Object consciousness

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The object consciousness (also called waking consciousness, daytime consciousness or sensual consciousness, sometimes also earth consciousness) is the brightest condition of consciousness that humans generally have today. It is balanced in the daily sleep-wake rhythm by deep sleep at night. Object consciousness only formed during earth evolution and is also a purely earthly consciousness in that it has lost all cosmic expanse. Earlier states of consciousness were duller than the awake daytime consciousness, but through them the human being subliminally experienced cosmic events at least in part. These earlier states of consciousness have certainly survived in a modified form, but today they are completely overshadowed by the bright daytime consciousness and thus pushed into the realm of the subconscious. This consciousness, which man has today on the physical plane, is at the same time a kind of sleep in relation to the co-experience of the higher worlds.

Object consciousness has a high degree of alertness through which man perceives the objects of the sensual world and attempts to comprehend them in their lawful context through the sensual mind. For the first time, an inside and an outside are distinguished through this state of consciousness. By being able to separate oneself from the world in consciousness, self-consciousness becomes possible, which did not yet exist on earlier embodiments of our Earth. With object consciousness, I-consciousness necessarily arises in counter-attack.

Of all earthly beings, only man has developed object consciousness to the greatest possible extent. In the higher animals it appears at most in rudimentary form.

The first illumination of I-consciousness occurred when the sense organs opened outwards. The Egyptian initiates called this the scorpion sting, which pierced the sense organs (Lit.:GA 105, p. 77). The object consciousness of man could only develop when the Moon separated from the Earth during the earth evolution in the Lemurian period.


In dreams, every human being lives in his own dream world, with which he is intimately interwoven. He cannot distinguish himself from it to such an extent that a clear self-awareness arises. Only when he awakens does he see himself confronted with an external world that is independent of him, the sensually experienceable nature, which he shares with other people. He also experiences other people in this way at first. They face him in their outer, sensually visible and touchable form, they communicate through their language, and so on:

„Take the two states of consciousness that are well known to every human being: the dreaming man and the man in ordinary waking daytime consciousness. What is it like in the dreaming human being? It is the same with the sleeping man who does not dream, for dreamless sleep only means that the dreams are so much damped down that one does not notice them. So how is it with the dreaming person? He lives in his dream-image world. He lives in it because it is often much more vivid for him, much deeper into the heart - one can already say that - than what one experiences in everyday life in the waking consciousness of the day. But it is experienced in isolation. It is experienced as the individual human personality. Two people can sleep in the same room and have two completely different worlds in their dream consciousness. They do not experience these worlds together. They each experience them for themselves; at most they can tell each other afterwards what they contain.

When man awakes from his dream-consciousness into his ordinary day-consciousness, he perceives through his senses the same things as the person who stands before him. A communal world enters. Man awakens to a common world by passing from dream-consciousness into waking day-consciousness. Yes, what is it that awakens man from dream consciousness into waking day consciousness? He awakens by the light, by the sound, by his natural surroundings - in this respect other people make no exception - to awake day-consciousness, to ordinary awake day-consciousness. Out of the dream one awakes by the naturalness of the other person, by his speech, by what he says to one, and so on, by the way in which his thoughts and feelings are clothed in speech. One awakens by the way in which the ordinary person, the other person, naturally lives himself out. So one awakens to the ordinary consciousness of the day by the natural environment. In all earlier ages, man awoke from dream consciousness into awake day consciousness in the natural surroundings. And then he had at his natural surroundings at the same time the gate through which, if he did so, he penetrated into a supersensible.“ (Lit.:GA 257, p. 175f)

Today, in the age of the consciousness soul, a second awakening is possible, the awakening to community, the awakening to the other person. But not only on the sensual outside, but on his soul and spirit. This awakening at other people means at the same time a deeper awakening to oneself, to one's own soul and spirit and to the karma that connects us to other people.

„With the awakening of the consciousness soul, with the unfolding of the consciousness soul, a new element has entered into human life. For there must be a second awakening, and this second awakening will appear more and more as a need of humanity: This is the awakening on the soul and spirit of other human beings. In ordinary waking day-life one awakens only to the nature of another human being; but on the soul and spirit of another human being man wants to awaken who has become independent, who has become personal through the consciousness age. He wants to awaken to the soul and spirit of the other human being, he wants to confront the other human being in such a way that the other human being produces such a jolt in his own soul as the outer light, the outer sound and so on produces in relation to the dream life.

This need has been quite elementary since the beginning of the 20th century and will become ever stronger. Throughout the 20th century, in spite of all its chaotic, tumultuous nature, which will permeate the whole of civilisation, this will show itself as a need: the need will arise for human beings to want to awaken to the other human being to a greater degree than one can awaken to the mere natural environment. Dream life, it awakens in the natural environment to awake day life. Waking daily life awakens to a higher consciousness in the other human being, in the soul and spirit of the other human being. Man must become more than he has always been to man. He must become an awakening being for him. People must come closer to each other than they have been up to now: every person who meets another must become an awakening being. The modern people who have now entered life have stored up far too much karma for them not to feel that their destiny is bound up with that of the other person they meet in life. If you go back to earlier ages, the souls were younger, they had fewer karmic connections. Now the necessity arises that one is awakened not only by nature, but by the people who are karmically connected with one and whom one wants to seek.“ (Lit.:GA 257, p. 176f)

This awakening to other human beings will become increasingly important in the future for spiritual community building, especially also for anthroposophical community building.

The evolution of object consciousness

Each planetary stage of world evolution serves to develop a new condition of consciousness. On Old Saturn, with which the evolution of our planetary chain began, the very dull, but the whole cosmos encompassing trance consciousness had emerged. During the evolution of the Old Sun, the somewhat brighter but at the same time narrower sleep consciousness emerged, and on the Old Moon the image consciousness developed, which is more or less similar to our dream consciousness today. On all these stages of development that preceded our earth development, object consciousness did not yet exist; not only man, but also the higher hierarchies did not have it at that time, it could only arise with the formation of our Earth.

„Such a consciousness as man has as an earth-consciousness was reserved for him until earth-time. And not only man did not have it, neither did all the other beings we cite as belonging to this or that Hierarchy. It would be superficial if you were to think, for example, that because the Angels passed through their stage of humanity on the Old Moon, they must therefore have had such a consciousness on the Old Moon as men have today on Earth. They did not have that, and that distinguishes them from human beings, that they went through their humanity with a different consciousness. A direct repetition of what was already there never takes place. Everything that is a moment of development happens only once and happens so that it is there, not in order to repeat something else. So, in order for this condition of consciousness to come into being, which we now call the consciousness of the earthling, all the processes that actually brought about this Earth were necessary, man as a human being was necessary for this. And the earth beings could not possibly have developed such a consciousness on the earlier stages of evolution. When an object confronts us, then it is outside of us, then it appears to us as a being outside of us. All the earlier consciousness of the beings of which we can speak is such that it does not distinguish the inner from the outer, so that it would be nonsense to say: something appears to us as standing before us. The Elohim could not say that either, that did not exist for them. They could only say: We live and weave in the universe. We create, and in creating we perceive this creation of ours. Objects do not stand before us, objects do not appear before us. - This fact, which lies in the saying, "Objects appear before us, in an outer, let us say, spatial form, something of essence is expressed from which one is separated, from which one stands opposite" - the fact that can manifest itself in this saying, also appeared to the Elohim only during their time on Earth. If they felt themselves, these Elohim, weaving and working in the light which flowed from the Old Sun to the Moon during the old lunar time, they could have said: "We feel ourselves within this light, we feel how we sink with this light into the beings which live on the Old Moon as human beings. We are, as it were, rushing through space with this light." But they could not have said, "We see this light apart from us." That did not exist during the old lunar state, that was an entirely new earth fact.

When, at a certain stage of development, the monumental word in Genesis comes to us, "And the Elohim said", a new fact must be added: that they do not merely feel themselves flowing with the light, but that the light reflects back to them from the objects, that the objects appear to them from without. The writer of Genesis expresses this by adding to the words "And the Elohim said" the words "And the Elohim saw the light".


And there is more said. It doesn't just say "And the Elohim saw the light", but "They saw that it was beautiful, or good". - I notice that the distinction between "beautiful" and "good" is not made in the same way in the Hebrew language as it is today. The same word is used for "beautiful" and for "good". What is meant by what is called beautiful or good? In the ancient Sanskrit language, even in the German language, it still comes through what is meant by it. The word "beautiful" includes all words which in all languages mean that an inner, spiritual thing appears in an outer image. "To be beautiful" means that an inner being appears outwardly. And even today we associate the best concept with the word beauty if we keep in mind that in the beautiful object an inner spiritual being appears in the physical image as on the surface. We call something beautiful when we see the spiritual shining through, so to speak, in the outer sensuality. When is a marble work beautiful? When it awakens the illusion in the outer form: the spiritual lives in it. The appearance of the spiritual through the external, that is the beautiful.

So we can say, when the word in Genesis confronts us, that the spirit presents itself in its outward appearance. So we can express the word which is usually translated "And the Elohim saw the light, and they saw that it was beautiful" thus: "And the Elohim experienced the consciousness that that in which they were before confronted them as an exterior, and they experienced in this appearance that the spirit was in the background and expressed itself in the exterior" - for that is in the word that it was "beautiful.""“ (Lit.:GA 122, p. 135ff)

During the old development of the Moon, the Sun had already emerged as an independent celestial body and cast its light from outside down onto the old lunar world. There it showed its effects, but at that time it could not yet be perceived as a coloured reflection reflected back from the objects:

„For the first time, this solar quality separated itself during the old lunar time. There, during the old lunar period, the light from outside was first effective, but not as light. I have just explained that the sentence in Genesis: "And the Elohim saw the light", could not possibly have been said in relation to the development of the lunar period. It should have been said: And the Elohim hurried through the space with the light, were in the light, but did not see it. - Just as today one swims in water and does not actually see the water, but moves forward in it, so one did not see the light, but it was a carrier of the work in cosmic space. With the Earth the light began to appear, to radiate back from the objects.“ (Lit.:GA 122, p. 139f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.