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Rudolf Steiner Archive 

Calendar of the Soul

Northern Hemisphere
Week 18

Can I expand my soul
That it unites itself
With cosmic Word received as seed?
I sense that I must find the strength
To fashion worthily my soul
As fitting raiment for the spirit.

Southern Hemisphere
Week 44

In reaching for new sense attractions,
Soul-clarity would fill,
Mindful of spirit-birth attained,
The world's bewildering, sprouting growth
With the creative will of my own thinking.

—Translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch

See GA 40 for full calendar and German text.

A Sound Outlook for To-day and a Genuine Hope for the Future
GA 181

I. States of Consciousness

25 June 1918, Berlin

Today I should like to look back, drawing together and amplifying what has been said here in the past. In this way I want to lay a foundation for: carrying certain essential themes to a conclusion in the present lectures.

In spiritual-scientific inquiries we encounter besides the two forms of consciousness known to everybody — dreaming and ordinary day-time life from waking to sleeping — a third form, best described perhaps as “higher perceptive consciousness”. Dream-consciousness we reckon in ordinary life as merely a sort of interruption of ordinary consciousness, but that is because we recall only a small part of our dreams. We are really dreaming all the time from falling asleep to waking, and what we commonly describe as the content of our dream-consciousness is merely such fragments of dreaming experience as we are able to remember when we are awake. From the standpoint of Spiritual Science, therefore we must say: We know three stages or kinds of consciousness; that of dreams, that of waking life, and the consciousness in which the spiritual world is open to higher perception.

You will have no difficulty in recognising that each type of consciousness has a certain quality in common with the one next above it in rank. For instance, dream-consciousness gives us pictures — we know that our dream-experiences are pictures. When you recall them you are unable to fit then into the sequence of Cause and Effect in daily life. To try to do that would mean confusing dream life and day-life, and you would become visionaries. Dream-experiences consist of pictures in contrast to realities, by which we mean the events experienced in waking life.

If we now compare our ordinary waking-experiences with those of the higher perceptive consciousness, we find an exactly similar relationship. Here, compared with what is experienced by this higher consciousness as spiritual, super-sensible reality, the experiences of the day-time from waking to falling asleep, are pictures. Therefore, to the degree in which the awakened, higher perceptive consciousness is experienced, it is possible to say (this must be done with prudence): “I experience in this consciousness a genuine reality, compared with which ordinary so-called reality is only a set of pictures”.

Put in this abstract way, the statement has little value. Of course, many people are quite content with these abstract phrases, believing that thereby the riddles of the world can be solved. This is not so. Such a statement has value only when it is applied directly to the actual practice of life. Hence it has to be made relevant to certain definite realms of experience.

There is a realm to which I have already drawn attention from time to time, one which we needs must contemplate if we would make progress in Spiritual Science. It lies nearest to us, yet it is often quite beyond our ken — the realm of man himself. The common opinion is that though we are ignorant of the super-sensible man, we do know the physical man, but this is true only up to a certain point. Anatomy and physiology, as usually understood, are woven out of countless illusions. To-day let us start, if only apparently, from the outer form of man as a physical being and proceed on the lines of the threefold division of his organism to which I have often referred.

If he is viewed in relation to the super-sensible world, and thus as a picture — not as the reality which ordinary anatomy and physiology take him to be — he falls into three markedly different divisions, even as regards his outer physical form: the man of head, chiefly concentrated there; the breast-man; and the man of the extremities or limbs. It must be understood however, that this third man does not consist only of arms and legs, but that these limbs have terminations within the body, as contrasted with the outside, and that all these together make up the whole third man. These three divisions must be kept in mind.

Without sinning against the reality of the super-sensible world, we cannot actually speak of three “men”: for, as regards the super-sensible being of man, a fundamental distinction exists between these three parts. The different forces, or streams of force, which went to build into the structure of these different bodily parts, come from widely different sources. If the human form is examined with super-sensible faculties, the structure of the head is seen to be derived from forces operative before birth or conception. One must go back to the spiritual world, not to the stream of physical heredity. In the formation of the head one can trace — admittedly in its finer details — a share of what belongs, in the spiritual world, to the forces of the human soul before it unites itself with the physical stream of heredity through birth or conception. The chief shore in the formation of the head, belongs not so much to the outer configuration of what a man lived through in his previous earth-life, but to his behaviour, the character of his actions, and to some extent his feelings. When super-sensible perception has so far advanced as to awaken a sense for this kind of form, it is possible to see, through the formation of the head, into what we call the preceding incarnation. Here we touch an extremely significant mystery of human development. More than is usually supposed by initiates of a lower grade, the form of the head is linked with a man's karma — with his karma as it comes over from the previous into the present incarnation.

Leaving aside the breast-man, let us focus our attention on the limb-man (or “man-of-extremities”), with the inner terminations I have mentioned. Here we find by no means so decided, so individual a form as in the head. Each person has his own individual form of head, pointing back to an earlier earth-life. The limb-system, with which the sex- organisation is essentially connected, points forward to future earth-lives. Everything there is still undifferentiated and what corresponds in the soul to this organisation points forward towards lives still to come.

To consider the breast man attentively is specially important. This part of his organism is the combined work of the forces which play their part in man's spiritual life before conception and after death between death and the next birth. What has been the soul's environment between the last death and this conception or birth, acts together with what will surround it between the next death and birth, (or conception). The two interweave. This interweaving of the two sets of forces works itself out in man's breast-organisation, and is principally noticeable in its most conspicuous activity, the process of breathing. Out-breathing gives a picture — here again we must use this word — of what took place in the soul between the last death and this birth; while in-breathing gives a picture of what will operate in and around the soul between death and the next conception or birth.

Here is a concrete fact. The procedure of ordinary anatomy and physiology is to put things down in a row: — head, breast, limbs, and in the same way a collection of nerves and blood vessels. Supersensible perception discriminates between them, realising the essential differences of these members of the human form. Ordinary anatomy and physiology see merely the immediate realities. Spiritual Science sees in the shape of the head a picture of the deeds and feelings of the last incarnation: in the out-breathing, with its distinct individual form in each person (differing in each one according to the particular formation of his head) a picture of the forces surrounding the soul between the last death and rebirth; in the in-breathing, the forces to be met with by the soul between the present death and the next birth. The life of the limbs presents a picture of the next earth-life. Thus the vast panorama of super-sensible life which lies open to spiritual consciousness is interwoven with pictures, even as daytime-life is in dreams. But these pictures represent the reality of our daily life. We arrive at the conclusion that each successive world of phenomena, viewed from the point of view of spiritual consciousness, presents the next to us in pictures. Our prosaic reality is a picture of super-sensible reality, and in dreams we have in picture-form the ordinary realities grasped in everyday life.

Spiritual consciousness is needed to make all this clear, simply because the contemplation of the outer form alone is not sufficient for the purpose. Suppose there were a person possessing a low degree of clairvoyance, of the kind in which there is more “sensing” than full perception — that might lead him, through the head, breast and limbs, to a dim idea of what has just been said, and this would not be at all difficult even to a quite low grade of clairvoyance. But there would be no certainty about it. Conviction of its accuracy could hardly be possible without the searching proof acquired through clairvoyance endowed with the states of consciousness connected with those three members of the human organism. For the head not only shows by its outer form that it points back to a former life; it is clearly marked out by its own soul-qualities, as well as by its inner construction, from the other parts of nan's being. Ordinary consciousness is blind to this fact. For either it dreams, or is occupied with daily realities and fails to notice something which “underlies”, so to speak, the activity of the head. By this I mean the following. — We go through our daily experiences in waking consciousness, we fill our minds, through the medium of the head, with outer perceptions, with the pictures brought to us by the senses, and the mental conceptions we form about the sense-pictures. For the ordinary consciousness, all this is so vivid, so intensely real, that a subtle undercurrent of finer consciousness, a low-toned background as it were, is overlooked.

The truth is that the head is dreaming all the time we are awake. This is the remarkable fact, that behind our waking: consciousness the head has a continual flow of dreams. This we can easily discover for ourselves; no very extensive training is needed, only an endeavour to attain the stage in which consciousness is “empty” — awake, but devoid of perceptions, even of thoughts. In ordinary life we are in some way or other busy with the world of outer perceptions, with memories of them, or with thoughts arising from them. Oftener than we think we are given up to a pure waking consciousness, unknowingly. It is dim. When we endeavour to attain to the soul-state which can be described as “nothing but waking” — outer perceptions, memories, and thoughts all banished, so that we are trying solely to be awake — perceptions will at once arise which are not to be clothed in ordinary ideas. They have, as they emerge, something of the nature of dim feeling — picture-like, yet lacking; the substantial character of pictures. One frequently meets people who are familiar with this state. They speak of it, perhaps, as a state of soul in which they perceive something that defies description; they perceive it, but it is not like a perception of the outer world. It is not unusual to find people speaking in this way, and there are many more than we suppose who, if we get, to know them well, will tell us about such things.

The source of these perceptions is the weaving of the “underlying” consciousness which I have mentioned, and this is itself a kind of dream. But what is the dream about? It is actually about the former incarnation, the last earth-life. The interpretation is the difficulty. Latent in the consciousness of the head lies this dream of a former life on earth. In this subjective fashion it is possible to arrive at such a dream, although it may be hard to interpret. We shall return to this question.

Hence you will see that what I have described as the human head is, in terms of soul-life, somewhat complex, inasmuch as two forms of consciousness belong to it, closely interwoven: the ordinary waking day-consciousness and the underlying dream-consciousness, which is a kind of reflection of the former incarnation. Another interesting characteristic of the life of soul concerns the other pole in man, the man of limbs, or extremities. This limb-man, too, is extremely complicated psychically — that is, in terms of the corresponding part of the soul. I have often pointed out that we are “asleep” as regards this limb-man, although “awake” as regards the head; and our will really acts as though asleep. All that we are able to bring into clear consciousness is what the will accomplishes. Nobody carrying out the idea, “I move my hand”, perceives how all the bodily apparatus comes into it. This goes on as unconsciously as do the bodily processes during sleep. Sleep continually pervades the daytime consciousness of this man of limbs, inasmuch as the will of man is sunk in sleep.

The curious thing is that this “third man” wakes in a sense at night, when, during sleep, man is outside the physical and etheric bodies, and neither consciousness nor self-consciousness function, or only very dimly. Man at his present stage cannot penetrate behind the scenes with his ordinary consciousness, because this sleep-dimness prevents him from following up the activity of the limb-man in the night, when self-consciousness is detached from the physical body. This activity is also a sort of dream. The limb-man actually “dreams” in the night. So, as the head dreams by day, below the clear day-consciousness, so the limb-man dreams in the night, below the dim sleep-consciousness — parallel with it. What does he dream? He dreams of the next earth-incarnation. In truth, we not only bear the past and future in our outer physical form, but we have within us, as soul-life, in the form of usually unrecognised dreams, an ever-present, underlying consciousness of our past and future earth-lives.

Then, as to the breast-man. Although the processes of out-breathing and in-breathing are not followed with any , distinctness by the ordinary consciousness, our organic functions are closely bound to them. In the East, the processes of out-breathing and in-breathing are so attentively followed as to be lifted into consciousness. This procedure is no longer suitable for us; we must attain spiritual consciousness in a different way. The Eastern seeker tries to dim or suppress the head-consciousness, and to stimulate, to clarify the breast-consciousness. He really tries to perform the breathing processes so as to arouse a distinctive type of breath-consciousness. Tracing the inhaled air, as it pervades his organism, and the exhaled air as it leaves the body, and streams out, he raises to consciousness what would otherwise remain unconscious. In this way he attains to a state in which he has a distinct consciousness of the reality pictured in the breathing-process — that is, of the life in the spiritual world between death and birth. This clear knowledge, of which the West has no conception at all, still Persists in the East to a much greater extent than is supposed, and is one reason why understanding between East and West is so difficult. In the East it is no theory that a life of spirit and soul lies before birth and after death, but as clear a certainty as that the road extends before and behind a traveler on the physical plane. Just as it is an obvious fact that the road in front and the road behind possess such and such features, so, for the Oriental, what lies before birth or conception and after death is not a theory, not a result of forming ideas about it; but something perceptible to him through the breathing process raised to consciousness. This breast-part of man never ceases dreaming. It does not entirely wake with our waking, or sleep with our sleeping; but there is a difference between these two states. The breast-man's dream-consciousness by day is dimmer than in the sleeping-state, when it is rather clearer; the difference is not so very great, but there is a slight variation.

This all shows us that we have not only a threefold man in our outer form, but complicated states of consciousness within us. They compose our soul-life, as they interweave and reflect each other. Through the waking-day consciousness of the head, what we know as the life of perception and thought is made possible; through the unbroken dream-consciousness of the breast-man, what we call the life of feeling; and through the limb-man's consciousness — asleep by day, but awake at night — what we call our will.

One thing more. When we consider merely the outer aspect of man, we have to do with more than a visible physical organism, for we bear a fine etheric, super-sensible organism in us — to which in the later issues of the magazine “Das Reich”, I have applied, to avoid misunderstanding, the term “body of formative forces”. It is less differentiated, compared with the physical organism; approaching nearer to a unity: only crude observation will ascribe unity to man's outer form. Man's proper unity lies in his etheric body, which can be divided into parts like the physical body, but not into limbs side by side. The parts of the etheric body call rather for the approach that we have used in speaking of states of consciousness. The etheric body also is in a constantly varying state of consciousness — a different state between waking and falling asleep from that which prevails between falling asleep and waking. Here again, with this super-sensible body, we carry something very significant in ourselves. Some theosophical theorists may think they have accomplished something important in dividing man's being into physical body, etheric body, astral body, etc., but they delude themselves. That is reducing it to a kind of system, and systematising is never any good.

The only way to gain insight is to examine what is happening in the etheric body. If anyone merely says, “We have an etheric body,” that is no more than a phrase, calling up a picture of the thinnest kind of mist, and to take this for the real thing is self-deception. The point is that in the etheric body we have something very real and substantial, though it is not perceptible in ordinary life. Living and weaving in the etheric body, ceaselessly from waking to falling asleep, is the karma of earlier earth-lives. In truth, the etheric body weaves in our subconscious, and through its weaving brings to view our karma from previous incarnations. The clairvoyant knows something of karma because he can make use of his etheric body as he does at other tires of his physical body. Anyone who has learnt to do this cannot help seeing that karma is a reality. The etheric body as concrete reality means this — from waking to falling asleep, it has the vision of karma from earlier earth-lives, and during sleep, of karma in the making. I am again describing it from a clairvoyant's point of view.

The dreams of the breast-man accordingly, are not only about experiences between the last death and birth; we look also at what the past has laid upon our shoulders as karma — at what is spread out below our normal consciousness by the functioning of the lower body, and viewed by the etheric body, although by a spiritual eye, as the karma of the past. Neither do we perceive through the consciousness of our extremities, as we breathe in, only what is bound up with the incarnation to come; for the etheric body becomes the eye of the spirit, giving us, in a fashion unknown to ordinary life, a vision of karma in the making. It is not easy for present-day man to bring the training of his soul to such a point, although it is necessary for everybody to envisage truly all that I have described. (There are certain difficulties, discussed in the book “Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment.”) It was far easier in bygone ages. Even in historical times life has undergone more changes than we think, and one momentous point in human history (described in “Occult Science” and other writings of mine) is the transition from the third to the fourth post-Atlantean epoch of civilisation, the inception of the Graeco-Latin age. It was at this point that it became so intensely difficult for civilised humanity to penetrate into the worlds I have just described. Before this, it had been comparatively easy, and Orientals still retain something of this facility. The Western man doss not possess it; therefore he cannot do the same exercises, but must resort to those described in “Knowledge of Higher Worlds.” The period which began about 700 to 600 B.C. marks a deeper descent of man into the physical world. Another period will dawn, approximately at the beginning of the third millennium after the Mystery of Golgotha, and preparation must be made for it. Something indefinable will arise in every soul — inexplicable save through occult science. It is not merely a subjective ideal or tendency which Spiritual Science has to prepare and establish in readiness for the next millennium; it answers to a need in mankind's development. The middle of the third millennium will be a critical moment in the development of civilisation, for then a point will be reached when human nature will have progressed so far that it will be thrown back into decay unless it has acquired the vision of repeated earth-lives and karma, lost since the seventh or eighth century before Christ. In earlier times, human nature had a healthy power of response; knowledge came naturally to it. In future it will become diseased unless it takes this teaching into itself. We understand our age only if we keep in mind that it lies between two poles. One pole lies far back, beyond the seventh or eighth century before the Mystery of Golgotha. Those were the times when knowledge of the soul's super-sensible experience was given by human nature itself. The other pole will be in the third millennium, when (as described in “Knowledge of Higher Worlds”) man must acquire super-sensible knowledge in spiritual ways, so that health, and not sickness, may stream into the body. Our age can be understood in both its inner and its outer aspects only if we keep this in mind. Naturally the change will be slow and gradual. But anyone who does not want to dream through the most important things of our age in a dull, sleepy way, but wishes to live in conscious wakefulness — it behooves him to mark what is seeking entry into human life. It will not enter completely until the middle of the third millennium; but little by little it will make its presence felt, and humanity must now consciously be alive to and prepare for its inevitable advent. Learn to study life, and even outer phenomena — especially those of human life — will yield a superficial perception of this truth. With a brain of the coarse development normal for most people to-day, it is certainly not easy to acquire what has to be taken intelligently into the mind, as Spiritual Science depicts it. But I would like to add this: it is tragic to see what unknown powers (I shall speak of them in the next lecture) are trying to make of mankind. At the present day there are certain sick natures — that is why I use the word ‘tragic’ — which are abnormal for their time; yet they receive intimations of much that men will encounter normally in the future. I have often mentioned a very well-known contemporary whose life ran its course in alternating health and sickness: Otto Weininger, who wrote the remarkable book, “Sex and Character”. Weininger was altogether an extraordinary man. Picture someone who in his very early twenties presented the first chapter of his book as a University thesis — this book which has roused as much enthusiasm in some quarters as fury in others — both ill-founded. But something else might well have been noted. For he came to live more and more into the problems raised in his book. He travelled in Italy, jotted down his experiences, seeing very different things from other travellers in that country. I find much that is remarkable in Weiniger's Italian diary. As you know, I describe much that can be described only in Imaginations: concerning the Atlantean and Lemurian periods, and the appearance of things in times which to-day can no longer be followed with ordinary consciousness or by historical research. Certain concepts and ideas are necessary in order to present such descriptions to human consciousness. When I read Weininger's notes, something in then strikes me as a fine, artistic caricature of the truth. His life is certainly remarkable. He was only 23 when a thought struck him which puzzled him terribly: that he would have to commit suicide lest he should kill somebody else; he thought that a murderer, a criminal, was latent in his soul — a symptom easily to be explained by occultism. Equally mingled in his life were greatness, punctiliousness and affectation. He left his parents' house, took a room in Beethoven's house in Vienna, stayed there one night — and in the morning shot himself.

The characteristic of this soul was that its union with the body was never quite complete. For external psychology, Weininger was merely a case of hysteria; but for anyone who appreciates the facts it was obvious that an irregular union between his spiritual -psychic and his physical-bodily principles must have existed. With normal present-day people, the former principles leave the latter at the moment of falling asleep, rejoining it on awaking; but with Weininger it was different. I could show you passages from which it is evident that at times his spiritual-psychic part was just a little outside his physical-bodily part and then suddenly dived down into it: as this occurred, a thought flashed through him, which he wrote down often in quite a dry fashion: but of course in diving down he acted imaginatively — and very strangely. To anybody who understands the matter it is clear that an irregular union of these principles brings in a remarkable and peculiar way a knowledge which humanity will have in the future. Think — in a man labeled “hysterical” by a clumsy psychology, there arises a knowledge which all humanity must possess in times to come — only it is caricatured. From what I have said you can quite understand that through such abnormalities something like pioneers of the future appear amongst us, (just as there are “stragglers” from the past): a future in which humanity will inevitably know about recurrent earth-lives, about karma and the dreams of karma. And because such people appear as the pioneers of the future, the knowledge makes them ill. So, by means of an unhealthy organism, there comes out in caricature what is some day to be the wisdom of humanity. Look for instance at a paragraph in Weininger's “Last Things”, (printed by his friend Rappaport): “Perhaps no memory is possible of the state before birth, because we have sunk so deeply through birth itself; we have lost the consciousness and chosen to be born through impulse alone, without rational decision or knowledge, and that is why we know nothing of such a past.”

One thing is clear — although the knowledge shining forth in this utterance is a caricature, yet someone writes as though absolutely convinced: “Through my birth I passed from a state, a spiritual life, in which I previously lived.” If that had been written ten or twelve centuries before the birth of Christ, or at the time of Origen, it would not have been surprising, but here in our time is a man who has set such a thing down in a fashion of his own, full of passionate feeling, as a direct illumination of consciousness, not as a theory.

I could adduce many such instances. What do they mean? They are presages of the super-sensible knowledge which is coming to mankind, and because it is not sought on the path of anthroposophical spiritual science, it comes convulsively, shattering human nature, making it sick, as in the case of Weininger. I say “sick”, not in the common sense of the word, but surely the outer facts show that there is something really abnormal when a man of twenty-three shoots himself because he finds a hidden murderer concealed within him, and saves himself from becoming a murderer by committing suicide.

A hundred, — nay, a thousand, — examples could be given; this knowledge must inevitably come; and it be well if as many souls as possible could be awakened to the fact. In the subconscious of mankind the longing for such knowledge is extraordinarily widespread. External powers, which I have often described, hold it back. We must very carefully keep in mind what is implied in the close of my article on Christian Rosenkreutz, in “Das Reich.” We must remember that what became evident in the seventeenth century had been noticeable since the fifteenth, Growing steadily stronger. In speaking of it now to people of our own time, the customary scientific formulae must be used. I described in the last number of “Das Reich” how it was manifested in the writing of the “Chemical Marriage” of Christian Rosenkreuz by Johann Valentin Andreae. Philologists have racked their brains about this: Johann Valentin Andreae wrote down the “Chemical Marriage”, in which really deep occult knowledge was hidden, but behaved afterwards in a very remarkable fashion, Not only was he unable to explain certain words he had spoken in connection with writings which he had produced at the same time as the “Chemical Marriage”, but in spite of having transcribed this great work, he appeared to be entirely without understanding of it. This bigoted Pastor, who afterwards wrote all kinds of other things, does not understand anything of the “Chemical Marriage”, nor of the other works composed by him at the same period. He was only seventeen when he wrote it. He never altered; he remained just the same person; but a totally different power had spoken through him. Philologists cudgelled their brains, and corresponded about it. His hand wrote it; his body was present, assisting; but through his human equipment a spiritual power, not then in earthly incarnation, wished to make it known to mankind, in the style of those days.

Then came the Thirty Years War, the tomb of much which should then have come to mankind. What should have been then understood, was not understood, was even consigned to oblivion. The “Chemical Marriage” was written down about 1603, ostensibly by one who signed himself Johann Valentin Andreae; little notice was taken of it because in 1613 the Thirty Years War began. Such things often happen before a war. Then one can truly read in the signs of the times: “What is now planted as a seed, must one day bear flowers and fruit”.

This is all part of what I am now pointing out — what is to be read in the signs of the times, in our own catastrophic century.

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