Today's dream consciousness is a transformed rudiment of the image consciousness that man had on the Old Moon. The dream is closely related to our emotional life. In our feelings we actually dream constantly, even during our waking daily life. The dream is therefore usually associated with vivid images and intense feelings. I-consciousness is only vaguely present in dreams because there is an insufficient distinction between inside and outside. We therefore swim together with our dream world and cannot really distinguish ourselves from it. Compared to daytime consciousness, which is always accompanied by a certain degree of self-consciousness, dream consciousness is only semi-conscious. Because of the lack of self-consciousness, it is also difficult to remember dream experiences after waking.
Dream sleep is also called REM sleep (Rapid eye movement sleep), paradoxical sleep or desynchronised sleep. It is characterised by rapid eye movements behind closed eyelids and a reduced tone of the skeletal muscles - so-called sleep paralysis. The EEG shows specific activity in the range of theta waves from 4 to 8 Hz, slow alpha waves and lively beta waves, which otherwise only occur in waking consciousness. Blood pressure and pulse, which are lowered during deep sleep, rise again during REM sleep.
A special form of dream is the so-called lucid dream, in which the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming. The nightmare is a dream filled with panic-like fear, which according to Rudolf Steiner is triggered by an irregular breathing process.
Symbolic content of dreams
The dream is a symbolist which, provoked by external events, such as the crowing of a cock in the morning, or internal irregular conditions, such as a toothache, evokes long pictorial dramatic inner experiences. For example, if the sunlight falls on our eyelids while we are asleep, this can present itself in the dream as a great firestorm. Or if we have a severe headache, this can be experienced in the dream as a gloomy cobweb-covered vault or similar. The visual material from which the dream world is built consists of reminiscences of waking daily life. These are memory images that we have taken in half-consciously or subconsciously during the previous two to three days, which are now whirled around in a completely new and usually very confused order that often defies the natural laws of the sensual world. However, real spiritual facts can also express themselves in dreams. The choice of images that attach themselves to the outer or inner trigger in the dream is often related to a linguistic consonance.
Dream-filled sleep occurs when the astral body has already partially separated from the physical body, as is usual during sleep, but still has a certain connection with the etheric body, which remains in bed. The human being then begins to perceive certain processes in his etheric body in a pictorial form. In dreams in which one faces oneself, one perceives a part of one's own astral body.
Physiologically, the dream arises from the fact that as a result of the reduced nourishment of the upper human being by the middle human being during sleep. Then the brain begins to perceive what is happening in the middle human being. This manifests itself in symbols. Occult research shows that there is a mysterious spinal cord hidden in the brain which causes dreams
. Usually only those processes in the middle human being are perceived which are somehow unregulated, morbid and quietly painful. Nascent illnesses therefore often announce themselves through the dream life.
Through consistent spiritual training, dreams become more regular and meaningful. Then spiritual realities can also reveal themselves in dreams. The true value of these experiences, however, can only be properly assessed with a heightened awareness compared to normal waking life.
„... let us consider the life of an ordinary man today. The life of such a person is such that he goes about his work and his daily experiences from morning till night, that he uses his intellect and his outer senses. He lives and works in a state which we call the waking state. But this is only one state; another is that which lies between waking and sleeping. There the human being is conscious of images running through his soul, dream images. They do not relate directly to the outer world, to ordinary reality, but indirectly. We can call this state the dream state. It is very interesting to study how this state progresses. Many people will think that the dream is something quite meaningless. This is not the case. Dreams also have a certain meaning in modern man, only not the meaning that experiences have in the waking state. When we are awake, our imagination always corresponds to certain things and experiences; in dreams, things are different. For example, one can be asleep and dream that one hears the clatter of horses in the street; one wakes up and realises that one has heard the ticking of a clock that one had lying next to one. The dream is a symbolist, a symbolizer, it expressed the tick-tock of the clock symbolically through the clatter of horses. One can dream whole stories. A student, for example, dreams of a duel with all the preceding details, from the demand for pistols to the crack of the shot that wakes him up. Then it turns out that he had knocked over the chair that was standing next to his bed. Another example: a peasant woman dreams of going to church. She enters the church, the priest speaks lofty words, his arms move; suddenly his arms turn into wings, and then the clergyman suddenly begins to crow like a rooster. She wakes up, and outside the cock is crowing.
One can see from this that the dream has quite different temporal relations from the consciousness of the day, for in the dreams mentioned the actual cause occurs as the last event in time. This is due to the fact that such a dream, compared with physical reality, shoots through the soul in an instant and has its inner time. One must imagine it in the following way: By remembering all the details, the waking person extends this inner time himself, so that it appears to him as if the events had passed in the corresponding length of time. Thus one gains an insight into how time appears in the astral. So a small event often causes a long dramatic process. The dream flies through the soul in a moment and awakens a whole series of ideas in an instant; the human being thereby transplants time itself into the dream.
Inner states can also be symbolically represented in dreams, for example a headache: the person dreams that they are in a dull cellar hole with cobwebs. A palpitating heart and an inner heat is felt as a glowing oven. People who have a special inner sensitivity can experience something else. For example, they see themselves in an unfortunate situation in a dream. Then the dream acts as a prophet; it is then a symbol that there is an illness in them which will come out in a few days. Yes, some people even dream the remedies for such a disease. In short, a quite different kind of perception is present in these dream states.
The third state of man is the dreamless state of sleep, where nothing rises in the soul, where man sleeps unconsciously. When, through inner development, man begins to perceive the higher worlds, this first announces itself in his dream state, namely by the fact that the dreams become more regular and more meaningful than before. Above all, man gains knowledge through his dreams; he only has to pay proper attention to them. Later he notices that the dreams become more frequent, until he thinks he has dreamed the whole night through. He can also observe that the dreams connect with things that do not exist in the outside world, that cannot be experienced physically. He notices that in the dreams there no longer appear to him mere things which either affect him externally or symbolise conditions such as those described above, but he experiences, as I have said, images of things which do not exist in sensuous reality, and he then notices that the dreams tell him something meaningful. For example, it may begin in the following way: He dreams that a friend is in danger of fire, and he sees himself moving into the danger. The next day he learns that this friend has fallen ill during the night. He did not see that the friend had fallen ill, but he saw a symbol of it. In this way, dreams can also be influenced by the higher worlds, so that one experiences something that does not exist in the physical world; impressions from the higher worlds pass over into the dream. This is a very important transition to higher occult development.
Now someone may object: All this is only dreamed, how can one give anything to it? - That is not correct. Let us take the following example: Edison once dreamed how to make a light bulb; he then remembered this dream and really made a light bulb according to the dream, and now someone would have come and said: Nothing is the matter with the light bulb, it is only a dream! - It is a question of whether the dream has meaning for life, not that it is a dream. Often such dream states are not even noticed because one is not attentive enough. That is not good. It is precisely to such subtle things that we should turn our attention; that brings progress.
Later, a state occurs in which the essence of reality is revealed to the pupil in the dream, and he can then test the dreams against reality. When he is so far advanced that he has the whole world of images before him not only in sleep but also during the day, then he can dissect with his intellect whether what he sees is true. One must not, therefore, regard and use the dream-images as a basis for wisdom, but wait until they force themselves into the day-world. If one controls them consciously, then the state soon comes where the pupil not only sees what is physically present, where he can also really observe what is the aura, the soul, what is astral about him. One then learns to understand what the forms and colours in the astral body mean, what passions, for example, are expressed in it. One gradually learns to spell out the soul world, so to speak. But one must always be aware that everything is symbolic.
One can object to this: If one sees only allegories, then an event can be symbolised in all kinds of allegories, and one cannot realise that such an image refers to something specific. - On a certain level, however, a thing always presents itself only under the same image, just as an object always expresses itself only through the same idea. Thus, for example, a passion is always and for everyone expressed by a certain image. One must only learn to relate the images correctly.
Now you understand why all religious books speak almost entirely in images. Wisdom, for example, is called light. The reason for this is that to the occultly developed the wisdom of man and of other beings always appears as an astral light. Passions appear as fire. The religious documents tell of things that take place not only on the physical plane, but also of events on higher planes. These documents all come from clairvoyants and refer to higher worlds; therefore they must speak to us in images. Everything that has been told from the Akashic Chronicle has therefore also been depicted in such pictures.
The next state that the disciple experiences is that which is called the continuity of consciousness. When the ordinary person is completely removed from the sensual world in sleep, he is unconscious. This is no longer the case with a disciple when he has reached the aforementioned stage. Uninterruptedly, day and night, the disciple lives in full, clear consciousness, even when the physical body is at rest. After some time, the entry into a new, definite state is announced by the addition of sounds and words to the daytime consciousness, to the images. The images speak and tell him something; they speak a language he understands. They say what they are; there is no longer any possibility of deception. That is the devachanic sound and speech, the music of the spheres. Each thing then speaks its own name and its relation to the other things. This is then added to astral seeing, and this is the clairvoyant's entry into devachan. When man has attained this devachanic state, then the lotuses, the chakrams or wheels, at certain places in the astral body begin to turn from left to right like the hand of a clock. They are the sense organs of the astral body, but their perception is an active one. The eye, for example, is at rest, it lets the light come into it and then perceives it. The lotuses, on the other hand, only perceive when they move, when they embrace an object. The vibrations excited by the turning of the lotuses then cause astral matter to be touched, and thus perception arises on the astral plane.“ (Lit.:GA 95, p. 111ff)
The inspirations of the Angeloi often play into our dreams, which in turn are inspired by the higher hierarchies. In many cases, our relationship to the dead, which is rooted in our emotional life, is reflected in our dreams. Questions that we address to the dead before falling asleep are often expressed pictorially in dreams.
Processing and evaluation of the day's experiences
In sleep, the events of the day are relived retroactively and evaluated morally. However, the dream does not show these experiences in their true form, but dresses them up in sensual memory images. Through the real nocturnal experiences, which the dream only veils, life in the Kamaloka is already being prepared. After death, we look back on what we have processed each night in our sleep. Since we sleep through about a third of our lives, our stay in the Kamaloka also lasts about a third of our past lives.
"When dreams occur in ordinary life, these dreams are not in fact the real activity during the sleep life, but they are actually a visualisation of the activity through the memories of ordinary life. The images of the dream-life arise from the fact that life spreads its carpet over the actual inner activity; and thereby many things are perceived in the dream-life. There the I and the astral body are in a living activity; when this touches the etheric body, then the dream comes into being. But the dream uses the physical memories of life out of the etheric body to make visible the activity of the I and the astral body, which remains invisible. Therefore, one can only get behind the dream if one takes these images in relation to their course of character, if one learns to understand these images. Dreams must first be read in the right way, the right art of interpretation must first be acquired. Then, however, they point to this most significant reality, which is carried out by the I and the astral body in sleep. This activity, then, which the human being carries out, reveals itself to serious and worthy spiritual research.
What does this activity consist of from falling asleep to waking up? It consists in reliving the day's experiences inwardly in a much more intensive way, in becoming, as it were, a self-judge of the day's experiences. It is trivially expressed, but deeply inwardly true: one lives in the normal consciousness into the day, one lets the events that take place around one flow off. At night, however, one takes the events of the day much more seriously, much more meaningfully, in the I and in the astral body. One weighs them, examines them in relation to their worldly value. One occupies oneself with what significance they have in the whole world context. An immense inward thoroughness in the contemplation of life is poured out over the activity from falling asleep to waking up; only it remains unconscious in normal life. All this, which the human being goes through every night like a renewed reliving of the life of the day, has a great significance as preparation for life after passing through the gate of death.|174b|107f}}
Rudolf Steiner on dream symbolism, dream drama, and psychoanalytical dream interpretation
„A complete transformation of an imaginative impression takes place in the human soul when this imaginative impression has dwelt in the soul for two or three days. Even without being a spiritual scientist, one can convince oneself of the truth of what has just been said by ordinary, more intimate observation of the life of the soul, although in a field which is nowadays only superficially considered, and is considered particularly obliquely by the fact that a certain branch of contemporary science, which is very much inclined towards the material, has taken possession of this field, namely so-called analytical psychology or psychoanalysis. I do not want to go into this, but I would like to point out that those who can really observe the dream life know that the involuntary emergence of dreams is always somehow connected with the impressions of the last few days, actually only the last two or three days. But do not misunderstand me! Of course, events long past come up in dreams as reminiscences. But it is something else that calls up these long ago events. If you can observe the dream closely, you will always see that some evocative idea from the last two or three days must be there. These evoke events that have long since passed. For two or three days the impressions of the outer world have the power to produce dreams. The other then builds up around them. If such a conception stemming from the last two to three days cannot produce the dream, it cannot arise.“ (Lit.:GA 67, p. 49f)
- Anton Kimpfler: Was verraten meine Träume? Geheimnisse unserer nächtlichen Existenz, Verlag am Goetheanum, Dornach 2000, ISBN 978-3723510797
- Rudolf Steiner: Vor dem Tore der Theosophie, GA 95 (1978), Zwölfter Vortrag, Stuttgart, 2. September 1906 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Eine okkulte Physiologie, GA 128 (1991), Erster Vortrag, Prag, 20. März 1911 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges, GA 174b (1994), ISBN 3-7274-1742-0 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
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