Occultism and Dreams

We can take alchemy as an example of occultism, a hidden, or even sometimes seen as superstitious, beliefs. Yet alchemy is now seen as the early foundations of modern science. So, we might say the occult is a form of reaching for things that we often see as ridiculous until they are provable or visible to the public belief system we call science. For instance the belief in the human aura which was seen as occult superstition is now a part of scientific theory. Of course they would never call it the aura, but have called it radiations, heat, and electrical brain radiations.

But occultism has in recent years been seen as linking with dark arts, strange sexual acts, attempts to develop powers over others, an association with skulls and death – but that is the strange deranged ideas some people have about the devil, evil spirits and possession, and those wishing to try to scare others, none of which apply to the great seers and beings who are truly occultists. Occultists are the early scientific investigators of human awareness.

In Western occultism levels of awareness have been defined for hundreds of years, long before Freud and Jung described such levels as the unconscious. In occult training the aim is to open the mind to our subtle or inner self. It helps us to become conscious of the many impressions which usually are beyond our physical sense range. Becoming aware of the ideas, impressions, feelings and impact of that nature, opens up huge new avenues of experience.

But occultism has given rise to much rubbish about dreaming, but also some things of great interest. For instance Rudolf Steiner, one of the greatest of modern occultist wrote, ‘The soul is fully active’… ‘but a man can know nothing of this … as long as he has no spiritual organs of perception through which he can observe what is going on around him and see what he himself is doing during sleep as easily as he can observe his daily physical environment with his ordinary senses.’ In this supersensible world. Steiner goes on to say, the astral body is that which brings consciousness to the otherwise vegetative existence of our body. Without the process which the astral body produces, we would exist in a similar way to a plant, in a sort of sleep without traces of self awareness. To quote Steiner more extensively, he says:

“Man has his physical body in common with the minerals and his etheric body with the plants. In the same sense he is of like nature with the animals in respect of the astral body. The plant is in a perpetual state of sleep. Anyone who does not judge accurately in these matters may easily fall into the error of attributing to plants too a kind of consciousness such as the animals and man have in their waking state. But this mistake is only possible when one’s idea of consciousness is inexact. … But the criterion of consciousness does not lie in the fact that to a given action a being shows a definite reaction. It lies in this, that the being has an inner experience, and this is a new factor, over and above the mere reaction. Otherwise we might as well speak of consciousness when a piece of iron expands under the influence of heat. Consciousness is only there when for example, through the effect of heat, the being inwardly experiences pain”.

“That is not the case in willing. You know that when you perform the simplest kind of willing, for instance walking, you are only really fully conscious in your mental picture of the walking. You know nothing of what takes place in your muscles whilst one leg moves forward after the other; nothing of what takes place in the mechanism and organism of your body. Just think of what you would have to learn of the world if you had to perform consciously all the arrangements involved when you will to walk. You would have to know exactly how much of the activity produced by your food in the muscles of your legs and other parts of your body is used up in the effort of walking. You have never reckoned out how much you use up of what your food brings to you. You know quite well that all this happens unconsciously in your bodily nature. When we “will” there is always something deeply, unconsciously present in the activity. This is not only so when we look at the nature of willing in our own organism. What we accomplish when we extend our will to the outer world, that, too, we do not by any means completely grasp with the light of consciousness.

Suppose you have here two posts set up like pillars. (See drawing.)

“Imagine you lay a third post across the top of them. Now notice carefully, please, how much fully conscious knowing activity there is in what you have done; how much fully conscious activity such as there is when you pass the judgement “a man is good,” where you are right in the midst of it with your knowledge. Distinguish, please, what is present as the activity of cognition here from that of which you know nothing although you had to do it with all your will: why these two pillars through certain forces support the beam that is lying on them? Up to now physics has only hypotheses concerning this, and if men believe that they “know” why the two pillars support the beam they are under an illusion. All the concepts that exist of cohesion, adhesion, forces of attraction and repulsion are, at bottom, only hypotheses on the part of external knowledge. We count upon these external hypotheses in our actions; we are convinced that the two posts supporting the beam will not give way if they are of a certain thickness. But we cannot understand the whole process which is connected with this, any more than we can understand the movements of our legs when we move forwards. Here, too, there is in our willing an element that does not reach into our consciousness. Willing in all its different forms has an unconscious element in it.” Quoted from The Study of Man by Rudolf Steiner.

This was not clear scientifically at the time it was written, but it become clear now in the following:

During REM sleep while we are dreaming our voluntary muscles are paralyzed – except for our eyes. It is thought this was developed during a period when our forebears were sleeping in trees. Any movement would have made them fall. The eye movements were of course not dangerous.

An important fact about dreaming is that all the signals for movement while we dream are sent by the sleeping brain to the muscles but are blocked by a part of the brain called the pons.

But this block can be bypassed by having a passive attitude while awake (See Keyboard Condition). This allows for a little recognised phenomenon which, while awake and in a passive state, allows the dream process to break through as spontaneous movement, sound and emotion, exactly as with dreams. See Life’s Little Secrets

In life and sleep we have two powerful actions working in us. The first is our waking experience based on having a body, its limitations, vulnerabilities and a particular gender. Our second is the power that gave us life and continues to express as dreams, in our breathing and heartbeat – our life. This I have given the description as the Life Will.

While we sleep our conscious self is largely or totally unconscious, and while we sleep our voluntary muscles are paralysed – therefore another will or motivating force moves our body. So, we have a Conscious Will, and what I will call a Life Will. The first one we have experience of as we can move our arm or speak in everyday activities; but the second will takes over when we sleep. See Sleep Paralysis

This Life will can move us to speak, to move our body, and in fact do things that we cannot do with our Conscious Will. As Freud pointed out this inner will has full access to our memories. It can do so many other things that are described else where – See Edgar Cayce and the Cosmic MindESP in Dreams.

But quoting from Steiner again, here is something still not recognised.

“And what happens in willing you can only experience in a sleeping condition. You would experience something most terrible if in your ordinary life you were obliged to participate in all that happens when you will. The most terrible pain would lay hold of you if, for instance, as I have already indicated, you really had to experience how the forces brought to your organism by your food are used up in your legs when you walk. It is lucky for you that you do not experience this, or rather that you only experience it in a condition of sleep. For if you were awake it would mean the greatest pain imaginable, a fearful pain.

Hence you will understand it if I now characterise the life of the ego during what is usually called waking consciousness – which comprises: complete waking, dreaming-waking, sleeping-waking – you will understand it if I characterise what the ego actually experiences while it is living in the body in the ordinary waking condition. This ego lives in “thinking-cognition” in that it wakes up into the body; here it is fully awake. But it lives in it only in images. Hence man between birth and death lives in images only, when using his thinking-cognition unless he does such exercises as are indicated in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment.”

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