Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts
GA 26

26. Memory and Conscience

In sleep man is given up to the Cosmos. He carries out into the Cosmos that which he possesses as a result of former lives on Earth, when he descends from the world of soul-and-spirit into the earthly world. During his waking life he withdraws this content of his human being from the Cosmos.

In this rhythmic giving-himself-up to the Cosmos and withdrawing from it, man's life between birth and death takes its course.

While he withdraws it from the Cosmos, the soul-spiritual being of man is at the same time received by the system of nerves and senses. With the physical and life-processes that take place in the nerves-and-senses system, the soul-and-spirit of man combines in waking life, so that they work together unitedly. In this united action, sense-perception, the forming of memory-pictures and the play of fancy are contained. All these activities are bound to the physical body. The conceptions, the thinking experience—in which man becomes conscious of what is taking place half-consciously in perception, fancy and memory—are bound to the thinking system.

In this thinking Organisation properly speaking, there also lies the region by which man experiences his self-consciousness. The thinking Organisation is an Organisation of the stars. If it lived and expressed itself as such alone, man would bear within him not a consciousness of self but a consciousness of the Gods. The thinking Organisation is, however, lifted out of the Cosmos of the stars and transplanted into the realm of earthly processes. Man becomes a self-conscious being in that he experiences the world of stars within the earthly realm.

Here, therefore, we have the region of the inner life of man where the Divine-Spiritual world, united with the human being, sets him free in order that he may become Man in the fullest sense.

But directly beneath the thinking organisation—namely, where sense-perception, the play of fancy and the forming of memory, take place—the Divine-Spiritual world lives on within the life of man. We may say: it is in the unfolding of memory that the Divine-Spiritual lives in the waking state of man. For the other two activities, sense-perception and the play of fancy, are only modifications of the process that goes on in the forming of memory-pictures. In sense-perception we have the forming of a memory-content at the moment of its origin; in the content of fancy there lights up in the soul that of the content of memory which is preserved within the soul's existence.

Sleep carries over the soul-spiritual being of man into the cosmic world. With the activity of his astral body and his Ego, the sleeping man is steeped in the Divine-Spiritual Cosmos. He is not only outside the physical but outside the world of stars. But he is within the Divine-Spiritual Beings in whom his own existence has its origin.

In the present moment of cosmic evolution these Divine Spiritual Beings work in such a way as to impress the moral content of the Universe into the astral body and Ego of man during sleep. All the World-processes in sleeping man are really moral processes, and cannot be spoken of as even remotely like the activities of Nature.

In their after-effects, man carries these processes over from sleeping into waking. But the after-effects remain asleep. For man is awake in that part of his life only which inclines to the sphere of Thought. What actually takes place in his sphere of Will is wrapped in darkness even in the waking state, as the whole life of the soul is wrapped in darkness during sleep. But in this sleeping life of the Will, the Divine-Spiritual works on in the waking life of man. Morally, man is as good or as bad as he can be according to the nearness with which he approaches the Divine-Spiritual Beings when asleep. And he comes nearer to them, or remains farther away from them, according to the moral quality of his former lives on Earth.

From the depths of the waking being of the soul's existence, that which was able to implant itself in the soul's existence, in community with the Divine-Spiritual world during sleep, sounds forth. This is the voice of conscience.

We see how the very things which a materialistic view of the world is most inclined to explain merely from the natural side, are found to lie on the moral side of things when seen by spiritual knowledge.

In Memory the Divine-Spiritual being works directly within the waking man. In Conscience the same Divine-Spiritual being works in the waking man indirectly—as an after-effect.

The forming of memory takes place in the Organisation of nerves and senses. The forming of conscience takes place—albeit as a pure process of soul and spirit—in the metabolic and limbs-system.

Between the two there lies the rhythmic Organisation, whose activity is polarised in two directions. In the breathing rhythm it is in intimate relation to sense-perception and to thought. In the breathing of the lung the process is at its coarsest. Thence it grows finer and finer, till, as a highly refined breathing process, it becomes sense-perception and thought.

Sense-perception is still very near to breathing; it is only a breathing through the sense-organs, not through the lungs. Thought, ideation, is farther removed from the lung-breathing, and is upheld by the Thinking system of man. And that which reveals itself in the play of fancy is already very close to the rhythm of blood-circulation. It is a very inward breathing, that comes into connection with the system of metabolism and the limbs. Psychologically, too, the activity of fancy reaches down into the sphere of Will, just as the circulatory system reaches down into the system of metabolism and the limbs.

In the activity of fancy, the thinking system comes close up to the system of the Will. The human being dives down into that sphere of his waking life which is asleep—the sphere of Will. Hence, in human beings who are especially developed in this direction, the contents of the soul appear like dreams in the waking state. Such a human Organisation was present in Goethe. Goethe once said that Schiller must interpret to him his own poetic dreams.

In Schiller himself, a different human system was at work. He lived on the strength of what he brought with him from former lives on Earth. He had a strong life of the Will, and had to seek actively for the corresponding wealth of fancy.

The Ahrimanic Power, in its world-intentions, counts upon those human beings who are especially developed in the sphere of fancy—whose perception of sense-reality quite naturally transforms into the pictures of fancy. With the help of such human beings, the Ahrimanic Power hopes to be able to cut off the evolution of mankind from the past, and carry it on in the direction of its own, Ahrimanic intentions.

The Luciferic Power reckons on those human beings who, while naturally more developed in the sphere of Will, are inspired by an inner love for the ideal world-conception to transform their vision of sense-reality actively into pictures of creative fancy. Through such human beings the Luciferic Power would like to keep human evolution entirely within the impulses of the past. It would thus be able to preserve mankind from diving down into the sphere where the Ahrimanic Power must be overcome.

In this our earthly existence, we stand between two opposite poles. Above us spread the stars. From thence there radiate the forces which are connected with all things calculable and regular in Earth-existence. The regular alternation of day and night, the seasons, the longer cosmic periods, are the earthly reflection of the real process in the stars.

The other pole radiates out from the interior of the Earth. Irregular activities are at work in it. Wind and weather, thunder and lightning, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, are a reflection of this process of the inner Earth.

Man himself is an image of this existence of the Stars and Earth. In his Thinking system lives the order of the Stars; in the Willing system of his limbs the chaos of the Earth. In the Rhythmic system he experiences in consciousness his own earthly being, in free balance and interplay between the two.

(March, 1925)

Further Leading Thoughts issued from the Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Society (with regard to the foregoing study on Memory and Conscience)

174. Man is organised in spirit and in body from two different sides. First, from the physical-etheric Cosmos. Whatever radiates from the Divine-Spiritual Being into this organisation in man's nature, lives in it as the force of sense-perception, of the faculty of memory and of the play of fancy.

175. Secondly, man is organised out of his own past lives on Earth. This Organisation is purely of the soul and spirit, and lives in him through the astral body and the Ego. Whatever enters of the life of Divine-Spiritual Beings into this human nature—its influence lights up in a man as the voice of conscience and all that is akin to this.

176. In his rhythmic Organisation man has the constant union of the Divine-Spiritual impulses from the two sides. In life and experience of rhythm the force of memory is carried into the Willing life, and the might of conscience into the life in Ideas.