities are also present in the New Moon. But the
transformation of whatever changes visibly in the moon has its
significance concerning the part lunar activities play in man's
holding on to his earthly life from birth or conception to death.
After the deepest state of sleep man returns to his waking state
through the same intermediate states. Before awakening he goes once
more through experiencing the universal world state, and the longing
for God, in which dreams can play their part.