Falling asleep, the astral body and the I leave the physical body behind (Steiner says!). The ether body stays with the physical body. In dying — the brother of sleep, says Steiner — the ether body, too, abandons the physical body. (Diana summarized this particular lesson from Steiner’s Rosicrucian Wisdom last sunday; it’s lecture iii, with astral oceans and comet tails for your pleasure!) What about artificially induced sleep, I’ve been wondering. What happens to the astral body and the I when a person is under anaesthesia? I’m not thinking about the boringly rational answers now; I want the anthroposophical answer. According to which ‘normal’ sleep happens like this:
When the human being sinks into sleep, his astral body and ego, together with what has been worked upon in the astral body by the ego, withdraw from the physical and etheric bodies. When you observe the sleeping human being clairvoyantly, physical body and etheric body lie there in the bed. These two members remain connected whereas the astral body emerges together with the higher members; wit h clairvoyance we can see how, when sleep begins, the astral body, bathed in a kind of light, draws out of the other two bodies. To describe this condition with greater exactitude we must say that the astral body of modern man appears as if it consisted in many streams and sparkles of light and the whole appears like two intertwining spirals, as if there were two 6-figures, one of which vanishes into the physical body, while the other extends far out into the cosmos like the trail of a comet. Both these trails of the astral body very soon become invisible in their further extensions, so that the phenomenon then has an ovoid shape. When the human being wakes, the trail no longer extends into the cosmos and everything draws again into the etheric and physical bodies. [Source.]
So, then, what happens during anaesthesia? It’s supposedly quick — the transition, that is: you fall asleep fast, wake up fast. It’s not like ordinary sleep. You can die, although that’s rare of course. I’m a bit obsessed with the issue of falling asleep right now — in particular with induced sleep. I’m going to go through the eye operation soon, to fix the squinting. It combines three of my big fears: hospitals, falling asleep and nausea.
Sleep (and not sleeping) is a recurring theme in my life; for the first time ever, I’ve been able to sleep (without medication) most nights for the last half year or so. Though not so well during some of the last few nights. Partly, I think, it’s a fear of losing control and of lost control. I used to feel I had control over nothing, but not falling asleep was something I could control — paradoxically, even when I wanted to fall asleep, because I was dead tired, I think I did fear losing control, and thus could not let myself there. (Clearly, that’s a too complicated explanation. Anyway, I spent lots of time sleepless.)
I figure anthroposophy has an answer — anaesthesia is, after all, used in anthroposophical medicine too? Are there any differences, compared to mainstream medical care? I mean, I assume it’s used for practical and humane reasons — similar reasons to elsewhere — but what intrigues me is anaesthesia in connection to the special anthroposophical beliefs about sleep and what happens during sleep.
(A couple of quotes on sleep, posted two years ago, from the first class lessons.)
PS. You’ll wonder why the quoted passage speaks of a ‘trail’ when I spoke of a ‘tail’. In the print version of the book, it does indeed say ‘tail’.