- By Emanuel Blosser with editing and feedback by Diane Robitelle
In his books, Theosophy and Occult Science: An Outline, Rudolf Steiner has chapters that compare sleep and death. With great ingenuity he gives a series of thoughts and observations by which one can reach, through personal observation, the same conclusion he reached: that during sleep the human ego journeys to the same place it journeys after the death of the body. From that spirit-land the ego awakens back into the body each morning or is born back into a new bodily formation each lifetime. The path by which one can personally observe such facts of human existence is built on the fact that while death separates the human ego from a particular body permanently and sleep separates the ego from consciousness in that body temporarily, there is also a third way for the ego to separate from the body and journey through the same soul-land and spirit-land in which it lives during sleep and death.
This third way of separating from the body begins with observing there are present, incarnated in the bodily organization, elements that can't possibly have their source in that organization. Slumbering in every waking human soul are experiences that have their source in the pre-birth and deep-sleep conditions.
To begin with one grows up through the phases of childhood and collects a large set of experiences and ideas about these experiences. Then at some point one meets the idea that beyond death and in deep sleep there is a reality which can be the subject of knowledge and observation. Many feel the truth of this idea and believe it is real. Others look at the boundaries of birth and death and on considering various facts and ideas conclude it is nonsense to think there is a non-sense world beyond those boundaries.
Steiner's proposal is that one can settle the question about the reality of the non-sense world by careful thought and careful observation of the activity of thought and observation. If one pays close attention to these two human activities, one will encounter two quite separate sets of facts that can't possibly have their source in the set of facts that appear in the sense organs of the body. These two sets of facts simply do not enter consciousness in the same way the set of facts of the sense organs enter consciousness and therefore, to conclude they do not have their source in a different reality is a nonsense conclusion.
Steiner gives his most concrete and concise description of the observations, that anyone can make for themselves of these three sets of facts, in the opening paragraphs of Theosophy, chapter one:
THE following words of Goethe point beautifully to the beginning of one way by which the essential nature of man can be known. "As soon as a person becomes aware of the objects around him, he considers them in relation to himself, and rightly so, because his whole fate depends on whether they please or displease him, attract or repel, help or harm him. This quite natural way of looking at or judging things appears to be as easy as it is necessary. A person is, nevertheless, exposed through it to a thousand errors that often make him ashamed and embitter his life.
"A far more difficult task is undertaken by those whose keen desire for knowledge urges them to strive to observe the objects of nature as such and in their relationship to each other. These individuals soon feel the lack of the test that helped them when they, as men, regarded the objects in reference to themselves personally. They lack the test of pleasure and displeasure, attraction and repulsion, usefulness and harmfulness. Yet this test must be renounced entirely. They ought as dispassionate and, so to speak, divine beings, to seek and examine what is, not what gratifies. Thus the true botanist should not be moved either by the beauty or by the usefulness of the plants. He must study their formation and their relation to the rest of the plant kingdom. They are one and all enticed forth and shone upon by the sun without distinction, and so he should, equably and quietly, look at and survey them all and obtain the test for this knowledge, the data for his deductions, not out of himself, but from within the circle of the things he observes."
This thought thus expressed by Goethe directs man's attention to three divisions of things. First, the objects concerning which information continually flows to him through the doors of his senses-the objects he touches, smells, tastes, hears and sees. Second, the impressions that these make on him, characterizing themselves through the fact that he finds the one sympathetic, the other abhorrent, the one useful, another harmful. Third, the knowledge that he, as a "so to speak divine being," acquires concerning the objects, that is, the secrets of their activities and their being as they unveil themselves to him.
These three divisions are distinctly separate in human life, and man thereby becomes aware that he is interwoven with the world in a threefold way. The first division is one that he finds present, that he accepts as a given fact. Through the second he makes the world into his own affair, into something that has a meaning for him. The third he regards as a goal towards which he ought unceasingly to strive.
Why does the world appear to man in this threefold way? A simple consideration will explain it. I cross a meadow covered with flowers. The flowers make their colors known to me through my eyes. That is the fact I accept as given. Having accepted the fact, I rejoice in the splendor of the colors. Through this I turn the fact into an affair of my own. Through my feelings I connect the flowers with my own existence. Then, a year later I go again over the same meadow. Other flowers are there. Through them new joy arises in me. My joy of the former year will appear as a memory. This is in me. The object that aroused it in me is gone, but the flowers I now see are of the same kind as those I saw the year before. They have grown in accordance with the same laws as have the others. If I have informed myself regarding this species and these laws, I then find them again in the flowers of this year, just as I found them in those of last year. So I shall perhaps muse, "The flowers of last year are gone and my joy in them remains only in my memory. It is bound up with my existence alone. What I recognized in the flowers of last year and recognize again this year, however, will remain as long as such flowers grow. That is something that revealed itself to me, but it is not dependent on my existence in the same way as my joy is. My feelings of joy remain in me. The laws, the being of the flowers, remain outside of me in the world."
By these means man continually links himself in this threefold way with the things of the world. One should not, for the present, read anything into this fact, but merely take it as it stands. From this it can be seen that man has three sides to his nature. This and nothing else will, for the present, be indicated here by the three words, body, soul and spirit. Whoever connects any preconceived opinions or even hypotheses with these three words will necessarily misunderstand the following explanations. By body is here meant that through which the things in the environment of a man reveal themselves to him, as in the above example, the flowers in the meadow. By the word soul is signified that by which he links the things to his own being, through which he experiences pleasure and displeasure, desire and aversion, joy and sorrow in connection with them. By spirit is meant what becomes manifest in him when, as Goethe expressed it, he looks at things as a "so to speak divine being." In this sense man consists of body, soul and spirit.
Through his body man is able to place himself for the time being in connection with things; through his soul he retains in himself the impressions they make on him; through his spirit there reveals itself to him what the things retain for themselves. Only when we observe man in these three aspects can we hope to throw light on his whole being, because they show him to be related in a threefold way to the rest of the world.
Through his body man is related to the objects that present themselves to his senses from without. The materials from the outer world compose his body, and the forces of the outer world work also in it. He observes the things of the outer world with his senses, and he also is able to observe his own bodily existence. It is impossible, however, for him to observe his soul existence in the same way. Everything in him that is bodily process can be perceived with his bodily senses. His likes and dislikes, his joy and pain, neither he nor anyone else can perceive with bodily senses. The region of the soul is inaccessible to bodily perception. The bodily existence of a man is manifest to all eyes; the soul existence he carries within himself as his world. Through the spirit, however, the outer world is revealed to him in a higher way. The mysteries of the outer world, indeed, unveil themselves in his inner being. He steps in spirit out of himself and lets the things speak about themselves, about what has significance not for him but for them. For example, man looks up at the starry heavens. The delight his soul experiences belongs to him. The eternal laws of the stars that he comprehends in thought, in spirit, belong not to him but to the stars themselves.
In this way, man is a citizen of three worlds. Through his body he belongs to the world that he also perceives through his body; through his soul he constructs for himself his own world; through his spirit a world reveals itself to him that is exalted above both the others.
It seems obvious that because of the essential differences of these three worlds, a clear understanding of them and of man's share in them can only be obtained by means of three different modes of observation.
Based on these considerations I can say that I bring two inner activities to all that meets me in the sense world. I meet it with a feeling and I think about it. In his books, Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, Truth and Science, and A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World View, Steiner gives all the philosophical detail necessary to refute all the possible philosophical objections to the conclusion that thought, feeling and sense are three different worlds having to be understood and approached in three different modes of observation. Rather than enter into those details here I would like to comment on what logically and observationally follows from this simple starting point.
If one begins with this secure and simple starting point, one can for oneself develop the methods necessary to make observations in these three worlds. If the ego carefully with these methods follows its thinking, feeling and sense life back to their sources, a completely new view of the human being, nature and the universe opens. The differences between this new view and the present physical big bang/quantum mechanical model are huge. When I think, I am in the realm outside the sphere of the fixed stars looking down through the 12 windows of the zodiac, though the circling planets, through the sequentially condensing elements of warmth, air, water and earth into the activity of the human body inside the four kingdoms of nature. When I feel, I am the result of the activity of the encircling round of the planets living between the zodiac and the elements. When I sense, I am INSIDE the kingdoms of nature, looking out at the world. When I am I, I can see myself moving up and down almost instantaneously between these realms.
With all the rocket science necessary for travel in the non-terrestrial weightless realms above the material sphere of the globe, we have gained the ability for the spherical nature of the material earth to become a personal individual perception. Anyone who goes to the place where you can see this view, will see the same facts. Before all the rocket science of the last century was developed, conclusive knowledge of the spherical nature of the material earth had to be established by tracing a journey around the sphere.
Until all the spiritual science of the ego is developed, where every individual can see for themselves the soul-land of the planets and the spirit-land beyond the fixed stars, we can understand the spherical nature of the fixed stars, rather than the infinite homogeneous space picture that present science has worked out, if we follow the steps and make the journey ourselves. In all of his basic books, Steiner describes the steps to create a second self that stands along side the lower self. In Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, this second self is called the free self that stands along side the unfree self. The free self first appears as a simple single-cell organism when the question is asked, 'Do I have free will or is my existence the result of the iron necessity of natural law? If I follow where this question leads, I come to the point where I can see that when I ask such a question, I have already stepped out of the laws of nature that reign in the body, the laws of karmic inheritance that reign in my feeling life and the accumulations of thought that exist in my ego as my mental pictures. This question is itself the first cell of the body of the free self. As I think and feel my way through understanding the laws of nature, the predetermined characterlogical dispositions of my soul, and the way that free self activity joins observation and thinking to create mental pictures, I add more and more organic processes to the free self. With each of these steps I can see myself journeying up and down between the thought world outside the fixed stars, the surging deeds of the circling planets, and the bodily incarnation of the sense world.
In Theosophy, Steiner refers to these realms as sense life, soul-land and spirit-land, and describes the ego's journey through these realms after death when a division is created between the physical body which is left behind as corpse and the life body that maintains the body, continually regenerating its material substance. In sleep a division is created between the life body and the sentient or astral body, so the material substance is not left to be a corpse, but sentient consciousness is lost since it no longer has the material and etheric forms to mirror the ego to itself.
On the path of self development the second self creates a division between itself and the astral body. The lower self appears in the sentient consciousness of the astral body when the astral body receives the reflections of the deeds of the ego from the etheric and mineral bodies. The second self creates itself independent of the astral body and so gradually learns to know itself through its deeds of thought. Since the connection between the astral body and the etheric body is maintained, there is no loss of ordinary consciousness when the second self separates itself from the astral body. The lower self in the astral body has to be held completely still for the second self to exist and move out through soul-land and spirit-land. This stillness can not be held indefinitely. The second self has to return and 'sleep' while the activity of the lower self continues for awhile, just as the lower self has to sleep and let the etheric body work alone.
THE CIRCLE OF THEOSOPHY, THE GROUP and THE COLORED WINDOWS OF THE GOETHEANUM
In my study and teaching I have come to refer to this waking, travel through soul-land, to spirit-land, and back across soul-land to sleeping again in the lower self, that the second self can learn, the Circle of Theosophy. A group in Alberta has been studying this circle and developing experience in traveling it. We took as part of that study last year, The Group, the statue Steiner carved for the stage of the First Goetheanum and the coloured windows of the First and Second Goetheanums.
Though there are many details to work-out in the future, what we have found, beginning with the Representative of Man, standing in the statue on the Stage, between five distorted human-like forms, then circling in order through the images of the south windows, east to west, then out of sight behind the wall through the Red Window, south to north, and back into the Great Hall through the images of the north windows, west to east, down to the stage and the Representative of Man, is that the Statue and Windows together are an artistic expression of the Circle of Theosophy. They are capable of guiding the soul through the steps on this circle as it finds itself waking up from the lower self into the second self, then journeying through the door of the First Goetheanum in the South Rose window past the edge of the sense world, meeting the beings and developing the wings of soul necessary to cross the abyss into the fields of knowledge, where at the Midnight hour one looks through the eyes of Michael gazing through the wall down into the eyes of the Representative of Man, then on the wings of knowledge, meeting the edge of spirit-land and journeying past all the tempting beasts, back to the kingdoms of earth that are bound to distorted human forms of the Group which the counter-forces have produced through the planetary cycles of evolution, then doing deeds which further the evolution of the four kingdoms of nature.
The Circle of Theosophy also appears in the Foundation Stone Meditation and the Soul Calendar.
To understand that the human being is a member of three separate worlds, and is the being who connects these worlds with each other, brings one into an understanding of space and time that is radically different from the current scientific assumptions about space and time. Scientific understanding of space and time has gone through three major paradigm shifts since the modern experimental process of measuring the various fundamental quantities was taken as its philosophical foundation in the work of Copernicus and Galileo. Newton, Einstein and Bohr each introduced radical new conclusions.
The paradigm shift Steiner proposed cuts into the assumptions that exist in the philosophical foundation of the experimental method. No kind of measurement can be made to show that the human ego can journey outside the sphere of the stars and look down on the planets and earth. Each ego, though, that follows what appears in their consciousness as thinking and feeling back to its source, will find itself in such a position. Looking down upon the sphere of the fixed stars, the encircling planets and earth at their center, means that the models of space, time, mass, energy and quantum charge facts, that are used to understand the mineral kingdom, will have to evolve into new forms. As Copernicus and Columbus ushered in the new science, replacing Aristotelian science, so Steiner is ushering in new science, making the old look infantile.
Now, just as then, the new science also appears heretical, fantastic, illusionary, even demonic to some. To look upon the mineral world as one of three worlds, which is connected by the activity of a fourth, will require that the facts be rearranged and remodeled. The current models will then look as naive and infantile as Aristotle’s work, which was based on initiation training, looked when modern experiment and measurement became the tools of science. Spiritual Science opens up the journey that the ego makes between death and birth, between sleeping and waking and between question and answer. With spiritual science one can view how the etheric life forces stream into earth life from the heights of the zodiacal sphere and the astral sentient forces stream into the depths of earth life from the encircling planets. The facts that distinguish the 92 naturally occurring mineral elements from each other will have to be modeled in a new way to allow for such astral and etheric forces to exist and be connected to the mineral elements. The atomic model of micro-existence and the astronomical homogeneous space of macro-existence will both then appear to have the same significance as the flat-earth model because human thought and feeling will have expanded into a Whole New view of the true human being and the space in which we exist.
The feeling that our ego-self existence occupies a minute speck in the vast machinery of time and space that is derived from the current models of space and time, will be looked upon as ‘so naïve’. As an ego being in thought, sleep and death, I journey into the realms of eternity outside the transitory realm of time and space.