Practical life is the best spiritual preparation 

In my book “Vom Menschenrätsel” I have pointed out that one can say: as a man awakes from sleep in which has only a very dull consciousness, to the ordinary waking consciousness, so he can wake up from this ordinary consciousness, in which he usually lives his life, to perceive the spiritual. It is an awakening into a supersensible world that one acquires through spiritual exercises. But in the same way that everyday life can never be healthy if one does not also regularly have a healthy sleep life, so can the entrance into the world of spirit not be healthy, if one does not first develop a healthy waking life grounded in reality and practical insight; If one does not first discipline oneself, so that one can handle the realities of external life.

The awakening to spiritual perception can only follow from a healthy life during the day, just as the awakening to a healthy life during the day can only come about from a healthy sleep not disturbed by illness. Everything whereby man is in some way alienated from the realities of life, all that people search for out of folly, prejudice, false asceticism, aversion to life, living in mystical twilight or mystical darkness – all that the spiritual scientist needs to ban from his life. To stand properly in everyday life, face to face with practical reality, that is the best preparation for entering the spiritual world.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 72 – Freiheit, Unsterblichkeit, Soziales Leben – Basel, 19th October 1917 (page 78-79)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Previously posted (in 2 parts) on 4 and 5 January 2015

Everything we experience by day we work upon during the night

In the time between your sleeping and waking — quite unconsciously, of course, as regards the normal consciousness — you will work upon much of what you are now in a position to hear. You will work upon it a great deal in your next sleep and perhaps also during the following nights. One sees souls labouring between sleeping and waking in quite a different fashion at what they have absorbed. And even if it occurred that someone had listened very inattentively, and had merely been somewhat receptive, yet through that receptivity he would draw into his soul the spiritual powers and impulse in the lecture. And that would be worked upon during sleep, and transformed into what we require not only for the rest of life up till death, but beyond death. Thus we work over our whole life as it transpires by day between our waking and sleeping.

Everything we experience by day we work upon during the night. Thus as it were, we learn lessons which we need for all the rest of our life here, and beyond death into the next incarnation. When we are asleep, we are our own prophetic transmuters of our life. This sleep-life is full of tremendously deep riddles, for it is much more deeply connected with what we experience, than is the external consciousness, and we work at it all from the standpoint of its fruitfulness for the following life. What we can make of ourselves through what we have experienced, is the object of our labour in the time between sleeping and waking. Whether we become stronger and more powerful in our soul, or perhaps have to reproach ourselves, we labour at all our experiences so that they become life-fruit. You see from this, that the life between sleeping and waking is really enormously significant, and that it goes deeply into the whole riddle of man.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157a – The Forming of Destiny and Life after Death: LECTURE 1: SPIRITUAL LIFE IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD AND LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH – Berlin, 16th November, 1915

Translated by Harry Collison

Previously posted on February 27, 2019

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Forgetting unhappy experiences

Memory and oblivion signify for the ego what waking and sleeping signify for the astral body. Just as sleep permits the cares and troubles of the day to disappear into nothingness, oblivion spreads a veil over the bad experiences of life, blotting out a part of the past. Just as sleep is necessary for the restoration of the exhausted life forces, so man has to eradicate certain parts of the past from his memory if he is to approach new experiences freely and without bias. 

But precisely through forgetting, strength develops for perception of the new. Consider certain facts, like that of learning to write. All the details the child has to experience in learning to write are forgotten. What remains is the ability to write. How would man be able to write if at every stroke of the pen all the past experiences in learning to write were to arise again in the soul as memory?

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science: II: THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF MANKIND

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges

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Nourishment for the dead

It will become increasingly clear to us how this earthly life is connected with spiritual life. We rely on nature, which is on a lower level than we are, for our nourishment. For some time after death, the dead derive their nourishment from the ideas and the unconscious emotions that we here on earth take into sleep with us. Those who have died perceive a tremendous difference between people who in their waking life are filled only with materialistic feelings and ideas and also take them into sleep, and others who are wholly filled with spiritual ideas while awake and who continue to be filled with them in sleep. 

The two types of people are as different in their effect on the dead as a barren region where no food can grow, where people would starve, and a fruitful area that offers nourishment in abundance. For many years after death, the dead draw a vitality from the souls sleeping here on earth filled with spiritual content, a vitality that is similar, only transposed into the spiritual realm, to what we draw in our physical life from the beings of the kingdoms of nature below us. We literally turn ourselves into fruitful pastures for the dead when we fill ourselves with the ideas of spiritual science. And we turn ourselves into barren ground and starve the dead if we take only materialistic ideas and attitudes into sleep.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 154 – The Presence of the Dead on the Spiritual Path: Lecture Three: Awakening Spiritual Thoughts – Basel, May 5, 1914

Translated by Christian von Arnim

Previously posted on November 29, 2016

Without materialism man could not have become free

At the primeval time of his development man had not only the two states he now has, of sleeping and waking and between these a chaotic dreamy state; there was then a, third state, in which reality was present. This was not merely a state of dreaming, for in it man was able, although his consciousness was damped down, to see pictures and to learn by them, for these pictures were true to spiritual reality. 

Now, as we know, in order that man should develop the full Earth-consciousness, this method of perception had to be withdrawn. If it had persisted, man would never have gained his freedom, he could not have become free if he had not been subjected to all the dangers, arguments and temptations of materialism; but he has to find his way back again to the Spiritual world, and must now be able to grasp it in full Earth consciousness.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 175 – Cosmic and Human Metamorphoses – Lecture 2 – The Metamorphoses of the Soul-Forces – Berlin, 13th February 1917

Translated by Harry Collison

Previously posted on April 19,  2017