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Hidden Forces of Soul-Life
GA 143

27 February 1912, Munich

Translator Unknown

During the last few days, we have spoken about many things connected with the existence of hidden depths in our soul-life; and we should now do well to consider various other aspects of this subject, which may be useful for the Anthroposophist to know. On the whole, it must be said that a complete clarification of these things is possible only when we work them through in the light of what Anthroposophy is able to give.

Now, we have already considered, from the most varied aspects, all that might be termed the organisation of man. Hence, it should be quite easy for each one of us—if we direct our attention in some measure, to the hidden depths of the soul to connect in the right way what thereby appears from a new standpoint, with the organisation of man as it is known to us through the more or less elementary presentation of the Anthroposophical world-conception. It has been repeatedly stated, during the last few days, that everything comprising our conceptual thoughts, our perceptions, the impulses of our will, our feelings and sensations—in short, everything that takes place in our soul during its normal state, from the moment of waking to the moment of falling asleep—may simply be termed the activities, the peculiarities, or the forces, of ordinary consciousness.

Let us now summarise graphically—by enclosing it between these two parallel lines (a—b)—everything that is included in the ordinary human consciousness: that is, everything that a human being knows, feels, and wills, from the time he awakes, till he falls asleep.

Figure 1

We then find—do we not—that our thoughts, and also every one of our perceptions, belong within this sphere enclosed by these two parallel lines. Thus, when we enter into relationship with the external world through our senses, and thereby form an image of this external world through all sorts of sense impressions—an image which is still in connection, or in contact, with the external world—this also forms part of our ordinary consciousness. At the same time, our feeling-life and our impulses of will belong here also—in short, everything that constitutes our ordinary consciousness. We might say that this sphere represented by these parallel lines (a—b), includes everything which the normal, every-day life of the soul makes known to us.

Now, the important thing is that we should know, quire clearly, that this so-called soul-life is dependent upon the instruments of the physical body -- that is upon all those instruments comprised by the senses and the nervous system. If we now draw two other parallel lines beyond the first two, we may say that the sense-organs and the nervous system in our physical organism serve as the instruments of this ordinary consciousness—the sense-organs being the more important, although the nervous system may also be included, to a certain extent.

And, below the threshold of our ordinary consciousness, lies all that may be enclosed between these other two parallel lines (b—c)—and which may be termed the hidden side of the soul's life, or the sub-consciousness. We obtain a clear conception of what is imbedded, as it were, in this sub-consciousness, when we remember, on the one hand, that the human being acquires, as we have learned, through spiritual training, imagination, inspiration, and intuition. Thus we see that, just as we have to include our conceptual thoughts, our feelings, and our will-impulses, in the ordinary consciousness, so we have to include imagination, inspiration, and intuition, in the subconscious life. But we know, also that the sub-consciousness is active, not only when such a spiritual training is carried on, but that it may also become active in the form of an ancient inheritance—as an original primitive state of human consciousness, or a kind of atavism. In this case, something arises which we may call visions; and these visions, arising—let us say—in the naive consciousness, correspond, in this primitive state of consciousness, to the Imaginations acquired by means of the right training. Moreover, forebodings may arise; and these would be the primitive inspirations. A significant example will at once show us the difference between a foreboding and an inspiration.

We have often mentioned the fact that, in the course of the 20th century, an event will occur, in human evolution, which we may call a kind of spiritual return of the Christ; and that there will be a number of people who will experience the influence of the Christ upon our world—when He enters it in an etheric form, from out the astral plane. A knowledge of this fact can be attained if we learn to know, through the right sort of training, just how evolution takes its course, and we then come to see—as a result of this training—that such an event must indeed take place, during the 20th century. It is also quite possible, on the other hand—and indeed this often happens, in our days—that certain people will be gifted with a natural, primitive clairvoyance, a mysterious kind of inspiration, which we may describe as a foreboding of the approaching Christ. These people will not even know, perhaps, exactly what is taking place; yet, nevertheless, an important inspiration such as this may quite well appear as a foreboding, if something takes place within the primitive consciousness which is more than a vision, more than a foreboding. A vision is experienced when the image or counterpart of a spiritual occurrence arises before us. Let us suppose, for instance, that someone has lost a friend—so that the Ego has passed through the portal of death and is now dwelling in the spiritual world. A kind of connection may be established, in this case, between the one living in the spiritual world, and the one dwelling on the earth; and yet, the one who is living in this world may not know, at all rightly, just what the dead friend desires of him—indeed, he may have a false idea of what the departed friend, yonder, is experiencing in his soul. Nevertheless, the very fact of such a condition may be experienced in the form of a vision; and—even if it should be wrong, as far as the picture is concerned—the vision may be based upon the true fact: namely, that the departed friend wishes to establish a connection with the one who is still alive. And this assumes the form of a premonition. Thus, one who has premonitions knows certain things concerning either the past or the future, which are not accessible to ordinary consciousness. Let us suppose, on the other hand, something arises before the human soul in the form of a clear perception (not merely as a vision which may, under certain circumstances, be misleading, but as a clear perception); and let us suppose that it represents either some event which takes place in the physical world—although not in a sphere which renders it accessible to the ordinary senses—or an event taking place in the super-sensible world. Such an appearance is usually designated by occultism as “deuteroscopy,” or second sight. And with this I have described to you something, whether it be described through regular training or whether it appears in the form of natural clairvoyance, that takes place in human consciousness—in the sub-consciousness, to be sure; yet at the same time in the human soul itself.

Now, when we speak of sub-consciousness, in contrast to ordinary consciousness, we find that everything that takes place here in the human soul differs very greatly from all processes in the ordinary consciousness. These processes of ordinary consciousness—with respect to those things with which they are connected—are in reality such, that we must speak of the impotence of this ordinary consciousness. The eye sees the rose; but this eye, which acts, to be sure, in such a way that the image of the rose arises in us, is quite powerless to picture to the ordinary consciousness—even with all its perception and its capacity to imagine the rose—such a thing as the growth, the growing and fading of the rose. The rose grows and dies again through its inherent natural forces; and neither the eye, nor the ordinary consciousness, can go beyond the sphere which is accessible to their perception. This is not the case, however, with the facts belonging to the sphere of the sub-conscious. And this is what we must bear in mind first of all; for it is extremely important. If we perceive something with our eye, during the normal act of vision—whether it be coloured pictures, or anything else—we are not only unable, through our perception, to change anything in the objective facts, but something else indeed arises, if our sight is normal. If nothing else takes place, for the eye, than the mere act of vision, the eye in this case remains unchanged by this process. Only when we go beyond the natural limits, by sometimes passing from a normal light to a blinding light, do we injure the eye. So that we may say: facts and processes of ordinary consciousness do not enable us even to react upon ourselves, if we simply remain in this ordinary consciousness. Our organism is indeed constructed in such a way that facts accessible to ordinary consciousness do not even cause any particular changes within us.

It is quite different, however, with those things which arise in the sub-consciousness. Let us suppose that we form an imagination, or that we have a vision. And let us now suppose that this Imagination, or this vision, corresponds to some good Being. This good Being, in that case, is not in the physical, sense-world, but in the super-sensible world; and let us now suppose that the world, inhabited by these Beings which we perceive through imagination or vision, lies enclosed, here, between these two parallel lines. Let us try to find in this world everything which may become object, or perception, for our sub-consciousness (b—e)—we shall refrain from writing anything in this space, for the time being. On the other hand, if we have an imaginary picture, or a vision, of some sort of evil or demoniacal Being in this super-sensible world, we are not powerless, as far as this Being is concerned, in the way the eye is powerless with regard to the rose. If, during the imagination or vision of an evil Being, we call forth the feeling that it should retreat from us—if we do this while seeing perfectly clearly this visionary, or imaginative, picture, such a Being in this other world, must actually feel as if it were pushed and driven away by a force proceeding from us.

The same thing happens, if we have the corresponding imagination, or vision, of a good Being. In this case, also, if we develop a feeling of sympathy, this Being will feel within itself a force which compels it to approach us and to connect itself with us. All Beings—whatever may be their place in this world—sense the forces of attraction, or repulsion, coming from us, whenever we form visions of them. Our sub-consciousness is therefore in a situation similar to that of an eye that would not only see a rose, but would develop, through the mere sight of the rose, the desire that the rose should approach it—could attract it to itself. Or, if upon seeing something repulsive, the eye were not only to come to the opinion, “This is repulsive,” but could eliminate this repulsive thing through mere antipathy. Our sub-consciousness is therefore connected with a world in which the sympathy and antipathy arising in the human soul can be active. It is necessary to place this quite clearly before our minds.

But sympathy and antipathy—and, generally speaking, all the impulses in our sub-consciousness—are not only active in this sphere, in the way already described; they are also active in what is more especially within ourselves, and which we must now think of as a part of man's etheric body—not only as a part of the etheric body, however, but also as certain forces of the physical body—enclosed, here, within these two parallel lines (b—c). We must imagine here, that is to say, first of all what lives in man as a force pulsating through his blood, or: the force of warmth in the blood. And then, we must imagine within this space still another force: namely, that force which is present in our healthy or unhealthy breathing depending, as it does, upon our entire organism in short, the more or less healthy force of breathing. We may also call it the constitution of the force of breathing. Furthermore, a great part of what we must term man's etheric body belongs to all that upon which the sub-consciousness is actively at work within us. Hence, sub-consciousness, or the hidden forces of the soul-life, work within us in such a way that they influence, in the first place, the temperature of our blood. Since the entire pulsation, the vitality, or lack of vitality of our circulation is dependent upon the temperature of our blood, we can realise that this whole circulation must be connected in some way with our sub-consciousness, Whether or not a human being has a more rapid, or a less rapid, circulation is essentially dependent upon the forces of his sub-consciousness.

Now, if the influence man has on all that exists in that other world, in the form of demoniacal of good Beings, takes place only when there arise out of his sub-consciousness with a certain clearness visions, imaginations, or other sorts of perceptions—that is if, things really stand clearly before him; and if, then, certain forces become as it were magically active in this world, through sympathy and antipathy, this clear way of facing himself, subconsciously, in his own soul, will not be necessary for the influencing of that inner organism which consists of what we have indicated here (b—c). Whether man knows, or fails to know, exactly what imaginations correspond to this or that sympathy within him—in either case, this sympathy works upon the circulation of his blood, upon his breathing-system, upon his etheric body. Let us now suppose that, for a certain period of time, someone is inclined to have only feelings of repulsion. If he were able to see visions, or if he were endowed with imaginative knowledge, he would have the kind of vision, or imagination, described day before yesterday, in the form of perceptions of his own being. These would be projected out into space, to be sure, but they would nevertheless belong only to his own world; these visions and imaginations would reveal what lives within him in the way of forces active in feelings of repulsion. Yet, even if he simply has these feelings of repulsion, so that they live within him—they nevertheless work upon him all the same. And they work in such a way, indeed, that they actually influence the force which warms his blood, and also the force in his breathing. Hence, if we now pass on to the other aspect, we find that the human being has a more or less healthy breathing—depending upon the feelings which he experiences in his sub-consciousness; and that he has a more or less healthy circulation, depending upon his sub-conscious experiences. It is especially the activity of the etheric body, and all its processes, that are dependent on the world of feeling that lives in man.

When the facts of sub-consciousness are really experienced by the soul, we can see, not only that there exists this connection (of the world of feeling—with the breathing, the circulation, and the activity of the etheric body), but that owing to it, there is a continual influence upon the entire constitution of man, with the result that there are certain feelings and sensations which reach down into the sub-consciousness. And because these call forth certain forms in the force of warmth in the blood, and a certain disposition in the force of breathing and of the etheric body, their influence upon the organism is either a furthering one, during the whole of a man's life; or it is one that retards and hinders it. Thus there is always something arising or passing away in man, through these forces which play into his sub-consciousness. He either diminishes his vital forces, or he increases them, through what he sends down into his sub-consciousness out of his ordinary conscious state. If a man takes pleasure in the thought of lies which he has told; if it does not fill him with repulsion—for this would be the natural feeling toward a lie—or if he is lazy and indifferent toward lies, and even takes pleasure in telling them, this feeling which accompanies the lie, is in that case sent down into his sub-consciousness. Whatever enters the sub-consciousness, in this way injures the circulation of the blood, the constitution of breathing, and the forces of the etheric body; and the consequence of this will be that the human being, when he passes through the portal of death with what then remains to him, will be stunted—will become impoverished in his forces—because something has died in him, which would have come to life had he felt abhorrence and repulsion toward lying—in accordance with the normal human feeling. If the feelings of aversion toward lying had dived down into his sub-consciousness they would then have been transferred to those forces indicated here, in our drawing, and the human being would have sent down into his organism something beneficial—something in the nature of forces of birth.

Thus we see how, in the first place, the human being works from out of his sub-consciousness upon his own growth and decay, because of the fact that forces are continually passing from his upper consciousness—from his ordinary consciousness—down into his sub-consciousness. Man, as he is constituted today, however, is not yet strong enough to cause injury through his soul-nature, as it were, to other parts of his organism also—besides his circulation, his breathing, and his etheric body. He cannot harm the coarser and firmer parts of his physical organism, as well. Thus, we may say that man is in a position to harm only a part of his entire constitution. What has thus been injured appears with especial clearness, when that part of the etheric body which has remained (for the etheric body is continually connected with the force of warmth in the blood, and with the constitution of breathing) has been influenced in the way we have mentioned; for in this case it deteriorates through wrong feelings. On the other hand it acquires fruitful, strengthening and beneficent forces through good, normal, true feelings. We may therefore say that what takes place in his sub-consciousness enables man to work directly upon the growth and decay, that is, upon the true processes, the reality, of his organism. He plunges down from the sphere of impotence of his ordinary consciousness, into the sphere where there is constant growth and decay, in his own soul, and consequently in his whole human constitution.

Now we have seen that, through the fact that our soul has more or less experience of our sub-consciousness—knows something concerning it: through this fact, the sub-consciousness also acquires an influence over that world which may be termed (according to an expression which was used for it throughout the Middle-Ages)—the elementary world. Nevertheless, man cannot enter into direct relationship with this elementary world, but only by the circuitous road, of experiencing, first of all in himself, the effects of his sub-consciousness upon his organism. If, after a period of time, the human being has learned sufficient self-knowledge to say to himself: “When you have this feeling within you, and when you send the one or the other result of your conduct down into your sub-consciousness, you destroy certain things in yourself, thereby, and cause them to be stunted; and when you experience other things, and send down certain accompanying experiences, you further your development,” if, for a certain period of time, he experiences within himself this fluctuation between destruction and furthering forces, he will then become more and more mature in self-knowledge. This is, in reality, the true self-knowledge; and it can be likened only to a “picture” with may be obtained as follows:—

Self-knowledge, attained in this way, may actually bring it about—through a lie, and through a wrong feeling toward the lie, which arises in our instincts—that we feel as if a scorpion were biting off one of our toes. We may be sure that, if human beings were to perceive some real effect of this sort, they would never lie as they do. Thus, if we were to experience at once, in the physical world, a crippling of our physical organism this would correspond to what actually happens in connection with things that usually remain invisible—through what we send down into sub-consciousness, out of our daily experiences. Any sort of lazy indifference toward a lie, which is sent down into the sub-consciousness, has the effect of biting off something within us, as it were—taking away something which we then no longer possess, so that we are stunted and must acquire it again, in the later course of our karma. And if we send down a right feeling into our sub-consciousness (of course, we must imagine an infinite scale of feelings which may plunge down in this way) we grow in ourselves thereby, and form new life-forces in our organism. The first thing which appears in a man who attains true self-knowledge is this ability to become a spectator of his own growing and fading.

I have been told that my listeners did not understand quite clearly, day before yesterday, how we may distinguish between a true vision or imagination which forms an objective experience, and one which is merely projected into space and belongs to our subjective life. Now, we cannot say—“Write down this or that rule, and then you will be able to distinguish the one from the other.” Such rules do not exist; on the contrary, we learn only gradually, in the course of our development. And we are able to distinguish between what belongs only to ourselves, and what arises as exterior vision and belongs to a true Being, only when we have passed through the experience of being continually devoured, inwardly, by sub-conscious processes that kill. This will equip us with a kind of certainty, and will be followed also by a state in which we shall always be able to face a vision or an imagination and say to ourselves: “If we can see into the vision through the force of our spiritual sight, the vision will remain; for, if we develop the active force of spiritual sight, this corresponds to an objective fact. If, on the other hand, the active force of spiritual sight obliterates the vision, this proves that it was merely a part of our own self.”

Thus, a human being who is not careful with regard to this may even see thousands and thousands of pictures from the Akasha Chronicle; yet, even so, if he does not apply the test as to whether or not these pictures are obliterated through an absolutely active sight, these Akasha pictures, in that case—no matter how many facts they may reveal—can be looked upon only as pictures of man's own inner life. It might happen, for instance—I repeat, it might happen—that someone who sees nothing more than his own interior, projected in very dramatic pictures, imagines these to be events, let us say, which extend over the entire Atlantean world, through whole generations of humanity. ... And, all the while—no matter how seemingly objective—this might, under certain circumstances, be merely a projection of his own inward being. Now, when a human being passes through the portal of death, it always comes to pass that whatever might hinder his subjective life from being transformed into visions or Imaginations now disappears. In the ordinary human life of our day, as we know, what man experiences within himself sub-consciously, what he sends down into his sub-consciousness, does not always become vision or Imagination. It becomes an Imagination if he undergoes the regular and necessary training; and it becomes a vision if he still possesses an atavistic clairvoyance. When the human being has passed through the portal of death, his entire inner life becomes immediately an objective world, and is there before him. Kamaloka is in its essence nothing else than a world erected around us out of all that we have experienced within our own souls. Only in Devachan does the reverse of this take place. Thus we can easily realise that what I have said regarding the activity of man's sympathy and antipathy, as contained in visions, Imaginations, Inspirations, and also premonitions, etc.—that this activity always, under all circumstances, influences the objective elementary world. And I said, in connection with this activity, that, in the human being who is incarnated in the physical body, only that which he brings as far as vision or Imagination can influence this elementary world. In the case of the dead, those forces also which existed in the sub-consciousness and which always accompany the human being when he crosses the portal of death, are active in the elementary world; so that everything which he experiences after death is in reality exceedingly active in the elementary world.

Just as certainly as we create waves in the river, when we lash its waters—with the same certainty do the experiences of the dead continue to influence the elementary world. Just as certainly, I repeat, as waves arise and ripple out from whatever point we happen to strike, in the water; and just as surely as a current of air continues to create itself, just so surely do these forces continue their influence in the elementary world. Hence, this elementary world is continually filled with forces which have been called into being through what human beings take with them, out of their sub-consciousness, when they cross the portal of death. The important thing, therefore, is always to be in position to create such circumstances as will enable us to see—to perceive—the things in the elementary world. It need not surprise us, when the clairvoyant rightly recognises the things that occur in the elementary world as Beings brought about through the activity of the dead. At the same time—and under certain specific conditions to be sure—we can pursue these activities, resulting from the experiences of the dead (and influencing, first, the elementary world) even as far as the physical world. For, when a clairvoyant has himself passed through all those experiences which I have described, and has attained the ability to perceive the elementary world, he will arrive at the point, after a certain length of time, when he has the most extraordinary experiences.

Let us suppose that a clairvoyant passes through the following process:—To begin with, he looks at a rose, let us say. He looks at it with his physical eye. Now, when he looks at it in this way, he will receive a sense-impression. And let us suppose, further, that this clairvoyant has trained himself to experience quite a definite feeling, with a certain definite nuance, when he sees the colour red. This is necessary; otherwise the process would not go any further. Unless we experience quite definite nuances of feeling, when we see colours, or hear sounds, we cannot progress in a clairvoyance that is directed at exterior objects. Now, let us suppose that the clairvoyant gives away the rose. If he were not clairvoyant, his perception would sink down into his sub-consciousness and would carry on its work, there—making him ill or healthy, as the case might be. If on the other hand, he is clairvoyant, he will now perceive just how his Imagination of the rose works upon his sub-consciousness. That is, he will have a visionary picture—an Imagination of the rose. At the same time, he will perceive how the feelings which the rose called forth in him have either a furthering or a destructive effect upon his etheric body—as well as upon what we have here described as the physical body. He will perceive in everything, the effect upon his own organism. And if he has now formed an Imigination of the rose, he will be able through this to exercise a force of attraction upon that Being which we may call the Group-Soul of the rose, and which is always at work in the rose. Thus, he will be able to look into the elementary world, to see the Group-Soul of the rose, in so far as it lives in that world. Now, on the other hand, if the clairvoyant goes still further—that is, if he has started by looking at the rose; has then given it away; and, finally, has pursued the inner process of his surrender to the rose, and of the effect resulting therefrom; and if he thus reaches the point of seeing something of the rose in the elementary world, he will then see, in the place where the rose appeared to him, a wonderfully luminous sort of picture, belonging to the elementary world. And then, if he has followed the process as far as this point, something new will take place. He may now ignore what is there, before him, and may command himself not to look with the inner eye at what appears before him as a living etheric Being, extending out into the world—he must not see this! An extraordinary thing then takes place: namely, the clairvoyant sees something which goes through his eye and which shows him the activity of the forces that construct his eye—those forces, that is, which build up the human eye out of the etheric body. He sees which are the constructive forces of his own physical body. He actually sees his physical eye as if it were an exterior object.

This is actually what may take place. He may follow the path leading from an exterior object to that point—otherwise a space containing absolute darkness—where, without allowing any other sense-perception to enter, he now perceives what his own eye looks like, in a spiritual picture. Thus he can see the interior organ itself; and he has now reached this region, here)—the region of what is truly creative in the physical world, or the creative physical world. Man perceives it first, by perceiving his own physical organisation. Thus he retraces the path and returns to himself. What is it that has sent into our eye forces which, in reality, cause us to see this eye, as if rays of light went out from it, corresponding completely with the nature of vision? As a next step, we then see the eye surrounded by a sort of yellow luminosity, we see it enclosed within ourselves. All this has been effected by the process of those forces which have brought man up to this stage.

The same course is followed by those forces which may proceed from a dead person. The dead man takes with him, into the world in which he lives after passing through the portal of death, the content of his sub-consciousness. As soon as we reach the interior of our own physical eye, we experience there the forces sent out by the dead, and coming from the elementary world back into the physical world. The one who has died may perhaps experience a special longing for someone he has left behind. This special longing was contained, at first, in his sub-consciousness; but it now immediately becomes a living vision; and through this he influences the elementary world. In the elementary world, what at first was only living vision becomes, now at once, a force. This force takes the path indicated by the longing for the one living on earth; and if it is in any way possible, there will be knocking and other noises in the physical world, in the neighbourhood of the living. One may hear these sounds of rapping, etc., or perceive them, just as one perceives any other physical thing. These very things, which are due to connections and circumstances of this sort, would be noticed far more often in the world than is generally the case, if people would only pay attention to the times most favourable for such influences. And the most favourable times are the moments of falling asleep, and of waking in the morning. People simply do not pay sufficient attention to such things—for, indeed, there cannot really be any human beings, anywhere, who have not, at some time or other, received messages from the super-sensible world, in the transition state between falling asleep and awaking again—messages that come in the form of rapping noises, or even of spoken words.

I wished to allude to this today, my dear friends, because I wished to point out the true reality of the connection between Man and the Universe. What man obtains from the objective sense-world, in his ordinary consciousness, is powerless, and devoid of any real connection with this sense-world. But, as soon as his experiences pass into his sub-consciousness a connection with Reality is established. The impotence of his preceding state of consciousness is transformed into a fine, imperceptible, magic force. And when man has passed through the portal of death, and is unhampered by his physical body, his experiences are such as to play into an elementary world; and, under favourable circumstances they may work down as far as the physical world—where they may be perceived even by the ordinary consciousness.

I have indicated the simplest sort of thing which can take place; because, after all, we must always begin with the simplest things. Naturally, in the course of time—for we have always allowed ourselves time to work out gradually whatever we need to know—we shall pass on to the more complicated things, which may lead us, in turn, into the more intimate connections, so to speak, existing between the Universe and Man.