Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Awareness - Life - Form
GA 89

Part II: 7. Existence, Life and Conscious Awareness I

Private instruction, Berlin-Schlachtensee, probably in 1904

What we have to understand exactly are the relationships between the concepts of existence, life and conscious awareness. What are they seen to be in mystic terms? Let us think of a child learning to write and of all the situations connected with the process, each on its own—the teacher, materials put ready in preparation, with the child not present. If we think of this as the first thing which is part of writing, we have the first aspect of existence. Now [let us consider] on their own all the activities, the movements of the hand which the child learns—life seen separate from existence. We then leave the first and second aspects aside and take the one we have when the child has finished with those activities. All we consider now is what has given the child the power to write—conscious awareness. We always have the three aspects of existence, life and conscious awareness.

Let us define these terms exactly, for wrong ideas tend to creep in when people speak of existence (form), life and conscious awareness in theosophy. It is a matter of existence interacting with life, resulting in conscious awareness. Let us now apply the terms we found in yesterday’s lesson [evolution, involution]. If we look at the interaction between existence and life, we find that existence merges into life, life takes it into itself. Anything of a life taken into existence in this way veils itself in involution again, merging into conscious awareness. We are thus able to say that any conscious awareness is evolution of life and existence which are in involution. If we are able to investigate a conscious mind we ask: What kind of life is in involution in this conscious awareness, and what kind of existence in this life?

Let us now take our conscious awareness, the awareness we have now—self-awareness. If we investigate it we will characterize it the way I tried to do in the book [Theosophy], taking up Jean Paul’s thought: self-awareness is—I am I.91humorist. Here reference is made to his description of his first Iexperience, published [in German] in his Theosophie (1. Kap., Abschnitt Leib, Seele, Geist): ‘I’ll never forget something which happened in me and which I have never told anyone; it was the birth of my self awareness, and I am able to state the place and the time. One morning I was standing in the front door, a very young child, looking to the left, where the firewood was stacked, and suddenly the inner vision ‘I am an I’ came to me like a bolt of lightning from heaven; it has remained, luminous, ever since. There I saw my I for the first time and for ever.’ First described [in German] in Wahrheit aus Jean Pauls Leben. Kindheitsgeschichte von ihm selbst geschrieben (3 Hefte in 2 Baenden), Breslau 1826 - 1828; 1. Heft, S. 33.

Let us now look for anything which is in involution in this. The life of this conscious awareness must be in involution. This conscious awareness, which is now self-awareness, must earlier on have been a life in awareness, and this life in awareness is in involution in there. If we leave aside the ‘I am I’—the ‘I’, then this conscious mind is not saying: ‘I’ [am conscious mind] but ‘I am life.’ The conscious mind has only evolved from it. Being at the level of self-awareness we have aware conscious awareness and not living awareness. Before, we had the extant conscious awareness: I am existence.

Let us do a proper translation of this.

‘I am the I’ is easy to translate: the given situation which the human being experiences.

‘I am life’ is something where we need to take a closer look. Doing so we’ll find that we go beyond the mere ‘I’ to the foundation and have to ask ourselves how ‘I am life’ has developed. There must be interaction between existence and life. Existence is in involution within life. If we consider this, we get a concept of the human being himself, for it is the human being before he became I who lives in the concept ‘I am life’. ‘Human’ is general, ‘I’ specific. The human being is in involution within the I, it comes to evolution in the ‘I’. Uttering the words at this lower level [‘I am life’], we have to say: ‘I am a human being’. When we say these words we bring out from the most inward part what has been woven into it in an occult way, and understand what we no longer are but once have been and what is contained in us in a state of involution.

Third statement: ‘I am existence’. Taking this, we must be clear in our minds that this is a sum of external circumstances which have now slipped wholly into the inside, as the inmost core, the third layer, which lies hidden deep down in us.

I am I = what is given today; I am life = [gap]; I am conscious mind: we address the whole outside world on the level of the conscious mind; we have our essence as such, which is our foundation, for before there was no conscious mind and life, but conditions, conditions that came together and became our inmost essence. We must then change the words to ‘I am an element’. For that is the elemental.

We thus have three levels of conscious awareness which we are able to trace within us:

1) I am I
2) I am a human being
3) I am an element.

If we were to go further, the thread of our three concepts would leave us, but it repeats itself all the time. It becomes ‘existence’ again by connecting with others.

The fourth, then, is union. So that in moving higher we come to the words: I am in union. The I then is like the earlier given situations that united to find their way into life. I-awareness is thus taken up into existence again. In the same way existence has been conscious awareness before. So that the first existence already had an earlier state of consciousness in involution within it. If we now go back from the words ‘I am an existence, an element,’ we come to ‘I am a pre-awareness’. This may also be put as ‘I am a dhyan chohan.’ In Christian esoteric language it is put like this:

I am a god
I am a glory (element)
I am a might (human being)
I am a power (princedom)

Earlier, we called this

All awareness (now pre-awareness)
Life awareness (or plant awareness, i.e. the elemental)
Human-animal awareness or dream consciousness (I am human, humanity awareness)
(now reached) intellectual awareness: (self-awareness).

We thus have the microcosm once more, in its chain.

Let us consider that now the next level breaks through. In union, the I becomes element again.

I am a dhyan chohan = pre-awareness
I am an element = existence
I am a human being = life
I am I = awareness - self-awareness
Existence = psychic awareness
Life = hyperpsychic awareness
Conscious awareness = spiritual awareness

Now self-awareness is raised to existence. What we grasp in our thinking today becomes existence, so that we shall one day have awareness of the whole of humanity in that we make the I cover all human beings. This is then called psychic awareness. The next level will be the one where the I of every other individual comes alive in us—hyperpsychic awareness. At the highest level of all we take the whole world into our conscious awareness: all is in us—spiritual awareness. (Everything that is outside is already inside—divine awareness.)

Let us imagine [demonstrating with a sheet of paper] that the paper is the pre-awareness. Now it narrows down:

1) I am an element

Now it narrows down to something less than that:

2) I am human


3) I am I

1) The I then itself becomes
2) existence and goes to the outside.
3) It also shines out over life.
4) It shines out over the whole of elemental existence and then comes out again into what it was before.

Recapitulating we find that in the I lies an involution which is as great as we can imagine, so that it contains the complete triad in involution; its essential nature keeps this I completely hidden in the dark. If we examine what entered into this dark element, we find it was life; it brought light into the darkness, shone into it. And before this, existence shone into life, and in existence pre-awareness was in involution. The revelation of pre-awareness is once again the Word.

We are thus able to say: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through him everything entered into existence and without him nothing entered into existence. What existed was life in him and the life of the light of mankind. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not taken hold of it.’

The I must let what it is inside, occult, shine out. Nothing from the outside must harm the I, the I must grow strong. What it has inside must emerge in outer strength. What does it find? The tempter, the serpent which evolved earlier and is twisting and turning out there. The I must overcome the serpent, and now we have to understand that this is the sign that someone has given birth to the living Christ in himself in overcoming the deadly, the tempter, death, the prince of this world.

Mark 16: 17-18. Those who believe will have signs which accompany them. In my name they will cast out demons, and they will speak in new tongues. They will pick up serpents and if they drink any poison it will certainly not hurt them. They will place their hands on sick people and they will be well.

If your eye be single, your whole body will be full of light. (It will let the light pass through).

If, however, you are a rogue, there will be darkness in you. If there is darkness in you, how great, then, must darkness be altogether.92Matthew 6: 22-23.

State before the year 30:

I - superhuman I - Christ
I - human chela I - Jesus : Palestine
I - human chela I - John the evangelist: Alexandria
State after 30: Christ in Jesus; Jesus in John