Changing matter

By Mathias Maurer, February 2020

Henry sits listlessly at his desk. He displays no interest in the history lesson whatsoever. Suddenly he sits up: how can it be that this despot came to power?

Henry sinks back – too difficult a question. Next day the topics for the presentation are distributed. He volunteers for the subject of “Persecution of the Jews under National Socialism”, something he hadn’t actually meant to do. The years pass. Henry just about manages to pass his university entrance exams, takes time out to travel, and at some point starts a university course while temping as a taxi driver...

Even in a waking state, we constantly alternate between sleeping and waking. When we listen, we step out of ourselves, threaten to “fall asleep” in the speaker. When we speak ourselves, we come to, and “wake up”.

In “real” sleep, we transform what we have experienced during the day. We well and truly digest it. The integration of soul and spirit mostly takes place unconsciously – we describe this occurrence as a learning process. What we have learnt is not always available immediately as if it had to mature for a little longer – during the night.

We know today that human beings are not inactive during sleep. Brain and metabolism are working flat out and our soul performs serious work – yet we wake up refreshed – a pointer to the justified question what actually makes us regenerate.

And there are even longer waves of “sleeping” and “waking” which only become apparent in review. Crucial things are happening under the surface of our conscious life: we connect to our own inner impulses which prompt us to learn, at first maybe still unnoticed, sometimes abruptly. Here it is important to begin by individualising each “subject matter”, each world content, in order then to give it back to the world. This alternating sequence of forgetting and remembering means learning.

According to Rudolf Steiner, the incredible achievement of the growing person in learning to walk, speak and think can only be performed with the help of the angels. In adulthood, the human being emancipates themselves from this spiritual support of which they are unconscious; they are free to take their further development in hand through their higher self, discover life tasks and raise questions about destiny which do not stop at questions of the transition between death and rebirth as a form of sleeping and waking.

That sometimes requires a long view and the unshakeable confidence of parents and teachers that what might seem impossible can become possible. Incidentally, Henry today teaches history. His specialist field is totalitarian regimes.


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