Rudolf Steiner Archive 

The Nature of Sleep

Berlin, 24 November 1910

In the present scientific considerations is little talk of such phenomena to which we want to dedicate this hour. Any human being should still feel that the sleep is something that positions itself in our life phenomena in such a way, as if it gives us the biggest riddles of life. One has probably always felt this mysterious and the important of the sleep when one spoke of the sleep as “the brother of death.” We have now to restrict ourselves at the discussion of the sleep as such, because the following talks still lead us to the consideration of death in certain respects.

All that the human being must count to his soul experience in the immediate sense, all mental pictures, all sensations and feelings that represent the soul drama of the human being, all pains, and sufferings, also the will-impulses sink down as it were in an uncertain darkness if the human being falls asleep. Some philosophers could doubt about themselves, so to speak, if they speak of the being of the soul and spirit, which reveals itself in the human nature, and from which they must admit that it seems to lose itself in nothing within every course of the day — even if it may be conceptualised and investigated ever so well. If we look at the phenomena of the soul life in such a way as one is used to look at them, actually, academically, as well as unprofessionally, we must say, they are extinguished during the sleeping state, they are away. For that who wants to look only at that of the soul, which expresses itself in the bodily, the human being is as it were a riddle if he thinks deeper. For the real bodily functions, bodily activities continue during sleep. Only the mental stops. Now one has to ask oneself only whether one speaks quite correctly about the bodily and the mental if one really encloses this mental in its entirety in that what appears as extinguished with falling asleep. Alternatively, whether already the usual observation of life — refraining now completely from spiritual-scientific or anthroposophic considerations — can show, nevertheless, that this mental is also active and effective when it is enveloped by the sleep. However, if one wanted to gain some clearness about these concepts, one could also say, if one wants to observe the phenomena of life in the right sense in this field, one must have precise concepts.

I would like to mention from the start that also in relation to this issue spiritual science or anthroposophy is not able to speak as in general as one likes it today. If we speak of the nature of sleep, we speak only of the sleep of the human being. For spiritual science knows very well — this has been touched repeatedly in the last talks concerning other fields — that the same outer appearance of various beings can be based on quite different causes within the concerning beings. We have indicated this for the death, for the entire spiritual life and for the arrangement of the spiritual life with the animal and the human being. Today it would lead too far to speak still about the sleep of the animals. Therefore, we want to say in advance that I speak about the sleep of the human being only.

We human beings are able to speak of soul phenomena within ourselves by our consciousness, because we are aware of that what we imagine what we want what we feel. Now the question must arise — and it is exceptionally important just for our today's observations: are we allowed throwing together the concept of consciousness, as we know it as the normal human consciousness in the present, automatically with the concept of the human soul and mind? I would like to use a comparison at first in order to argue about these concepts clearer. A human being can walk around in a room and he is nowhere able to look at something of his face at the different places of the room. At one single place where he is able to look in a mirror, he can see something of his own face. There the figure of his face faces him in the picture. Is it not an immense difference for him whether he walks around only in the room and lives in himself or whether he sees what he lives in such a way also in the mirror? Perhaps, it could be with the human consciousness in a somewhat enlarged scale. The human being could live, so to speak, his soul life, and he would become aware of this soul life — as he lives it — only because it faces him in a kind of mirror. This could be very well. We could say, for example, it is conceivable that the human soul life continues, no matter whether the human being wakes or sleeps. However, in the awake state the human being perceives his soul life by a reflection — we say by a reflection within his physical nature at first — and he cannot perceive it in the sleeping state, because it is not reflected in his corporeality.

Indeed, we would have proved nothing with it; however, we would have obtained two concepts at least. We could differentiate the soul life as such and the awareness of the soul life. We could imagine that for our consciousness, for our knowledge of the soul life, as we stand in the normal human life, everything depends on the fact that we get the soul life reflected by our corporeality because we could know nothing of it if we did not get it reflected. Then we would completely be in a state like in sleep. We try now, after we have obtained these concepts, to imagine the phenomenon of the awake life and sleep.

Someone who is able to observe life really can feel very clear, one would like to say, “behold” how the moment of falling asleep takes place really. He can perceive the mental pictures, the feelings becoming weaker, their brightness and intensity decreasing. However, these are not the very essentials. While the human being wakes, he lives in such a way that he creates order in his whole image life from his self-aware ego, summarises all mental pictures, as it were, with his ego. Since at the moment when we would not summarise our mental pictures with our ego in the awake life, we would not lead a normal soul life. We would have a group of mental pictures that we would call our mental pictures, and another group at which we would look as something strange, as an outside world. Only the human beings who experience a splitting of their ego what is a morbid state for the present human being could have such a splitting of their image life in different groups.

With the normal human being, it is essential that all mental pictures relate to a point in perspective: to the self-conscious ego. At the moment of falling asleep, we feel clearly how, so to speak, the ego is overpowered by the mental pictures at first, even though they become darker. They assert their independence, live an own way of life. Single clouds of mental pictures form, as it were, within the horizon of the consciousness, and the ego loses itself to the images. Then the human being feels the sense-perceptions becoming duller and duller and he feels finally how the will impulses are paralysed. Now we must point to something that few human beings observe quite clearly. In addition, the human being feels that at the moment of falling asleep something makes itself noticeable like an enclosed being in an uncertain fog which works cooling now and again, or becomes noticeable with other feelings at certain places of the body: in the hands, in the joints, in the temples, in the spine et cetera. Someone who falls asleep can observe these feelings. This are — one would like to say — such trivial experiences, as one can do them every evening while falling asleep if one wants.

Such human beings make better experiences already who more exactly observe the moment of falling asleep by a finer education of their soul life. Then they can feel something like waking up in spite of falling asleep. Everybody can observe these things really who gets into the habit of applying some methods because it is a generally human phenomenon. At the moment when the human beings feel something like waking up with falling asleep it is in such a way that one can really say, something wakes up like a spreading conscience, something like the morality of the soul wakes up. This is the case really. It becomes apparent in particular that such persons observe that experience of the preceding day life with which they are satisfied in their conscience. They feel this at this moment of the moral waking up in particular.

At the same time, this feeling is completely contrary to the feeling of the day. The human being falling asleep feels, as if his soul poured out itself about a world that awakes now and which primarily expresses itself as a feeling extending about what the soul can experience by itself like by a spreading out conscience in relation to its moral inwardness. Then there it is a moment of inner bliss, which, however, seems much longer for the falling asleep, when it extends about such things with which the soul can agree and it is often a feeling of deep strife if it has to reproach itself.

Briefly, the moral human being who is pressed down during the day by the stronger sensory impressions expands and feels as something particular when he falls asleep. Everybody who has appropriated a certain method or maybe a sensation only concerning such observations knows that a certain longing awakes at this moment that we can describe possibly in this way: one wants that this moment, actually, may extend in the uncertain that it does not find an end. Then, however, something comes like a jolt, a kind of inner movement. Now this is quite exceptionally difficult to describe for the most human beings. Spiritual research can describe this inner movement to a hair's breadth, of course. It is as it were a demand that the soul makes to itself: you must extend still further; you must pour out yourself even further! However, while it puts this demand to itself, the soul loses itself for the moral life in the surroundings. It is, as if you distribute a droplet of colour in water: at first, you still see the colour if, however, the drop is distributed in the whole water, the colour grows weaker and weaker, and, finally, it disappears.

It is this way if the soul just starts swelling up, living in its moral reflection, there it still feels; but the feeling stops when the jolt, the inner movement occurs as the drop of colour loses itself in the water. This is no theory; one can observe this and it is accessible to everybody as a scientific observation. If we observe falling asleep this way, however, we are able to say, the human being intercepts with falling asleep as it were something that can no longer be in his consciousness afterwards. The human being has — if I may help myself now of the two ideas contrived before — as it were a moment of saying farewell to the mirror of the bodily in which the phenomena of life appeared reflected to him. Because he still has no possibility to let reflect what should be reflected in the body in something else, the possibility stops perceiving what he is.

However, one is also able to perceive the phenomena of the day again in a certain way — if one is not arbitrary and does not want to be obstinate concerning the soul and the effect of that what goes there into an uncertain darkness. In another context, I have already drawn your attention to it that the human being who is forced to memorise this or that, to learn things by heart, manages this much easier if he sleeps on them, and that the biggest enemy of learning by heart is the avoidance of sleep. The possibility and the ability are there again to memorise easier if we have slept on the thing, than to learn something by heart in one go. However, it is this way also with other soul activities.

However, we would be able to convince ourselves quite easily that it is impossible to learn something generally, to acquire something where the soul has to co-operate if we do not always insert the states of sleep in our states of life. One can conclude from such phenomena that our soul needs to withdraw from the body every now and then to get strength from a field that is not within the body because within the bodily the suitable forces are just worn out. We have to imagine if we wake up in the morning, we have brought recovering forces from the state in which we were to develop abilities which we could not develop if we were only always tied up to our body. The effect of sleep appears in our usual being this way if one wants to think straight and does not want to be obstinate.

What appears in general and where one already needs some good will, if one stops in the usual life to hold together the single phenomena, appears in no uncertain manner if the human being goes through developments that can lead him to the real beholding in the spiritual life. I would like to explain here what happens if the human being has developed the forces slumbering in his soul to attain that state where he does not perceive by the senses and understand by the mind. — Further details of that follow in the talk How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Spiritual World? where the methods should be discussed quite comprehensively. — However, some of the experiences should be now emphasised which a human being can do who really goes through such exercises. They provide his soul as it were with spiritual eyes, with spiritual ears by which he is able to behold in the spiritual world that is not an object of speculation, but an object, as the human being perceives the colours and forms, warmth, cold and tones with his physical senses. Already in the former talks, I have explained how one attains true clairvoyance.

This spiritual development, these exercises consist really of the fact that the human being gets out something what he has in himself, attains other cognitive organs, and experiences as it were a jolt in the soul and thereby perceives a world that is always around him he cannot perceive, however, in the normal state. If the human being goes through such exercises, his sleep changes at first. Everybody knows this who has come to real own spiritual researches. Now I want to speak of the very first state of the change of the sleeping life with the actually clairvoyant, spiritual-scientific human being.

The first beginnings of this possibility of spiritual research let the human being appear not very different from the usual, normal state of consciousness. Since, if the human being carries out such exercises that we discuss later, he sleeps completely as well as another person at first and is unconscious exactly the same way as any other human being. Nevertheless, the moment of waking up shows something particular to someone who has gone through spiritual-mental exercises. I want to portray some quite concrete phenomena to you that are facts.

Assuming that a human being who does such exercises thinks very sharply about something that also another human being could think, he tries — because he maybe faces a very hard problem — to tighten all his mental powers to come behind the matter.

He may fare exactly the same way as a pupil fares: his mental strength is not sufficient to solve the task. This can absolutely happen. If he already has more possibilities of experience about inner mental states in connection with bodily ones by his exercises, however, he feels something particular if he is not able to do anything. Then he feels other than it is usually the case that he has an opposition in his physical organs, for example, in his brain. He feels properly, as if the brain resists to him as we feel resistance, for example, if we want to hammer down a nail with a too heavy hammer. There the brain starts gaining reality. As the human being normally uses his brain, he does not feel it in such a way, as he uses an instrument, for example, a hammer. The spiritual researcher feels his brain, he feels independent compared to his thinking. This is an experience. However, where he cannot solve a task, there he feels that he can no longer carry out certain activities that he must carry out with thinking. He loses the power of the instrument and feels this quite clearly. This is a fact that one can experience certainly.

If now the spiritual researcher sleeps on the problem and wakes up, it can very often happen that he copes with the task. However, he feels quite exactly at the same time that he has done something before waking up that he has worked something. He feels that he was able to set something in motion, to make something active in himself during the sleep. He was forced to use his brain in the awake state. He knows this. However, he could no longer use it correctly because it resisted to him — as I have described. In the sleeping state — he feels this — he does not depend on the use of the brain. He could create a certain mobility without using the too strongly tired or claimed brain. Now he feels something quite peculiar: he perceives his activity that he has exercised in sleep, but not directly. The Lord does not give his friends their need in sleep (changed German saying referring to Psalms 127:2). Nevertheless, he is not spared to solve the problem in the awake state. It can happen to him; but normally it is not in such a way, and in particular, not with such things which one has to solve with the brain.

Then the human being feels something that he has not known before in the sensory world at all, he feels his own activity like in living pictures, in strange pictures which are in motion — as if the thoughts which he would need were living beings which strike up all kinds of interrelations. He feels his own activity of thought that he has exercised in sleep like a range of pictures. This feeling is hard to describe because one sticks to it in quite peculiar way and must say to himself, you are that! On the other side, he can distinguish this feeling again certainly from himself as he can distinguish an outer movement, which he does from himself. Thus, one has pictures, imaginations of an activity that has been carried out before waking up. Now one can notice if one has learnt to watch out for himself that these pictures of an activity, which was before waking up, combine with our brain and make it a more movable, more useful instrument. Therefore, one can accomplish something that one was not able to do before because a resistance was there to think, for example, certain thoughts. These are subtle things, but without them, one cannot come surely behind the secret of sleep. One feels that one has exercised no activity like in the awake state, but an activity that was used to the restoration of certain things in the brain, and that one has rebuilt the instrument, as one could not build up it before. One feels like a master builder of his own instruments.

The sensation that one has with such an activity is substantially different from that of an activity of the day. For the activity of the day, one has such a feeling that one can compare to it, as if one draws something after a model. There I am forced to comply with every line or colour spot of the picture that stands before me. With those things which appear as pictures at the moment of waking up and which visualise an activity during the sleep, one has the feeling, as if one invented the lines and created figures from oneself without being bound to a model. With such a phenomenon, one has intercepted as it were what the soul has done, before it has woken up: one has intercepted the activity of the regeneration of the brain. For one finds out gradually that that what one feels like a kind of covering the cerebral organs with that what one reminds there as figures is nothing else than a reconstruction of that what was destroyed during the day. One really feels like a master builder.

Now the difference between a spiritual researcher who perceives such thing and a usual human being consists only of the fact that the spiritual researcher just perceives this, while the usual human being cannot pay attention to it and does not perceive it. Since the same activity, which the spiritual researcher carries out, every human being carries out, only the usual human being does not intercept the moment when the organs are built up anew from the activity during sleep.

We take such an experience and compare it with that what we have said before about the decreasing brightness of the everyday thought-life while falling asleep. One can look at this latter phenomenon really only in the right light if one either delivers oneself from the mental pictures of that worldview working very suggestively which believe to stand on the firm ground of natural sciences, or if one gets involved with the results of the present physical research. There the more exactly thinking human beings cannot help to admitting the independence of the mental from the bodily after the results of the physical research, for instance, of the brain research.

It is very interesting that recently a popular book appeared where everything of that what deals with the spiritual life and the origins of the spiritual life is shown wrongly, completely without any insight. Nevertheless, some very clever things are stated in this book Brain and Personality or the Physical Relations of the Brain to the Mind by William Hanna Thomson (1833-1918, American physician and author). Above all, he went into the brain research of the present and into some things, which present themselves, otherwise, for example as symptoms of fatigue that are very instructive. However, I have already explained that conscious activity only tires the muscles or nerves. As long our muscles serve the organic activity only, they cannot get tired, because it would be bad if, for example, the heart muscle and other muscles had to rest. We get tired only if we exercise an activity that is not innate to the organism if we exercise an activity that belongs to the conscious soul life. Therefore, one must say, if the soul life were born out like the heart activity, the immense difference between getting tired and not getting tired would not be explicable at all. Hence, the author of that book feels just forced to concede that the mental relates to the physical like the rider to the horse, that it is quite independent of the physical. This is an immense concession from a scientifically thinking person. One could receive quite peculiar feelings if a person, forced by the physical research of the present, has to concede that the mental life relates to the physical like the rider to the horse that is after the picture of the centaur that one has imagined in former times when one looked more at the spiritual.

It is evident by nothing that the author of this book has thought this, but this thought comes to the fore by the scientific idea again, and one gets feelings of such ideas, which are due to times, when many human beings still had a certain clairvoyance. Indeed, certain modern ideas about the centaur seem to comply better with that what a gentleman said to me once. The person concerned meant: the Greeks saw the Scythians or other horse peoples coming from the north, but they saw them maybe coming through a fog, they could not exactly distinguish those figures and thought that they would have grown out of the horses. The materialist may be content with such an explanation. Nevertheless, just the scientific researches of the present urge to concede the independence of the mental from the physical.

Thereby something strikes us most certainly, and we can pursue such things best of all if we imagine certain phenomena that are not everyday; however, such phenomena exist and cannot be denied. I know the story that a simple peasant started talking Latin suddenly at his hour of death, a language that he had never used, actually, and from which one could prove that he had heard it only as a little boy in the church once. This is no fable, but reality. Of course, he understood nothing of it when he had heard or recited it. Nevertheless, it is true. From that, any human being would have to form the idea, that the surroundings working on us still contain quite different things in themselves than what we take up in our usual consciousness. Since that often depends on our education what we understand and the like. Nevertheless, not only that what we understand unites with us, but also we have the possibility in ourselves to take up endlessly more things than those we take up consciously. We can even observe with any human being that at certain times images appear with him, which were not so intensive at that time when he got to know them, so that he can maybe remember nothing at all.

However, because of certain things they appear again, position themselves maybe even in the centre of the soul life. We must absolutely admit that the extent of our soul life is endlessly larger than that what we can take up and enclose in our day consciousness. This is very important. Since thereby our look is directed to an inside which can impress our corporeality a little only because it was hardly kept in mind, and, nevertheless, it still lives on in us. We are thereby referred to the subsoil of our soul life that, actually, must exist for every reasonable human being. Since every reasonable human being has to say to himself, what he consciously perceives looking at the world is dependent on the equipment of his senses and on that what he can understand. Nobody is entitled to want to limit reality by that what he can perceive. It would be quite illogical to want to deny to the spiritual researcher that there is a spiritual world behind the physical world, because the human being can only say what he sees and hears about which he can think, and he can never judge about what he cannot perceive. Since the world of reality is not the world of the discernible. The world of the discernible is limited by the senses. Therefore, one should never speak — as in the Kantian sense — of limits of knowledge, or about what the human being can know or cannot know, but only about that what one faces with his sense-organs.

If anyone considers this, he must say to himself, behind the carpet of colours of the sensory world, behind that which the warmth sense perceives as warm or cold et cetera, there is an unlimited reality. Should influence us only what we perceive, or only that reality which we perceive? It is logical only if we imagine that a part of the whole reality is given by our perception that behind that an unlimited reality is which is real, however, also for us, because we are positioned in it, so that that lives on for us what lives outdoors and influences us. How does our conscious day life present itself then? Then we have to imagine the conscious day life in such a way — and there is no other possibility — that we open our senses, our cognitive faculties to an immeasurableness and oppose this immeasurableness. Because we have such eyes, such ears, such a warmth sense et cetera we face a certain part of reality; we reject, defend ourselves as it were against it, and exclude it from ourselves. In what does our conscious activity consist then? It is self-defending, excluding something. Exerting our sense organs is restraining something unperceived. What we perceive is the rest, that remains from that what spreads out around us, and which we push back for the most part. Thus, we feel actively positioned in the world, we feel connected with it. We defend ourselves as it were by our sensory activity against the plenty of impressions, while we cannot endure — figuratively spoken — the entire extensive infinity and take up a part of it only. If we think in such a way, we must still think relations between our whole organism, between our whole corporeality and the outside world quite different from those, which we can perceive or understand with our reason.

Then it is no longer abstruse to remember that the relations that we have to the outside world live in us that also the invisible, supersensible is active in us that the supersensible, while it is active in us, uses the senses to produce a part of the whole reality. Then, however, our relation to reality is different from our sense-perception. Then there is something in our relations to the outside world that does not at all amount to nothing more than the sensory perception that escapes from the day consciousness. Then it is with us in such a way, as if we have to step with our being before a mirror and say to ourselves, you are something different; the mirror shows only the form, maybe also the colours. However, there you think inside, there you feel inside, the mirror cannot show all that to you, it shows only what is dependent on its laws. As you are, however, as a soul compared with your organism, you are something else than your senses show to you; they limit you to what is commensurate to their laws. So you face if you face a world — in similar way as you stand before a mirror — which becomes possible only by your senses!

If you think this picture to an end, you are no longer surprised that all life of our day consciousness depends very much on the organisation of our senses and our brain, just as that what we see of ourselves in the mirror depends on the state of the mirror. Someone who looks at a distorting mirror and sees the caricatured face gladly concedes that his picture does not depend on him, but on the mirror. Thus, it depends on the organisation of our reflection apparatus, and our mental activity is limited, is reflected in itself so to speak, while it is reflected in the bodily life. Then it is not miraculous that the part — what one can also prove physiologically — depends on the bodily, while this or that takes place in the consciousness one way or the other, because everything that the soul does depends on the organisation of our body if we shall become aware of it.

Observation shows that the concepts which we have only constructed in the beginning absolutely correspond to the facts. The only difference is that our corporeality is a living mirror. We let the mirror, into which we look, as it is. Indeed, we can also impair the reflection. If we breathe on the mirror, it also does no longer reflect correctly. But the reflection in our physical nature which experiences the activity of our soul is connected with the fact that, while we reflect ourselves in our physical nature, the reflection itself is an activity, a process in our corporeality, and that we put that reflection as an activity before ourselves.

Thus, the bodily life presents itself really in such a way, as if we write what we think in a certain respect and have the letters then before ourselves. Thus, we write the activity of the soul in our bodily life. What the anatomist proves is only the letters, the outer apparatus, because we do not observe our soul life completely if we observe it only in the bodily life, we observe it only completely if we observe it independently from it. However, only the spiritual researcher is able to do this if he observes the soul life mirroring while it wakes up in the conscious day life. It becomes obvious that the soul life is like an architect who builds up something during the night, and destroys it in the day life.

Now we face the soul life in the awake state and in the sleeping state. We have to imagine it as independent from the bodily life in the sleeping state, as the rider is independent from the horse. However, as the rider uses the horse and wears out its forces, the soul uses the activity of the body, so that chemical processes take place as the letters of the soul life. With it, we come to a point where we have worn out the bodily life, as it is limited in the senses, in the brain, so that we have exhausted it at first. Then we must start the other activity, initiate the reverse process, and rebuild the destroyed. This is the sleeping life, so that our soul exercises two contrary activities on our body. Indeed, while waking we have round ourselves our world of images surging up and down, of joy and grief, of feelings et cetera. However, while we have this before ourselves, we wear out our bodily life; we destroy it perpetually strictly speaking. While we are sleeping, we are the architects and rebuild what we have destroyed during the conscious life.

What does the spiritual researcher perceive now? He perceives the architectural activity in peculiar pictures like in looping movements; this reconstruction is a real process that is contrary to the usual conscious day life. It is really no pipe dream if one speaks of the fact that one recognises in these intertwining movements that mysterious activity which the soul carries out in the sleep: we restore what we have destroyed in the day life. Hence, the recovering and the necessary of the sleep.

Why does now the sleeping life not become conscious? Why does the wake life become conscious? Because we have something like reflections with the processes which we carry out in the day life. However, while we perform the other activity, restoring the worn out, we have nothing at which it can be reflected. We lack the mirror for it. Only the spiritual researcher can show again what forms its basis. From a certain point the spiritual researchers does not only experience the mental activity, as I have described it, like a dream recollection of the sleep, but in such a way, as if he is not dependent at all on the instrument of the body, so that he can perceive an activity then which takes place only in the spiritual. There he can say to himself, you do not think with your brain now, but you think in quite different forms, you think pictures independently from your brain. However, the spiritual researcher can only get around to experiencing such a thing as I have described if he experiences that the whole that wraps around him as something nebulous does not disappear falling asleep. He perceives this fog at the temples, in the joints, in the spine. It becomes something from which that is reflected which he does — as that is reflected which we experience in the coarse bodily life — if he can limit and withdraw his activity in himself. The whole difference of the real clairvoyance from the usual wake day life consists of the fact that the wake day life needs another mirror to become conscious of the mental activity using the corporeality, whereas the activity of the clairvoyant is so strong if it radiates as soul activity that the emitted ray withdraws in itself. Thus, a reflection takes place as it were in the own inner experience, in a spiritual organism.

In this spiritual organism, our soul exists at night, even if we are no spiritual researchers. Therein it pours out. We do not manage with the whole life of sleep if we do not get clear that, indeed, our bodily processes — everything that anatomy, physiology can investigate — cause nothing else than the reflection of the soul processes, and that these soul processes always live on in a spiritual existence from falling asleep to waking up. If we think different, we cannot manage it at all. We have to speak as it were of a mysterious soul life that cannot enter at all the consciousness that the body gives. If one sees images appearing with a human being that he has not kept in his consciousness long since, one must say: there is something else in the human being than the images of the conscious soul life that have been taken up consciously.

I have indicated already once that it is very easy to disprove the things that are real for the spiritual researcher. However, they are true. The spiritual research must speak of the fact that the human being has the physical body that we see with eyes, can touch with hands, and which anatomy and physiology know. In addition, we have an inner member of the human being: the astral body, the bearer of everything that the human being takes up consciously that he really experiences during the day life in such a way that he can receive it reflected by the body. Between the astral body and the physical body is the bearer of imaginations that remain unnoticed for years, which are brought up into the astral body then and become conscious life then. Briefly, between the astral body, the bearer of consciousness, and the physical body the etheric body of the human being is active. This etheric body is not only the bearer of such imaginations going unnoticed, but it also is generally the builder of the entire physical body.

What happens now, actually, in the sleep? It happens that the astral body, the bearer of consciousness, leaves the physical and etheric bodies together with the ego, so that a splitting of the human nature takes place. If the human being is in the wake day life, the astral body and the ego are in the physical body and etheric body, and the processes of the physical body work like reflecting processes by which everything that goes forward in the astral body becomes conscious. Consciousness is the reflection of the experiences by the physical body, and, hence, we must not confuse consciousness with the experiences. If the astral body goes out in the sleep, it is not able to perceive anything in the world of the astral. The human being is unconscious there.

Which ability does now the spiritual researcher attain, while things also become conscious to him in sleep even if he does not rely on his brain? He attains the ability to perceive in something and to reflect his soul activity that lives for him between the things and that can be perceived in the wake day consciousness also as the own etheric body. The etheric body is woven of that by which the clairvoyant perceives; so that for him the external world becomes reflecting as for the soul life of the normal human being the physical corporeality becomes reflecting.

Now there are interstates between waking and sleeping. Such an interstate is the dream. In relation to its origin the spiritual research shows that, indeed, the dreams are based on something similar as the clairvoyance is, only the latter is something trained, whereas the dreams are always fantastic. The human being loses the possibility that the physical body reflects his soul life if he leaves it with the astral body. However, under certain unusual conditions that happen for every human being, he can get the ability to receive the mental experiences reflected by the etheric body. Indeed, we must regard not only the physical body as an apparatus of reflection, but also the etheric body, because as long as the outer world makes impressions on us, the physical body works like an apparatus of reflection. However, if we become quiet in ourselves and process the impressions of the world, then we work in ourselves, however, our thoughts are real, nevertheless. We live our thoughts, and we feel that we are dependent on something subtler than our physical body is, namely on the etheric body. Then the etheric body reflects what is in the lonesome contemplation that is not based on outer impressions at first. Nevertheless, we are in our etheric body in the wake day consciousness; we perceive what is reflected, but we do not perceive the activity of the astral body directly. While we are not able in an interstate between waking and sleeping to receive outer sensory impressions but still something in certain way that is connected with our etheric body, the etheric body can reflect what we experience in our soul with our astral body. These are the irregular dreams, because the human being is in a quite unusual position.

If we consider this, we realise something of the dream world that is rather mysterious, otherwise. Hence, we have to imagine the subsoil of the soul life narrowly tied up with the dream life. While the physical body is the player of the soul life and our day interests affect it, we are connected by the etheric body often in the most remote kind with experiences which are long behind us and which we become aware of only weakly because the day life works strongly on us. Hence, they remain something very strange to us. However, if we consider dreams now, which are based on good observation, something strange can appear. For example, a good composer experiences the picture that a somewhat diabolical figure plays a sonata. He wakes — and can write down the sonata. There something has become active in him that worked like something strange in him. This was possible because something was in him for which the soul of the composer was ripe but could not appear in the wake day life because the bodily life is only an obstacle and not suitable to reflect. There we see that the bodily life is an obstacle and that this is its significance. In the day life we can only experience for which the bodily life — figuratively spoken — is lubricated as a machine. The bodily life is always an obstacle. However, we succeed to a certain degree in using the bodily life. One needs “inhibitions” everywhere. If a locomotive drives on the rails, there are also inhibitions, the frictions by which it can drive, because without friction the wheels could not rotate.

Our bodily processes are the obstacles of our soul life in truth, and these inhibitory processes are the reflecting processes at the same time. If we are mature in our soul for something and if we have not yet succeeded in “smearing our machine,” the wake day life is a good hindrance. However, if we leave our physical body, our etheric body — that must appear to us as something completely strange because it is of subtler nature — can express what lives in the soul life. If then it is strong enough, it squeezes in the dream life like in this case of the composer. This is less connected with the daily interests than with concealed interests, which are remote in the fine subsoil. Thus, for example, also in the following. I note, I tell only something really observed. A woman dreams — although she has children, whom she loves very much, and a husband, who loves her exceptionally — that she is engaged for the second time and experiences all events with big joy. What does she dream? She dreams experiences that are very far from her current life, which she experienced once but which she does not recognise again, because the usual daily interest is connected only with the physical body. The etheric body reflects here what still lives on in her etheric body due to another event because any happy sensation has maybe released the dream.

A man dreams that he goes through childhood experiences. These childhood experiences are reflected quite wonderfully. An especially important event grieving him deeply causes that he wakes up. At first, the dream is very dear to him; however, he soon falls asleep again and continues dreaming. Now a whole sum of disagreeable experiences goes through his soul, and an especially painful event wakes him. All that is extremely far from his present experiences. He gets up because he is shaken at the dream very much, walks around for a while in the room, then he lies down again, and experiences in the dream events that he has not experienced. All events that he has gone through are tangled, and now he experiences something quite new. The whole becomes a poem that he can even write down and set to music afterward. This is a real fact. Now it will not be difficult to imagine with the concepts that we have already attained what has happened there. For the spiritual researcher it presents itself this way: the man has suffered a break of his development as it were at a particular moment of his life. He had to give up something that lay in his soul. However, even if he had to give up it, his etheric body has not left it. The usual interests were only so strong to force back it. Where it was strong enough because of inner elasticity, it squeezed in the dream because the human being is delivered there from the inhibitions of the wake day life. That is the person concerned was on the brink to coming really to that what expressed itself in the poem; but then it has been drowned.

Thus, we clearly recognise the independence of the soul life from the outer bodily life in the dream. This must prove that the idea of the reflection of the soul life in the bodily life is very justified. Just the fact that the interests, in which we are involved, do not impress themselves straight in our immediate experience, shows that beside the life, as it runs in the everyday life, another life runs alongside which I have called a kind of waking up for the conscious finer observing. Everything lives in it that is for our spiritual life — as for example the conscience — independent of the bodily life. Everybody feels this. Nevertheless, in the daily life this other life turns out to be very much limited by our daily interests. In the sleep, our soul appears completely fulfilled with this moral quality. It really means immersing oneself in the spiritual what we can call a jolt, an inner movement. Spiritual-scientific research will arise as something by which we consciously settle in the world in which the normal human being settles unconsciously every time when falling asleep.

The human beings have to familiarise themselves gradually with the fact that the world comprises much more than what we can understand with the senses and pursue with the reason, and that the life of sleep is an area which we need because we just wear the noblest organs in the daily life which serve for the life of imagination. In the sleep, we restore them, so that they can face the world strongly and can reflect our soul life in the wake day life. Everything typical of the soul life could thereby become clear to us. Who would not know that he feels drawn, exhausted after a good, deep sleep? People often complain it; but this is no symptom, but comprehensible. Since strictly speaking the entire rest takes place only one or one and a half hours after sleep. Why? Because we have well worked on our organs, so that they do not only endure for some hours again, but for the whole day. There we are not yet trained immediately after waking, we can use them well only after some time. One would have to speak about a certain kind of weariness that one could be glad after one and a half hours that one can familiarise oneself with the recovered organs. Since from the sleep comes what we need: the architectural forces for the organs, which are worn during the day.

Thus, we can say, our soul life is a life in independence, a life from which we have something in the wake day life by our consciousness that is a reflection. Consciousness is a reflection of the relations of the soul to the surroundings. In the wake day life, we are given to our surroundings, to something strange, to something that we are not ourselves. During sleep, however — and this is the nature of sleep — we withdraw from all outer activity in order to work on ourselves. The comparison for it is suitable: in the ship that was on high sea, the sailors carpenter and mend when it drives in the harbour. Who believes that nothing happens with us during sleep could also believe that nothing needs to happen with the ship when it is in the harbour after a trip. However, it will drive out again, and there he will already see what happens if it is not repaired. Thus, it would be if the soul did not work on us during sleep. We are returned to ourselves in sleep, while we are given to the outside world in the day life. The normal human being is only unable to perceive what the soul does in sleep in such a way, as he perceives the outside world during the day.

In the talk How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Spiritual World?, we shall see that also in the spiritual a reflection can be attained as knowledge by which the human being can get perception in the higher worlds. All that shows that just the soul if it is not aware of itself knows nothing about its own activity, however, that it is occupied with itself, works in itself, and gets the forces independently from any corporeality that shall just serve the construction of the bodily.

Thus, I would like to summarise what I have said and characterise the nature of sleep with the words:

The soul returns itself.
It withdraws embraced by sleep
To spiritual regions,
If sensory narrowness depresses it!

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