What takes place as we sleep

From Anthroposophy

During sleep, Man looses his daytime waking consciousness.

Therefore he is not consciously aware of what is going on, and this has two aspects

  • his own activities with astral body and I seperating and changing from their usual functioning in the physical and etheric bodies, to have different experiences - of which Man is not aware with waking consciousness
  • what goes on in the different bodies during sleep, how these are maintained by spiritual entities in absence of the own astral body and I


  • role of backwards Archai of Old Sun working on our physical and etheric bodies during the night (1910-08-21-GA122), see also The elementary kingdoms


Lecture coverage and references

To be added:

- work of angel in astral body

1910-08-21-GA122 in the cycle on Genesis, describes how the backward Old Saturn beings played during the Old Sun evolutionary stage, especially the backwards Archai.

But something else is also necessary as well as light. To understand what this is, we have to consider the rhythmic alternation of sleeping and waking. What does it really mean to be awake? All the activity of our souls, all that we develop in our thinking and feeling, all the ebb and flow of our passions — in short, all that happens through the fluctuating energies of our astral bodies and our egos, constitutes a continual using up of our physical bodies during day life. That is a very ancient occult truth, a truth to which even modern physiology comes if it knows how to interpret its own findings properly. What the soul unfolds as its inner life in the waking state continuously uses up the forces of the external physical body, the first rudiments of which were bestowed during the Saturn existence. The life of the physical body is quite different in sleep, when the astral body with its fluctuant inner life is outside it. Whereas in waking life there is a continuous consumption, or even a continuous destruction, of the forces of the physical body, in sleep these forces are being restored, being renewed and built up again all the time. So that in our physical and etheric bodies we have to distinguish destructive processes and processes of renewal — destructive processes which take place during waking life, processes of renewal which take place during sleep. But nothing which happens anywhere in space is isolated, it is always related to existence as a whole. And we must not think of those processes of destruction, which take place in our physical bodies from the time we awaken to the time we go to sleep again, as being confined within the limits of our skin. They are closely bound up with cosmic processes. They are merely a continuation of what flows into us from outside, so that during the waking life of day we are connected with the destructive forces of the universe, and during sleep with the forces of renewal.

This destruction of our physical bodies which goes on during the waking life of day could not have happened during the Saturn evolution, otherwise the first rudiments of our physical body could never have been formed. For obviously one can build up nothing if one starts to destroy it. The Saturnian operation on our bodies had to be a constructive one. The destructive process takes place in the daytime under the influence of light, but on Saturn there was no light. Therefore the Saturn activity on our physical bodies was an up-building one, and had to be maintained at least for a time, even into the later period, when on the Sun light appeared. Then the up-building activity could only be maintained through Saturn Beings remaining behind to care for it.

It was necessary for the Saturn Beings to be kept back in cosmic evolution, so that they could undertake the rebuilding of the physical body during sleep, while there was no light. Thus the backward Saturn Beings have their part to play in our existence; without them we should be exposed to nothing but destruction. There has to be an alternation, a co-operation, of Sun Beings and Saturn Beings, of light and darkness. Thus if the activity of the light Beings is to be rightly guided by the Elohim, they must inweave into their own work in an orderly fashion the work of the Beings of darkness. There can be no stability in cosmic activity unless the force of darkness is everywhere interwoven with the force of light. And in this complication of the forces of light and darkness lies one of the secrets of cosmic existence, of cosmic alchemy. This secret is touched upon in the seventh scene of my first Mystery Play, where Johannes Thomasius enters Devachan, and where one of Maria's companions, Astrid, is given the task of weaving the dark into the light. Throughout the conversation between Maria and her three companions you will find many cosmic mysteries concealed, which can well be pondered for a long, long time.

Thus we must never forget that the interplay between the forces of sun-light and Saturn-darkness is a necessity of our existence. When therefore the Elohim placed the Spirits of Personality as their deputies in charge of the weaving of the light forces, of the work which is performed upon us men and upon other earthly beings while the light is affecting us, they had also to appoint the backward Saturn Beings as fellow-workers; they had to see that the whole work of the universe was carried on by the normally advanced and the backward Archai together. The backward Archai are active in the darkness. Hence the Elohim employ not only the Beings designated by yom, day, but they set in opposition to them Beings who weave in the darkness. And the Bible says with a wonderfully realistic description of the facts: And God called the light Day (yom), and the darkness He called Night (lay'lah). [ 2 ] And lay'lah does not mean our abstract night, but lay'lah are the Saturn Archai, who at that time had not advanced to the Sun stage.

And to this day it is they who are active in us during sleep, when they work upon our physical and etheric bodies, building them up. This mysterious expression lay'lah, which has given rise to all kinds of myths, is neither our abstract “night” nor is it anything which need lead to myth-making. It is simply the name of the backward Archai, who unite their activity with that of the advanced Archai.

1923-05-02-GA224 - Flowing streams of thoughts, the etheric body during sleep .. etheric body skin glow, beings alone are real

goes into describing especially H2

1924-06-27-GA236 (SWCC) covers the three hierarchies H2, H3 and H1 during our sleep, the 'rising and descending'

Now there is another and different condition of our earthly existence: the condition of sleep.

How does this condition of sleep present itself in its cosmic counterpart?

When our physical and etheric bodies are there in the bed, and our astral body and I outside, then out in the cosmos we have to think of the sun at a position where the earth must first let the rays of the sun pass through it before they reach us. Now in all the ancient Mysteries a certain teaching was given which, if fully understood, produced a profoundly moving impression in those who become pupils in the Mysteries and gradually mastered the Science of Initiation. They reached a certain stage of inner development which they might have described in the following way. — I am now telling you what might have been said by one of these ancient Initiates when he had attained to a certain degree of Initiation. — He would have spoken somewhat as follows:

“When I stand in the open fields in the daytime, when I direct my gaze upwards and give myself up to the impressions of the senses, then I behold the sun; I see it in its dazzling strength at noontide and behind the dazzling strength of the noontide sun I behold the working of the spiritual beings of the second hierarchy in the substance of the sun. Before my Initiation the substance of the sun vanished from me at the moment of its setting. The shining radiance of the sun vanished in the purples of sunset. Before my Initiation I went through the dark path of night, and in the morning, when the dawn came, I remembered this darkness. Out of the dawn the sun shone forth again and took its course onward towards the dazzling brightness of noon. But now, having attained to Initiation, when I experience the dawn and behold the sun as it passes from dawn on through its daily course, a memory of my life during the night-time awakens within me. I know what I have experienced in this night life, I remember clearly how I beheld a blue, glimmering light arise from the evening twilight and gradually spread, travelling from west to east. And I remember how I beheld the sun at the midnight hour, at the opposite point in the firmament to where it had stood in its noontide, dazzling strength; I saw it gleaming there behind the earth, full of deep and solemn meaning. I beheld the Midnight Sun!”

Such has actually been the monologue of Initiates in their meditation, and it faithfully expresses their experience. The Initiate is conscious of these things. And when we read Jacob Boehme's book entitled Aurora then we cannot help being deeply moved by the realisation that the words which are written in this book are echoes of a wonderful teaching of the ancient Mysteries.

What is the “Dawn” to Initiates?

  • It is an instigation to cosmic remembrance, to remembrance of the vision of the Midnight Sun behind the earth. With our ordinary sight we see the radiant yellow-white disc of the sun at noon, but with the vision of Initiation we see the bluish-violet sun at the opposite point of the heavens. The earth appears as a transparent body, with the sun gleaming on the other side of it with a bluish-red light. But this bluish-red sheen is not what it seems. I must utter the paradox: it is not what it seems. When we are gazing at the Midnight Sun it seems at first that we are looking at something hazy in the distance. And when we learn with the help of Initiation more and more clearly to see what at first appears as a blur in the distance, then the bluish-red light will begin to take shape and form; it will spread itself over the whole of the sky but still on the other side of the earth and covered by the earth. It becomes peopled. Arid just as when we go out of our house on a starlit night and look up at the majestic spectacle of the starry heavens with its sparkling points of light, perhaps with the moon in the centre, so to the gaze of Initiation a whole world becomes visible on the farther side of the earth which is now transparent. It is a world that emerges, as it were, out of the clouds, becoming a world of living forms. It is the world of the Second Hierarchy, of the SoW, SoM, SoF . There they appear, these beings of the second hierarchy. And as we watch more and more closely, if we can attain the stillness of soul that is required, then something else happens. All this reveals itself after preparation and meditation and only becomes a conscious experience at dawn, as an after-memory, when it is immediately present with us, when we know we have actually beheld it during the night. What appears on yonder side of the earth is in reality the weaving world of the beings of the second hierarchy. And from out of this weaving, living world of the second hierarchy there now radiates a world of other beings — raying to us through the earth. It is a truly wonderful world of beings that works thus through the earth at night, hovering there in the firmament, now approaching man, now drawing away, now approaching him again. We see how the line of the weaving beings of the second hierarchy ever and again fades out, while another Hierarchy approaches man, now hovering towards him and now drawing away from him again. And by-and-by we learn to know what all this really means. We have been conscious the whole day long and now we lie down in sleep. This means that the physical and etheric bodies are left to themselves, working in sleep as a plant and mineral world. But by day we have thoughts; all day long, ideas have been passing through our being. They have left their traces in our physical and etheric bodies. We should not be able to remember the experiences of our earthly existence at all if these traces which we subsequently use in our memories did not remain. There they remain, these traces, in what is left of man as he lies asleep at night — in that part of his being which he has left behind. A mysterious process takes place there, above all in the etheric body. All that man has thought during his waking life from morning till evening begins to move and, ring on waves of sound. If you think of a certain region of the earth where men are sleeping, and think of all that weaves and works in the etheric bodies as an echo of all that these sleeping men have been thinking during the hours of their waking life, this will give you a picture of what has happened through the hours of the day. And those beings who hover over us, rising and descending, busy themselves through our hours of sleep with the traces that have remained in our etheric bodies. This becomes their field of action. It is an immediate experience in them and absorbs their attention. When this is revealed to us, we say with a sense of deep reverence: “Thou, 0 Man, hast left thy body. And as it lies there it bears within it the traces of the day's experiences. It is the field where live the fruits of thy thoughts and ideas during the day.
  • The beings of the third hierarchy (H3), the angels, archangels and archai, now enter this field. While thou hast left thy physical and etheric bodies, these beings experience what thou hast thyself experienced from the thoughts and ideas of thy waking hours.” — Deep reverence fills us at the sight of some region of the earth where human bodies are left in sleep and whither the angels, archangels and archai wend their way to all that unfolds as an echo of the life of day. And we here behold a wonderful life, born of all that is unfolded between the beings of the third hierarchy and the traces of the thoughts we have left behind. As we gaze at this field, we become aware how, as human beings, we have our place within the spiritual cosmos, and how, when we wake, we create work for the Angels during our hours of sleep. It is so indeed: during our waking hours we create work for the angels during the time of sleep. And now we learn to understand something about our world of thought. We realise that the thoughts which pass through our heads contain the fruits of what we lay into our own physical and etheric bodies — fruits which angels gather at night. For angels gather these fruits and bear them out into the cosmos in order that they may find there their place in the cosmic Order.
  • One thing more we see as we behold these beings of the third hierarchy coming forth from the beings of the second hierarchy and their activity. We behold how behind this weaving, again beings of sublime majesty and grandeur take part in the activity of the second hierarchy. We gaze at the second hierarchy, and we see how into this weaving life of the second hierarchy something else works from behind; and we soon become aware how this not only strikes, lightning-like, into the weaving and working of the second hierarchy, but striking right to the other side of the earth, it has to do, not with the part of man that is left on the earth, but with that other part of his being that has gone out, namely, the I-organisation and astral body. And as we gaze at what has been left behind and behold it as a field where the fruits of thoughts throughout the day are being gathered by the angels, archangels and archai for the purposes of cosmic activity, so too we see how the beings of the second hierarchy, uniting their activity with that of the first hierarchy (H1): the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones — concern themselves with the astral body and I.


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References and further reading