Damming up between heart and brain

From Anthroposophy


  • the damming up of etheric and astral streams between blood/heart and brain, and the imprint of astral impressions on the etheric.


Schema FMC00.033 illustrates the damming up between head and heart

Lecture coverage and references

In the following three lectures, Rudolf Steiner covers the damming up of etheric and astral streams between blood/heart and brain, and the imprint of astral impressions on the etheric.

1911-03-23-GA128 - extract on Etherization of Blood

1911-08-25-GA129 describes the Etherization of Blood, links to lecture version 1 and version 2

Regarding the first paragraph, see also Two etheric streams describing the solidification process.

[Blood circulation and heart]

What really do the blood circulation and the heart mean to us?

They are the ether-world condensed, they are the densified forces of the etheric world! Now from the moment these forces reached the degree of density manifested today by the physical heart, by the blood and the whole circulatory system, they would have come to an end as far as Earth evolution is concerned, a kind of death would have set in. The important and mysterious feature of Earth evolution is not only that this densification took place, not only that the forces which had come over from Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon condensed to such an organic system, not only that what was in the etheric body became physical, but that as regards each of our systems of organs in Earth evolution an impulse entered whereby what was once etheric and had become physical, is once more dissolved, is changed back again into the ether.

That this is so, that after the etheric forces have condensed to a system of organs they are not allowed to rest at this as their goal, but that other forces then intervene which dissolve them again, is one of the most momentous impulses of our Earth evolution.

In the very moment when our human organs have reached the point of greatest densification in earthly evolution, certain macrocosmic powers re-dissolve the substantiality of the organic system, so that what was there before and had gradually lapsed into this organic condition, now emerges from it again, again becomes visible.

This process can be most closely followed by the occultist in the case of the heart and the blood streaming through it; it is possible to see how this dissolution comes about, how the Earth-impulses enter into the substance of such an organic system.

For clairvoyant sight something streams continuously out of our heart — our heart, the outcome of our blood circulation. If you see clairvoyantly the blood pulsating through the human body, then you also see how this blood becomes rarefied again in the heart, how in its finest elements—not in its coarser, but in its finer parts — it is dissolved and returns to the etheric form. Just as the blood has gradually been formed in the ether, so in the human body of the present day we have the reverse process. The blood becomes etherised, and streams of ether flow continuously from the heart towards the head, so that we see the etheric body built up in an opposite direction by way of the blood. Thus what crystallised out from the etheric during the early part of Lemuria to form the human blood circulation and the heart we now see returning to the etheric form and streaming in the human etheric body towards the brain.

And unless these streams of ether were to flow continuously from the heart towards the head, however much we tried to think about the world and to know about it, we should be quite unable to make use of our brain as the instrument for thought. As an instrument for knowledge the brain would be completely useless if it were only to function as physical brain. We have to resort to spiritual science to learn how the brain would work today if it were left to itself. The human being would only be able to think thoughts connected with the inner needs of his body. For example he would be able to think, ‘Now I am hungry, now I am thirsty, now I will satisfy this or that instinct.’ If he were entirely dependent upon his physical brain man would only be able to think thoughts connected with his own bodily needs, he would be the perfect egoist.

But currents of a fine etheric substance coming from the heart stream continuously through the brain. These etheric currents are indirectly related to a delicate and important part of the human brain called the pineal gland. They continuously lave the pineal gland, which becomes luminous and its movements as physical brain-organ respond in harmony with these etheric currents emanating from the heart. Thereby these etheric currents are brought again into connection with the physical brain and give it an impress which enables us to know, in addition to egotistic knowledge, something of the outside world, something that is not ourselves. Thus by way of the pineal gland our etherised blood reacts upon our brain.

You will find an even more detailed description of this from a certain standpoint in the lectures which of GA128 (Occult Physiology).

There I have pointed out from another aspect something of the function of the pineal gland. So you see we have not only a process within the Earth which leads to solidification, but also a reverse process of rarefaction. When we grasp this we are driven to the conclusion that we bear in us forces which will cause us to revert to the form we had during the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions.

[The pollution of the etheric stream since Lemuria]

In his normal consciousness today, man knows nothing of the marvellous play of forces in his ether body; he knows nothing of this communication between heart and brain. Anyone who is made aware of it through occult development becomes aware of something peculiar about these etheric currents, and here self-knowledge yields something very striking, something of the highest significance.

One comes to know how these forces stream upwards from the heart to the brain, to form the brain in such a way that the human being may be able to make use of it as the instrument of his soul-life. But at the same time one learns that these forces have not passed through the human organisation unscathed, that they do not leave the heart in the same state in which they entered it. All that man has meanwhile developed out of the unconscious by way of lower instincts and appetites, all his natural propensities, are carried along in the etheric stream which is borne upwards from the heart.

Thus we received this current in ancient Lemuria as a pure etheric stream which had no other craving, no other will so to say, than to condense to form the wondrous structure of our heart. Since that time we have gone on living as physical men with this heart and this blood circulation, we have passed through a number of incarnations without knowing anything of this solidification of our original ether bodies into the physical parts of heart and blood circulation. And we have become permeated with desires, longings, sympathies and antipathies, emotions and passions, habits and mistakes, and the reborn ether body which now streams upwards to the brain is darkened, is filled with all this. We send all this upwards from our heart and now, in real self-knowledge, we become aware of it. We become aware that what we received from the gods themselves in the depths of our life-body we are unable to give back to the gods again in the same state in which we received it, but that it has become sullied by our own being.

1911-08-26-GA129 is a key lecture because it is central in explaining the link between head and heart, and how this connects the human being to cosmic streams at those two places.

And then what up to that time had existed solely in the sun, and yet was akin to the nature of the Earth, did in fact take possession in the mysterious moment of the Baptism by John in the Jordan, of the physical, etheric and astral bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. In the body of Jesus of Nazareth for the first time upon our Earth, the purified stream from cosmic space united with the newly arising etheric body streaming from the human heart to the brain. During the Baptism by John in the Jordan there took place a union between:

  • what was indeed a real stream that came from without, from cosmic space — being moreover permeated with airy substance
  • and the stream which rises upwards continuously as the finest etheric constituents of the heart-blood towards the head.

This is what first gave to every human soul the possibility of permeating itself with that element out of cosmic space which is represented to us in the sign of the dove at the Baptism by John in the Jordan. In fact, through that event an intercourse was created between the entire universe, so far as it is accessible to us, and its purest extract, which previously, provisionally we might say, had co-operated in what is called esoterically the eagle-stream. It was a communication, an interaction, between all that streamed from the Earth and formed the human body from below upwards and what as macrocosmic stream worked into man from without. From this you see how we can enter ever more deeply into the Mystery which took place in Palestine. The more we ourselves advance in knowledge of what the world is, the better we come to understand the Mystery of Palestine.

[Etheric stream flowing upwards from heart to brain]

Now we are bound to ask why the human being no longer sees or feels anything at all of this etheric stream which flows upwards from his heart to his brain. Modern science is superficial, hence its attitude to history is also superficial, and it often takes age-old truths to be age-old errors. If you studied the Greek philosopher Aristotle you would find in his writings a remarkable teaching about the nature of man, a remarkable description of that ‘wonder of the world’, the human being. You would find a description of how extremely fine etheric elements flow from the heart to the head and there, as they contact the brain, cool down. Modern science of course says ‘Aristotle was certainly very intelligent for a Greek, but today every schoolboy knows that this was not so.’ But it is those who speak in this way of Aristotle who are in the wrong. The truth is that though Aristotle had not himself the clairvoyant consciousness which enabled him to know it for himself, he knew from old traditions what in still earlier times it had been possible to observe through an original, natural clairvoyance. This consciousness of etheric currents rising from the heart to the head was certainly to be found until far on into the Middle Ages, right on into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We find a certain awareness of it even in the works of Descartes. But according to historians of philosophy ‘Descartes has some fantastic tale about the vital spirits which flow from the heart to the brain, but that is just an old-wives' tale. Happily we know better than that.’

This is a truth which originated in the time when such things could be perceived by a natural clairvoyance.

How then must we put the matter from the point of view of modern clairvoyance, modern spiritual science?

We may perhaps feel somewhat uneasy with the way in which Aristotle puts it, since of necessity he only drew upon tradition, the old clairvoyant forces being no longer at his disposal. But if by means of the esotericism which has been available since the thirteenth century one undertakes an investigation of the whole human being, then one perceives that in fact there is such an etheric current from the heart to the head.

[The brain]

Not only does an etheric current go from the heart to the head, but astral currents are also present in this stream. If one looks closely at these currents it becomes clear that they contain both etheric elements, substances of the human etheric body, and substances of man's astral body. A substance streams from heart to head in which substantial elements both of the etheric and of the astral body of man are present.

Now the brain is a most remarkable instrument of human nature. Owing to the way it has been formed since the last third of the Atlantean epoch, it has acquired one very peculiar quality. It arrests the astrality which rises up, prevents the astral current from passing through it, while it does allow the etheric current to pass. The brain as physical instrument is an organ in which part of the current which comes from the heart is dammed up. The brain is permeable for the etheric current, but not for the astral one.

The astral current is arrested in our brain; in the region of the head the seer perceives that astral currents rising upwards from the body spread out in the brain but are held up there, are allowed to pass through the brain not at all, or only to a very small extent.

These upward astral currents which are arrested by the brain have a certain power of attraction for the external astral substantialities which are always around us in the astral substance of the Earth.

Hence the astral body of man in the region of the head is as though knit together out of two astralities, out of

  • the astrality which continually streams towards us from the cosmos, and
  • the astrality in the human body which comes up from below and is attracted by the outer astrality.

Thus the astral body around the head, quite near the skin of the head, has a thickening, something like a cap — to put it rather grotesquely — made of astral substance — a cap which we wear all the time. We have in the region of the head an astral covering consisting of the thickening which arises through the knitting together of the inner and the outer astralities.

The rays of the etheric body pass through this astral hood or cap, since they are not arrested by the brain, and the purer they are — that is, the less they still contain of the instincts, desires, passions and emotions of human nature — the lighter and more brilliant they appear. Thus the human aura, when seen from the front, acquires a kind of coronet, a wreath of astrality, through which the rays of the etheric body pass. That is the halo which those gifted with the ancient clairvoyance perceived in those whose etheric aura shone brightly because of the purity of their being. This is what we see depicted in pictures. That is what is meant by the halo, that is what becomes visible to the clairvoyant who clearly sees the aura round the head. The inner astral aura, the inner astral substance, through a peculiar characteristic of the brain, is retained and disposed around the head.

Etheric-astral substance in man flows from below upwards. This etheric-astral substance expands in the brain in such a way as to fill it, but is held back there, just as a ray of light which falls upon a mirror is arrested and thrown back. Here we have the true mirroring-process. Because the astral stuff of the brain is held back, it reflects itself, and what in this way enters into you and is reflected, is your thought, your conscious feeling, what you normally experience as your soul-life.

And it is only because this astral part is so to speak tied together or sewn together by the etheric currents streaming through the brain, which thus effect a union between the inner astrality and the outer, that knowledge of the outer world comes about. Everything that we know of the outer world we know because the outer astrality unites with the inner astrality by virtue of the strange astral cap or hood which everyone has.


Now we can carry to completion what we have said about the brain. If we go farther and consider the human being clairvoyantly in respect of other regions of his being, we find something most remarkable.

Whereas the etheric and astral elements mount upwards as far as his brain, where the astral part is arrested and the etheric part protrudes beyond as a kind of corona, we see that the I-part of man has been arrested earlier as a kind of inner aura in the region of the heart. The true inner I-aura is already arrested in the region of the heart, it only presses upward as far as the heart, and there unites with a part of the outer aura, unites with the corresponding part of the macrocosmic aura.

Two elements in fact are entwined in the heart: the element which enters from the cosmos, and the I-aura which mounts up from below, but is dammed back in the heart.

Just as the astral aura is arrested in the brain, so is the I-aura held back in the heart, where it makes contact with an element of I-aura coming from without.

Hence the fact is that the real I-consciousness of man does not take place in the brain.

What I have said about the man of Atlantis, that his I was drawn into him, must be thought of more explicitly … as an incoming of the external cosmic I, which since the time of Atlantis has advanced as far as the heart, where it has united with another stream which comes up from below and reaches the heart.

Thus the heart is organically the place where through the instrument of the blood the real 'I' of man as it manifests in our consciousness comes into being.

The last paragraph, see also 'cosmic storms'


Related pages

References and further reading