The will sleeps by day  

In the ordinary waking condition of physical life, man has, as a rule, very little power or control over his will and its impulses. The will is very detached from daily life. Only consider how little of all you do from morning to evening is really the outcome of your own thinking, of your personal resolutions. When someone knocks at the door and you say “Come in!”, that cannot be called a decision of your own thinking and will. If you are hungry and seat yourself at a table, that cannot be called a decision made by the will, because it is occasioned by your circumstances, by the needs of your organism. Try to picture your daily life and you will find how little the will is directly influenced from the centre of your being. 

Why is this the case? Occultism shows us that in respect of his will man actually sleeps by day, that is to say he is not in the real sense present in his will-impulses at all. We may evolve better and better concepts and ideas; or we may become more highly moral, more cultured individuals, but we can do nothing as regards the will. By cultivating better thoughts we can work indirectly upon the will but as far as life is concerned we can do nothing directly to it, for in the waking life of day, our will is influenced only in an indirect way, namely through sleep. When we are asleep we do not think; ideation passes over into a state of sleep. The will, however, awakes, permeates our organism from outside, and invigorates it. We feel strengthened in the morning because what has penetrated into our organism is of the nature of will.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – The Etherisation of the Blood – Basle, October 1, 1911


The etheric body

Our etheric body is very complex and contains all our memories, ready to present them to us when we recall them. Even those things that have sunk down into the depths of the soul, things we are not aware of in waking consciousness, are contained in the etheric body in some way. Our whole life in this incarnation is retained in the etheric body, is really present in it. 

Of course, this is very difficult to imagine, but it is true nevertheless. Imagine you were to talk all day long, as some people do, and everything you said was recorded on records. When the first record is full, you take a second one, then a third, and so on. The number of records would depend on how much you spoke. Now if someone collected all the records, everything you had said would be nicely preserved on records at the end of the day. 

Then, if someone played them, everything you said during the day would be heard again. In a similar way, all our memories are retained in the etheric body. Under the special conditions of sleep one part of the etheric body appears before us, as though — to stay with this metaphor — we took one record from the collection and played it; this is the most common kind of dream. Thus our consciousness weaves in our own etheric body.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 154 – UNDERSTANDING THE SPIRITUAL WORLD (PART ONE) – Berlin, April 18, 1914

Translated by Christian von Arnim and edited by Joachim Reuter


Meeting the Guardian of the Threshold of the Spiritual World

What a satisfaction it is that the first momentous meeting with a being of the supersensible world is the meeting with our own being in its true reality which will guide us further in human evolution.

We may say that there is hidden within man a being that keeps careful watch and ward on the boundary which has to be crossed at the entrance to the supersensible world.

This spiritual being, hidden in man, which is man himself, but which he can as little perceive with ordinary consciousness as the eye can see itself, is the guardian of the threshold of the spiritual world.

We learn to recognise him at the moment at which we are not only actually he, but are also confronting him, as though we were standing outside him, and he were another being.

As with other experiences of supersensible worlds, it is the strengthened and reinforced faculties of the soul which make visible the guardian of the threshold.

For, setting aside the fact that the meeting with the guardian becomes raised into knowledge by clairvoyant spiritual sight, that meeting is not an event which happens only to the man who has become clairvoyant.

Exactly the same fact as is represented by this meeting happens to every human being every time he falls asleep, and we are confronting ourselves — which is the same thing as standing before the guardian of the threshold — for so long as our sleep lasts.

During sleep the soul rises to its supersensible nature. But its inner forces are not then strong enough to bring about consciousness of itself.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 17 –  A Road to Self-Knowledge and The Threshold of the Spiritual World: VIII. Concerning the Guardian of the Threshold and some Peculiarities of Clairvoyant Consciousness


Predisposition to epidemic diseases

Certain epidemics appear in life — illnesses that affect whole masses of the population and are therefore essentially a social concern. Ordinary materialistic science studies these illnesses by examining the physical organism of man. It knows nothing of the tremendous effect which the abnormal attitude of human beings to waking and sleeping life has upon epidemics and the susceptibility to epidemic diseases. Certain things take place in the organism during sleep and if they run to excess, they strongly predispose the human being to so-called epidemic diseases. Men and women who set organic processes in action as the result of too much sleep — I mean processes that ought not to take place, because waking life must not be broken up by such lengthy periods of sleep — these people have a much stronger predisposition to epidemic diseases and are less able to resist them.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 314 – Hygiene – a Social Problem – Dornach, 7th April, 1920


Too much sleep

If we decided to sleep more, as some retired people do, we would sleep too much. Of course, that is no objection to sleeping a lot. Since intellectual work takes a lot out of our physical organization, people doing that kind of work need much sleep. But if we sleep too much, we have too many new life forces and these then begin to proliferate; the human being then abounds with life forces. This surplus of life forces leads to illness. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 154 –  Presence of the dead: LECTURE SIX: FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE – Prague, April 17, 1914