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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmosophy I
GA 207

Lecture III

30 September 1921, Dornach

Today we will go somewhat further into what we considered here last Friday and Saturday, and I would like to draw your attention particularly to the life of the soul and what we discover when this soul life is viewed from the viewpoint of Imaginative cognition. You are familiar with Imaginative cognition from my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. You know that we distinguish four stages of cognition, ascending from our ordinary consciousness, the stage of cognition that is adapted to our daily normal life, to ordinary modern science, and that constitutes the actual consciousness of the time. This stage of consciousness is called “objective cognition” in the sense of what is described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. Then one comes into the realm of the super-sensible through the stages of Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. With ordinary objective cognition it is impossible to observe the soul element. What pertains to the soul must be experienced, and in experiencing it one develops objective cognition. Real cognition can be gained, however, only when one can place the thing to be known objectively before one. It is impossible to do this with the soul life in ordinary consciousness; to understand the life of the soul, one must draw back a stage, as it were,so that the life of the soul comes to stand outside one; then it can be observed. This is precisely what is brought about through Imaginative cognition, and today I would like simply to describe for you what is then brought into view.

You know that if we survey the human being, confining ourselves to what exists in the human being today, we distinguish the physical body, the etheric body or body of formative forces, which is really a sum of activities, the astral body, and the I or ego. If we now bring the soul experience not into cognition but into consciousness, we distinguish in its fluctuating life thinking, feeling, and willing. It is true that thinking, feeling, and willing play into one another in the ordinary life of the soul; you can picture no train of thought without picturing the role played in this train of thought by the will. How we combine one thought with another, how we separate a thought from another, is most definitely an act of will striving into the life of thought .Though the process may at first remain shrouded, as I have often explained, we nevertheless know that when we as human beings use our will, our thoughts play into our will as impulses. In the ordinary soul life, therefore, our will is not isolated in itself but is permeated by thought. Even more do thoughts, will impulses, and the actual feelings flow into feeling. Thus we have throughout the soul life a flowing together, yet by reason of things we cannot go into today we must distinguish, within this flowing life of soul,thinking, feeling, and willing. If you refer to my Philosophy of Freedom, you will see how one is obliged to loosen thinking purely from feeling and willing, because one comes to a vis ion of human freedom only by means of such a loosened thinking.

Inasmuch as we livingly grasp thinking, feeling, and willing we grasp at the same time the flowing, weaving life of soul. Then, when we compare what we grasp there in immediate vitality with what an anthroposophical spiritual science teaches us of the connection among the individual members of the human being—physical body, etheric body, astral body, and I—what presents itself to Imaginative cognition is the following.

We know that during waking life the physical, etheric,astral bodies, and the I are in a certain intimate connection. We know further that in the sleeping state we have a separation of the physical and etheric bodies on the one hand from the astral body and I on the other. Although it is only approximately correct to say that the I and astral body separate from the physical body and etheric body, one arrives there by at a valid mental image. The I with the astral body is outside the physical and etheric bodies from the time we fall asleep to the moment of awakening.

As soon as the human being advances to Imaginative cognition he becomes more and more able to apprehend exactly in inner vision, with the eye of the soul, what is experienced as transitory, in status nascendi. The transitory is there, and one must seize it quickly, but it can be seized. One has something before one that can be observed most clearly at the moments of awaking and falling asleep. These moments of falling asleep and awaking can be observed by Imaginative cognition. Among the preparations necessary to attain higher levels of cognition you will remember that mention was made in the books already referred to of the cultivation of a certain presence of mind [Geistesgegenwart]. One hears so little said in ordinary life of the observations that may be made of the spiritual world, because people lack this presence of mind. Were this presence of mind actively cultivated among human beings, all people would be able to talk of spiritual, super-sensible impressions, for such impressions actually crowd in upon us to the greatest extent as we fall asleep or awake, particularly as we awake. It is only because this presence of mind is cultivated so little that people do not notice these impressions. At the moment of awaking a whole world appears before the soul. As quickly as it arises, however, it fades again, and before people think to grasp it, it is gone. Hence they can speak little of this whole world that appears before the soul and that is indeed of particular significance in comprehending the inner being of man.

When one is actually able to grasp the moment of awaking with this presence of mind, what confronts the soul is a whole world of flowing thoughts. There need be nothing of fantasy; one can observe this world with the same calm and self-possession with which one observes in a chemical laboratory. Nevertheless, this flowing thought world is there and is quite distinct from mere dreams. The mere dream is filled with reminiscences of life, whereas what takes place at the moment of awaking is not concerned with reminiscences. These flowing thoughts are clearly to be distinguished from reminiscences. One can translate them into the language of ordinary consciousness, but fundamentally they are foreign thoughts, thoughts we cannot experience if we do not grasp them in the moment made possible for us by spiritual scientific training, or even in the moment of awaking.

What is it that we actually grasp at such a moment? We have penetrated into the etheric body and physical body with our I and astral body. What is experienced in the etheric body is experienced, however, as dreamlike. One learns, in observing this subtly in presence of mind, to distinguish clearly between this passing through the etheric body, when life reminiscences appear dreamlike, and the state—before fully awaking, before the impressions that the senses have after awaking—of being placed in a world that is thoroughly a world of weaving thoughts. These thoughts are not experienced, however, as dream thoughts, such as one knows are in oneself subjectively. The thoughts that I mean now confront the penetrating I and astral body of man entirely objectively; one realizes distinctly that one must pass right through the etheric body, for as long as one is passing through the etheric body, everything remains dreamlike. One must also pass through the abyss, the intermediate space—to express myself figuratively and perhaps therefore more clearly—the space between etheric body and physical body. Then one slips fully into the etheric-physical on awaking and receives the outer physical impressions of the senses. As soon as one has slipped into the physical body, the outer physical sense impressions are simply there. What we experience as a thought-weaving of an objective nature takes place completely between the etheric body and the physical body. We must therefore see in it an interplay of the etheric and physical bodies. If we present this pictorially (see drawing), we can say that if this represents the physical body (orange) and this the etheric body (green), we have the living weaving of physical body and etheric body in the thoughts that we grasp there. Through this observation one comes to know that whether we are asleep or awake processes are always taking place between our physical body and etheric body, processes that actually consist of the weaving thought-existence between our physical and etheric bodies (yellow). We have now grasped objectively the first element of the life of the soul; we see in it a weaving between the etheric body and the physical body.

This weaving life of thought does not actually come into our consciousness as it is in the waking state. It must be grasped in the way I have described. When we awake we slip with our I and astral body into our physical body. I and astral body within our physical body, permeated by the etheric body, take part in the life of sense perception. By having within you the life of sense perception, you become permeated with the thoughts of the outer world, which can form in you from the sense perceptions and have then the strength to drown this objective thought-weaving. In the place where otherwise the objective thoughts are weaving, we form out of the substance of this thought-weaving, as it were, our everyday thoughts, which we develop in our association with the sense world. I can say that into this objective weaving of thought there plays the subjective thought-weaving (bright) that drowns the other and that also takes place between the etheric body and the physical body. In fact, when we weave thoughts with the soul itself we live in what I have called the space between the etheric and physical bodies—as I said, this expression is figurative, but to make this understandable I must designate it as the space between the etheric and physical bodies. We drown the objective thoughts, which are always present in the sleeping and waking states, with our subjective weaving of thought. Both, however, are present in the same region, as it were, of our human nature: the objective weaving of thought and the subjective thought-weaving.

What is the significance of the objective thought-weaving? When the objective thought-weaving is perceived, when the moment of awaking is actually grasped with the presence of mind I have described, it is grasped not merely as being of the nature of thought but as what lives in us as forces of growth, as forces of life in general. These life forces are united with the thought-weaving; they permeate the etheric or life body inwardly and shape the physical body outwardly. What we perceive as objective weaving of thought when we can seize the moment of awaking with presence of mind, we perceive as thought-weaving on the one hand and as activity of growth and nutrition on the other. What is within us in this way we perceive as an inner weaving, but one that is fully living. Thinking loses its picture-nature and abstractness, it loses all that had been sharp contours. It becomes a fluctuating thinking but is clearly recognizable as thinking nevertheless. Cosmic thinking weaves in us, and we experience how this cosmic thinking weaves in us and how we plunge into this cosmic thinking with our subjective thinking. We have thus grasped the soul element in a certain realm.

When we now go further in grasping the waking moment in presence of mind we find the following. When we are able to experience the dreamlike element in passing through the etheric body with the I and astral body, we can bring to mind pictorially the dreamlike element in us. These dream pictures must cease the moment we awake, however, for otherwise we would take the dream into the ordinary, conscious waking life and be daydreamers, thus losing our self-possession. Dreams as such must cease. The usual experience of the dream is an experience of reminiscing, is actually a later memory of the dream; the ordinary experiencing of the dream is actually first grasped as a reminiscence after the dream departs. It may be grasped while it exists, however, while it actually is, if one carries the presence of mind right back to the experience of the dream. If it is thus grasped directly, during the actual penetration of the etheric body, then the dream is revealed as something mobile, something that one experiences as substantial, within which one feels oneself. The picture-nature ceases to be merely pictorial; one has the experience that one is within the picture. Through this feeling that one is within the picture, one is in movement with the soul element; as in waking life one's body is in movement through various movements of the legs and hand, so actually does the dream become active. It is thus experienced in the same way as one experiences the movement of an arm, leg, or head; when one experiences the grasping of the dream as something substantial, then in the further progress toward awakening yet another experience is added. One feels that the activity experienced in the dream, when one stands as if within something real, dives down into our bodily nature. Just as in thinking we feel that we penetrate to the boundary of our physical body, where the sense organs are, and perceive the sense impressions with the thinking, so we now feel that we plunge into ourselves with what we experience in the dream as inner activity. What is experienced at the moment of awaking, or rather just before the moment of awaking, when one is within the dream, still completely outside the physical body but already within the etheric body, or passing through it—is submerged into our organization. And if one is so advanced that one has this submerging as an experience, then one knows, too, what becomes of what has been submerged—it radiates back into our waking consciousness, and it radiates back as a feeling, as feeling. The feelings are dreams that have been submerged into our organization.

When we perceive what is weaving in the outer world in this dreamlike state, it is in the form of dreams. When dreams dive down into our organization and become conscious from within outward, we experience them as feelings. We thus experience feeling through the fact that what is in our astral body dives down into our etheric body and then further into our physical organization, not as far as the senses and therefore not to the periphery, but only into the inner organization. Then, when one has grasped this, has beheld it first through Imaginative cognition, particularly clearly at the moment of awaking, one also receives the inner strength to behold it continuously. We do indeed dream continuously throughout waking life. It is only that we overpower the dream with the light of our thinking consciousness, our conceptual life [Vorstellungsleben]. One who can gaze beneath the surface of the conceptual life—and one trains oneself for this by grasping the moment of the dream itself with presence of mind—whoever has so trained himself that on awaking he can grasp what I have described, can then also, beneath the surface of the light-filled conceptual life, experience the dreaming that continues throughout the day. This is not experienced as dreams, however, for it immediately dives down into our organization and rays back as the world of feeling. What feeling is takes place between the astral body (bright in last drawing) and the etheric body. This naturally expresses itself in the physical body. The actual source of feeling, however, lies between the astral body and the etheric body (red). Just as for the thought life the physical and etheric bodies must cooperate in a living interplay, so must etheric body and astral body be in living interplay for the life of feeling. When we are awake we experience this living interplay of our mingled etheric and astral bodies as our feeling. When we are asleep we experience what takes place in the astral body, now living outside the etheric body, as the pictures of the dream. These dream pictures now are present throughout the period of sleep but are not perceptible to the ordinary consciousness; they are remembered in those fragments that form the ordinary life of dream.

You see from this that if we wish to grasp the life of the soul we must look between the members of the human organization. We think of the life of the soul as flowing thinking, feeling, and willing. We grasp it objectively, however, by looking into the spaces between these four members, between the physical body and the etheric body and between the etheric body and the astral body.

I have often explained here from other viewpoints how what is expressed in willing is withdrawn entirely from ordinary waking consciousness. This ordinary consciousness is aware of the mental images by which we direct our willing. It is also aware of the feelings that we develop in reference to the mental images as motives for our willing and of how what lies clear in our consciousness as the conceptual content of our willing plays downward when I move an arm in obedience to my will. What actually goes on to produce the movement does not come into ordinary consciousness. As soon as the spiritual investigator makes use of Imagination and discovers the nature of thinking and feeling he can also come to a consciousness of man's experiences between falling asleep and awaking. By the exercises leading to Imagination, the I and astral body are strengthened; they become stronger in themselves and learn to experience themselves. In ordinary consciousness one does not have the true I. What do we have as the I in our ordinary consciousness? This must be explained by a comparison I have made repeatedly. You see, when one looks back upon life in the memory, it appears as a continuous stream, but it is definitely not that. We look back over the day to the moment of awaking, then we have an empty space, then the memory of the events of the previous day links itself on, and so forth. What we observe in this reminiscence bears in itself also those states that we have not lived through consciously, that are therefore not within the present content of our consciousness. They are there, however, in another form. The reminiscing of a person who never slept at all—if I may cite such a hypothetical case—would be completely destroyed. The reminiscence would in a way blind him. All that he would bring to his consciousness in reminiscence would seem quite foreign to him, dazzling and blinding him. He would be overpowered by it and would have to eliminate himself entirely. He would not be able to feel himself within himself at all. Only because of the intervals of sleep is reminiscence dimmed so that we are able to endure it. Then it becomes possible to assert our own self in our remembering. We owe it solely to the intervals of sleep that we have our self-assertion in memory. What I am now saying could well be, confirmed through a comparative observation of the course of different human lives.

In the same way that we feel the inner activity in reminiscence, we actually feel our I from our entire organism. We feel it in the way we perceive the sleeping conditions as the darkest spaces in the progress of memory. We do not perceive the I directly in ordinary consciousness; we perceive it only as we perceive the sleeping condition. When we attain Imaginative cognition, however, this I really appears, and it is of the nature of will. We notice that what creates a feeling inclining us to feel sympathy or antipathy with the world, or whatever activates willing in us, then comes about in a process similar to that taking place between being awake and falling asleep. This again can be observed with presence of mind if one develops the same capacities for observation of the process of going to sleep as those I have described for awaking. Then one notices that on going to sleep one carries into the sleeping condition what streams as activity out of our feeling life, streaming into the outer world. One then learns to recognize how every time one actually brings one's will into action one dives into a state similar to the sleeping state. One dives into an inner sleep. What takes place once when one falls asleep, when the I and astral body draw themselves out of the physical body and the etheric body, goes on inwardly every time we use our will.

You must be clear, of course, that what I am now describing is far more difficult to grasp than what I described before, for the moment of going to sleep is generally still harder to grasp with presence of mind than that of awaking. After awaking we are awake and have at least the support of reminiscing. If we wish to observe the moment of falling asleep we must continue the waking state right into sleep. A person generally goes straight to sleep, however; he does not bring the activity of feeling into the sleeping state. If he can continue it, however—and this is actually possible through training—then in Imaginative cognition one notices that in willing there is in fact a diving into the same element into which we dive when we fall asleep. In willing we actually become free of our organization; we unite ourselves with real objectivity. In waking we enter our etheric and physical bodies and pass right up to the region of the senses, thus coming to the periphery of the body, taking possession of it, saturating it entirely. Similarly, in feeling we send our dreams back into the body, inasmuch as we immerse ourselves inwardly; the dreams, in fact, become feelings. If now we do not remain in the body but instead, without going to the periphery of the body, leave the body inwardly, spiritually, then we come to willing. Willing, therefore, is actually accomplished independently of the body. I know that much is implied in saying this, but I must present it, because it is a reality. In grasping it we come to see that—if we have the I here (see last drawing, blue)—willing takes place between the astral body and the I (lilac).

We can therefore say that we divide the human being into physical body, etheric body or body of formative forces, astral body, and I. Between the physical body and the etheric body thinking takes place in the soul element. Between the etheric body and the astral body feeling takes place in the soul element, and between the astral body and the I, willing takes place in the soul element. When we come to the periphery of the physical body we have sense perception. Inasmuch as by way of our I we emerge out of ourselves, placing our whole organization into the outer world, willing becomes action, the other pole of sense perception (see last drawing).

In this way one comes to an objective grasp of what is experienced subjectively in flowing thinking, feeling, and willing. Experience metamorphoses into cognition. Any psychology that tries to grasp the flowing thinking, feeling, and willing in another way remains formal, because it does not penetrate to reality. Only Imaginative cognition can penetrate to reality in the experience of the soul.

Let us now turn our gaze to a phenomenon that has accompanied us, as it were, in our whole study. We said that through observation with presence of mind at the moment of awaking, when one has slipped through the etheric body, one can see a weaving of thoughts that is objective. One at first perceives this objective thought-weaving. I said that it can be distinguished clearly from dreams and also from the everyday life of thought, from the subjective life of thought, for it is connected with growth, with becoming. It is actually a real organization. If one grasps what is weaving there, however, what, if one penetrates it, one perceives as thought-weaving; if one inwardly feels it, touches it, I would like to say, then one is aware of it as force of growth, as force of nutrition, as the human being in the process of becoming. It seems at first something foreign, but it is a world of thought. If one can study it more accurately it is seen to be the inner weaving of thoughts in ourselves. We grasp it at the periphery of our physical body; before we arrive at sense perception we grasp it. When we learn to understand it more exactly, when we have accustomed ourselves to its foreignness compared with our subjective thinking, then we recognize it. We recognize it as what we have brought with us through our birth from earlier experiences, from experiences lying before birth or conception. For us it becomes something of the spiritual, objectively present, that brings our whole organism together. Pre-existent thought gains objectivity, becomes objectively visible. We can say with an inner grasp that we are woven out of the world of spirit through thought. The subjective thoughts that we add stand in the sphere of our freedom. Those thoughts that we behold there form us, they build up our body from the weaving of thought. They are our past karma (see next diagram). Before we arrive at sense perceptions, therefore, we perceive our past karma.

When we go to sleep, one who lives in objective cognition sees something in this process of falling asleep that is akin to willing. When willing is brought to complete consciousness one notices quite clearly that one sleeps in one's own organism. Just as dreams sink down, so do the motives of the will pass into our organization. One sleeps into the organism. One learns to distinguish this sleeping into the organism, which first comes to life in our ordinary actions. These indeed are accomplished outwardly; we accomplish them between awaking and going to sleep, but not everything that lives within our life of feeling lives into these actions. We go through life also between falling asleep and awaking. What we would otherwise press into the actions, we press out of ourselves through the same process in going to sleep. We press a whole sum of will impulses out into the purely spiritual world in which we find ourselves between going to sleep and awaking. If through Imaginative cognition we learn to observe the will impulses that pass over into our spiritual being, which we shelter only between falling asleep and awaking, we perceive in them the tendency to action that exists beyond death, that passes over with us beyond death.

Willing is developed between the astral body and the I. Willing becomes deed when it goes far enough toward the outer world to come to the place to which otherwise the sense impressions come. In going to sleep, however, a large quantity goes out that would like to become deed but in fact does not become deed, remaining bound to the I and passing with it through death into the spiritual world.

You see, we experience, here on the other side (see diagram below) our future karma. Our future karma is experienced between willing and the deed. In Imaginative consciousness both are united, past and future karma, what weaves and lives within us, weaving on beneath the threshold above which lie the free deeds we can accomplish between birth and death. Between birth and death we live in freedom. Below this region of free willing, however, which actually has an existence only between birth and death, there weaves and lives karma. We perceive its effects out of the past if we can maintain our consciousness in our I and astral body in penetrating through the etheric body as far as to the physical body. On the other hand, we perceive our future karma if we can maintain ourselves in the region that lies between willing and the deed, if we can develop so much self-discipline through exercises that inwardly we can be as active in a feeling as, with the help of the body, we can be in a deed, if we can be active in spirit in feeling, if we therefore hold fast to the deed in the I.

Picture this vividly; one can be as enthusiastic, as inwardly enamored by something that springs from feeling as that which otherwise passes over into action; but one must withhold it: then it lights up in Imagination as future karma.

What I have described to you here is of course always present in the human being. Every morning on awaking man passes the region of his past karma; every evening on falling asleep he passes that of his future karma. Through a certain attentive awareness and without special training, the human being can grasp with presence of mind the past objectively, without, it is true, recognizing it as plainly as I have now described it. He can perceive it, however; it is there. There, too, is all that he bears within him as moral impulses of good and evil. Through this the human being actually learns to know himself better than when he becomes aware in the moment of awaking of the weaving of thought that forms him.

More difficult to grasp, however, is the perception of what lies between willing and the deed, of what one can withhold. There one learns to know oneself insofar as one has made oneself during his life. One learns to know the inner formation that one carries through death as future karma.

I wished to show you today how these things can be spoken about out of a living comprehension, how anthroposophy is not in the least exhausted in its images. Things can be described in a living way, and tomorrow I will go further in this study, going on to a still deeper grasp of the human being on the basis of what we have studied today.