Anthroposophical Guidelines - VIII


Rudolf Steiner



Sleeping and Waking in Light of the preceding Contemplations


Sleeping and Waking have often been considered within anthroposophical contemplations from various points of view. But understanding of such facts of life must always be intensified anew when other subjects concerning the world are considered. The contemplation that the earth is a seed for a newly emerging macrocosm presents an opportunity for enhanced understanding of the phenomena of sleeping and waking.

When awake, man lives in the thought-shadows which are emitted from a dying world - and in the impulses of will, the innermost essence of which he perceives as little with normal consciousness as he perceives what takes place during deep dreamless sleep.

By the induction of these subconscious impulses of will into the thought-shadows, autonomous self-consciousness arises. The “I” lives in this self-consciousness.

As man experiences his surroundings in this state, his inner feelings are penetrated by outer-earthly cosmic impulses which enter the present from a far distant cosmic past. He is not conscious of this. A being can only be conscious of what he participates in with his own dying forces, and not with growing forces that give life to that being. Thus man is conscious of himself in that he loses sight of the foundation of his being. But it is just because of this that he is in a position to sense himself completely in the thought-shadows while in the waking state. No reviving element hinders his inner being from participating in the process of dying out. But this “living in the dying” conceals the nature of the earth as the seed of a new universe. In the waking state man does not perceive the earth as it is; its incipient cosmic life is concealed.

Man lives thus in what the earth gives him as the foundation of his self-consciousness. In the age of self-conscious I-enfolding, he loses spiritual sight of the true nature of his inner impulses as well as those of his surroundings. But it is just in this hovering over the world-being that he experiences the being of his I; he experiences himself as a self-conscious being. Above him the outer-earthly cosmos, below him the earth – a world whose true essence remains hidden; between them the revelation of the free “I”, whose true essence radiates the full resplendence of knowledge and free will.

It is otherwise during sleep, when man’s astral body and his I live in the seed nature of the earth. The most intensive “urge for new life” acts in human surroundings in dreamless sleep. And his dreams are permeated by this life, but not so strongly as to prevent him from experiencing them in a kind of semi-consciousness. In this semi-conscious observation of dreams one sees the forces through which the human being is woven from the cosmos. In the flash of dreams the astral enlivening of man streaming into the ether body becomes visible. In these flashes thought still lives. Upon awakening it is captured by the forces through which it dies, becomes shadow.

This connection between dreaming and waking thoughts is meaningful. Man thinks with the same forces by which he grows and lives. Yet these forces must die in order for him to become a thinker.

This is the point where a correct understanding can arise as to why man grasps reality through thinking. In his thoughts he has the dead picture of what creates him from quickening reality.

The dead picture: this dead picture is, however, the result of the activity of the great painter, the cosmos itself. To be sure, there is no life in it. If life was in it, the I could not unfold. But it contains the universe’s whole content in all its glory. To the extent possible at the time, in my Philosophy of Freedom I described this inner connection between thinking and reality. It is where I wrote that a bridge leads from the profundity of thinking to the profundity of nature’s reality.

For normal consciousness sleep extinguishes because it leads to the earth’s sprouting life in the becoming macrocosm. When imaginative consciousness eliminates this extinguishing process, an earth with the sharp contours of the mineral, vegetable and animals kingdoms no longer stands before the human soul. Rather is it a living process which enkindles within the earth and flames out into the macrocosm.

It is the case that in the waking state man, with his own I-being, must withdraw from the world-being in order to achieve free self-consciousness. In the sleeping state he reunites with the world-being.        

During the present cosmic moment the rhythm of man’s earthly existence consists of experiencing his own Being outside the “inner” world; and the extinguishing of the consciousness of his own Being within the “inner” world.

During the time between death and a new birth the human I lives within the Beings of the spirit-world. There everything which escaped consciousness during the earthly waking state enters this consciousness. The macrocosmic forces emerge from their completely living existence during the remote past up until their moribund condition in the present. The earthly forces also emerge however, which are the seeds of the becoming macrocosm. And when sleeping man sees into it as clearly as he sees the earth glistening in the sun during his earth life.

Only insofar as the macrocosm has become moribund, as it is at present, can the human being go through life between death and a new birth with a higher wakefulness than during his waking earth life. An awakening through which man becomes capable of mastering the forces which are present only fleetingly in dreams. These forces fill the whole cosmos. They are all-pervading. The human being derives from them the impulses from which the great artwork of the macrocosm, his body, is formed during his descent to earth.

What dawns sun-abandoned in dreams lives in the spirit-world spiritually sundrenched, waiting, till the Beings of the higher hierarchies or man invoke it to creative activity.

Goetheanum, January 1925         


156. In the waking state, in order to experience himself in completely free self-consciousness, man must renounce experiencing the true essence of reality in his own being and in that of nature. He raises himself out of the ocean of this reality in order to truly experience his own I in the thought-shadows.


157. In the sleeping state, man lives with the earth’s surroundings; but this life extinguishes his self-consciousness.


158. In dreams the powerful universal being flares up in semi-consciousness - from which the human being is woven and from which he forms his body during his descent from the spirit-world. In earthly life this powerful universal being dies out in man, even as far as the thought-shadows, for only in this way that it can become the foundation of his self-consciousness.   




Gnosis and Anthroposophy


When the Mystery of Golgotha took place, “Gnosis” was the manner of thinking of a part of humanity which could provide not merely a feeling but also a cognitive understanding of the event which had the greatest impact in the earthly history of mankind.

If one wishes to understand the mentality of those in whom Gnosis was prevalent it is necessary to bear in mind that the age of Gnosis was that of the Comprehension or Sensitivity Soul. Due to this fact one can also find the reason for the almost complete disappearance of Gnosis from history. This disappearance is perhaps one of the strangest occurrences in human evolution.

The unfolding of the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul was preceded by that of the Sentient Soul and the latter was preceded by that of the sentient body. When world events were perceived through the sentient body, all human knowledge was in the senses. The world was perceived in colors, tones and so forth; but in the colors, tones and warmth states a world of spiritual beings was conceived. One didn’t speak about “matter” in which colors, warmth states and so forth appeared; one spoke of spiritual beings which were revealed by what the senses perceived.

The unfolding of “comprehension”, which later lived in man alongside sense perception, did not yet exist in that age. Either one concentrated on the outer world, in which case the gods revealed themselves to him through his senses, or his soul withdrew from the outer world and he felt a faint sense of life within him.

A meaningful transition took place with the Sentient Soul developed. The manifestation of the divine through the senses diminished. In its place appeared the more or less divine-less sense impressions, the color and warmth states, etc. In his interior the divine revealed itself in spiritual form, in pictorial ideas. Thus he perceived the world from two sides: from outside through sense impressions, from within thorough impressions of spiritual ideality.

Man then had to be able to perceive the spirit-impressions in as clear and as defined a form as he previously had perceived the divine through the senses. He could do so as long as the Sentient Soul age persisted. From his inner being pictorial ideas rose up fully formed. From within he was filled with sense-free spiritual content, which was a mirror of cosmic-content. The gods who previously appeared to him clothed in the senses now appeared in spiritual garments.

This was the age when Gnosis arose and lived. A marvelous cognition existed in which one could participate if he developed his inner self in purity in order that divine content could manifest itself therein. From the fourth and into the first millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha this Gnosis prevailed in the most knowledgeably advanced portion of humanity.

Then the age of the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul began. The pictures of the divine world no longer emerged on their own from the human being’s inner self. He had to use inner strength in order to draw them out of his soul. The outer world with its sense impressions became questionable. Only when he used inner strength to draw the divine world-pictures from his soul did he obtain answers.

But the pictures were pale compared to their previous form. This was the mental constitution of the humanity which developed so wonderfully in Greece. The Greek felt himself to be in the sensible outer world and felt in it a magical strength as an impetus for the unfolding of world-pictures. In philosophy this mental constitution developed in Platonism.

But behind it all stood the Mysteries, in which what existed from the age of the Sentient Soul in Gnosis was faithfully preserved. Human souls were trained for this faithful preservation. In normal evolution the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul developed. Through special training the Sentient Soul was revivified. Thus during the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul Age a richly developed world of the Mysteries existed. In this world lived the world-images of the gods, also insofar as they included rituals. One looks into the interior of these Mysteries and views the universe in the images of the most wonderful ritualistic acts.

Those who experienced that also perceived the Mystery of Golgotha, when it took place, in its most profound cosmic significance. But the Mysteries were kept completely apart from the outer world’s disorder in order to maintain the purity of the world of spiritual images. And for human souls this became ever more difficult.

Then spiritual beings descended from the spiritual cosmos into the highest Mystery sites in order to help those who were striving for knowledge. In this way the impulses of the Sentient Soul age unfolded further under the influence of the “gods” themselves. A Mystery-Gnosis arose, about which only a few had the barest notion. Beside it existed what could be absorbed by means of the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul. This was exoteric Gnosis, remnants of which have come down to posterity.

In esoteric Gnosis, people became less able to raise themselves to the unfolding of the Sentient Soul. This esoteric wisdom gradually became the sole possession of the “gods”. And this is a secret of the historical evolution of humanity: that from the first Christian centuries until the middle ages “Divine Mysteries” were active in it.

In these “Divine Mysteries” angelic beings preserved for human beings what they could no longer preserve themselves. Thus Mystery-Gnosis persevered while exoteric Gnosis was being eradicated.

The World-Picture-Content, which in the Mystery-Gnosis was preserved in a spiritual way by spiritual beings as long as it was to be active in human evolution, could not be grasped by conscious human understanding. But its feeling content was to be preserved, and in the right cosmic moment it was to be given to the people who were prepared for it, in order that by means of its soul-warmth the Consciousness Soul could penetrate later into the spirit realm in a new way. Thus spiritual beings built the bridge between the old and the new cosmic contents.

Indications of this secret about human evolution exist. The sacred Jasper cup of the Grail which Christ used when he broke bread and in which Joseph of Arimathea caught the blood from Christ’s wounds, therewith containing the Mystery of Golgotha, was – according to the legend – taken in custody by angels until Titurel could build the Grail Castle and let it descend to the human beings prepared to receive it.

Spiritual beings bore the World-Pictures in which the secrets of Golgotha lived. They sank the feeling content (not the picture-content, for that was not possible) into humanity when the appropriate time arrived.

This implanting of the feeling-content of ancient knowledge can be only a stimulus, but a most powerful stimulus, which in our age of the Consciousness Soul, and in light of Michael’s activity, can develop a completely new understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.

Anthroposophy strives for this new understanding. From the foregoing description one sees that it cannot be a renewal of Gnosis, which depended on the kind of knowledge derived from the Sentient Soul for its content; but that it [anthroposophy] must bring an equally rich content from the Consciousness Soul in a completely new way.


Goetheanum, January, 1925



159. Gnosis developed in its true form during the Sentient Soul age (fourth to first millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha). The “divine” revealed itself to human beings during this age as spirit-content within them, whereas during the previous age of the sentient body it manifested itself through the sense impressions of the outer world.


160. During the age of the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul, the spirit-content of the “divine” could be only dimly experienced. Gnosis was preserved in strict Mysteries, and when men were no longer able to do this because they were not in condition to revivify the Sentient Soul, it was accomplished by spiritual beings up until the Middle Ages – although not the cognitive, but the feeling content. (The Grail legend contains intimations of this.)  Meanwhile exoteric Gnosis, which penetrated into the Comprehension or Sensibility Soul, was exterminated.


161. Anthroposophy cannot be a renewal of Gnosis, for the latter was dependent on the development of the Sentient Soul. Anthroposophy must, in the light of Michael’s activity, develop a new understanding of the world and Christ derived from the Consciousness Soul. Gnosis was a cognition preserved from an ancient age, and was the best way for humanity to understand the Mystery of Golgotha when it actually occurred. 


Translation: Frank Thomas Smith    


Continued in the next issue of SCR. When the translation is complete, “Antrhoposophical Guidelines” will be available as an e-book.