The Stuff of Dreams

The Wizard of Oz, released way back in 1939, tells the story of Dorothy, a girl who is carried off by a tornado that strikes her home in Kansas. She finds herself in a new and magical land where she is given a quest by a mighty wizard. She makes friends and encounters adversaries, whimsical characters all, as she pursues her quest. Eventually, she fulfills the quest and is able to return home. The last scene of the movie reveals that Dorothy’s amazing adventure was just a dream. She wakes up at home in Kansas recognizing that the imaginative characters of her dream are the people she knows in waking life who had been transformed.

This is an epic dream.


The ones we usually have, if we remember them at all, tend to lack this kind of detail. When we do recall a dream, though, we may remember some high drama or intricate plot that changed fluidly and consequently made no sense. People we know show up in unexpected places or play roles that don’t fit them. We can be ourselves one moment and become our best friend the next. We can be the student who asks the question and the teacher gives the answer. The “I” we know ourselves to be in waking life is hard to pin down in our dreams.

Most of us are curious about our dreams and what they mean. If we weren’t, many a business and whole psychologies based on dream interpretation would not exist. Steiner, too, is interested in dreams, but he indicates that it’s not the events that we should focus on, but the emotions that the dreams evoke. For example, since terror is such an intense emotion, we often remember our nightmares. Understanding that we are afraid is the point. We need to figure out the source of our fear, which probably is not of being attacked by wolves or losing our locker combination.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

Dreaming is an intermediate state between waking and sleeping. To thoughtful consideration, dream experiences consist of a colorful intermingling of images in a world that conceals an element of regularity and lawfulness within it, although at first glance this world seems to reveal an often confusing ebb and flow. In dreaming, we are released from the laws of waking consciousness that fetter us to sensory perception and to the rules that govern our power of judgment.

… We dream, for example, about driving off a dog that is about to pounce on us. We wake up to catch ourselves in the unconscious act of throwing off the covers where they were weighing on an unaccustomed body part and starting to bother us. Our sleeping life allows what our senses would perceive in the waking state to remain fully unconscious for the moment, but it does hold fast to one essential thing—the fact that we are trying to get rid of something. It spins a pictorial process around this fact. The images as such are echoes of our daily waking life, but there is something arbitrary in the way they are borrowed from it. We have the feeling that although the same external provocation might also conjure up other pictures in our dream, these would still symbolically express the sensation of wanting to get rid of something. Dreams create symbols; they are symbolists… The dream makes an image out of what sense-perception would offer if we were awake.

We see that as soon as our sensory activity comes to a halt, something creative asserts itself in us. During dreams, [the astral body] is separated from the physical body in that it is no longer connected to our sense organs, but it still maintains a certain connection to the ether body. That we can perceive the astral body’s processes in image form is due to this connection. When it ceases, the images immediately sink down into the darkness of the unconscious, and we have dreamless sleep.

Excerpt from: Occult Science: An Outline, Lecture III: Sleep and Death. 1910.

Dreams, both those resulting from physical occurrences intruding into our sleep and those resulting from emotions caused by current or previous life events, tell us about ourselves through imaginative pictures. Perhaps one way to begin understanding our own dreams is to identify the symbolism within them. We can isolate the physical cause that woke us and contemplate the symbolism our dream created to explain the event. We can reflect on the events that make us feel afraid or vulnerable and learn to see ourselves with more understanding and compassion.

Dorothy felt misunderstood; she was afraid and angry. She felt lost and desperate. And then the cyclone hit. The symbolism of The Wizard of Oz can be seen as the human path toward development, and the various characters as symbols of the emotions and values with which Dorothy, and all of us, struggle. The Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, the Scarecrow longing for a brain, the Tin Man wanting a heart, and the Lion wanting courage, are all powerful elements of being human. And all of those elements were inside her.

Maybe we don’t need outside dream interpreters as much as we need to look at our inner lives more closely. Not that we should dismiss the stuff of our dreams, but we could allow them to tell us about our waking struggles. If nothing else, the message that is clear from The Wizard of Oz is that we already possess everything we need to “walk the path” just as the Scarecrow obviously had a brain, etc. We just need to understand the lessons that both waking life and dreamlife are trying to teach us, and that takes a lot of effort over a lot of time.

Brian Gray lecture: Sleeping and Dreaming:

Seth Miller:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the novel by L. Frank Baum. (Project Gutenberg)

Phyllis Goldfarb, Teaching Metaphor, USC:

More Sleep

A children’s prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take. We might wonder why anyone would send children off to sleep with a prayer this dire. Yet something about sleep is revealed by contemplating this simple prayer: the fact that in sleep (and in death) our soul is released to the spiritual world. Did praying at bedtime once carry a reverence for the soul’s nightly sojourn that we have since forgotten?

Steiner says that spiritual research is living consciously into the world which normal people live into unconsciously every time they go to sleep. As we further explore what is happening when we go to sleep, we need to become acquainted with the way spiritual science views the human being: body, soul and spirit. In our contemporary culture we keep looking for answers to the complexities of life in the physical realm observable through our senses, but believing that our physical body is the sum total of who we are will never explain what happens while we sleep, let alone how we can say “I” to ourselves and know what that means.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

… [The] complete human being consists of the physical body, the etheric body or body of formative [healing] forces, the astral body, and the ego.

In the part of man perceptible to the outer senses … we have first, according to spiritual science, only a single member of the human being, the physical body, which man has in common with the mineral world. That part which is subject to physical laws, … the sum of chemical and physical laws, we designate in spiritual science as the physical body.

Beyond this, however, we recognize higher super-sensible members of human nature which are as actual and essential as the outer physical body.

As first super-sensible member, man has the etheric body, which becomes part of his organism and remains united with the physical body throughout the entire life; only at death does a separation of the two take place… During the entire time between birth and death this etheric or life body continuously combats the disintegration of the physical body… *

The third member of the human being we recognize as the bearer of all pleasure and suffering, joy and pain, instincts, impulses, passions, desires, and all that surges to and fro as sensations and ideas, even all concepts of what we designate as moral ideas, and so on. That we call the astral body.

Thus we already have three members of the human being, and as man’s highest member we recognize that by means of which he towers above all other beings…: the bearer of the human ego, which gives him in such a mysterious, but also in such a manifest way, the power of self-consciousness.

Man has the physical body in common with his entire visible environment, the etheric body in common with the plants and animals, the astral body with the animals. The fourth member, however, the ego, he has for himself alone… We recognize this fourth member as the ego-bearer, as that in human nature by means of which man is able to say “I” to himself, to come to independence.

Excerpt from: The Mystery of the Human Temperaments, Public lecture, Karlsruhe, January 19, 1909.

In Steiner’s sketch of the human being, we are asked to grasp in clear terms the larger part of ourselves that cannot be proved by natural science. If we can allow this idea to enter at all, we can also imagine that dreaming, dreamless sleep, transitions between the various stages of sleep, all occur because our four bodies are in a different relationship with each other than when we’re awake. Spiritual science tells us that when we sleep our physical and etheric bodies stay behind in bed while the astral body and ego enter into spiritual realms. When the etheric body leaves the physical body along with the astral and ego bodies, we die.

If we remember the Steiner quote from Occult Science, Chapter III: Sleep and Death in last month’s post, we may now understand a bit more about his references to the astral body returning to the spiritual environment when it is freed from the body. We fall asleep as the astral body and ego leave our physical and etheric bodies and awaken when they return. Our dream pictures, taken from ordinary life, arise in these transitions. We will discuss dreaming in next month’s post.

*A modern definition of the etheric body (and the difference between sleep and death) by Dr. Adam Blanning:

While You Were Sleeping

We should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, but that is often impossible; we just don’t have the time. In fact, we use coffee and energy drinks to wake us up in the morning and keep us awake long enough to get everything done. And then, when we finally do lay down, we’re still buzzing from the caffeine, or we’re interrupted by cell phone and computer notifications, or plagued by circular thoughts about personal problems or endless to-do lists; we just can’t get any peace.

sleeping woman in clouds-bw.jpg

These stressors are just a few of the factors that can exacerbate our struggle to achieve a decent night’s sleep. According to the Stanford University Research Center, there are 84 different sleep disorders that can affect people of all ages—from infancy to old age. 84!

We get it. We know it’s important to get enough sleep. If we don’t, we know we’ll have less energy and motivation all day; we also know that we’ll likely be more sensitive, more easily frustrated, quicker to anger. Sleep experts say that if we continue to get insufficient sleep, our outlook on life itself begins to suffer.

That’s why sleep trackers, sleeping pills, white noise, recordings of natural sounds, etc., are so popular now. We know we’re our best selves if we’ve slept well, and we’re willing to take significant measures to get the sleep we need. It’s hard to fathom, though, that “enough sleep” is about 1/3 of our lives; that if we live to be 75, we will have spent roughly 25 years sleeping or as a 30-year-old we’ve already slept for 10 years. On the surface, that seems like a huge waste of time. Why can’t we just rest instead? What, exactly, is going on while we’re unconscious?

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

Just as the physical body receives its food, for example, from its environment, so during the sleep state the astral body receives the images from the world about it. It lives there actually in… the same universe out of which the entire human being is born. The source of the images through which the human being receives his form lies in this universe. During sleep he is harmoniously inserted into it, and during the waking state he lifts himself out of this all-encompassing harmony in order to gain external perception. In sleep, his astral body returns to this cosmic harmony and on awaking again brings back to his bodies sufficient strength from it to enable him to dispense with his dwelling within the cosmic harmony for a certain length of time. The astral body, during sleep, returns to its home and on awaking brings back with it renewed forces into life. These forces that the astral body brings with it on awaking find outer expression in the refreshment that healthy sleep affords. (Occult Science: Chapter III: Sleep and Death)

The peculiarity of our waking life is that it does not participate in our constructive processes, in the creation of our own being, but that it shows symptoms of fatigue, and that, after all, it constantly consumes us. The waking life of day is in fact a process of destruction, and any unprejudiced observer will note that sleep is the very opposite: it is a creative process which restores, reorders and creates anew that which the waking life destroys.

… This creative process within us that takes place during sleep concerns us directly, yet we cannot know anything about it because immediately before this creative process arises, we lose our consciousness so that we cannot penetrate knowingly into spheres within our being where creative processes take place. But this leads to the immediate conclusion that if only we were able to maintain our consciousness beyond the point where torpor sets in, we could take hold of the creative phenomena in nature and the universe.

… There is no other path leading to a knowledge of things lying behind the sensory world that that of transcending our ordinary consciousness and penetrating into a creative process which takes place within us.

Excerpt from: Occultism and Initiation, Public lecture, Helsinki, April 12, 1912

We do have some evidence that our souls are having experiences while our bodies are sleeping. Sometimes we remember our dreams, but they usually don’t make much sense until we begin working consciously on them. Sometimes we wake up with answers to questions that seemed unsolvable the day before. And sometimes we have premonitions that disturb us throughout the coming day, especially if they come true.

Obviously, the body and the soul are replenished and fortified by sleep whether we are conscious of the experiences we are having during that time or not. But we don’t have to stay in the dark about this significant portion of our lives on earth. The hidden meaning of our sleep life will unfold when we begin our journey on the path toward spiritual knowledge.* It will make sense because the spiritual world that the soul experiences during sleep is a world as real as the physical one that our soul experiences during waking life.

*Imbedded in the letter below is a link to the six basic exercises given by Rudolf Steiner as a path toward spiritual awakening.

Letter from the General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society >

The Anthroposophical Society in America (ASA) supports and furthers the work of Rudolf Steiner in the United States. We are an open membership organization that fosters self-development and inspired social engagement.

Anthroposophy is a discipline of research as well as a path of knowledge, service, personal growth, and social engagement. Introduced and developed by Rudolf Steiner, it is concerned with all aspects of human life, spirit and humanity’s future evolution and well-being.


Work-Life Balance is one of the Topic pages of the Harvard Business Review indicating its importance along with other more traditional topics such as Managing People, Communication, and Technology. Lots of us are demanding that the “work” side of the balance be lightened, and employers are taking notice by offering their employees incentives like playful workplace environments, flexible hours, the chance to work off-site, etc. The “life” side of the balance—travel and adventure, scaling mountains or skiing down them, time with friends and families, eating good food, reading good books—comprises experiences that more and more of us consider to be essential to life.

Creating a healthy work-life balance requires us to think about which experiences we want to have and how to prioritize them, knowing all along that the experiences we choose now will vary over the course of our lifetimes due to circumstances, both inward and outward, that will change. We can think about our lives in this way because we are conscious beings who can act purposefully to create the experiences, both inward and outward, that we wish to have.

Back in the third post, Seeing Red, we explored how the outer world is perceived through our senses and how our thinking attaches meaning to that which we perceive; this is consciousness. If we couldn’t attach meaning to our perceptions, we wouldn’t be human. Steiner says that what we feel about our experiences belongs to our soul, and what we learn from our experiences belongs to our spirit. In other words, we are spiritual beings because we have experiences, we feel something about them, and we learn from them.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

The soul nature of man is not determined by the body alone. Man does not wander aimlessly and without purpose from one sensation to another, nor does he act under the influence of every casual incitement that plays upon him either from without or through the processes of his body. He thinks about his perceptions and his acts. By thinking about his perceptions, he gains knowledge of things. By thinking about his acts, he introduces a reasonable coherence into his life. He knows that he will worthily fulfill his duty as man only when he lets himself be guided by correct thoughts in knowing as well as acting… Nature subjects man to the laws of changing matter, but he subjects himself to the laws of thought. By this means he makes himself a member of a higher order than the one to which he belongs through his body. This order is the spiritual.

The spiritual is as different from the soul as the soul is from the body. As long as only the particles of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen that are in motion in the body are spoken of, we do not have the soul in view. Soul life begins only when within the motion of these particles the feeling arises, “I taste sweetness,” or “I feel pleasure.” Likewise, we do not have the spirit in view as long as merely those soul experiences are considered that course through anyone who gives himself over entirely to the outer world and his bodily life. This soul life is rather the basis of the spiritual just as the body is the basis of the soul life. The biologist is concerned with the body, the investigator of the soul—the psychologist—with the soul, and the investigator of the spirit with the spirit. It is incumbent upon those who would understand the nature of man by means of thinking, first to make clear to themselves through self-reflection the difference between body, soul, and spirit.”

Excerpt from: Theosophy, Chapter 1: The Essential Nature of Man, 1904 by Rudolf Steiner.

Natural science still hasn’t found the answer to human consciousness. David Chalmers*, who coined the phrase “hard problem” when referring to the question of consciousness itself, wants to understand what experiences are. Thus far, looking at the operation of the brain and trying to find out how and why it would create an experience out of perceptions and concepts, hasn’t yielded any results. In fact, Chalmers, who has been looking at this hard problem for decades, is now proposing that consciousness may be a fundamental like time and space; that maybe it isn’t brain-based. This is radical thinking for natural science, but it will be spiritual science that provides the means by which we will understand human consciousness and how it evolves.

Immanuel Kant recognized the soul; he simply said we can never know about its origin. Steiner says we can. Not through some kind of blind faith, and not through a materialist science, but through a spiritual science that develops our consciousness to perceive the whole world, not just the material one. Imagine the work-life balance we might achieve if we expanded our consciousness? If you want to know more, you can read Steiner.

* David Chalmers is a philosopher and cognitive scientist specializing in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University, and a Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University. He is also well-known for introducing the "hard problem" of consciousness, which has sparked immense discussion and research in the philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience.

“Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness?”

“How do you explain consciousness?”

Mind Over Matter

When Neo, in the movie The Matrix, decides to swallow the red pill in Morpheus’ right hand rather than the blue one in his left, he is choosing the truth of the world he’s living in rather than the dream he’s been living in thus far. This truth reveals that his body, along with the bodies of nearly all “surviving” human beings, is being used as an energy source for an alien culture. Neo’s soul, his thinking consciousness, is living a life within a thoroughly convincing and complete world, a computer matrix, that has enslaved humanity within a total illusion.

“The Matrix” Image © Warner Bros.

Though we are horrified by the scene in The Matrix showing rank upon rank of “human batteries” dreaming away, we somehow easily grasp the idea of a thought life separate from our bodies. The fact is, for decades now physicists have been suggesting that we must broaden our ideas of consciousness as existing only within the bounds of our brain matter. Max Planck*, the father of quantum mechanics, said quite a long time ago, “There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

No doubt there are people who quite honestly believe in the annihilation of the soul on the extinction of the life of the body, and who arrange their lives accordingly. But even these are not unbiased with regard to such a belief. It is true that they do not allow the fear of annihilation, and the wish for continued existence, to get the better of the reasons which are distinctly in favor of such annihilation. So far, the conception of these people is more logical than that of others who unconsciously construct or accept arguments in favor of a continued existence because there is an ardent desire in the secret depths of their souls for such continued existence.

And yet the view of those who deny immortality is no less biased, only in a different way… Their view of existence leads them to the conclusion that the conditions of the soul’s life can no longer be present when the body falls away. Such people do not notice that they have themselves, from the very first, fixed an idea of the conditions necessary for the existence of life, and cannot imagine a continuation of life after death for the simple reason that, according to their own pre-conceived idea, there is no possibility of imagining an existence without a body. Even if they are not biased by their own wishes, they are biased by their own ideas from which they cannot emancipate themselves.

Excerpt from A Road to Self Knowledge. First Meditation, 1918 by Rudolf Steiner.

 In The Matrix, we see that Neo makes the choice to live within reality no matter how “real” the life he’s been living outside of his senses seems to him. Either way, though, Neo is still Neo. He doesn’t become someone else when he wakes to reality. In the movie Avatar, we see the world from a different angle. Here, the protagonist, Jake Sully, leaves his “real” body to inhabit the genetically engineered body of a Na’vi, an endangered native population on another planet. And yet, Jake is still Jake. Both movies indicate that consciousness isn’t sense-bound. Both men, given a free choice to accept new circumstances, do so. Neo reclaims his body and regains the use of his own senses; Jake rejects his own body and adopts the avatar’s senses. But who they are is a constant.

 Why do we readily accept plot ideas of consciousness being free of the body, yet continue to discount the implications of this acceptance? Do we have, on a gut level, an understanding that we are not our bodies but rather that we inhabit them? We may see that the body is indeed a vehicle that we use; it belongs to us for the duration of our lives. Perhaps it isn’t such a big leap to imagine that when we die, our consciousness survives when we leave our bodies behind. Isn’t it time we begin to investigate the mind behind the matter? If you want to know more about this, you can read Rudolf Steiner.


*Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, (born April 23, 1858, Kiel, Schleswig [Germany]—died October 4, 1947, Göttingen, Germany), German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918.

 Max Planck:

 The Matrix movie:

 Avatar movie:

Know It All

The vault of the blue sky arching over snowcapped mountain peaks in the distance invites the soul to expand out to meet the beauty we behold. The sound of a rushing stream that accompanies the visual complexity of water flowing over boulders and cascades fills the soul with feelings of abundance. We are alive and present in the moment. We may begin to notice the tiny flowers sparking the green banks with a multitude of colors. What are they called? How did they get there? We move naturally from our observations to our thinking.

The first of the six steps of the scientific method states: “Make an observation or observations.” This presumes that we possess the faculties and abilities necessary to observe the world around us. Every further step presumes that we possess a rational mind—that we can think. It is thinking itself that is implicit and fundamental to the scientific method. The scientific method, formalized by Francis Bacon back in 1621, is still the way we do science. Rudolf Steiner uses this method as his means for investigating and reporting on the spiritual world.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

In sequence of time, observation does in fact come before thinking. For even thinking we must get to know first through observation... Everything that enters the circle of our experience, we first become aware of through observation. The content of sensation, perception and contemplation, all feelings, acts of will, dreams and fancies, mental pictures, concepts and ideas, all illusions and hallucinations, are given to us through observation.

Excerpt from: Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter III: Knowledge of Freedom revised edition: 1918.

Critical thinking is essential to the five remaining steps of the scientific method. A definition for critical thinking formulated by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul reads: “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

 Back to Dr. Steiner:

When we consider the significance of natural science in human life, we shall find that this significance cannot be exhausted by acquiring a knowledge of nature, since this knowledge can never lead to anything but an experiencing of what the human soul itself is not. The soul-element does not live in what man knows about nature, but in the process of acquiring Knowledge. The soul experiences itself in its occupation with nature. What it vitally achieves in this activity is something besides the knowledge of nature itself: it is self-development experienced in acquiring knowledge of nature. Occult science desires to employ the results of this self-development in realms that lie beyond mere nature. The occult scientist has no desire to undervalue natural science; on the contrary, he desires to acknowledge it even more than the natural scientist himself. He knows that, without the exactness of the mode of thinking of natural science, he cannot establish a science. Yet he knows also that after this exactness has been acquired through genuine penetration into the spirit of natural-scientific thinking, it can be retained through the force of the soul for other fields.

Excerpt from: Esoteric Science: An Outline, Preface to the 1925 edition 10/01/25 by Rudolf Steiner.

Natural science can tell us what type of flower is growing by the stream and how it probably got there. We can investigate its physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance. Natural science struggles to explain, however, why the flower gives us joy; why the sky, the mountains and the stream invoke the feelings they do.  We need to further science into those realms as well—the realms beyond what we can perceive through our senses. We believe that understanding botany is a worthwhile endeavor; shouldn’t we pursue the science of the spirit with equal vigor?  This is what Anthroposophy does. Reading books like The Philosophy of Freedom (also translated as Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) can be a good first step.

For the Good of All

What makes us feel good about ourselves? For most, this feeling comes when we act in harmony with our moral ideals. Conversely, when what we do fails to match our ideals, we suffer a variety of consequences. Some consequences are apparent because the outer world confronts us whether we acknowledge our misdeed or not. Other consequences are less easy to see. For example, we may “get away with it” yet become haunted by an immoral action; we may experience a kind of 3:00 a.m. reckoning that disturbs much more than our sleep.

What, though, is the source of our moral ideals? If morality is simply an evolutionary trait that allows all of humanity—separate from all other living things—to survive, that would seem to imply that immoral people would not thrive, and yet, often, they apparently do just fine. So why bother trying to be good? Understanding this question is critical to our development as human beings. We need to understand our own personal sense of morality and why we feel so personally burdened by our mistakes.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

Concerning their sense of morality, people nowadays relate to the world in a very peculiar way, which is not always consciously observed but nevertheless causes much of the uncertainty and instability in their life. On the one hand, we have our intellectual knowledge, which enables us to understand natural phenomena, to conceive to a certain extent of the universe as a whole, and to develop a concept of the nature of the human being. This concept, though, is a very limited one… In addition to our capacity for knowing, that is, to everything that is controlled by our logic, another element of our being makes itself felt, namely the one we draw our ethical duty and ethical love from, in short, our motivation for acting morally…

These ideals are so important to us that we feel worthy only when we live up to them. In other words, we measure our worth by whether we live in harmony with our ethical ideas…

We simply have to face the fact that our modern consciousness cannot bridge the chasm between our capacities for knowing, which have brought us knowledge of nature, and the capacities that guide us as ethical being…

We are not aware of everything that goes on in the depths of our soul; much remains unconscious. Still, what rumbles around in our unconscious makes itself felt in our everyday life in disharmony and in psychological and even physical illnesses.

Excerpt from: Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture Two, Zurich 17/03/1920 by Rudolf Steiner

The belief that honesty, charity, humility, etc. are moral qualities, comes not from our logical mind; the reality of these qualities resides within our soul. We need to find ways to decipher the unconscious rumblings of our soul in order to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be ideally. Therapies of various sorts can help us deal with the discomfort of our feelings, but these therapies can be only superficial since that discomfort is our soul’s response to the gap itself.

One more perspective from Dr. Steiner:

The higher worlds convey to us the impulses and powers for living, and in this way, we get a basis for morality. Schopenhauer once said: “To preach morality is easy, to find a foundation for it, difficult.” But without a true foundation we can never make morality our own. People often say: Why worry about the knowledge of higher worlds so long we are good men and have moral principles? In the long run no mere preaching of morality will be effective; but a knowledge of the truth gives morality a sound basis. To preach morality is like preaching to a stove about its duty to provide warmth and heat while not giving it any coal. If we want a firm foundation for morality, we must supply the soul with fuel in the form of knowledge of the truth.

Excerpt from: At the Gates of Spiritual Science, Lecture Two: The Three Worlds, Stuttgart 23/08/06

The reluctance to acknowledge morality’s role in our lives is one aspect of our lazy thinking today. Morality is a fact of our being, and that fact is an obvious refutation to the argument for a life considered whole within the confines of our senses alone. Perhaps we don’t need to suffer blindly or muddle around with nebulous ideas about why we hold ourselves to moral standards at all. Wisdom—knowledge of the truth of higher worlds—leads us to answers about the source of morality that lies within each of us. Truth will, ultimately, set us free.

Jordan Peterson and Rudolf Steiner: What is the Greatest Idea?

In the Zone

In a YouTube video entitled ‘Kobe bryant (sic) Explains ‘Being in the Zone’, Kobe’s voiceover begins: When you get in that zone, it’s just this supreme confidence; you know it’s going in. It’s not a matter of if… it’s just that it’s going in. Things just slow down. You know, everything just slows down, and you just have supreme confidence. And when that happens, you know, you don’t really try to focus on it at all because you can lose it in a second… you try not to let anything break that river. You’re oblivious to everything that is going on.

As spectators, we get excited when we observe someone in the zone; there’s a magical feel to it. We’ve all seen good games and good performances, but we do not confuse a display of skills that we expected to see with what we experience when we watch someone in the zone. Watching someone in the zone is utterly unique.

What does it mean to be “in the zone?” Some ways of describing it are: losing sense of time, having extreme focus, being in a state of harmony, feeling whole, being in the flow of the universe, experiencing utter clarity of thought, forgetting ourselves, etc. We understand that the elements required to shift into the zone—skill, training, and mental discipline—must come together to meet a specific challenge. We also understand that as soon as we step back and realize we’re in the zone, we aren’t in it anymore. We can say: “I was in the zone,” but not “I am in the zone.”

Most will agree that being in the zone is an altered state of mind; a state of consciousness very different from the everyday. Descriptions, however, are inadequate because being in the zone is an experience, not an abstract idea. Describing it or remembering it falls short of the actual experience; the abstract idea of being in the zone falls abysmally short of the actual experience. This is also what makes spiritual experiences so hard to describe.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner* has to say:

Spiritual perception and knowledge lead us back to our inner core of unmediated aliveness… If I understand something in the abstract—well, then I have ‘got’ it and can carry it with me through life. At most, I will remember what I have learned. In spiritual knowledge and perception, however, things are very different. After only a few steps toward this knowledge, you will realize that it does not lead to anything you can merely remember. In that respect, the insights of spiritual science are like the food we have eaten today; it will not nourish us if we merely remember it tomorrow and on the following days. We are not satisfied with just remembering what we ate four days ago. But we are satisfied when we remember some abstract concept we understood and learned four weeks ago. Spiritual knowledge and perception, on the other hand, becomes interwoven with our inner being; it takes root in our ‘being’, is assimilated and has to be re-enlivened again and again…

Abstract knowledge … is content with mere phenomena; it leads to once-and-for-all, final conclusions. Spiritual knowledge, on the other hand, brings us into a living relationship to our surroundings; it must be continuously renewed if it is not to wither and die. Spiritual knowledge functions on a higher level of our life as food does on a lower one.

What I have just said should convince people that spiritual knowledge is radically different from the kind generally believed to be the only one possible.

Excerpt from: Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture Five, Zurich 17/03/1920 by Rudolf Steiner

When someone tells us he or she was in the zone, we don’t say it’s impossible; we don’t say it doesn’t exist. When we ourselves experience being in the zone, we know it’s something special. Like the inner core of unmediated aliveness Steiner is talking about.

Acquiring spiritual knowledge is an arduous path and yet, similar to the years of effort required to be a professional athlete or musician, once in a while we may have occasional moments of transcendence. We each decide for ourselves if the effort is worth it. Meanwhile, if we wish to know more about the spiritual world, we can read Steiner’s books so we’ll understand what we will one day experience.

“A systematic review of the experience, occurrence, and controllability of flow states in elite sport”

“What Is ‘Being in the Zone’? — the Fascinating Psychology of Super Productivity”

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

Out of My Mind by Alan Arkin. (audiobook)

Prove It

In January of 2017, the news was everywhere that scientists had discovered a new organ, the mesentery, in the human body. Located in the abdominal cavity, what had been thought to be a segmented series of structures, was found to be a continuous structure.

In February of 2018, a new technology called “cryo-ET” that can zoom in on individual cells that have been frozen and capture them in 3D, revealed a previously unseen microscopic, left-handed helix structure that exists at the tip of the sperm tail.

The rock crystallized about 20 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface 4.0-4.1 billion years ago. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into space.

The rock crystallized about 20 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface 4.0-4.1 billion years ago. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into space.

In January of 2019, NASA scientists reported the discovery of the oldest known Earth rock (about 4 billion years old) on the moon. A fragment from one of the rocks returned by Apollo 14 astronauts contained quartz, feldspar, and zircon, all common on the Earth, but highly uncommon on the Moon.

Scientists continue to examine our natural world with ever more advanced technology. Most of us will readily accept the evidence of new findings like those cited above and will incorporate this information into our body of knowledge. But what actually constitutes evidence that we can trust?

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner* has to say:

We do not all have to become chemists for the findings of chemistry to be useful for us, and we do not all have to be astronomers to benefit from the findings of astronomy. By the same token, there need only be a few spiritual researchers, and yet everyone can understand the results of their research with ordinary, sound common sense...

But that is exactly what many people deny. They take the reports of the spiritual researchers as nothing more than beautiful fantasies and proceed to dissect and analyze them logically... These people usually admit they have not yet trained themselves to develop their capacities for higher knowledge.

We can agree on what the chemists and physicists are saying because, if we become chemists and physicists ourselves, we will clearly see that they were right... We have to undergo training as chemists to judge the findings of chemistry or become physicists to evaluate the results of physics. By the same token, we have to become spiritual researchers to assess the insights of spiritual science. However, unprejudiced people with sound common sense can understand it... Many prejudices and preconceived ideas will have to be overcome before spiritual science can take its rightful place in modern life.

Excerpt from Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture 1, Basel, Switzerland 5/01/1920 by Rudolf Steiner.

If we lack sufficient training, or, having that, we lack access to the necessary technology, we will be unable to prove the theories or conclusions of our natural scientists. Yet most of us acknowledge that the dedicated training and the appropriate tools scientists possess qualifies them to analyze and confirm their work. We believe the evidence they report.

Acceptance of the findings of spiritual science requires the same acknowledgement. If we lack sufficient training, if we haven’t yet developed our organs of spiritual perception, we can nevertheless read about the findings of spiritual science in an effort to understand that world using the same scientific method with which we are all familiar. Dr. Steiner, after all, was a scientist in both spheres.

What is it, though, that drives any of us to learn? The source of our curiosity and the subsequent drive for knowledge are part of what the study of spiritual science can reveal. If we want to know more, we can read the Steiner lecture quoted above, which is found in the book by the same name.

“Religion and Science: Conflict or Harmony?”

“Why should we trust science?”

“The Relationship between Science and Spirituality”

Dying to Know

In Bruce Greyson’s paper, “Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Post-Materialist Psychology,” he states that, “A number of reductionist hypotheses have been proposed to explain NDEs (near-death-experiences)... although (such) speculations generally lack any empirical support and address only selected aspects of the phenomena.” (See paper by Enrico Facco and Christian Agrillo entitled “Near Death Experiences Between Science and Prejudice.”**)

Greyson says, “The most important objection to the adequacy of all reductionist theories, however, is that mental clarity, vivid sensory imagery, a clear memory of the experience, and a conviction that the experience seemed more real than ordinary consciousness are the norms for NDEs, even when they occur in conditions of drastically altered cerebral physiology under which the reductionist model would deem consciousness impossible.”  

In other words, even when the brain and all our senses are shut off completely, consciousness still appears to be happening—we still appear to be having real experiences. Can meditative states reach the level of consciousness experienced by those who have had near death experiences?

Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner* has to say:

“A moment may occur in which the soul gets an inner experience of itself in quite a new way... We are completely shut off from the world of sense and intellect, and yet we feel the experience in the same way as when we are standing fully awake before the outer world in ordinary life. We feel compelled to picture the experience in ourselves. For this purpose we use ideas such as we have in ordinary life, but we know very well that we are experiencing things different from those to which such ideas are normally attached.

...When such a series of representations has been gone through, the inner experience passes back to ordinary soul conditions. We find ourselves again in ourselves with the memory of the experience just undergone. If this memory is as vivid and accurate as any other, it enables us to form an opinion of the experience.

We then have a direct knowledge that we have gone through something which cannot be experienced by any physical sense or ordinary intelligence, for we feel that the description just given or communicated to others or to ourselves is only a means of expressing the experience. Although the expression is a means of understanding the fact of the experience, it has nothing in common with it. We know that we do not need any of our senses in having such an experience. One who attributes it to a hidden activity of the senses or of the brain does not know the true character of the experience.”

Excerpt from: A Road to Self Knowledge. Meditation I: In which the Attempt is made to obtain a True Idea of the Physical Body By Rudolf Steiner, 1912.

Steiner points to the difficulty of trying to put into words the experiences we have when we have lifted ourselves out of our physical nature, when we are experiencing things that are outside our senses, things of the spiritual world. When we come back into our bodies, so to speak, we know we have experienced something intensely real, but if we wish to talk about it, we must use the words and concepts derived from our sense-bound world. These words do not really communicate the experience, hence the skeptical response of many who are hearing about it; they feel justified in assuming that this experience is not real, but is a figment or trick of the imagination. (Whatever that is…)

Nevertheless, the number of NDE accounts is increasing as medical advances continue to successfully retrieve us from death’s door. This, along with the fact that patients and doctors now feel a diminishing sense of trepidation about reporting these experiences, ensures that research in this realm will continue.

Meanwhile, it is clear from what Steiner says that we can work on ourselves so that we develop our “spiritual senses” thus enabling us to see into the spiritual world. We can feel the mental clarity, etc. reported by those who have had near death experiences without the traumatic experience of reaching death’s door. If you want to know more, you can read Steiner’s work.

**Dr. Bruce Greyson is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is co-author of Irreducible Mind and co-editor of The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences.


Near-death experiences between science and prejudice

“Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Postmaterialist Psychology”

“Meditation as an Altered State of Consciousness: Contributions of Western Behavioral Science” Deane H. Shapiro, Jr. Irvine, California  (PDF)

“Altered States of Consciousness”

The Near-Death Experience: In the Light of Scientific Research and the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner