Rudolf Steiner Archive

Calendar of the Soul

Northern Hemisphere
Week 42

In this the shrouding gloom of winter
The soul feels ardently impelled
To manifest its innate strength,
To guide itself to realms of darkness,
Anticipating thus
Through warmth of heart the sense-world's

Southern Hemisphere
Week 16

To bear in inward keeping spirit bounty
Is stern command of my prophetic feeling,
That ripened gifts divine
Maturing in the depths of soul
To selfhood bring their fruits.

—Translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch

See GA 40 for full calendar and German text.

Initiation and Its Results
GA 10

IV. The Three States of Consciousness

The life of man is passed in three states, which are as follows: waking, dreaming sleep, and dreamless deep sleep. One may comprehend how to attain to a higher knowledge of the spiritual worlds by forming an idea of the changes in the conditions that have to be undergone by the aspirant to such knowledge. Before a person has passed through the necessary training, his consciousness is continually broken by the periods of rest which accompany sleep. During these periods the soul knows nothing of the outer world and nothing either of itself. Only at certain times above the wide ocean of unconsciousness there will arise dreams which are related to events in the outside world or to the conditions of the physical body. At first one recognizes in dreams only a special manifestation of the sleep-existence, and commonly men speak of two states only — waking and sleeping. From the occult standpoint, however, dreams have a special significance, apart from both the other two states. It has already been shown in a previous chapter how changes occur in the dream-existence of the person who undertakes the ascent to higher knowledge. His dreams lose their meaningless, disorderly, and illogical character, and begin gradually to form a regulated, correlated world. With continued development this new world, born of one's dreams, will yield nothing to outer and phenomenal realities, not only as regards its inner truth, but also in the facts which it reveals, for these in the fullest sense of the word present a higher reality. In the phenomenal world especially there are secrets and riddles hidden everywhere. This world reveals admirably the effects of certain higher facts, but he who limits his perceptions to the senses alone cannot penetrate into causes. To the occult student such causes are partly revealed in the state already described as being evolved out of his dream-existence. To be sure, he ought not to regard these revelations as actual knowledge so long as the same things do not reveal themselves to him during ordinary waking life as well. But to that he also attains. He acquires the power to enter the state which he had first evolved from his dream-life during the hours of waking consciousness. Then the phenomenal world is enriched for him by something quite new. Just as a person who, though born blind, undergoes an Operation an his sight and finds everything in his environment enriched by the new testimony of visual perception, so does the person who has become clairvoyant in the above manner, regard the entire world around him, perceiving in it new characteristics, new beings, and new things. No longer is it necessary that he should wait for a dream in order that he may live in another world, for he can transport himself into the state of higher perception at any suitable time. This condition or state has an importance for him comparable to that of perception with open eyes as opposed to a blindfold state. One can say quite literally that the occult student opens the eyes of his soul and sees things which must ever remain veiled from the bodily senses.

This state (which has previously been described in detail) only forms the bridge to a still higher stage of occult knowledge. If the exercises which are assigned to him should be continued, the student will discover at the appropriate time that the vigorous changes hitherto mentioned affect not only his dream-life, but that the transformation extends even to what was before a deep and dreamless sleep. He notices that the utter unconsciousness in which he has always found himself during this sleep is now broken by conscious isolated experiences. Out of the great darkness of sleep arise perceptions of a kind which he had never known before. Naturally it is no easy matter to describe these perceptions, for our language is only adapted to the phenomenal world, and in consequence it is only possible to find approximate words to describe what does not appertain to that world at all. Still, one has to make use of these words in describing the higher worlds, and this can only be done by the free use of simile; yet, seeing that everything in the world is interrelated, such an attempt can be made. The things and beings of the higher worlds are anyway so distantly connected with those of the phenomenal world that though in good faith a portrayal of these higher worlds in the words usually descriptive of the phenomenal world may be attempted, one must always retain the idea that very much in descriptions of this kind must obviously partake of the nature of simile and imagery. Occult education itself is only partially carried an by the use of ordinary language; for the rest, the student learns in his ascent a special symbolical language, an emblematical method of expression; but nothing concerning this can at present, and for very good reasons, be openly imparted. The student must acquire it for himself in the occult school. This, however, need form no obstacle to the acquisition of some knowledge concerning the nature of the higher worlds by means of an ordinary description, such as will here be given.

If we wish to give some suggestion of the experiences mentioned above as appearing from out of the sea of unconsciousness during the period of deep sleep, we may best liken them to those of hearing. We can speak of perceptible sounds and words. If we may liken the experiences of dreaming sleep to a certain kind of seeing comparable to the perceptions of the eyes, the experiences of deep sleep allow of similar comparison with oral impressions. It may be remarked in passing that of these two faculties that of sight remains the higher even in the spiritual worlds. Colors are there still higher than sounds or words, but the student at the beginning of his development does not perceive these higher colors, but merely the inferior sounds. Only because the individual, after his general development, is already qualified for the world which reveals itself to him in dreaming sleep, does he straightway perceive its colors, but he is still unqualified for the higher world which is kindled in deep sleep, and in consequence this world reveals itself to him at first as sounds and words ; later an he can mount up, here as elsewhere, to the perception of colors and forms.

If the student now realizes that he passes through such experiences in deep sleep, his next task is to make them as clear and vivid as possible. In the beginning this is very difficult, for remembrance during the waking state is at first extraordinarily scanty. You know well on waking that you have experienced something; but as to its nature you remain completely in obscurity. The most important thing during the beginning of this state is that you should remain peaceful and composed, and should not allow yourself, even for a moment, to lapse into any unrest or impatience. Under all circumstances the latter condition is injurious. It can never accelerate any further development, but in every case must delay it. You must abandon yourself calmly, as it were, to what is given to you: all violence must be repressed. If at any period you cannot recall these experiences during the deep sleep, you should wait patiently until it becomes possible to do so, for such a moment will certainly some day arrive. If you have previously been patient and calm, the faculty of remembrance, when it comes, will be a securer possession; while, should it for once appear, perhaps in answer to forcible methods, it would only mean that for a much longer period it would afterwards remain entirely lost.

If the power of remembrance has once appeared and the experiences of sleep emerge complete, vivid, and clear before the waking consciousness, attention should then be directed to what here follows. Among these experiences, we can clearly distinguish two kinds. The first kind is totally foreign to everything that one has ever experienced. At first one may take pleasure in these, may let oneself be exalted by them; but after a while they are put aside. They are the first harbingers of a higher spiritual world to which one only becomes accustomed at a later period. The other kind of experiences, however, will reveal to the attentive observer a peculiar relationship to the ordinary world in which he lives. Concerning those elements of life on which he ponders, those things in his environment which he would like to understand, but is unable to understand with the ordinary intellect, these experiences during sleep can give him information. During his daily life man reflects on that which surrounds him and he arrives at conceptions which make comprehensible to him the interrelation of things. He tries to understand in thought what he perceives with sense. It is with such ideas and conceptions that the sleep-experiences are concerned. That which was hitherto merely a dark and crepuscular conception now assumes a sonorous and vital character which can only be compared to the sounds and words of the phenomenal world. It seems to the student ever more and more that the solution of the riddle upon which he ponders is whispered in sounds and words that proceed from a finer world. Then ought he to relate what has come to him in this way with the matters of ordinary life. What was hitherto only accessible to his thought has now become an actual experience for him, living and significant as can seldom, if ever, be the case with an experience in the world of sense. The things and beings of the phenomenal world are shown thereby to be more than merely what they seem to the perceptions of the senses. They are the expression and the efflux of a spiritual world. This spiritual world which lay hitherto obscure now reveals itself to the occult student in the whole of his environment.

It is easy to see that the possession of this perceptive faculty can only prove itself to be a blessing if the soul-senses of the person in whom they have been opened are in perfect order, just as we can only use our ordinary senses for the accurate observation of the world if they are in a well-regulated condition. Now these higher senses are formed by the individual himself in accordance with exercises which are given to him in the course of his occult training. As much concerning these exercises as may be openly said has been already given in The Way of Initiation. The rest is imparted by word of mouth in the occult schools. Among these exercises we find concentration, or the directing of attention upon certain definite ideas and conceptions that are connected with the secrets of the universe ; and meditation, or the living within such ideas, the complete submerging of oneself within them in the manner already explained. By concentration and meditation a person works upon his own soul and develops within it the soul-organs of perception. While he applies himself to the practice of meditation and concentration his soul evolves within his body as the embryo child grows in the body of the mother. When, during sleep, the specific experiences above described begin to occur, the moment of birth has arrived for the full-grown soul, who has thereby become literally a new being brought by the individual from seed to fruit. Instructions concerning the subject of meditation and concentration must therefore be very carefully prepared and equally carefully followed out, since they are the very laws which determine the germination and evolution of the higher soul-nature of the individual; and this must appear at its birth as a harmonious and well-formed organism. If, an the contrary, there were something lacking in these instructions, no such being would appear, but in its place one that was misborn from the standpoint of spiritual matters, and incapable of life.

That the birth of this higher soul-nature should occur during deep sleep will not seem hard of comprehension if we consider that the tender organism, still unable to withstand much opposition, could hardly make itself noticed by a chance apparition among the powerful, harsh events of workaday life. Its activity cannot be observed when opposed by the activity of the body. In sleep, however, when the body is at rest, the activity of the higher soul, at first so faint and unapparent, can come into sight in so far as it depends upon the perception of sense. A warning must here again be given that the occult student should not regard these sleep-experiences as entirely reliable sources of knowledge so long as he is not in a position to transport himself to the plane of the awakened higher soul during waking-consciousness as well. If he has acquired this power he is able to perceive the spiritual world between and within the experiences of the day, or, in other words, can comprehend as sounds and words the hidden secrets of his surroundings.

At this period of development we must clearly understand that we are dealing, at first, with separate, more or less unconnected, spiritual experiences. We must be on our guard against the erection of any system of knowledge, whether complete or only interdependent. By so doing we should merely confuse the soul-world with all manner of fantastical ideas and conceptions ; and thus we could very easily weave a world which has really no connection what ever with the true spiritual world. The occult student must practise continually the strictest self-control. The right method is to grow clearer and clearer in one's realization of the separate and veritable experiences which occur, and then to wait for the arrival of new experiences, full and unforced in their nature, which will connect themselves, as if on their own account, with those that have already occurred. By virtue of the power of the spiritual world in which he has now once found his way, and by virtue, also, of practising the prescribed exercises, the student now experiences an ever-enlarging, ever more comprehensive, outspreading of consciousness in deep sleep. Out of what was erstwhile mere unconsciousness, more and more experiences emerge, and ever fewer and fewer become those periods in the sleep-existence that remain unconscious. Thus, then, do the separate experiences of sleep continually close in upon each other without this actual interlocking being disturbed by a multitude of combinations and inferences which would still arise from the meddling of the intellect accustomed to the phenomenal world. The less one's ordinary habits of thought are mixed up in some unauthorized manner with these higher experiences, the better it is.

If you conduct yourself rightly, you now approach nearer and nearer to that stage of the way at which the entire sleep-life is passed in complete consciousness. Then you exist, when the body is at rest, in a reality as actual as is the case while you are awake. It is superfluous to remark that during sleep we are dealing, at first, with a reality entirely different from the phenomenal environment in which the body finds itself. Indeed we learn — nay, must learn if we are to keep our footing an firm ground and avoid becoming a fantastic — to relate the higher experiences of sleep to the phenomenal environment. At first, however, the world which is entered in sleep is a completely new revelation. In occult science the important stage at which consciousness is retained interiorly through the entire sleep-life is known as the “continuity of consciousness.” NoteNumThat which is here referred to is, at a certain stage of development, a kind of “ideal,” the goal which lies at the end of a long road. The next things that the student learns are two extensions of consciousness — first, into a soul-state wherein hitherto nothing but unregulated dreams were possible, and, secondly, into another state wherein hitherto nothing was possible except unconscious and dreamless sleep. He then knows the three states, even if it remains impossible for him to refuse entirely all tribute to the ordinary state of sleep.

In the case of a person who has arrived at this point, experiences and events do not cease during the intervals when the physical body rests, and no impressions are conveyed to the soul through the medium of the senses.

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