What actually happens to us when we hold conversations and relate to each other in this way? In order to understand this, it is necessary to know a little more how the soul works and how the spirit self develops in this.
Our soul consists of three separate layers of consciousness that developed one after the other during the course of human evolution. The oldest part of the soul, the part that is still strongly connected to the life processes of the physical body, is known as the sentient soul or the soul of experience. Our deep subjective needs, emotions, impulses of the will and so on live in this part of the soul. These form the subjective basis for our perceptions of the outside world. Through the sentient soul we do not experience the world passively but approach it with our personally tinged responses, moods and emotions. This enables us to connect with the events, things and people around us. But also with ourselves because it is as a result of the emotions longings and impulses of the will that are evoked in us by the world around us that we experience ourselves in the first place. This is how we become aware of ourselves inwardly.
All the impressions and experiences, which we assimilate in the course of our lives, take place in the first instance in the sentient soul. Parts of these experiences are retained there. However the largest part disappear deep down into the lower regions of our etheric and physical body and thus into the unconscious regions of our soul.
The second part of the soul, the intellectual soul, enables us through logical thinking to express our experiences in words and arrange them according to their importance. This makes it possible to distinguish what is important from what is unimportant and so we are able to make choices. Through thinking the emotions can become true feelings. The intellectual soul stores these experiences of which we have become conscious intellectually and emotionally.
The third part of the soul is the soul of consciousness or the consciousness soul. It is the forces of this part of the soul that enable us to become conscious of the truth and the essence of things and understand the relationships between them. However, this works only if we come to permeate our experiences and feelings with thoughts and when we experience or feel what we think. Only then can the truth of things become apparent and the essence become manifest. The consciousness soul contains all the truths we have taken into ourselves and of which we have become conscious.
In the previous chapter I said that our spiritual being, the spirit self, for its greatest part still lives concealed within us. Most of it lies dormant in the unconscious regions of our soul: the depths of the etheric and physical body. When however we become inwardly active, that is turn inward into our soul with the consciousness that comes into our higher being, it can step by step be lifted up through the different parts of the soul and be gradually awakened in the I.
First in a more dreamy feeling way in the sentient soul then more clearly in concepts in the intellectual soul until it finally becomes conscious of itself in the consciousness soul and so becomes liberated and free.
When we apply this to the true conversation in which both per partners show interest in each other, ask questions and listen with an active open attitude of mind to what is to be being told we get the following process.
When we ask each other to speak out we recall in our sentient soul that which lives in us as feelings, questions, needs, ideas, impulses, in relation to the subject we are dealing with. That activates the soul. The experiences start to live in us and we become more inwardly lively. It shows that the spirit self begins to awaken in this part of the soul. That is why so much happens already when one person gets the chance to speak with someone else who is interested, listens carefully and goes into the subject with open questions, someone who is inwardly active. When we then name the experiences that are heard, order them with thinking and form tentative conclusions that bring us to the first insights, we lift these up to the level of the intellectual soul.
A further step to an even higher level takes place in this process of awakening when we let that which we have found intellectually connect with the deeper layers of our being in the consciousness soul and let the experience to speak out their essence, their meeting.
Hans Schauder, who in his book Conversations on Counseling also mentions these different stages, speaks in an impressive way about the inner attitude and the quality of mind that is needed to reach this level of consciousness. He says that we should let them let that which we have found so far - the images of the experiences and that which we have thought about it - sink into the depths of our being and let them ripen there. Then after some time, answers and solutions will rise out of the depths of our soul that fill us with feelings of certainty and truth.
That is how we can in true conversations help each other to awaken the higher being living in us. The insights that we receive on the level of the consciousness soul then touch us again because of their truth. We feel liberated and happy that we have found something essentially true. This emotion and happiness brings us back to our sentient soul and from there the acquired insights and truths enrich and enhance our whole soul.
This is the process Rudolf Steiner refers to in his book occult science when he says that we have to raise the spirits self up from the depths of the soul through self reflection, Through our own inner activity it results in self-knowledge which is at the same time spiritual knowledge.
This reveals clearly what the process of spiritual growth entails: every time we first have to experience afresh all our experiences in the sentient soul, then we have to think about them and finally distill or peel the essence out of these experiences. By repeatedly passing through the process of active self-reflection and judgment building the spirit being within us is gradually awakened step by step. At the same time, this process allows us to digest the things we have experienced. Yes there is even a close connection between the extent to which we digest our experiences and the extent to which our spiritual being is released.