The etheric body

The etheric body surrounds the physical body and is much finer than the physical body. Currents and organs of wonderful variety and splendour are active in it. The etheric body contains the same organs as the physical body. It has a brain, heart, eyes etc. They represent the forces which formed the corresponding organs. It is as if one cooled water in a vessel until it becomes ice. In this way you should picture the arising of the physical organs through the densifying of the etheric organs. The etheric body extends only a little beyond the physical body.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 94 – THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN: Lecture I – Berlin. 19 February 1906


Good and bad influences  

As we know, man lives not only for himself but also in connection with human evolution as a whole. Usually when man passes through death his etheric body dissolves into the cosmos. A part of this dissolving etheric body always stays intact, however, and so we are always surrounded by these remaining parts of the etheric bodies of the dead, for our good, or also to our detriment. They affect us for good or ill according to whether we ourselves are good or bad. Far reaching effects emanate also from the etheric bodies of great individualities. Great forces emanating from the etheric body of Christian Rosenkreutz can work into our soul and also into our spirit. It is our duty to get to know these forces.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – ROSICRUCIAN CHRISTIANITY – Lecture 1 – Neuchatel, 27th September 1911



Previously posted on October16, 2020

Fragments from The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy (3 of 3)

It is not moral talk or prudent admonitions that influence the child in this sense. Rather is it what the grown-up people do visibly before his eyes. The effect of admonition is to mould the forms, not of the physical, but of the etheric body; and the latter, as we saw, is surrounded until the seventh year by a protecting etheric envelope, even as the physical body is surrounded before physical birth by the physical envelope of the mother-body. All that has to evolve in the etheric body before the seventh year — ideas, habits, memory, and so forth — all this must develop ‘of its own accord,’ just as the eyes and ears develop within the mother-body without the influence of external light … What we read in that excellent educational work — Jean Paul’s ‘Levana’ or ‘Science of Education’ — is undoubtedly true. He says that a traveler will have learned more from his nurse in the first years of his life, than in all his journeys round the world. The child, however, does not learn by instruction or admonition, but by imitation. The physical organs shape their forms through the influence of the physical environment. Good sight will be developed in the child if his environment has the right conditions of light and colour, while in the brain and blood-circulation the physical foundations will be laid for a healthy moral sense if the child sees moral actions in his environment. If before his seventh year the child sees only foolish actions in his surroundings, the brain will assume such forms as adapt it also to foolishness in later life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy

Translated by George and Mary Adams


Previously posted on April 11, 2018

The etheric body

Our etheric body is very complex and contains all our memories, ready to present them to us when we recall them. Even those things that have sunk down into the depths of the soul, things we are not aware of in waking consciousness, are contained in the etheric body in some way. Our whole life in this incarnation is retained in the etheric body, is really present in it. 

Of course, this is very difficult to imagine, but it is true nevertheless. Imagine you were to talk all day long, as some people do, and everything you said was recorded on records. When the first record is full, you take a second one, then a third, and so on. The number of records would depend on how much you spoke. Now if someone collected all the records, everything you had said would be nicely preserved on records at the end of the day. 

Then, if someone played them, everything you said during the day would be heard again. In a similar way, all our memories are retained in the etheric body. Under the special conditions of sleep one part of the etheric body appears before us, as though — to stay with this metaphor — we took one record from the collection and played it; this is the most common kind of dream. Thus our consciousness weaves in our own etheric body.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 154 – UNDERSTANDING THE SPIRITUAL WORLD (PART ONE) – Berlin, April 18, 1914

Translated by Christian von Arnim and edited by Joachim Reuter


The fourfold human being

We have often brought to mind that man as we know him in his present form is, to begin with, a fourfold being; that he consists of the physical, etheric and astral bodies and the “I.” To spiritual vision these four principles appear in their external form as if the human physical body is enclosed in the centre like a kind of kernel. During the day this physical body is permeated by the so-called etheric or life-body which projects very slightly round about the head as a luminous halo, but which also completely permeates the head; further down it becomes more cloudy and indistinct and the more it approaches the lower parts of man the less definitely does it show the form of the physical body.

Now these two principles of the human being are during the day enveloped by what we call the astral body, which projects on all sides like an ellipse, in the shape of an egg, and in its fundamental form it has luminous rays which look as if their direction really were from outside inward, as if they would penetrate from outside to the inner part of the man. Within this astral body are outlined a great number of different figures, every possible kind of lines and rays, many like flashes of lightning, many in curious twists; all this surrounds the human being in the most varied manifestations of light. The astral body is the expression of his passions, instincts, impulses and desires, as also of all his thoughts and ideas. The clairvoyant consciousness sees portrayed in this astral body all that one calls soul-experiences, from the lowest impulses to the highest ethical ideals.

Then we have the fourth principle of the human being, which one might sketch as if something were sending in rays to a point lying about one centimetre (3/8 inch) behind the forehead. That would be the diagrammatic representation of the fourfold man. In the course of these lectures we shall see how the several parts are distinguished in the whole.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 104 – The Apocalypse of St. John: Lecture II – Nuremberg, 19th June 1908

Translated by M. Cotterell

Previously posted on October 19, 2019