7 March 1904, Berlin
The topic of this lecture should be a kind of supplement of that about which I spoke here four weeks ago, a supplement on the topic Theosophy and Spiritism. Today I want to explain something more exactly that I could note at that time only indicating. In particular I want to speak about the phenomena of somnambulism which lead into mysterious fields of the human nature and into fields which are interpreted most differently from different sides.
You probably know what somnambulism is. This word should point to certain conditions of the soul which appear in the human being when in his everyday states of consciousness a certain change has happened, above all when the usual everyday consciousness, that consciousness with which we perform our everyday actions with which we get used to nature is not in full activity if it is eliminated, as it were, and the human being still acts emotionally, is still within certain conditions of the soul. We understand as somnambulism any soul activity without full activity of the everyday waking consciousness, as it were from the depths of the soul which are not illuminated by the daytime ego-consciousness. The human soul acts then from this dark depth, and it brings up actions from these depths which differ very substantially from those which the human being accomplishes, otherwise, in the course of his life. We also know that not any person is suited to carry out soul actions with such effacement and elimination of the usual waking consciousness. We know that only those persons whom we call somnambulists who can be transported into a kind of trance or dream state are able to show such phenomena. These persons are in a kind of unconscious condition, while such phenomena arise from their nature, and one has interpreted these conditions in the most different way at different times.
If we transport ourselves once to the ancient Greece, we see which interpretation such actions of somnambulistic persons found in the ancient Greece at that time about which normally the Greek history tells to us. There we meet the priestesses, the so-called oracle priestesses who wanted to make known — from the depth of their souls under effacement of their daytime condition of consciousness — all sorts of things which went beyond the usual human knowledge. Events of the future should got out from such deep souls; whether important state actions whether important legislations are justified or not, these oracle priests should decide about that; briefly, one ascribed that which they made known to a divine inspiration. One believed that the soul when the usual daytime consciousness is extinguished stands under divine influence and conveys the volition of the godhead itself. Not only those human beings enjoyed divine devotion who could be transported into such somnambulistic condition, but above all the revelation the priests made known.
If we go from this time of ancient Greece towards the end of the Middle Ages, we find another view and interpretation of such somnambulistic persons. We see that such persons were understood as being in alliance with all sorts of bad, diabolical, demoniacal powers. We see that that which they made known was considered as something reprehensible, as something that can bring in only damaging, bad influence to the human life. We see that these persons were prosecuted as witches that they were prosecuted because of their devil alliances. Some of the dreadful cruelties towards the end of the Middle Ages are to be attributed to this interpretation of the somnambulistic condition.
In newer time on the other hand when in the outset of the 19th century, in the last third of the 18th century one began to study conditions of the human soul, there were some people who believed that one could gain higher explanations of the human soul studying these conditions; because our usual brain consciousness is eliminated and the senses are not receptive to the outside world, they assumed that the human being is able to find out something about spiritual processes and beings which one cannot perceive with the usual senses. Others looked at these conditions as only pathological ones and understood them merely in such a way that one must eliminate them from everything that can be considered as justified for the normal human being. In the beginning in particular it was science which rejected any interpretation, any explanation of these phenomena in its materialistic confidence and regarded them as symptoms, related to insanity in any way, not at all as anything else than quite abnormal matters. These are some interpretations which one has given of the phenomena.
For us the question must be at first: how can be such phenomena caused? — Because we know that some people get completely by themselves to such a condition where their usual waking consciousness is extinguished where they behave towards the outside world completely as sleeping where they understand nothing of that which takes place in their surroundings with their regular senses where they do not hear if in their nearness a bell sounds where they do not see if in their nearness a light shines where they are receptive, however, in strange way to a particular influence, we say, for example, to the words of a certain person. They see and hear nothing around themselves; they are only receptive to that which a single person says to them or to impressions of certain kind. Yes, they often are even more receptive to the thoughts of a particular person in the room in which they are. These are such phenomena which appear with certain people completely by themselves every now and then. Then we say: such persons are somnambulists; they think, act, feel, perceive in a kind of waking dream, in a kind of sleep which is, however, a particular sleeping state that cannot be compared with the usual sleep to which the human being abandons himself every now and then to get over the tiredness of the day.
We also know that with such somnambulists not only the perception, the sensitivity to certain states can appear, but that such somnambulists can move on particular actions that they carry out actions which they could never carry out in their usual daytime consciousness. We experience that they carry out rationally appearing actions to which, however, more belongs than the sense of direction of the usual daytime consciousness. We see them climbing on roofs, jumping over abysses without anticipating any danger in which they are, over abysses over which they would never jump, otherwise; we see them carrying out actions which they would not be able at all to carry out if they are in their usual waking state. These are only indications of such states at first. Such conditions can appear without any reason, but they can also appear because a person exerts a particular influence on another person; they can appear because the usual daytime consciousness is extinguished in a person with the help of particular manipulations of another person that the concerned person is then transported into an artificial somnambulistic condition. Then such artificial somnambulists show the same phenomena as the natural ones. One calls — we do not consider expressions as especially definite — that person who can transport another person into the somnambulistic condition a mesmerist if the somnambulistic condition is light, and one calls the person magnetised; one says that it is transported into a magnetic sleeping state.
Now the question arises: what do such phenomena mean to the spiritual life, which role do they play in the whole interrelation of the spiritual life, and what can we experience by such phenomena and what do they explain to us about the being and the nature of the human soul and mind? We must ask ourselves: are such phenomena actually such an abnormal matter which does not resemble to the other phenomena of the everyday life? Then, however, the view could take place which simply sees abnormalities in such phenomena; then the view of our doctors could take place, and we would not receive particular information from them.
The dream is often interpreted as something that flits only fantastically through the dream consciousness, as a kind of empty imagination and one is hardly inclined to scrutinise the strange phenomena of the dream world really. But, nevertheless, there were also finer spirits who were inclined to scrutinise these flitting pictures of the dream consciousness, and then one thing appears above all: indeed, it is for the most dreams correct that in the dream an enormous irregularity and arbitrariness prevails that we deal mostly only with snatches of the waking consciousness, of the recollections and pictures which have passed our consciousness during the day, and perhaps of other things which are due to our physical condition during sleep, or also to certain symptoms and the like. This is the lowest kind of dreams, these flitting pictures, subject to complete arbitrariness, which pass through the dream consciousness irregularly.
But the attentive viewer cannot escape that already the most usual personal consciousness, if it is in the sleeping state, also has other dreams beside these irregular and arbitrary dreams, dreams which show a particular regularity. I want to draw your attention only to single examples, which intensely illuminate this regularity which we already find within the usual dream consciousness. You have a watch lying beside yourselves. You do not perceive the ticking of the watch during sleep; you dream of a regiment of soldiers passing outside your window and hear the clatter of the horses exactly. You wake and discover that you have heard the ticking of the watch at this moment; since this continues in your consciousness. You have heard it, however, not as a ticking as your usual ear hears it, but it has transformed itself, has symbolised itself to the scatter of the horses of a passing cavalry regiment. — Or a dream which has really taken place: a farmer's wife dreams that she would go with another woman to the city on Sunday morning. They go to the church and see the priest ascending the pulpit and starting to preach. They listen longer time. There something quite strange soon becomes apparent: the priest transforms himself, he gets wings, he changes into a cock, he crows! — This is a real dream which has happened. The farmer's wife who dreamt this wakes and really hears the cock crowing outside.
You see again what has happened: the ear has heard the crowing cock, but it has not heard the real cockcrow at first, but the dream consciousness has made a symbol of that which it has heard; it has transformed the cockcrow symbolically into this whole story which I have told to you. The dream consciousness spins out such stories quite dramatically. You see that the sensory impressions are not perceived immediately by the dream consciousness, but they are transformed to symbols, and the especially typical is that this dream consciousness really dramatises.
I would like to mention another example — a dream which has really taken place; today I want to mention the right examples only which have been experienced: a student dreams that he is at the door of the auditorium. He is bumped by another. There develops a verbal exchange which leads, in the end, to a duel. The student experiences any preparations of the duel — a long story! The duel really takes place at the arranged place, everything is there, the seconds are there, the first shot is fired, and the dreaming student awakes. He has upset a chair beside his bed; he has heard the chair toppling over, but not in such a way as it is, but this event has transformed itself like lightning into a quite dramatic action. This sleeping dream consciousness is a symbolising one which could be lighted up in its peculiar symbolising activity by countless examples.
Now we ask ourselves: how does this everyday consciousness relate to that which takes action in the human soul, while it dreams? Our everyday consciousness does not immediately take part of these dream actions; for if the consciousness appears in the dream, a kind of another ego appears, a kind of dream-ego; because the dreaming person can see himself, so to speak, he can face himself in the dream. We retain at first that a kind of splitting can happen between the dream-ego and the real ego that really the dreaming person can observe himself quite objectively among the different percepts which he has in the dream. The situations in which this dream appears are determined by the dream consciousness and completely transported to the symbolic-dramatic action that takes place.
A higher level of this dream consciousness happens if we experience conditions of our own physical inner life symbolically in the dream. Again I mention particular examples. Somebody dreams that he is in a musty cellar. Webs are in the ceiling and eerie beasts crawl about. He awakes with headache. Headache has expressed itself symbolically in this cellar. Or another example: somebody is in the dream in an overheated room; he sees a red-hot stove, wakes and has violent palpitations. All these dreams which I tell you are really substantiated. Particular organs of our inside, particular feelings for our inside symbolise themselves in the dream as particular events. Yes, one can say: for the one and same person — who is able to observe on this field knows this — a particular organ takes on a stereotyped appearance which always remains the same. Somebody who suffers from palpitations, has always the same dream, namely the dream which he has had once, let us assume that he saw an overheated stove and the like more. So not only events and facts of the outside world, but also our own physical body express itself allegorically in the dream.
This is only a step to that strange phenomenon where dreamers have illnesses before themselves symbolically by which they are infected or by which they are infected only in a few days. They perceive their own conditions during the dream consciousness. That happens, indeed, only with particular persons who already belong to the somnambulists in a certain respect. From there up to the other phenomenon it is again only a step that a peculiar kind of human instinct points out a remedy or a necessary performance to the full somnambulists. So the dream can really work as a doctor, it can point to the illness and to the remedy at the same time. However, this happens only with particular persons who already have somnambulistic dispositions in a certain respect.
So you see that we deal with a sequence of conditions: from the arbitrary dream up to such quite regular dream perception controlled by particular laws. Everything that I have shown up to now is more or less dream perception; but from there a further step leads to the dream actions.
The most usual dream action is speaking in sleep. We know that it is a very frequent phenomenon that sleepers speak. Yes, we know that they sometimes give striking answers to particular questions, sometimes also answers from which we see that they have not exactly understood what we have spoken to them, or that that is more or less allegorically, symbolically transformed which one has spoken to them, and that is the reason why the dreamer answers that way. One will observe this behaviour if one knows to observe systematically.
A further step leads us then from dream speaking to the dream actions as I already said in my introduction. The dreaming person, in particular if he has a somnambulistic disposition, moves on actions, he rises from his bed, sits down, we say, if he is a student, to his desk and opens his school books. But it also happens that stronger inclined persons sit down and really keep on writing what they have written in the evening or at least copy something and the like more. These matters show us that a transition has taken place from the mere perception to the real action, from the mere feeling to the willing. There are persons who — even though they can be transported into a very strong somnambulistic condition — get to percipience only, and there are those who progress relatively little with regard to perception, but can carry out fearless actions of that kind I have mentioned in the introduction.
Such sleeping actions of somnambulistic persons are carried out with a necessity which has an automatic character. We only need to remember that we often carry out such automatic actions in the everyday life. If any special light impression works on our eye, we automatically close our eye. Our everyday life delivers numerous other actions of this kind about which we do not think further. Everything that we accomplish within our so-called vegetative physical life, our digestion, our breathing, and our heartbeats are actions which we carry out without having a consciousness of them. In similar way we carry out reasonable actions during the somnambulistic state, and such actions result from particular external stimuli with absolute necessity.
Now we must ask ourselves: how have we to understand such phenomena? You know perhaps that there are many people who are really of the opinion that we can eavesdrop on the soul independently of the body in such actions that we have to regard such actions as proofs that the soul can perceive independently of its physical organs like eyes and ears, can act independently of conscious reflection. A lot of people believe that we have to regard such actions as a much more immediate expression of the soul which is detached there as it were from the physical and acts and perceives directly from the spiritual. We want to ask ourselves how we have to consider such phenomena in the light of our theosophical view.
Theosophy shows us that the human being is not this single, isolated being which usually appears to us, but that he is connected by means of countless threads with the universe. Theosophy shows us above all that the human being has various things in common with nature that he has various things in common also with the other worlds which our everyday senses do not perceive, and we can understand the actions, about which we have spoken, best of all if we look at the entity of the human being in the theosophical light. Let me, therefore, briefly indicate what theosophy teaches about the entity of the human being.
Theosophy can consider the physical body with all its organs, including the nervous system, the brain and all senses, according to its observation only as one of the members of which the complete human being consists. This physical body contains substances and forces which the human being has in common with the whole remaining physical world. What takes place in us as chemical and physical processes is nothing else than what also happens outside our body in the physical world. But we have to ask ourselves: why do these physical and chemical processes take place within our body in such a way that they are combined to a physical organism? No physical science can give us information about that. Natural sciences can teach us only of that which takes place in physical and chemical processes in us, and, indeed, it would not be appropriate if the naturalist called the human being, therefore, a strolling corpse because he as an anatomist can discover nothing but physical in the human body. Something must be there that holds together the chemical and physical processes, and arranges them as it were in the form as they take place within the human body. We call this next member of the human being the etheric double body in theosophy. This etheric body is in any human being. Somebody who develops a certain clairvoyant capacity can behold this etheric body; the clairvoyant can behold it the easiest.
If a person stands before you and you are a clairvoyant, you are able to put the usual physical body out of your mind. Just as you can do it in the everyday life with things which are before you and to which you do not direct your attention, you are able as a clairvoyant to not direct your attention to the physical body. Then, however, there remains in the space, which the physical body has filled, still the whole physical appearance in the form of the double body which resembles the external physical body very much. It has a very luminous colour which resembles the colour of peach-blossoms. This etheric double body holds together the physical processes. At death the etheric body leaves the physical body with other higher members which we get to know. The physical body is handed over to the earth and carries out nothing but physical processes. The etheric double body causes that this does not happen during life.
Within this etheric double body, even towering above it at different sides, is the third member of the human being, the so-called astral body. This astral body is a kind of image of our impulses, our desires, our passions, our feelings. In this astral body the human being lives like in a cloud, and he is very well discernible for the clairvoyant, whose spiritual eye is opened for such appearance, as a luminous cloud within which the physical body and the etheric double body are. This astral body is different with a person who always follows his animal-like drives, his sensual propensities; there it shows other colours, other cloud-like formations than with a person who has always lived spiritually; it is different with a person who indulges in egoism, from that of a person who devotes himself in unselfish love to his fellow men. Briefly, the life of the soul finds expression in this astral body. But it also passes on the real sensory perception. You can never look for the sensory perception in the senses themselves. What happens if the light of a flame meets my eye? The so-called etheric waves move from the source of light in my eye, they penetrate into my eye, they cause certain chemical processes in the background of my eyeball, they transform the so-called visual purple, and then these chemical processes spread in my brain. My brain perceives the flame, it gets the light impression. If another could see those processes which happen in my brain, what would he perceive? He would perceive nothing but physical processes; he would perceive something that happens in space and time; however, he could not perceive my light impression in my brain among the physical processes. This light impression is something else than a physical impression which forms the basis of these processes. The light impression, the picture which I only must create to myself to be able to perceive the flame is a process within my astral body. Somebody who has a visual organ to be able to perceive such an astral process sees exactly the physical phenomena within the brain transforming in the astral body into the picture of the flame which we experience.
Within these bodies, which I have mentioned to you, within the physical body, the etheric double body and the astral body, is our real ego; what we call our ego in which we become conscious saying: we are it. This ego has higher parts again about which I do not want to speak today. This ego uses the other members of the human being as its tools.
If we understand this composition of the human being, this can also give us a particular view of the phenomena which we find with somnambulists. What takes action then if we are in our usual waking consciousness? A light impression is caused because oscillations of the ether come to my eye and are transformed by the astral body into a picture of light, and one understands this picture as a mental picture; that is why I realise this picture. Now, however, we assume that my ego is eliminated; in the usual sleep such an elimination of the ego is to be noticed.
Today I do not want to tell where this ego is to be sought for; but if we have a sleeping person before ourselves: what do we have before ourselves? In the true sense of the word only somebody whose spiritual eye is opened can give information about that; he exactly beholds the ego together with the astral body being lifted out of the physical body and the etheric double body. But everybody has this as a phenomenon before himself; everybody knows that during sleep the everyday ego, the ego of reality is eliminated, and that the physical body and the etheric double body, which hold it together, are left to their own resources. During our usual day life our ego, our consciousness is always present when we receive the impressions of the outside world; the daytime ego always controls these impressions of the outside world. If this ego is eliminated, we also receive these impressions of the outside world perpetually. Or do you believe if a bell sounds beside you, while you are sleeping, that then this bell causes no oscillations in the air which penetrate into your ear? Do you believe that your ear is differently constructed at night than during the day? This is not the case. Everything that takes place in the physical body during the day also takes place in the sleeping human being. But what is missing? The ego-consciousness does not penetrate the human being, this is missing.
We can show, so to speak, experimentally in natural way which conditions prevail between the single members of the human being, which I have stated. I would like to give you a simple example which one can make easily with every somnambulist. Imagine that a somnambulist gets up at night, sits down to his desk, kindles a candle and tries to write. Now you do the following: you illuminate the room quite brightly using ten lamps for instance — the experiment was done — and the person concerned keeps on writing calmly. Now you extinguish one flame, the small candle flame which he has put beside himself, and he does not keep on writing, he feels as dark; he takes a match, kindles the candle, then he feels it again as a light and can go on working. The other lighting around him does not exist for him, only the flame is there for him which he has taken up in his dream consciousness. The whole remaining sea of light does not exist for him. You see that it is necessary that the human being penetrates his organs of perception from within in a particular way, infiltrates them, so to speak, so that the external sense-perception can take place. It is not only necessary that we have eyes and ears, but it is necessary that we enliven that from within which eye and ear deliver to us that we oppose something from within that transforms it into pictures, into mental pictures and that is why it exists for us.
In the everyday life it is our ego, our bright, waking consciousness which offers resistance of own accord, as it were, from within to the outside world. We need that to lift out the impressions and to make them our impressions of consciousness. Imagine this consciousness being extinguished. What is then still in activity? Then the physical body, the etheric double body and the astral body are still in activity. Now, indeed, this astral body can transform what it receives from without into pictures but not into mental pictures, is not taken up into the waking consciousness. Thus the astral body of the human being transforms such impressions into pictures which surround him, either in irregular way or in regular way if the ego is present, so to speak, at this whole process.
In such a contact with the outside world is the astral body, the soul of the person who is in a somnambulistic state; yes, in a similar state is already the soul of a dreamer. We have only to make a distinction between both kinds of dreams which I have stated: the irregular dreams which mostly penetrate the dream consciousness of the human beings, and the nice, dramatic, symbolic dreams. With the irregular dreams it will be the etheric double body which is above all active and conveys the contacts with the outside world; with the dreams, however, which run in symbolic, dramatic way, it is the astral body of the person which symbolises the outer impressions, expresses them allegorically and transforms them into a quite dramatic dream. Only because in the present level of development our daytime ego is minded more realistically because we rely in our daytime consciousness above all on our deducing, calculating reason, therefore, any single sensory sensation appears to us to be linked with the others as just this is the case in the waking consciousness. However, we can imagine other states of consciousness; we can imagine that the human being looks deeper into nature. Then this purely rational view also comes to an end. This is just again the case of the higher kinds of soul-life. These should concern us less today; but what must occupy us today above all is the question: how is it possible that the human being shows regular actions, certain psychic phenomena in the somnambulistic state, which is an increase of the usual dream state? One can understand that only if one does not consider the human being as an isolated being, but in connection with the whole remaining world according to the theosophical world view; that one realises above all that outside us in the remaining world not only dead matter exists, but that in the outside world higher forces are active.
The human being normally does not put the question to himself: why do we find the laws, the concepts and ideas in the outside world which we have excogitated in our mind in a lonesome twilight hour? The human being mostly does not get the most significant phenomena clear in his mind, phenomena which throw the brightest light on the nature of the human being. However, think only once about the fact that the mathematician sits in his room, mulls over the question what is a circle, an ellipse that he finds this law of the ellipse, of the circle without observation of anything outside him and illustrates them on paper, and then after he has produced these laws out of himself, he finds these laws in the orbits of the planets and in other phenomena of the outside world. It is that way wherever one goes in our spiritual life. The laws which our mind thinks up in the loneliness are the same laws which also control this outside world. If we call that which the human being thinks up wisdom, so we must say: wisdom becomes apparent in the human ego and outdoors in the world we find that the things are built in the same way in which the human being can recognise them using his thinking. But we find if we more exactly look at the world that this wisdom of the world excels even a lot of that which the human being can think up and concoct.
I give some extreme examples: take the performances of the beavers. The performances of the beavers are of really astonishing kind, not only that their dens are true creations of an instinctive architecture which could not be more perfect if one erected them according to all rules of mechanics and engineering. No, they deliver something else: they protect themselves in their hiding places by means of dams with which they keep the water away, accelerate or slow down it in certain way. These dams are built in such a way against the power of the water that an engineer who has learnt long to get to know the mechanical principles according to which one must make such an arrangement best of all could not make them better. Yes, they are built in such a way that one can calculate from the inclination of these dams and from the angles which speed or power the flowing water has. They are constructed in such a way that the engineer could not calculate them better in his engineering firm using his science which a lot of human thoughts and endeavours has produced.
Now another example: consider a usual human femur. This femur is, if you look at it with the microscope, no compact structure like a piece of mortar, but the bone seems to be fragile, a composition of delicate formations which are built up like a quite delicate frame and scaffolding. A network of fine bone trabeculae is built up; these are interwoven and support each other; and if one study this whole network of bone trabeculae, one perceives a strange wisdom of nature with the construction of such an organism. If one wanted to build, for example, a scaffolding which should support the single parts of a frame in such a way that one achieves the greatest possible effect with the slightest expenditure of energy, one could not make better than nature in its wisdom has constructed such a femur from countless small bone trabeculae which hold and support each other. You find the wisdom that the human being can invent after many mental efforts in any single part of nature.
If we could study nature, we could pour out our mind over nature, so that we could perceive in nature outside, then we would perceive nature not as a product by chance, but as the result of infinite wisdom. Imagine instead that the calculating reason perceives the impressions of the outside world through the gates of the senses and can only think about that which it perceives from without, imagine instead that you would have no senses, but the reason would be poured out as it were over the whole nature. You would not perceive the effects of the things on our senses but the being of the things themselves, then you would stand in the wisdom of nature, then you would be a part of the wise nature. One can attain this really, if our waking consciousness is eliminated. One attains that with somnambulists as I have suggested now. I said that one may imagine that our reason, our consciousness forces its way from our brain and penetrates the wisdom of nature in any of its performances and facts.
Because we have such clear, waking consciousness, we are secluded from the remaining nature; that is why we must receive the impressions of nature through the gates of our senses. Here is the flame, it makes an impression on my eye; the eye is the gate through which the impression gets to my consciousness. My consciousness causes the mental pictures from within. I am secluded from the outside world because I have sensory gates, and this outside world must enter through the sensory gates into my consciousness first. I am in the situation in my consciousness compared with the remaining world like somebody who stands on a meadow and has a view in all directions and then enters a small house and takes note of everything that is on the meadow only through the windows of the small house.
Thus is the wisdom of the whole nature which we perceive in every bone, in every plant which appears from the starry heaven down to the microscopic smallest particle of the body. This wise nature has entered as it were into our consciousness as in a single point and has erected the shell of our organs with their sensory gates round us. Our consciousness is secluded from this being outside and can take up the being outside only through the sensory gates.
However, if you eliminate the consciousness, then you get contact, then you live really again connected with the outside world; because the astral body is not separated from the remaining world like the ego, your immediate consciousness. No, everywhere astral threads run out in all directions, so that you witness the life of the whole outside world and not only that of the physical nature, but also the astral and spiritual processes which are perpetually around us. We perceive them if our consciousness is eliminated. What we remember, think up and deduce appears in the somnambulistic state immediately as a phenomenon which the outside nature leads in. As well as you see no star in the sky during the day with the bright sunshine, while, nevertheless, the whole sky is covered with stars because the bright sunshine outshines the light of the stars, it is the same with our bright waking consciousness. What exists in our physical or astral bodies is a weak light, are weak processes which the bright waking consciousness drowns out. If we extinguish this, it will become visible what takes action in the lower bodies like the stars become visible if the sun does no longer shine. In such circumstances are somnambulistic persons and, therefore, we have to realise that the person is in a closer, more immediate connection with the remaining nature if a somnambulistic state happens. It is in such a way to use a nice expression of the German thinker Stilling who characterised this circumstances wonderfully at the end of 18th and outset of the 19th century: “if the sun of the bright daytime consciousness sets, the stars shine in the somnambulistic consciousness.”
Nevertheless, we have to ask ourselves: can we rely on these phenomena which appear during the somnambulistic state? They are true phenomena, they concern a reality; but this reality approaches us with exclusion of the organ which the human being has developed gradually, so that he can orientate himself in the world, with exclusion of his bright daytime consciousness. A state is really caused in the human being which reveals something to him that remains, otherwise, concealed but which downgrades him from a level which he got once. Because we know as theosophists that the states which the human being reaches this way and which should allegedly be “higher,” are really states which he has gone through before he attained his present full human consciousness.
I cannot explain that to you today; but just as the scientific theory of evolution shows us the purely physical evolutionary processes, theosophy shows us that the human beings gradually got to the level which they have today. This consciousness, through which we orient ourselves in our environment, only appeared after we had gone through other states of consciousness in millions of years of slow development. The human being had a kind of dream consciousness before he developed this bright daytime consciousness in himself. At that time he was really a being which did not perceive the processes round itself in the way as we perceive them with our bright daytime consciousness, but everything round us was symbolised, as well as the dream symbolises even today.
A big number of the legends which are still preserved come from such times in which the human beings were still near this dream consciousness and formed these symbolic legends. About that you can find more precise information in a very interesting book of my deceased friend Ludwig Laistner who collected the different forms of legends of the world and showed how these legends were worked out from a symbolising human consciousness not yet awoken to the daytime consciousness. There some legends are really attributed to such states of the somnambulistic consciousness.
If we go back even farther, we get to lower and lower states which were, however, closer to nature and to the starting point of the physical evolution at the same time. When the human being began as a wish of the divine being at first, he was generally in a kind of deep trance. At that time the whole humankind was in a kind of deep trance, in a similar trance in which today those somnambulists can be who can be transported into the deepest, so-called magnetic sleeping states. The human being has gone through all these states once, and now we are in the period of the bright waking consciousness. This is even a transitional state which leads us to that ability within the waking consciousness that the human being had in former times but without the waking consciousness, because it was not yet developed.
This is the future course of human development: again pouring out the spirit on nature directly to become clairvoyant with full waking consciousness. Some among us who have developed their inner organs using certain methods which theosophy gives are already ahead of the development and able to look really with full waking consciousness into this world of the beings and the spiritual life which surrounds us. Today certain individualities are already among us who are, so to speak, again free of the gates of the senses who are in immediate contact with the spiritual environment. On account of their clairvoyant ability they experience the higher facts with full waking consciousness which are closed to the usual consciousness as we go through between tables and chairs, where they perceive the spiritual world round themselves, which surrounds us at every moment. The theosophical teachings flowed from such views. The somnambulistic consciousness delivers similar teachings in certain respect, and what a somnambulistic person can see after elimination of the bright waking consciousness is often the same that the clairvoyant sees with his bright waking consciousness. But the somnambulist can never control what she/he sees; the somnambulist never is able to control what she/he tells you about spiritual processes in the environment what she/he tells you about percepts which one cannot see by means of the senses. He/she cannot even control whether that which he/she perceives is really true, as she/he perceives it.
The strangest delusions may happen to the somnambulists. You can stand before this somnambulist and can say to her/him that you are a person living at another place. The somnambulist will believe this absolutely, will have the true impression that you are that man as whom you pose. The somnambulist believes it, and this becomes the danger. If the somnambulist informs us not only about such easily controllable matters, but if the somnambulist informs us about the higher world which we cannot perceive with the senses, about the so-called astral world or about the higher spiritual world, then it can happen that the somnambulist says to you that she/he perceives any deceased person. Indeed, the somnambulist perceives a spiritual fact, she/he perceives a being; but it does not need to be right that this being is the deceased person in question. This can be another being, a being which generally has nothing to do at all with a usual earthly being. It may be a being which lives in the astral world and has never entered into an earthly world. Briefly, the somnambulist can never convince her/himself because he/she does not have the controlling consciousness whether the impression which he/she had is the right one.
This is a danger for the somnambulist, above all a danger which the astral world immediately offers if one enters it. This astral world has — I can say this only by way of a hint — quite different concepts, for example, of good and bad, Our earthly world has concepts of good and bad which are adjusted to our sensuous states. The astral world has another good and bad. If now the somnambulistic person perceives in the astral world, his concepts of good and bad are shaken very easily, and this is the reason why somnambulistic media that inform you in the beginning really only about true matters out of this somnambulistic state of consciousness can be ruined thoroughly in time, so that they can impossibly distinguish deception from reality.
It is a matter of course for somebody who knows these higher realms that he does not presuppose that the medium has cheated, even if the facts are not correct. A mediumistic woman may go, for example, to the next best corner shop — this is a case of whose truth I have convinced myself, she is in such a somnambulistic state, that her ego-consciousness, her waking consciousness is extinguished; she buys a small picture of a saint which she puts in her pocket. Then she gets out of this somnambulistic state and has no notion where she got the small picture from. Later she gets — the somnambulistic states are of very intricate kind — again in the trance state and produces the small picture as something that she has brought in from the super-sensible world to this world. The somnambulistic woman, the medium, never has a notion of the fact that she herself bought this small picture or in which way she got it. She is absolutely honest in the usual sense, although the fact is a feigning. Thus the case can happen because of the influence which is exerted on such a somnambulist after the elimination of the waking consciousness that a deception takes place; however, the medium needs not to be a swindler, but she may be completely intact and honest.
This shows you that we can do nothing but to position ourselves on the theosophical point of view if we consider the question of somnambulism Theosophy and the theosophical movement are of the determined view that one should enter the higher spiritual world, which can also be made accessible to us by somnambulists, only in the presence of a clairvoyant with a waking consciousness who knows how to get used to the spiritual world, who knows a lot about the spiritual world like about the physical one.
Therefore, theosophy demands that if experiments with media should be done — and, indeed, conditions may happen where this is recommended — that they take place only in the presence of a perfect expert, of a clairvoyant working with waking consciousness who can have an overview of everything that happens there really, while the medium and normally also those who experiment with the medium are not able to have an overview of this. Such mediumistic phenomena do not involve a danger at any rate; but we have seen that this danger may result because the sense of direction is missing. Every clairvoyant who works with waking consciousness knows at any single moment what takes action and what a somnambulist sees really, even though she/he pretends to see something else; he knows which influence really takes place, even though the somnambulist pretends that this or that influence takes place. This is just the difference between spiritual science and other similar attempts. I would not like to doubt the truth of the other attempts in any way, but its reality also applies, of course, as well as it applies to other attempts. Because such experiences cannot achieved in one go, because it is impossible that a complete ideal is realised at every point in time, therefore, theosophy does not regard as its task to combat other spiritual attempts like the experiments with somnambulists, because one knows that these experiments produce the same result in the end: the conviction of a spiritual world round us.
But the theosophical movement itself tries only to perform under the ideal of the conscious clairvoyance what it has to do in accordance with other spiritual movements. In accordance with other spiritual movements it wants to work, it wants to look at the other spiritual movements as its brother movements. It is ready any time, if it is asked for advice whether this and that is real and true in this or that sense, to give this advice. However, it will let all spiritual attempts be carried out only under the aegis of the expert clairvoyance. This applies to the spiritistic like other spiritual attempts. Occult researches are to be carried out for the purposes of theosophy only under the influence of individualities who can have an exact overview, in conscious way what it concerns. Also one is allowed to heal spiritually only in such a way as one heals physically: with full conscious overseeing the concerning circumstances.
Theosophy looks at the somnambulistic phenomena that way. You see that the theosophical view defers somewhat from the superficial external view which sees in the somnambulistic phenomena nothing else than pathological, abnormal phenomena to be rejected, and it also has somewhat different views of these phenomena than those have who believe only on account of them to get to know the higher spiritual life. Theosophy knows where these phenomena come from. It can inform of these phenomena using its clairvoyance. It considers the other attempts and movements, however, which are related to these phenomena in the sense that they regard them as manifestations of the spiritual life as brother movements, with which it strives for the same goal: to give a spiritual, a really idealistic world view, a true knowledge of the spiritual world to the present materialistic humankind.
This is a deep truth which a German seer about whom one normally does not know that he is a seer, namely Goethe, expressed that we cannot unveil the secrets of nature with the help of our tools, not by mechanical, physical tools, but that the mind has to search for the spirit everywhere
Nature, mysterious in day’s clear light,
Lets none remove her veil,
And what she won’t discover to your understanding
You can’t extort from her with levers and with screws.
Faust I, verses 672-675
But Goethe did not doubt the manifestations of the spirit around us; because he realised clearly what he expressed in his Faust in the nice words from which he said that a sage spoke them:
The spirit world is not sealed off –
Your mind is closed, your heart is dead!
Go, neophyte, and boldly bathe
Your mortal breast in roseate dawn!
Faust I, verses 443-446