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: