Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Cosmosophy II
GA 208

Lecture X

12 November 1921, Dornach

In recent weeks we have been considering the human being from all kinds of different points of view, with the aim of getting a better idea of complex human nature and the relationship of the human being to the world.

Let us begin by recalling something very simple, something we know about the elemental aspects: the fact that in the present world cycle, the human being has four effective aspects—physical body, ether body, astral body and I. Let us also consider how these four essentially manifest. We have to say that the I mainly comes to revelation in all expressions of the human will. When we sleep, the will is essentially at rest. In other words: the will principle does not then come to expression through the physical organization. The I is outside the physical body when we sleep. The fact that the will principle does not come to expression reveals to us that the I is then not present in the physical body.

The activity of the astral body essentially can be observed in the whole sphere of feelings. The astral body is also outside the human being in sleep, when the sphere of feelings moves to the dim, dark part of the conscious mind. Consciousness is altogether silent in sleep, and we may thus be in some doubt as to what really comes to revelation through the physical body and the ether body. Let us leave this aside for the moment. The physical body is the most obvious part of the human being. Even someone not able to have imaginative vision can perceive the reality of the ether body in a number of ways. For the moment, however, let us leave aside the physical and the etheric from the point of view we have just taken of the I as the will aspect and the astral as the feeling aspect.

If we follow a person’s life from morning to evening, in the waking state, the I and astral body are at work in the physical and ether bodies with regard to will and feelings. Taking all the inner experiences arising in the waking state, we have first of all the world of sensory perceptions, which are bound to the physical body. We also have the world of thoughts and ideas as the consequence of sensory perception. We know very well that our world of ideas in the waking state has elements of will and feeling in it.

We have often stressed that in the sphere of the soul it is easy to make the abstract distinction between ideas, feelings and will elements. But in reality these three inner activities blend into each other. We can sense the will element in the linking or separating of ideas. We can also perceive that the idea is imbued with feeling. We can feel ourselves in sympathy with one idea and perhaps in antipathy with another. Let us now turn to the I and the astral body as they leave the living body on going to sleep. They leave something behind in the physical world which, while it does not appear at first sight to be the same as plant life, essentially is nevertheless like it, for it has a physical and an ether body just like a plant. In our astral principle we have something which comes to outward revelation in the animal world, and in our I we have something which emerges in the specifically human form, thus also coming to outward revelation. Since, however, I and astral body are outside the physical and ether bodies from when we go to sleep until we wake up again, we cannot say that this human form or animal nature is part of the inner nature of I and astral body. We have to realize that I and astral body do not come to revelation in that case; when I and astral body are on their own, during sleep, they cannot reveal themselves to the physical world in a way perceptible to the senses or to the rational mind.

I and astral body are therefore entirely beyond sensory perception. Now we also know that when we look at something in the plant world, we are not at all inclined to see it the way we see a human being. Looking at a human being we are interested in the moral element, for instance, whether the individual is good or bad. This means that there is no point in thinking in terms of good or evil with reference to the physical and ether body, the principles which remain in the physical world when we have gone to sleep. The whole human moral element is brought back when we wake up and I and astral body return to the physical and ether bodies.

Even people who do not have higher vision may take this as a sign that I and astral body have to do with what we call “the moral world order”. Our physical and ether bodies soak this up, as it were, as we wake up. And it is in no way absurd for those who do not have higher vision to say: Essentially, I and astral body belong to a completely different world, for the physical and ether bodies are neutral when it comes to being good or evil, just as plants are. I and astral body take moral responsibility into them.

Even those who do not achieve higher vision through the science of the spirit which takes its orientation from anthroposophy, but whose thinking relates to everyday life, will be able to realize that we are dealing with polar opposites here: physical body and ether body inclined to nature-given form, and I and astral body inclined to moral form. To take this further, however, we will need to draw on observations made through higher vision. When we use this to study the I and the astral body in the world to which they belong between going to sleep and waking up, they are seen to have the world of the spirit as their environment just as the natural world is the environment of the physical body. I and astral body bring the inner mortality to human beings from the world of the spirit. As the physical and ether bodies are morally neutral, they cannot possibly draw on them for moral impulses. They do in truth gain the moral impulses from the world in which they are between going to sleep and waking up.

In the science of the spirit, the following is said with regard to this: When human beings leave their physical and ether bodies on going to sleep, they meet, without being aware of it, the spiritual entities of the world, presenting to them all the inner morality they developed when conscious in their physical and ether bodies. They are compelled to let the world of soul and spirit work on the moral elements they have brought. This brings us to a different aspect of something we have often considered in our efforts to build a bridge between etheric and physical worlds on one hand and moral and spiritual worlds on the other.

The I has will quality. It develops its whole structure and constitution between waking up and falling asleep in the physical and ether bodies. When we go to sleep, the I meets the entities of the spiritual world. Here, as people walking around in the physical world, we perceive solid bodies with our organs of touch; we see colours, we use sensory perception. We relate to the physical forces of the world in a specific way The I also enters into a specific relationship to the powers of the world where it lives between going to sleep and waking up. Let me present this in graphic form It can only be schematic, of course. Let us say this is the physical man being in the process of going to sleep (Fig. 40, yellow).

human being going to sleep
Fig. 40

This, which I am drawing here, is the ether body which fills the human being. If I were to draw the human being in the waking state, I’d have to draw in the astral body and the I. I am not going to do so, because I want to characterize the condition of going to sleep. The will element, that is, the I, meets the entities of the spiritual world.

It relates to them in the way we relate to physical entities with our physical body when awake. The relationship between the will-related I and the entities of the spiritual world is, however, much more real than the maya-like relationship which the physical body has with its environment. The relationship in sleep comes to expression above all in the following way, more or less, I can only put these things into images for you): When the I is in touch with the powers of the spiritual entities between going to sleep and waking up, everything evil in our state of soul makes the I waste away; everything good allows the will-related I to develop in freedom.

Showing this in graphic form we arrive at a specific form of the spiritual, will-related I form as it leaves the body (remember, these are only images). With regard to the human being of limbs, the I is quite intensely inside the human being even during sleep. Let me show it like this: These furrowed lines (light-coloured) have evolved from counter activities of the spiritual entities, their form depending entirely on the moral constitution. We may indeed say that the 1 assumes a spiritual form based on its moral constitution as it enters the world of the spirit.

When we go to sleep, the astral body also goes into the world outside us which is a world of soul quality. The will-related I meets the entities of the spiritual world, the feeling-related astral body enters into the soul sphere outside us.

The constitution of our will, with reference to good and evil, also has elements, or powers, of feeling in it. We merely have to recall the different feeling mood we have after doing a good deed compared to after doing something bad. 1 need only mention the whole sphere of self-reproach and inner satisfaction and you can see how our moral constitution is imbued with feeling. The feeling element as a whole enters the soul sphere when we fall asleep, and this enters into a relationship with the soul world outside. When we are awake we relate to the physical world around us through our ideas and in doing so develop the inner life of feelings—though the life of feeling merely connects with the life of ideas inside us. When we are asleep, our feeling-related astral principle makes direct contact with the astral world.

It is not given form, however. The will-related I is given form (I have shown this by drawing furrowed lines). Interaction between the astral body and the soul environment results in something I cannot draw as furrowing. I have to call it colouring, imbuing the astral body. To draw it I would, according to whether we are full of self-reproach or inner satisfaction, feelings of sympathy and antipathy, show the astral coloured by something with schematically may be shown as a particular colour (Fig. 41, reddish, blue).

sympathy and antipathy in the human entering sleep
Fig. 41

Through the I, therefore, our higher nature is given form, and the astral is coloured through and through. This is of course a schematic way of putting it. It is perfectly justifiable to express these processes in colour images, but it has to be said that only part of the process can be expressed in this way. Instead of colouring the image I might just as well have all kinds of musical instruments at hand, for instance, and give expression to the above in combinations of sounds. One might even bring in qualities of taste. All this whirls and swirls together in the astral body when it is outside the physical body between going to sleep and waking up.

The situation is such, however, that the direction of the effective powers which bring about everything I have drawn, really derive, seen in schematic form, from the human being of limbs and metabolism. The spiritual entities and the soul world giving form and colour are working from below upwards, as it were.

If we try to discover the true nature of that which is given form and colour outside the human being between going to sleep and waking up, we finally arrive at the following. Between waking up and going to sleep the human form is complete, with I, astral body, ether body and physical body forming an interrelated whole. This goes hand in hand with a specific intensity of conscious awareness which is intellectual and has qualities of feeling and will. Compared to it, the element which is outside during sleep has an infantile quality. We think of a child’s dimmed-down state of consciousness, something we can only come close to when our consciousness is filled with dreams. Now imagine the child’s dimmed-down consciousness becoming even less developed—this would be closer to the nature of what is outside us during sleep. We might say: The element which is outside the human being during sleep is more infantile than the mind and spirit of a child.

What is the real nature of the element of human soul and spirit which lives outside during sleep? In the light of spiritual science, the determining factor is characteristically seen to come from the human being of limbs and metabolism. Studying what can be observed through higher vision one has the feeling—which gradually grows into the definite realization—that by taking this whole aspect here to be a photographic negative and visualizing the positive, we actually get the structure of the human brain. The scale is not the same, but if you see it as a negative and visualize the positive you get the human brain.

Think back to the various aspects I have presented. I have said that the structure of the human head in one particular life inwardly, in the structure of its powers, represents the individual from the previous life on earth, minus the head. What you are today contains the powers your head will have in your next life on earth. We see the same thing in what a human being puts into the outside world between going to sleep and waking up, except that it is infantile, childlike in form and, of course, converted into a negative.

Between going to sleep and waking up human beings in fact put an image into the world of what will incarnate into a physical form in their next life on earth. This is extraordinarily significant. If we now recall that it is the moral constitution of the soul which determines this form and coloration (Fig. 41), we must consider the powers inherent in the human head in the next life on earth to be the embodiment of the moral constitution of the soul in the present life. Since the powers of the human being come to expression in our ability to think and form ideas, this ability will therefore be the outcome of our moral constitution of soul in the present life. All of this exists as an image in what human beings put into the outside world on going to sleep.

In the light of the science of the spirit it would thus be fair to say: During the night, when we are asleep, we put a quite specific question to another world, the world of the spirit. We do not do this consciously but with a part of us that moves out of the physical and ether bodies at that time. The question we put is: How does my moral constitution of soul appear to the entities in the world of the spirit?

And we are given an answer which consists in the shaping of the furrows and the colouring we are given, both in accord with our moral constitution of soul. Every morning we enter into our physical and etheric bodies on waking up with an answer gained in the world of soul and spirit. Going to sleep, we always unconsciously ask a question; waking up, the answer is given at the unconscious level from the world of the spirit. At that level, we are all the time in dialogue with the world of the spirit, gathering there the answers which tell us the true state of our inner nature.

This allows you to see something which otherwise is always extraordinarily abstract. You see, when we speak of our conscience, this is something very real to us; yet when we are asked to speak of the specific nature of our conscience we immediately become rather vague. With reference to our moral impulses, conscience is something of which we have a real inner experience. Yet if we use the methods of ordinary science to reflect on conscience, we fall into chaos and are unable to arrive at anything definite. Here you are given something definite, which is, that your moral constitution of soul wins a continuous response from the world of the spirit. You bring the forms developed by the world of the spirit into your physical and etheric reality, and with this you bring the voice of conscience to it. In waking life, the answer given in form and colour is transformed into the voice of conscience. In fact we depend on the sleep state for everything we have by way of inner moral attitude.

Many examples have been given of the greater wisdom inherent in the instinctive perception of earlier times and the instinctive perception, which are not intellectual; it is greater than our modern science, though it takes the form of images. The moral principles of instinctive perception contain much of what comes back to us again through the true science of the spirit, though it is now clearer, more transparent and defined. One of the principles which is part of popular belief is that if someone has offended you, do not take your inner reaction to this through sleep but if at all possible settle the matter before you go to sleep. Do not take your anger through sleep, therefore, but try to calm it before you go to sleep.

When you know that going to sleep means you are putting a question to the world of the spirit and that waking up is the answer to your question, you will be able to say to yourself: The answer you receive from the world of the spirit and take into your physical body as you wake up will be different if you moderated your anger the night before, or reduced the offence you felt, than if you take the feelings of offence into sleep and put your question out of injured feelings or in such anger that the fire of your anger fills the whole question. If you take an angry mood into the world of the spirit it is as if a stream of volcanic fire were to pour into that world. The soul world outside then has to colour this stream of volcanic fire (Fig. 41, reddish). This is very different from the situation where you have let your anger go down before going to sleep.

The effects of much of what I have said here can be seen not only in the human heart and mind but also in the way physical life and the life of the internal organs, is tuned. The causes of many diseases lie in the questions we receive to the answers we unconsciously put to the spiritual world as we go to sleep. In the waking state, our physical and etheric organs have to deal fully with everything the will-related I and the feeling-related astral body bring with them from the world of the spirit as we wake up.

It is quite wrong to think we have lots of experiences when awake but none in our sleep. When awake we experience processes that mostly take place between ourselves and the physical outside world. Satisfaction feit about these processes accompanies our clear perception of our relationship to the world rather like an inner dream in heart and mind—you will remember that the feeling element only has dream-level intensity of consciousness. When we are between going to sleep and waking up, however, considerable inner activity goes an in the I and astral body: The will-related I is given form, the feeling-imbued astral body is imbued with the powers of the outside world of soul and spirit. These real, factual processes penetrate and stream through the physical and ether bodies, and the way we behave in the physical world is determined by this. We do more for our inner life during sleep than we do in our waking hours. 011 the other hand, what we do when asleep depends an those waking hours. I'd say that the whole significance of sleep essentially lies not only in physical experience but in the moral structure of our inner nature.

I have shown on a number of occasions that superficial ideas about the way in which the human physical and ether bodies relate to the process of going to sleep are wrong. It is usually said that human beings grow tired because they use their limbs, because they work, and they need to sleep to make up for this. Merely to remember that we do not always go to sleep because we are tired will put us on the right track. Think of the well-rested retired gentleman who may go to a lecture, for instance, because it is the done thing; he’ll usually be fast asleep after the first five minutes, which is hardly due to his being tired.

Considering the superficial experiences to be gained in this field, we come to realize that people generally confuse cause and effect in this instance. We are in fact tired because we want to go to sleep. The impulse to go to sleep is a much more inward one than the physical tiredness which is its counterpart. When the outside world offers nothing of interest, the longing arises to withdraw from it. Soul and spirit then leave the living physical body, which grows tired. We grow tired because we want to go to sleep, not the other way round. Anyone can see this, if they have the will to do so. It is of course extraordinarily difficult to accept the truth of things that are so closely bound up with people’s self-satisfied life interest. But if we are prepared to accept truth, we will reach the point where we do not merely see going to sleep as a physical and physiological process, but consider it in relation to the whole cosmos which, as I have shown from many different points of view, also contains the moral impulses as real impulses, not just mere words. The alternation between sleeping and waking thus shows us how a bridge can be built between the physical and the moral elements in our world order.

Du Bois-Reymond,40 Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818–96), German physiologist born in Berlin of French parentage, professor of physics at Berlin. The lecture referred to was published in Leipzig in 1916. the physiologist who gave that famous lecture on the limits of natural science, once said: “It is utterly beyond us to grasp the human being as he is in waking life.” Well, we know what to think of such a statement. Du Bois-Reymond believes, however, that it is possible for us to grasp the sleeping human being. According to him, the laws and relationship of the physical world outside, which we are able to grasp, also pertain to the sleeping human being, only in a more complex fashion. We know this to be incorrect, but let us merely consider the statement, which is, that we can have scientific understanding of the sleeping human being, but not of the waking human being.

So here a scientist is admitting that we cannot use the tools of science to discover what pervades the whole human being in the waking sate, and that the sleeping individual as a physical entity looks very different from an individual who is awake even in the eyes of scientists.

Scientists know nothing, of course, of the will-related I and feeling-related astral body which leave the human being for the non-physical world. But this “nothing”, what is it in the light of our present study? It is something which belongs to the moral world order. The activity of the moral principle is a real world which begins at the very point where people taking the scientific approach cease their observations. After waking up, the real effects of the moral principle show themselves only in the inner constitution of the human being. To enter into the sphere where moral reality is to be found we must therefore consider the world in which human beings live between waking up and going to sleep. It is not surprising, therefore, that people who take the scientific view and do not enter into this world only know a real world which does not contain the moral impulses and therefore relegate moral impulses to the realm of pure belief.

Such belief, however, becomes insight as real as that achieved by the followers of the scientific approach once we turn our attention to the other sphere. Our discussion will, of course, have to be based on completely different premises if we want to consider this sphere of spirit and soul imbued with moral principles.

If my drawing represented something from the physical world, I would have to base myself on the physical. My drawing would be an image of this, and we would progress from external reality to something which is merely image. We have to take the opposite route if we want to represent the non-physical. We have to experience it inwardly and then go outside and represent inward experience in an image. This kind of inward experience is extremely mobile and I should really show this colouring as glittering and gleaming, shifting and changing, growing luminous and fading away again, which is exactly what the spiritual scientist observes when considering the human being as a whole.

If one gains a vision of the astral body and I during sleep—I am trying to be extremely accurate here—the form given to the I and the colouring given to the astral body is bright and distinct. When I and astral body return to the physical and ether bodies, this bright, glittering and gleaming principle grows dark and dull. Outside the body the I aspect has definite contours; inside the body it grows indefinite. You get quite a specific feeling when you watch the I and astral body becoming submerged in the physical and ether bodies on waking. To use abstract words to describe this, means expressing oneself rather clumsily as a rule. It is however possible to define it relatively clearly. Observing the process you have a feeling which is rather like being aware of the coming of autumn and winter and letting this influence your soul. To consider the waking-up process in terms of the whole human being is to enter into a mood like that experienced with the coming of winter. Going to sleep, with the spirit and soul principles going outside the human being, you experience an inner mood similar to the one experienced with the coming of spring and summer. It is indeed the case that you enter into something very special here.

Dear friends, for several weeks I have tried to show how by taking the approach of spiritual science we come to see the human in relationship to the whole cosmos. I have shown you the human form in its relationship to the world of the fixed stars, and the levels of human life in relation to the world of the planets. Considering the human being in the light of spiritual science, we are always taken outside the human being. Today we have considered the alternating states of waking and sleeping; entering into them with inner feeling, we are again taken outside the human being, this time not into the world of the stars but into the world of time. So we said to ourselves: We understand the waking-up process if we understand the coming of autumn and winter; we understand the process of going to sleep if we understand the coming of spring and summer. From the progress of time in the human being we are taken into the progress of time in the cosmos, into the changing seasons. The human being is seen to be an image also of what happens in time. In the preceding weeks we endeavoured to see the human being as an image of the macrocosm more in terms of space.

We thus relate the human being to the world, and understand him in terms of the world. And then the moral world order also becomes reality for us and not a world of empty words. If we enter into everything we are able to feel in considering our relationship to the world, religious impulses enter into our ethical and moral world. The ethical will then comes to express the divine will which reigns in the human being, and the ethical and moral sphere is lifted up into the ethical and religious sphere. This is how anthroposophy as science of the spirit seeks to find the way to the ethical and religious. We shall continue with this tomorrow.