Three States of Human Consciousness

Each human being experiences in his ordinary life three different states of consciousness: waking consciousness, dream consciousness and sleep consciousness. This is due to the daily alternation between the waking and the sleeping state which includes also intermediate periods of dreaming. But beside this we carry throughout our waking life all three states of consciousness in us: we are fully awake only in our thinking, we are dreaming in our life of feeling, and we are asleep in our life of Will.

Three Different States of Our Inner Soul Life

“When we reflect upon the nature of the life of soul even with more or less superficial self-knowledge, we realise that sense-impressions and the thoughts we form about them are the only clear and definite experiences in the life of soul in which, with ordinary consciousness, we are completely awake. As well as these thoughts, sense-impressions, sense-perceptions, we also have, of course, the life of feeling. But just think how indeterminately our feelings surge through us, how little we can speak of inner, wide-awake clarity in connection with our life of feeling. Anyone who faces these facts with an open mind will certainly admit that as compared with thoughts, our feelings are indeterminate, lacking in definition.

True, the life of feeling concerns us in a more intimate, personal way than does the life of thought, but for all that there is something undefined in it and also in the way it functions. We shall not so readily allow our thoughts to deviate from those of other people when it is a question of reflecting about something that is alleged to be true. We shall feel that our thoughts, our sense-impressions must somehow tally with those of others.

With our feelings it is different. We allow ourselves the right to feel in a more intimate, more personal way. And if we compare feelings with dreams, we shall say: dreams arise from the night-life, feelings from the depths of soul into the light of day-consciousness. But again, in respect of their pictures, feelings are as indeterminate as dreams. Anyone who makes the comparison, even with such dreams as enter quite distinctly into his consciousness, will realise that their lack of definition is just as great as that of feelings.

Therefore we can say: it is only in our sense-impressions and thoughts that we are really awake; in our feelings we dream – even during waking life. In ordinary waking life, too, our feelings make us into dreamers.

And still more so the Will[1] When we say: ‘Now I am going to do this, or that’ – how much of the subsequent process is actually in our consciousness? Suppose I want to take hold of something. The mental picture comes first, then this picture completely fades away and in my ordinary consciousness I know nothing of how the impulse contained in the ‘I want’ finds its way into my nerves, into my muscles, into my bones. When I conceive the idea, ‘I want to get hold of the clock’, does my ordinary consciousness know anything at all of how this impulse penetrates into my arm which then reaches out for the clock? It is only through another sense-impression, another mental picture, that I perceive what has actually happened. With my ordinary consciousness I sleep through what has happened intermediately, just as in the night I sleep through and am unaware of what is happening to my whole being. I am as unconscious of the one as of the other.

In waking life, therefore, there are three different and distinct states of consciousness. In the activity of thinking we are awake, completely awake; in the activity of feeling we dream; in the activity of willing we are asleep. We are in a state of perpetual sleep as far as the essential core of the Will is concerned, for it lies deep, deep down in the region of the subconscious.” [2]

If we now relate this to the THREEFOLD HUMAN BEING, we can summarize our inner soul life in following manner:

This distinction of various states of human consciousness is an essential part of any attempt to understand the problems of nutrition from a holistic perspective, for in nutrition we are dealing to a large extent with the processes of digestion and metabolism which are happening inside our organism below the threshold of our consciousness.


  1. The word ‘Will’ is written with a capital letter whenever it refers to human volition, to avoid confusion with the word ‘will’ as part of the verb structures.
  2. Rudolf Steiner, Breslau, 12.06.1924;

Three States of Human Consciousness
By Brane Žilavec