Sleep: only a transitory state

Those who have understood a little of the evolution of the spiritual forces and capacities of mankind know that there are different states of consciousness, that what we call sleep in the average man is only a transitory state which in the future will develop into one in which the human being, independent of the body, will perceive the spiritual world. (This is today already the case with the initiates.) 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 103 – The Gospel of St. John – Lecture I – The Doctrine of the Logos – Hamburg, 18th May 1908

Translated by Maud B. Monges

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Previously posted on  14 november 2018

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About thinking and not thinking

It is a very important principle to let the organ of thinking work in yourselves. You are practicing this best of all if you try not to think for a while, howsoever short. 

A big, immense decision belongs to it to sit or to lie somewhere without letting thoughts go through the head. It is much easier to let your thoughts surge up and down in yourselves, until you are released from them by a good sleep than to tell yourselves: now you are awake and, nevertheless, you do not think, but you think nothing at all. If you are able to sit or to lie quietly and to think nothing with full consciousness, then the organ of thinking works in such a way that it gains strength in itself, accumulates strength. 

Who puts himself in the situation over and over again not to think with full consciousness notices that the clearness of his thinking increases, that in particular repartee grows because he does not only leave his apparatus of thinking to itself by sleep, but that he lets this apparatus of thinking itself work under his guidance.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 57 – WHERE AND HOW DOES ONE FIND THE SPIRIT? – X. The Practical Development of Thinking – Berlin, 11 February 1909

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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

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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

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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

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