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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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From Mammoths to Mediums
GA 350

X. Developing inner honesty

7 July 1923, Dornach

Gentlemen, in the last talk I gave you I said that human beings cannot gain insight today, for the thinking we use is not really suitable for this. In earlier times, even just 1,500 years ago, let us say, someone who wanted to learn something first had to develop his thinking. They did not believe that one could in any way grasp the world of the spirit with one's ordinary thinking, and they had a way of training one's thinking. Today all the education we have does not encourage people to develop their thinking at all. Because of this they also are not really able to think in any real way.

Let me explain this by giving you an example, something you'll have been reading about in the papers these days.39The report was published in the Basler Nachrichten of 5 July 1923. It referred to the essay on 'Traumpsychologie' by Richard Traugott published in the bimonthly journal Natur (Heft 11/12 v. l./15./März, H. 14 v. 15. April u. H. 17 v. 1. Juni 1923).

A frequently recurrent dream is the dream of flying. We dream that we are flying, floating or falling, and this often happens immediately after going to bed.

Well now, you all know this thing about flying in your dreams. A man who is used to thinking only in the modern scientific way now wants to explain this. You'll see in a minute that this kind of thinking does not get one anywhere when one is dealing with things like these.

This dream, Dr Richard Traugott writes in Natur, is caused by a sudden start we give, something that really happens.

So what does this man think? He thinks that the body gives a start when we are on the point of going to sleep. Now I ask you, gentlemen, you've no doubt given a start sometimes, even when awake? When do you do this? I think you give a start when you have a shock, when you experience something that gives you a fright and perhaps causes fear, coming as a sudden surprise at that moment. Then you give a start. You may also give a start, for instance, if you walk around out there, let us say, and suddenly see someone who you thought was in America; seeing him startles you, because you are taken by surprise. But you'll never imagine, as you begin to give a start, that you think you're flying. Never in your dreams, I'm sure, would you think you are flying when you give a start. So you see the confused notions people have when they deduce that one might have the idea one is flying when the body gives a start. You can see from this that people give some thought to things, but the moment they want to use those thoughts to explain something in the human being, they do not work. Such thoughts will work for as long as one experiments with lifeless matter in a laboratory, but the moment you are intending to explain something, it no longer works.

Now it goes on.

The reason for such a start lies in the fact that muscle tensions are different when waking and asleep. When we are awake, energy currents are continually going to the muscles in the body from the central nervous system,

(he assumes, therefore, that electrical currents, energy currents, are passing from our nerves to our muscles all the time we are awake)

which gives our muscles the tension needed to keep the body in balance and keep the musculature functioning in a regular way; in sleep, this muscle tension has largely gone and since the reflex excitability of the spinal marrow is enhanced during the first sleep period,

(meaning as soon as one's gone to sleep)

the process of muscle relaxation, or the stimulus this means for the spinal marrow, will easily trigger that startle reflex,

(he is saying, therefore, that a stimulus is applied to the nervous system in the spinal marrow; this, he says goes further and tenses the muscles more than before)

meaning the start given by the body. Other sensations one actually has of organs may have an even more direct effect in creating the sensation of flying, floating in the air, swimming—especially the rhythmical movements of the respiratory muscles and of the chest as it goes up and down,

Now just think. When you start to huff and puff and your chest tightens—did you ever have a feeling that you were flying? You would feel even heavier in that case—

and above all also loss of the sensations of pressure and resistance from anything we rest on, which we have in any part of the body that rests on anything whilst we are awake.

Well, gentlemen, you see, if one is walking, when awake, the physical base one rests on is very small; you have the feeling that you are walking on the soles of your feet. And when you are sitting down whilst you're awake you have a slightly larger base to rest on than just the soles of your feet. Yet even if you add this to the size of the area on which the soles of your feet are resting, it is still very small compared to the area you rest on when you are sleeping. The gentleman is saying the pressure of lying on something has gone. But the area you lie on and the pressure is greater when you have gone to bed than when you walk or sit in your waking hours! You can see, therefore, that with this kind of thinking one gets to say things that are simply nonsense. And that is the knowledge one gets of the human being with modern science!

He says, therefore, that electric currents go into the nerves. They are stronger when we are asleep, the muscles twitch and you get the notion of flying, that is, you think you are flying, or the area you lie on is not there when you sleep! One simply cannot believe the things that are said.

Also loss of the sensations of pressure and resistance from anything we rest on, which we have in any part of the body that rests on anything whilst we are awake. One cannot think why the man does not consider the objection that we lie on a much larger supporting area when we sleep. But he does not do this, for modern thinking either makes people talk nonsense or does not provide any explanations whatsoever.

Now let us look at some of this—for then you'll see, gentlemen, how insight is gained into a higher, spiritual world—seeing what really happens when someone goes to sleep.

Let me first of all draw you some pictures. You know that it is just something to show you. But let us assume this is someone's physical body [Fig. 19, left]. In this human physical body we have an extra body, the ether body, which is not perceptible to the senses; I'll make it yellow. This is inside, it fills the other one. And this one is invisible.

physical and ether bodies
Figure 19

These two bodies, the physical body and the ether body, remain in the bed when we sleep. Now that we are awake, the astral body is inside these two bodies—I'll show this by going over it in red—and then there is also the I in there, the fourth body. I'll make it less distinct [violet]. That is the human being when he is awake—physical body, ether body, astral body and I; these are one inside the other.

Let us now look at a sleeping person. He only has the physical body and ether body lying in bed [Fig. 19, middle]. This, here, lies in the bed. Outside the bed are the astral body—it has gone outside—and the I, the I-body [Fig. 19, right]. The part which remains in bed is like a plant, for a plant also has a physical body and an ether body. If the plant did not have an ether body it would be a stone. It would not be alive then, would not grow. So the part that remains in bed is like a plant. The plant does not think. The part that lies in the bed—you know this very well—also does not think in such a way that the thinking comes to conscious awareness. The thoughts are in there, as I explained to you the other day, and are even brighter than the thoughts we use when we are conscious; but there are no conscious thoughts. It is just as it is with a plant.

But when he is outside, the human being is in a state where he feels that he no longer has any boundaries. You can even see why it is that consciousness ceases when we go out of the body like that. For if you are in your body, you must make your astral body the size of your physical body. When you go outside, the astral body suddenly begins to grow to giant size, to go out in all directions, for the physical body no longer draws it to itself, no longer makes it small. The moment you go to sleep, therefore, you move out of your physical body; you then grow bigger and bigger.

Now just imagine you are having a glass of something—lest people start saying I am speaking in favour of alcohol; you know this is an unpleasant subject just now in Switzerland—so I'll say you are drinking a glass of water with a bit of raspberry juice in it. If you put a little bit of raspberry juice in a glass of water you get the taste of the raspberry juice. But imagine you are taking not this glass but a large container large enough to hold five bottles of water and you only put as much raspberry juice in it as you put into your glass before. You stir well, and the raspberry juice then has to spread through a lot more water; so the taste of raspberry juice is less. Now you see, as a young boy I grew up near a wine merchants where they had a barrel with a capacity for 400 buckets of wine in the cellars. If one had filled that with water—a barrel holding 400 buckets filled with water rather than wine—and added those few drops of raspberry juice, stirring the whole, you could have drunk the water and would not have tasted the raspberry juice at all. That is clear. Now, gentlemen, for as long as your astral body is as small as your physical body, it is like the raspberry juice in a glass of water. Your astral body then only goes as far as your physical body does. When you go outside in your sleep, the physical body no longer holds it together. The astral body then spreads, just as the raspberry juice spreads in the 400 buckets of water. And you then no longer have conscious awareness in this astral body, for conscious awareness develops when the astral body contracts.

Now you'll also get a proper explanation for what is supposed to happen when we go to sleep. While we are awake, the astral body is in our fingers, in our toes; the astral body is everywhere in our muscles. Now when we feel the astral body in our muscles, we have the feeling we are dependent on our physical body. The physical body is heavy. We feel the weight of the physical body. The moment we go outside, we leave the physical body and its weight behind. At this moment, before conscious awareness has gone in our sleep, we no longer feel heavy. We do not feel as if we are falling, for we are rising up; but we do feel that we are floating upwards. This increase in size, being no longer bound to the physical body—this is what we experience as flying or swimming. We are able to move freely until consciousness goes and we are completely asleep.

So what does a modern scientist say? He says: 'We give a start in our muscles.' Well, if we give a start in our muscles we feel them more than we usually do. We do not imagine we're flying in that case, but when we give a start we feel more bound to the physical body than ever. Just think—someone standing there who is amazed will open his mouth wide. Why does he open his mouth wide? Because he is so much in his muscles that he cannot control himself. So this startled reaction, this living in one's muscles, is the opposite of what we have when we go to sleep. When we go to sleep we actually go out of our muscles. So it is not a question of muscles contracting but of muscles relaxing. When we lie down, so that our body is supported by a larger area, we do not need to hold our muscles together with our astral body; they relax. And it is not because they tense up but because they relax, seeing that we no longer have to exert an influence on them, that we feel ourselves to be free of our muscles, and we float away with our lighter astral body.

Now remember how I told you the last time that we need to learn to think the other way round. Here you see it. Someone who thinks the way people are generally in the habit of thinking today will arrive at the opposite of the truth when he wants to explain something in the human being. So we must first of all get used to thinking the right way, so that we are also able to think the opposite of what exists in the physical world. People have got out of the habit of thinking in the right way, thinking in such a way that one's thinking takes one into the realm of the spirit.

Now there are really very many people today who may speak our language, and our language also has the word 'spirit' in it, but people cannot get any real meaning of this word. They can only think of things that are physical. And, as you have seen, if one wants to think of things in the spirit, one has to come to something that has no physical properties at all, something one does not see in the physical world. People's thinking has gone so far awry today that they want to see things of the spirit as something physical. They then become spiritualists. You see, the physical body can move a table. People say: 'If I can move a table I exist. If a spirit is supposed to exist, it must also be able to move a table.' Well, so they then start table tipping, and they take the table tipping as proof for the spiritual world. This is because their thinking is crooked, bent. Their thinking is materialistic, wanting the spirit, too, to be physical. Spiritualism is the most materialistic thing there is. You just have to see it first.

Now maybe one or the other of you will say: 'But I have been there when people sat down around a table, linking their hands in a chain, and tables moved, jumped, and all kinds of things.' Superficially that is right. You can sit around a table, make a chain around it, and the business may on occasion set the table in motion. But you see, that is just as it is when I make some other small movement and cause a big movement. Just imagine you have a railway train. The train has an engine in front, with an engine driver on it. Now the engine driver does not get down from the machine and go to the back of it and push. I doubt if he'd manage to get a fast train really moving that way. You know, the engine driver makes just a very small movement, and the train goes very fast, with the machine pulling many carriages. Why? Well, because the gears function the way they should. In that way a small movement results in a big one and does so by physical means.

In the same way it is a purely physical process when people link hands around a table and then begin to twitch just the tiniest bit and so on. And lo and behold, those tiny twitches are converted into big movements through matter, for this is most cleverly put together. So to begin with it is a perfectly ordinary physical process.

Now if there is someone in the group who has particular ideas in his subconscious mind, these thoughts pass through his twitching fingers. And you will then also get answers in this way, answers that can be read off, using the alphabet. But the answers you get are always in the subconscious mind of someone who is there, ingenious though they may be. I did explain to you that when human beings go down even just a little into the subconscious, they are more ingenious than they are in their conscious minds. This also shows itself in table tipping. The fact that people have become spiritualists thus actually proves that materialism is powerful in our age.

Our ordinary thinking cannot provide explanations of any kind when it comes to the human being. So you see we have a situation where someone tries to explain a dream, the dream of flying, in this newspaper article I quoted today. He explains it exactly the opposite way from the way it should be explained. But people really are no longer able to study such things, things that are extremely interesting. I have told you things about dreams on several occasions before; today I'll concentrate once again on some of the major facts.

Just think of someone dreaming, gentlemen. In his dream he is crossing some square in Basel. But suddenly—such a thing is possible in dreams—he finds a fence in his way, with a picket here, a picket there, then a picket missing; he's got a picket here, another one there, then one's missing again [drawing on the board]. He then dreams that he wants to jump over the fence and gets impaled on a picket. It hurts. Now he wakes up. And he realizes: 'Wow, you did not get impaled on that picket at all, but you have a terrible toothache!' He has the toothache and wakes up with an aching tooth. He has a gap up there in his teeth, and another one up here. So that is what he saw as a fence with missing pickets. It is just like his upper teeth with the gaps where teeth are missing. He then touches the one tooth and that is exactly the one that is hurting. It has got a hole in it and it hurts. That is a dream one can certainly have.

But what actually happened there? Now you see, the whole process actually took place in his waking life. You can say to yourself: 'I was happy when I was asleep, for then I didn't have this dreadful toothache.' But why did you not have the toothache when asleep? Because you were out there with your astral body. The physical body and the ether body do not feel the toothache. You can hammer a stone as much as you like, knocking a piece off it; the stone in itself will not feel it. You can also tear a plant apart; it will not feel it because it does not yet have an astral body, only an ether body. I'm sure some people would stop pulling off roses and picking flowers in the meadows if the plants were always hissing like snakes because it hurts. But the plant does not hurt. And human beings are like plants in their sleep. While they are asleep the tooth does not hurt. Slipping in with one's astral body, however, one will come to the teeth with one's astral body. You see, you have to be completely inside the body before you'll feel any hurt there is in the body. When you're not yet quite inside, something that hurts will seem to be an outside object.

Imagine, gentlemen, I am striking a match here; I watch it burn. If I had been inside it, I would not only have seen it through my astral body but also felt it as pain. When I am not yet wholly in my body but just in the process of slipping in, the row of teeth is like an outside body. I feel it to be an outside body and create an image which is similar to it. Just as I create images of objects in the outside world, so I create an image of my teeth when I am still half outside. And since I am not yet able to create the right image—this is something I can only do if I have the science of the spirit—I create an image of a fence rather than a row of teeth. And there are pickets missing from the fence just as I have gaps in the row of teeth. You see, the confusion due to my not being completely in my body makes an error arise. You take the inner for the outer, simply because you are outside when you are asleep. Then the inner is something outer.

You see, I have actually seen this happening with young children. When you teach them, they do not yet have a feeling for speaking quite correctly. And I have really known an occasion when a boy who had just started to write put 'Zaun, Zäune' for 'Zahn' [Zaun = fence, Zäune = fences, Zahn = tooth. Translator], and then he was told: 'That's wrong!' And he grew anxious in his slipping in—not slipping out, but slipping in. Then you'll not dream of flying but have a bad dream. The child is afraid, as in a nightmare, and makes this of it, and so the tooth has become a fence. The child made the error. And you'll see again and again that such connections between words actually create dream images. There will always be some kind of connection between words. And so we can now see what is really going on there.

You see when someone talks like that—this Richard Traugott has actually written a lot about dreams,40E.g. Der Traum, psychologisch und kulturgeschichtlich betrachtet. Würzburg 1913. all of it just as nonsensical as what he is writing here about the dream of flying—and if he only has the completely ordinary thinking of our time, he'll say the opposite of what is really true. For he does not understand that he feels like a flyer on leaving the body because the astral body gets big then, and that he feels like someone who has to force his way through when he comes in again because the astral body is then squeezed in. To tense his muscles is equated with a bad dream. The bad dream comes exactly when the man who has written the article says one dreams of flying. Going to sleep, too, you'll have only bad dreams if the going-to-sleep process is not quite going the way it should. Imagine you are lying down somewhere and you get a feeling that someone is throttling you. This happens because you are on the point of going to sleep, but there is a restlessness somewhere, and so you can't get to sleep properly. So then you keep trying—now going out, now coming in. When you want to come in, which, however, you can't do because you're still tired, you get a throttling sensation because the astral body wants to come in, pushing in hard, but yet cannot get in properly. Once you know it you can explain all these things much better.

And this will also make you realize that something else is needed if we want to get to know the world of the spirit. You have to be perfectly clear in your mind that the physical body cannot have any part in this. One must be able to live exactly in the part which is the astral body. To get to know the world of the spirit you thus need to achieve something over which you normally go to sleep. If you slip out of the physical body with your astral body in ordinary life, you'll go to sleep. You see this is the business of the wine barrel again, of which I spoke before. The astral body grows to giant size. If you want to get to know the astral body you must have the inner strength to hold it together. Just imagine what happens. For the moment I'll just go back to the drop of raspberry juice again instead of the human astral body and I. Let us get a really good picture of this [drawing on the board]. There we have the glass of water, and in it a drop of raspberry juice. The drop of raspberry juice spreads [colouring it in]. You'll still know it is there if you have a glass of water. But now think of something a hundred thousand times bigger—I can't draw this, of course. You'd no longer see any of it if I were to try and make the colour light enough to match the distribution. Nor would one sense any of it. But now imagine that drop is a devil of a fellow and I put it into this wine barrel which holds 400 buckets of water—sorry, not wine, just water. Now this drop of raspberry juice, a real devil of a fellow, says to itself: 'I won't allow myself to be mixed in! I'll stay a drop of raspberry juice!' So there you have your wine barrel, or water barrel, and the drop of raspberry juice stays quite small. Now if you were to get in there with your tongue, licking your way through the water until you came to the place where the drop of raspberry juice has stayed small, you would taste the sweetness of that drop of raspberry juice. It has to resist events, therefore.

I said it's a devil of a fellow, just to have a way of putting it. The people who oppose anthroposophy are sometimes very funny indeed. In a Hamburg paper it was said, first having vilified anthroposophy in every possible way, who I was. It said I was really the devil! They were perfectly serious about it, saying that the devil had come into the world. I am only saying the drop of raspberry juice would be a devil of a fellow if it kept small when one put it into the water. Now it is something different for the astral body to keep as small as it was in the physical body when it comes out of it. You have to develop the strength that makes it possible to keep the astral body small. You can do this by developing the ability to think very clearly. I have told you that one has to develop independent thinking. Independent thinking is more powerful than the weak thinking of these people. The first requirement is a powerful ability to think. The second requirement is the ability to think backwards. In the outer physical world things go forwards. If you learn to think backwards, you gain more power in your thinking. And if you also learn the thing I told you last time, 'the part is always greater than the whole'—which contradicts the physical reality—you learn to put yourself into a world which is certainly not like the physical world but the opposite. You then learn to put yourself into the world of the spirit.

All these things make it possible for the astral body to stay smaller, even though it leaves the physical body, and not to stream out into the general astral ocean.

This, then, all goes together. But you also have to be very clear in your minds that these things have to be considered in the same sober, scientific way as are the objects in outer physical life. As soon as you start to fantasize, you'll no longer have the science of the spirit. You certainly must not indulge in fantasies.

Let us assume, for example—well, I want to show this very clearly—you have a pain in your big toe. You only feel this pain in your big toe because of your astral body. If you only had your physical body you'd not feel any pain. If you had only your ether body, you'd feel no pain, otherwise a plant would squeak when you took hold of it, a flower would squeak when you took hold of it. Now you will squeak if you have a pain in your big toe—well, not you personally, perhaps, but you know what I mean. We squeak, therefore, if we have a pain in the big toe. The question is, why do we squeak? You see, we have the astral body spread throughout the whole physical body. When we come to the place with our astral body where something or other is not right in the big toe, we take this up to the brain with our astral body. There we form an idea of the pain.

But now imagine someone has a sick brain. When someone has a perfectly sound brain, he'll also have a place in that brain where he can perceive the pain in his big toe. One needs a healthy spot in the brain to be able to perceive the pain in the big toe. Let us assume, however, this spot in the brain is sick. I have told you, the soul cannot be sick, the astral body cannot be sick, but the physical brain can be sick. Now if this spot in the brain is sick, the pain in the big toe cannot be perceived. So what does the person do? Well, gentlemen, a small part of the physical brain is sick; but you see, the brain's ether body is still there in that spot. The ether part of the brain in that place is no longer supported by the physical part. So what does the ether part do? The ether part makes your big toe into a mountain. It does not just take note of the big toe, but makes it into a mountain. And it makes the pain in it into a lot of small spirits, mountain sprites sitting in there. So you see [Fig. 20]: here's your big toe; you've put it out into space because you have a sick brain. And now you swear there's a huge mountain in front of you. But all of it is really just your big toe. It is a delusion.

Gentlemen, you have to be careful not to have such delusions when you want to enter into the world of the spirit, for then you get involved in fantasies. How can we achieve this? Again we must first of all do it by training. You have to know all the things that may come from the physical body if there is sickness in it anywhere. Then you'll no longer confuse the genuine spirit that appears to you with something that merely comes from your physical body.

big toe
Figure 20

So in addition to active thinking, to thinking backwards, to the kind of thinking I described to you the last time we met, where one thinks in a very different way compared to the way one does in the physical world, there must also be the proper knowledge: this and this comes from your physical body. All these are necessary preparations.

You see a particular art would be practised in the preparation people had in earlier times, so that they might enter a little into the world of the spirit in the old way. It was called the art of dialectics. It meant one had to learn to think. Today, if you were to ask someone to learn to think first—well, he'd tear out every hair from your head, for everyone believes he's already able to think. The truth is, however, that when we go back to earlier times we find that people first had to learn to think in a particular way. And that was called the art of dialectics. You had to think forward and back, and had to learn to establish concepts in the right way.

Now why was it like this? It was like this because people learned to think by learning to talk. I have told you on a previous occasion that a child also learns to talk first and then to think, but this would of course be in a childlike way at first. Today people remain childlike like this all their lives, but this does not serve in later life. Learning to think all the time from talking, one gets the air to come in and go out again every time one breathes in or out. Much depends on being prepared to speak properly, for this will also make one breathe properly. Someone who is able to breathe properly will be able to talk for a long time; someone who is not able to breathe properly will soon get tired when talking for a long time without interruption.

The art of dialectics taught people to speak properly and therefore also to think properly. Today people cannot think properly, for their breath is all the time colliding with their breathing organ. Just listen to an academic speaking today. Well, in the first place, only few of them speak; they usually read things off. They use quite different things to help them then, their eyes, and so on, and this gives them support. But just listen to them talking. They usually appear to be short of breath and always colliding with their own physical body.

In this way everything becomes an image of the physical body. You may have a sick spot here in the brain and so your big toe becomes a mountain with all kinds of sprites, or you may keep running into things with your breath all the time you are thinking, unable to let it go out. In either case, the whole world seems physical to you because you are all the time colliding with it in your breath. Where does this materialism really come from? Materialism develops because people are not able to think properly, to breathe out properly, bumping into the physical. They then believe the whole world to be all pressure and push. Pressure and push is what they have inside them because they did not prepare themselves beforehand by thinking in the right way. And so we might say that when someone is a materialist today this is because he cannot get out of himself, keeps bumping into himself everywhere inside.

Let us take another look at Mr Traugott. He really ought to say: 'The dream that one is flying develops because we go out of ourselves and the astral body is beginning to get bigger.' But he does not realize this, for he keeps thinking and thinking, he does a terrible lot of thinking! Well, gentlemen, just think, if someone starts to think who is not really able to think, what does he do? He first of all wrinkles his forehead, and then, because this still will not get him to think, he'll strike his forehead with his fist. What is he really trying to do? He wants to tense his muscles; he tenses his muscles. And if they are not tense enough he wants to hit them, so that they'll really tense up. So what does Mr Traugott do when he thinks about a dream? Instead of looking at things the way they are, he tenses his own muscles, and he then finds exactly the thing he is doing: 'Muscle tension,' he'll say, 'that's it!' Dream thus equals muscle tension. But he is merely confusing his thoughts about the dream with the reality.

You'll only learn something about Mr Traugott—about what happens to him when he thinks about things—if you read this thing. That is how it usually is today. If you read what gets printed, you find out what they imagine things to be. If you read the paper today you have to say to yourself: 'You'll learn little about what is happening in the world from the paper, but you will find out what the gentlemen who sit in the editorial office would like to happen in the world.' And that is also how it is with materialistic science. You'll not learn from it what the world really is, but what materialistic professors think about the world today. Once you've found that out, you'll see that in anthroposophy the aim is not to deceive the world but to offer honesty instead of craftiness and illusion and things that are often quite deliberately untrue.

So you see that honesty, inner honesty, is the fourth quality we need to enter into the world of the spirit. Looking at the world, you'll see that there is not much honesty there. No wonder that there is also not much honesty in science.

We have been considering four qualities needed in our thinking—clear, independent thinking; thinking in a way that is independent of the outside world; thinking in a way that is completely different from the physical world, and also to be honest in our thinking. We'll consider other qualities the next time we meet.