SLEEPING AND WAKING
IN THE LIGHT OF RECENT STUDIES
In the study of Anthroposophy, sleeping and waking have been dealt
with often and from varied points of view. But our understanding of
these facts of life must be deepened and refreshed again and again,
when other points in the constitution of the world have been
considered by us. Our previous explanation, showing how the Earth is
the seed of a newly arising macrocosm, will give us fresh
possibilities for a deeper understanding of sleeping and waking.
In the waking state, man lives in the Thought-shadows cast by a dead
and dying world, and in the Will-impulses into the inner nature of
which, with his ordinary consciousness, he can no more penetrate than
into the processes of deep, dreamless sleep.
Where sub-conscious impulses of Will flow into the shadows of Thought,
the free dominion of self-consciousness arises. In this
self-consciousness, the human Ego lives.
While man experiences his environment in this condition, his inner
feeling is permeated by extra-earthly, cosmic impulses, entering from
a remote and cosmic past into the present time. He does not become
conscious of this fact. For a being can only become conscious of
things in which it partakes with its own, dying forces, and not with
the growing forces that are the creative kindlers of its life. Thus
man experiences himself in consciousness while that which lies at the
basis of his inner being is lost to the eye of his mind. And by this
very fact he is able, during the waking state, to feel himself so
entirely within his shadowed Thoughts. There is no glimmer of life to
hinder the full absorption of his inner being in the dead and dying.
But from this his life in the dead and dying, the
essential being of the earthly sphere conceals the fact that it is in
reality the seed of a new Universe. Man in the waking state does not
perceive the Earth in its true nature. The cosmic life that is
germinating in the Earth escapes him.
Thus man lives in what the Earth gives to him as the basis of his
self-consciousness. In the age of unfolding of the self-conscious Ego,
the true form both of his inner impulses and of his outer environment
is lost to his mind's eye. But as he thus hovers over the true being
of the world, he experiences in consciousness the being of the
I : he experiences himself as a self-conscious
being. Above him is the extra-earthly Cosmos; beneath him, in the
earthly realm, a world whose true essence is hidden from him. But in
between, the free I manifests itself, its
essence radiating out in the full light of knowledge and of free
It is different in the sleeping state. In sleep, man lives in his
astral body and Ego in the germinating life of the Earth. The
strongest urge into new life is there in the environment
of man in dreamless sleep. His dreams too are permeated by this life,
though not so intensely as to prevent him from experiencing them in a
kind of semi-consciousness. Gazing half consciously upon his dreams,
man witnesses the creative forces whereby he himself is woven out of
the Cosmos. Even while the dream lights up, the Astral kindling
man to life becomes visible as it flows into the etheric body.
In this lighting-up of dreams, Thought is still alive. It is
only after man wakens that Thought is gathered up into the forces
whereby it dies and becomes a shadow.
This connection between our dream-conceptions and our waking thoughts
is of the greatest significance. Man thinks within the sphere
of those very forces whereby he grows and lives. Yet he cannot become
a thinker until these forces die.
At this point there dawns in us a true understanding of why it is that
man takes hold of the reality of things in Thought. For in his
thoughts he possesses the dead picture of that which, working from the
fully living reality of the world, builds and creates him.
It is the dead picture. But this dead picture proceeds from the work
of the greatest painter from the very Cosmos. It is true that
the life remains out of it. If it did not, the Ego of man could not
unfold. Nevertheless, the full content of the Universe, in all its
greatness, is contained within this picture.
So far as was possible at that time and in that context, I indicated
this inner relation of Thought and World-reality in my
Philosophy of Freedom.
It is in the passage of that book where I say that there is indeed a
bridge leading from the thinking Ego's depths to the depths of
Sleep extinguishes the ordinary consciousness because it carries us
into the germinating life of Earth the Earth as it springs
forth into the new, living Macrocosm. When the extinction is overcome
by Imaginative consciousness, there stands before the human soul
not a sharply outlined Earth in mineral, plant and animal
kingdoms of Nature but a vital process, kindled to life within
this Earth and flaming forth into the Macrocosm.
It is thus: In the waking state man must lift himself with his own
Ego-being out of the being of the world, in order to attain to free
self-consciousness. And in sleep he unites with the being of the world
Such is the rhythm in the present moment of cosmic time the rhythm of
man's earthly existence outside the inner being of the world while he
experiences his own being in consciousness, and of his existence
within the inner being of the world where the consciousness of his own
being is extinguished.
In the condition between death and a new birth, the human Ego lives
within the Beings of the Spirit-world. Then, everything that was
withdrawn from man's consciousness during his waking life on Earth
comes into it again. The macrocosmic forces emerge from their full
state of life in a far distant past to their dead and dying nature in
the present. And there emerge the earthly forces the seed of
the new living macrocosm. Then the human being looks into his sleeping
states as clearly as in his earthly life he looks forth upon the Earth
that glistens in the sunlight.
The Macrocosm, as it is today, has indeed become a thing of death. Yet
it is through this alone that between death and a new birth man can
undergo a life which signifies, compared to the waking life on Earth,
a loftier awakening. For it is indeed an awakening, whereby he becomes
able fully to control the forces that light up so dimly and fleetingly
in dreams. These forces fill the Cosmos, they are all-pervading. From
them the human being derives the impulses through which, as he
descends on to the Earth, he forms this body the greatest
work-of-art of the Macrocosm.
That which lights up so dimly in the dream deserted, as it
were, by the clear light of the sun lives in the Spirit-world
where the spiritual Sun flows through and through it, and where it
waits until the Beings of the Hierarchies or man himself shall summon
it to the creation of a new existence.
Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society
156. In Waking life, to experience himself in full and free
Self-consciousness, man must forego the conscious experience of
Reality in its true form, both in his existence and in that of Nature.
Out of the ocean of Reality he lifts himself, that in his shadowed
Thoughts he may make his own I his very own in
157. In Sleep, man lives with the life of his environment of Earth,
but this very life extinguishes his consciousness of Self.
158. In Dreaming, there flickers up into half-consciousness the potent
World-existence out of which the being of man is woven and from which,
in his descent from Spirit-world, he builds his body. In earthly life
this World-existence with its potent forces is put to death in man; it
dies into the shadows of his Thought. For only so can it become the
basis of self-conscious Manhood.