Our sensory organs and nerves are designed to correspond with certain vibrations from the energies in the world around us. The sensory organs consist of special sensitive cells which react in different ways to influences fro m our surroundings. The results of this are what we know as the experiences of light, sound, taste, smell and touch. When we taste something sweet, sour, salt or bitter what happens is this: the vibrations in the substances we come into contact with whose vibrations or oscillations are of the level we call "sweet", "sour", "salt" or "bitter". Through the nerves these vibrations are transmitted to the brain, which is so adapted as to receive such "sense-pictures". When we can see, it is because we have in our organism as a result of evolution through many incarnations ingeniously constructed mechanisms with sensitive lenses built up of organic substance, that is living cells with day-consciousness on the physical plane. These cells react with the vibrations in the surrounding world which we call light waves, and through the nerves which are also living cells the brain receives "visual pictures". The sensory mechanisms and the nerves are adapted to receive vibrations of a certain strength or level; but, if the energies which hit us are too powerful, the sensory mechanisms and nerves can be weakened or destroyed. One cannot bear to look directly at the sun because one's eyes would be destroyed. There are people who have become blind from trying to do so. If one experiences explosions which are too violent then one can lose one's hearing; chlorine gas can destroy the sense of smell, and the sense of touch can be destroyed by contact with fire or something which is either too hot or too cold. But it is not only the senses directed towards the physical world which can be destroyed; the senses directed towards the psychic world can also bear only a certain amount of strain. In the psychic area, of which people have much less knowledge than of the physical area, one can also be so careless that the psychic sensory capacity will be overburdened.
It is the fixed point, our I, which experiences and creates the combinations of movement in consciousness, substance, time and spac
People identify themselves with their physical organisms and believe they are physical beings. But if we were exclusively physical beings we would not be able to experience anything. Imagine a camera: in itself it is nothing, but in the hands of a proficient photographer who knows how the camera should be handled and who understands how to place it in the right relation to the surroundings it becomes a purposeful, sensitive recording instrument. But it is solely because of the photographer's spirit or psyche, his capacity for imagination and his sense for photographic effect, that the camera has any meaning at all. The physical world is only movements, oscillations or vibrations, and if this were all no real life would exist because one movement cannot experience another movement. There would be no experience of life. We do, however, experience a lot of movements in matter, space and time. This happens solely because there exists, behind the above mentioned movements, movement in the consciousness that is, a spiritual world and behind the consciousness a fixed point, an I, which experiences and which, on the basis of what it has absorbed from these experiences, creates new combinations of movement in consciousness, matter, time and space. The very way in which we experience "visual pictures" shows that we are spiritual, not just physical, beings. We are spiritual beings who at present have the capacity dayconsciously to experience through the vibrations of the physical world. What meaning would a photograph have if no one ever saw it or would see it in the future? None. Only through the thinking observer does it have meaning. There are, for example, plants which have such sensitive cells on their leaves that people have been able to experiment with them as a sort of "photographic paper". But this does not mean that the plant can see the physical world, for the plant has no day-consciousness in connection with the physical plane whereby it could experience in this field, and without this experience it will not be able to see. The lightsensitive cells are in this case the beginning of something which, in the distant future when the plant being passes into the animal kingdom and its consciousness begins to be woken to life on this plane, can develop into organs which can be likened to our eyes.
The structure of sense perception
In fractions of seconds a great deal happens in one's consciousness when one perceives something. The visual organs and the nerves receive a stimulus; this stimulus is converted into rays which become thought-pictures. Our consciousness consists of an entire "file" of thought-pictures. Every new visual picture becomes a thought-picture and is instantaneously confronted with the thought-pictures or experience pictures which make up the material of the "file" or the consciousness and slips in as an enrichment of our "file", an expansion of our "spiritual space". Conversely we can send thought-pictures from our consciousness to our brain-cells via the nervous pathways which can convert thought-pictures into physical pictures.
Pain is like a bell ringing to warn us
If the physical sense organs and cells are overworked or are exposed to vibrations which are much too powerful, they break down to a greater or lesser extent, and the organism is weakened. This is felt as pain, and one can be free of pain through anesthetization. Anesthetization, however, does not mean that healing has taken place. It can be a blessing where the pressure it too great to bear. But one must bear in mind that pain is like a bell ringing to warn us and is not something which should be suppressed by anesthetics while one continues with that form of lifeunfoldment which is perhaps the cause of the pain.
The tremendous speed at which science and technology are developing today is not supported by a corresponding development of our consciousness or Man's "spiritual space"
Man is a being who finds himself in a period of forced development. The colossal technical and scientific development, which in the course of a relatively short time, has made it possible to expand Man's physical space, that is his surmounting of time and space, has not been supported by a corresponding development of our consciousness or Man's spiritual space; Man is therefore subject to violent disharmony. He has not sufficient knowledge to be able to "keep up" physically and morally with the tremendous speed which has become an ideal in our times; he feels that there is something wrong and this affects his nerves; his nerves are damaged and the thought-pictures become disordered. A jumble of different pictures arises and a highly illogical visualisation takes place. When someone gets in his consciousness an incorrect image of what he sees and experiences, his experience of life becomes so imperfect that he becomes not only physically ill but is also, in many cases, subject to mental disorder. The tremendous speed which has become the order of the day forces such a mass of thought-pictures on to people in such a short time that the vibrations are beyond what their nerves can normally register. At the same time one tries through tobacco, alcohol and other artificial stimulants to "sustain the speed", and one does not get sufficient rest or sleep during which the broken nerves can be repaired; the result is bound to be frightening. But such a fright is only a warning that one is about to get too far out into a spiritual "quagmire" and that one must come back to something in life which can support one. The only thing which can really help is to find the cause of the "bad nerves" and then begin to create quite new causes which could gradually give rise to new effects. Medical science has in many cases helped a sick person on his way, but it can only patch up the effects of which the person himself is the cause; it cannot remove the cause of the bad nerves. The person must do that himself. But an aid to self-help for people exists, at any rate for those who are open and receptive to new impulses, and this aid is spiritual science, through which one can learn about one's own physical and psychical structure.
With the development of intelligence the religious instinct and other instincts degenerate
In earlier times most people with shattered nerves were able to get help through the consolation of religion, through belief and suggestion. But religions are for most people in our time a "lost horizon" Blindly-believing people from the primitives with their fetishes and other forms of primitive religion to modern people who are followers of the great worldreligions feel a loving Godhead or Gods behind everything in the universe. It is not something they have invented; it is an effect of their religious instinct. But with the development of intelligence the religious instinct, together with other instincts, degenerates. From the abstract world of the child of nature a large selection of humanity has passed into a world of concrete, materialistically orientated ideas which weaken interest in the abstract to such a degree that one believes that only physical matter is reality. One vaguely senses the existence of the abstract as the plant senses the existence of the physical world but one cannot explain it. New thought-pictures have entered people's consciousness: mainly pictures which form isolated spheres of thought isolated because they are often specially suited to people's own desires or because they are only based on a selection of matter which cannot be seen immediately in connection with other spheres of thought, e.g. weights and measures, and thoughts about speed, volume and wavelength. These are all very useful when they are combined with spiritual principles and laws, but isolated from these realities they result in a bewildering perception of life which one believes is based on logic which in many cases only serves to justify a morality which actually belongs to the animal kingdom and the jungle and which, when combined with human intelligence, becomes a sort of "devil-consciousness". People have laws against killing and, at the same time, they have atom and hydrogen bombs. They punish murderers in time of peace and honour them in war. They have legislation which forbids theft, fraud and self-enrichment at the cost of others, yet at the same time they flourish in the business world by perpetrating in a camouflaged form, many variations of these crimes and described them as necessary for the maintenance of the social system. Militarism, capitalism and dictatorship each maintain some such state of things in different parts of the globe. Narrow-minded intelligence-orientated thought‑pictures which dominate the consciousness of so many people today cause them to observe a morality which, in a narrow materialistic perspective, sounds like the following: "One only lives once, so one should enjoy life and elbow one's way forward to the good things of life even if this must occur at the cost of others, because everyone is, of course, out for himself". The result is a civilised hell where the "devil" unfolds a war of all against all. Therefore one person after another suffers mental shipwreck.
Our nerves and our organism are already now fit to correspond with a divine spiritual sun-power which vibrates through the universe
The nerves in the long run cannot bear the forced competitive speed or total war in all its variations from "cold" war to "hot" war and, when people have sought extensively to anaesthetize themselves with alcohol, tobacco and drugs which only deaden and do not heal, the nerves disintegrate and nervous breakdown occurs. "The alarm bell is ringing", but that does not mean that all is now lost. It rings to show people that they cannot go further along the path they have chosen. They must change course. The narrowminded intelligence-orientated thoughtpictures are very insufficient in areas which cannot be viewed by the intelligence alone and, as soon as one is concerned with something beyond physical matter, the intelligence is inadequate. It is an insufficient view not least when it has to do with bad nerves. What is it the intelligenceorientated section of mankind has lost? It has lost contact with the surrounding world in two senses: the contact with one's neighbour, and the contact with God. A basis for life is necessary in order not to suffer mental shipwreck. As the instinct through which people once stood in a natural and living relationship to the universe and the Godhead has degenerated, another combination of energies must lead people further. People must have a science of the psychic world and its laws and of their own psychic structure. They must connect their intelligence with living feeling or neighbourly love, and this combination will lead people forward to the intuitive experience of the connection between all living beings who "live and move and have their being" in the Godhead's universal organism. This comprehensive view can give the seeker a new basis for life; if people work with themselves and open themselves, instead of closing themselves in fear or bitterness, it can give them such spiritual power that they no longer feel afraid of anyone or anything, neither life nor death. We cannot bear to do without the light or the sun which has created our eyes. If the sun were extinguished at this moment, all physical life on Earth would be over. But neither can we do without the divine spiritual sun-power which vibrates through the universe and is the basic power behind all physical phenomena. Our nerves and our organism are already now fit to correspond with this power, to pass it on as neighbourly love and the unfoldment of creative capacity for the benefit of the whole. The purpose of Man's life is that he will gradually become a spiritual sun promoting the power of life and sending its light to all sides in the form of intellectualised feeling benefitting and giving joy to everyone and everything.
First published as "Nervesammenbrud og religion" in the Danish edition o f Kosmos N° 9, 1984. Translated by Mary McGovern, 1985. ©
© Martinus Institut 1981
Published with permission from Martinus Institute