Development of the I

From Anthroposophy

The Human 'I' or 'I'-consciousness is the development goal for humanity in the current planetary stage Earth, building on the principles of physical, etheric and astral body received in previous planetary stages. It maps to Condition of Consciousness level 4 - see Twelve Conditions of Consciousness.

The principle is such that the spiritual hierarchy that has evolved to the level of self-sacrifice - see Conditions of Consciousness - sacrifices its lowest element which then gives birth to something totally new in evolution, to a new creation. In this case the hierarchy that gave Man his threefold soul during the Earth planetary stage are the Spirits of Form (SoF). The process started in the Lemurian epoch and lasted upto the end of the Atlantean epoch, as the substance of the SoF 'rippled into' or 'took hold of' Man's existing bodies.

Because the three lower of Man's bodily principles were taken hold of, we can distinguish three phases and call them sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul. These three points whereby the astral body, etheric body, and physical body were taken hold of took place in the Lemurian and Atlantean epochs (FMC00.046), and gave Man the faculties of Walking, Speaking and Thinking characteristic of Man's I-consciousness. This process was accompanied by three pre-MoG interventions by the Christ to assure a balanced 'implementation' of this I-impulse, protected from Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences (FMC00.246).

Before the current Earth cycle, the foundations for the above were already prepared:

  • Man's I-consciousness lives in the 'warmth' element and ether, and hence has a relationship with the Thrones and the Archai which lie at the origin of that warmth on Old Saturn. The Archai 'thought up' and afterwards 'carried' Man's I-consciousness substance and evolved it in the previous planetary stages so it became ready for 'individuation' and released into human individuality. (1925-01-11-GA026, see schemas FMC00.194 and FMC00.147)
  • A second intermediate stage was the development of the Group souls of humanity on Old Moon.


The main phases

  • Lemurian epoch
    • Before the middle of the Lemurian epoch the divine consciousness hovered over the Earth where Man lived in its lower bodies. Then happened the divine intervention with 'Jehovah' (the name of one of the SoF, called Elohim in the Bible): the image can be used of water dropplets in a sponge that are now being dispersed into individual dropplets of first stage I-consciousness in physical Man (see FMC00.046)
  • Atlantean epoch
    • in the ancient Atlantean subraces focus of consciousness was in the etheric head, which projected far out beyond the physical head and especially powerfully in the region of the forehead (outside the brow)
    • then the point of the etheric head drew in to the physical brain, which gave rise to I-consciousness and the faculties of calculation, counting, capacity of judging, the power of forming ideas in general, intelligence (1906-05-26-GA094,1907-06-04-GA099,1908-05-27-GA103)
  • Current Postatlantean epoch
    • The consciousness of Man is very much related to the bodily constitution - see also I-organization: the nervous system and the etheric vs the physical heads. In current Man the physical and etheric heads coincide and are very nearly alike in form and size, but this has only been the case since the last third of the Atlantean epoch. Before that, the etheric head protruded far beyond the physical. The two grew together by the drawing together of a point in the brain near the eyes in both the physical and etheric heads, which gave rise of the consciousness soul and cause Man to say 'I' to himself.
    • See the Krishna impulse (and The being of Elijah) for the transition and development of Man's sentient and intellectual soul.


  • 'not all reach the goal': the different cohorts arising in the overall population, based on how the impulses of each consecutive age are absorbed by the I, and the soul constitution and poisoneous phantom that gets created in individuals who do not correctly undergo and assimilate the workings of what the age poses as offerings and challenges (1917-01-01-GA174B and Schema FMC00.233 below)
    • impact on tendencies and diseases of the culture in our age or the zeitgeist
    • disorders that ripple through to the other bodily principles as a result of the suboptimal developed I (1917-01-14-GA174 combined with 1917-01-01-GA174B )
  • Sibyls as an example of disorders in the development of the I, see coverage on Three pre-MoG interventions of Christ (as the MoG countered this threath).
  • another threath by the counterforces was the Soratic impulse in the year 666 known as the Academy of Gondishapur, to deliberately unbalance humanity's development of the consciousness soul in the cultural age of the intellectual soul. Although it was countered, it still has its aftereffects in the oriental spiritual stream coming from the arabic culture.


Schema FMC00.046 depicts how the Spirits of Form (known in the bible as Elohim) sacrificed the lowest member of their being and how that rippled into the structure of Man in the Lemurian and Atlantean epochs, thereby laying the foundations of the I. It follows the metaphoric imagery of the sponge and the dropplets.


FMC00.246 shows how the evolutionary forces of Spirits of Form (SoF) enabling the faculties of Walking, Speaking, Thinking, were brought into harmony through Christ impulse in the three pre-MoG interventions of the Christ. See also 1914-03-07-GA152.


Schema FMC00.233 shows the development of the 'I' on the left, centered in the Atlantean epoch although it really starts in the middle of the Lemurian epoch and lasts upto the current cultural age of the current fifth Postatlantean or Aryan epoch.

In the middle the '16 paths of perdition' mapped to this development (based on Heindel). If one considers a Gaussian distribution curve there is always a part ahead on the right, and a part lagging on the left. Hence, over the cultural ages part of the total population of souls will be lagging and just not reach the stages of the mainstream.

On the right: in the current fifth epoch 'Humanity is getting younger' and the sixth 'russian' cultural age (approx. ) is the one where a (small) subselection of humanity will have sufficiently advanced to make up the cohort that will be the basis for the next great Sixth epoch (dark blue).


Schema FMC00.047 shows that, after a transition and changes with a hardening of earth and the human physical body, we have a recapitulation in the current Postatlantean epoch whereby the 'I' now has the physical and etheric bodily structure to develop it's autonomous self-consciousness.

As per Schema FMC00.129 on Man's transformation and spiritualization the developmental target for the next sixth epoch is the spirit-self or budhi, hence the seed cohort for starting that sixth epoch will be taken in the next sixth 'russian' cultural age, consisting of a selection of humanity that has reached the expected developmental goal.

FMC00.047 .jpg

FMC00.109 is the illustration of the the human group soul tree concept as was done in the Pythagorean school, also relevant for ancient memory and consciousness

FMC00.194 shows how during the preceding planetary stages (and recapitulations on Earth), the elements and ethers were created, in a way that the spiritual hierarchies all remain present in the totality of the whole spectrum of elements and ethers. See 1925-01-11-GA026 below.

It makes the link with the thoughts of the archai on Old Saturn in the warmth element. The archai 'carried' this substance upto the Earth planetary stage when it became individualized in Man. (1925-01-11-GA026)


FMC00.147 provides an overview to contemplate how the kingdoms of nature on Earth originate in previous evolutionary stages. The right column illustrates 1925-01-11-GA026 below.


FMC00.338 shows the effects of disorders in the human bodily constitution, if Man's bodily principles are not in balanced cohesion.

On the left: the I-organization in a healthy balanced constitution, with the I imprints that on astral body through the nervous system, then down the astral body on the etheric body, at various points of contact in the physical body. If these imprints, for reasons of incorrect or unbalanced development (see 1917-01-01-GA174B as well as the sixteen paths of perdition in Schema FMC00.233), cause one of the bodily principles to be loosened and released, this leads to various soul diseases as a result.


FMC00.380 shows the polarity during the development of Man's I consciousness, from sentient soul to intellectual soul. Above in the language of the Bhagavad Gita, below in the language of the Grail.


Lecture coverage and references

See 1908-02-29-GA102 for the story depicted in the first schema below, combine it with building an understanding of the development of Man's structure in terms of the elements in 1908-05-25-GA103.

See also 1908-05-25-GA103 on the Human astral body to see how the development of consciousness is related to the physical body as its enabling support tool or environment.

1925-01-11-GA026 (LT) - see Schemas FMC00.194 and FMC00.147 above.

The elementary realm of Man is that part of the will-substance of the Thrones, which has not been condensed into the elements of air, water and earth, but has preserved itself and developed further in soul-spiritual form. It was the thought-force of the Archai during the Old Saturn evolution, and it continued to live in the Archai as their soul force during the Old Sun and the Old Moon evolutions, with a consciousness that became gradually clearer. Today, to a certain extent, it is "released" by the Archai, for the purpose of achieving an independent conscious existence. That which has been bequeathed by the Thrones in this soul-spiritual form, creates the substance for man's "actual self". Looking back into a human being's repeated lives on Earth, we find three distinct stages. In a remote past, man did not exist with individuality of being, but as a germ in the Divine and Spiritual. As we look back into this stage we find not yet a human being but Divine-Spiritual Beings: the Archai.

The etheric head


The frontal part of the human head began to develop in the European races which followed those of Atlantis. The focus-point of consciousness in the Atlanteans lay outside the brow, in the etheric head. Today it lies within the physical head, a little higher than the nose.


The ‘I’ of the Aryan race could only be consciously realised when the etheric body was centralised in the physical brain. Not until then could man begin to say: ‘I.’ The Atlanteans spoke of themselves in the third person.


Whereas in the man of today the etheric head is practically covered by the physical part of the head and only protrudes slightly beyond it, in the old Atlantean the etheric head projected far out beyond the physical head; in particular it projected powerfully in the region of the forehead.

Now we must think of

  • a point in the physical brain in the place between the eyebrows, only about a centimetre lower, and
  • a second point in the etheric head which would correspond to this.

In the Atlantean these two points were still far apart and evolution consisted precisely in the fact that they continually approached each other. In the fifth Atlantean period the point of the etheric head drew in to the physical brain and by reason of these two points coming together there developed what we possess to-day: calculation, counting, the capacity of judging, the power of forming ideas in general, intelligence.

Formerly the Atlanteans had only an immensely developed memory, but as yet no logical intellect. Here we have the starting point for the consciousness of the “I.” A self-reliant independence did not exist in the Atlantean before these two points coincided, on the other hand he could live in much more intimate contact with nature.


.. regarding the external bodily appearance of our Atlantean forefathers. We have seen that the physical body, visible now to the external human sense organs, only slowly and gradually reached the present density of flesh which it now possesses. We said that not until the last part of the Atlantean period did men bear some resemblance to their present form.

Even toward the last third of the Atlantean period they were still essentially very different creatures from the men of today, although to the external senses they appeared much the same. ...

.. You must not imagine that only what is physical exists in the physical world. It would be a great mistake if you were to seek all that is etheric or in fact all that is astral only in the super-sensible world. It is true you can see only what is physical with the physical senses in the physical world, but that is not because only what is physical exists here. No, the ether and astral bodies of the animals are present in the physical world and the clairvoyantly endowed person can see them. It is only when he wishes to reach the real I of the animal that he can no longer remain in the physical world; he must then mount into the astral regions. There the group-soul or group-I of the animals is to be found and the difference between the human being and the animal consists in the I of the former also being present here below in the physical world. This means that here in the physical world, the human creature consists of a physical, ether and astral body and an I, although the three higher members, from the ether body upwards, are only perceptible to clairvoyant consciousness. This difference between the human being and the animal is expressed clairvoyantly in a certain way.

Let us suppose that a person endowed with clairvoyance is observing a horse and a man.

  • Extending beyond the horse's head, which is lengthened out to a muzzle, he finds an etheric appendage. This etheric head protrudes beyond the physical head of the horse and is magnificently organized; these two do not coincide in the horse.
  • But he finds that in the human being of the present, the etheric head corresponds almost exactly in form and size to the physical.
  • Clairvoyantly observed, the elephant makes an extremely grotesque appearance with its extraordinarily huge etheric head; it is, indeed, etherically a very grotesque animal.

[The Atlantean head]

In the human beings of the present, the physical and etheric heads coincide and in form and size they are very nearly alike. This, however, has not always been the case. We find it so only in the last third of the Atlantean period.

The ancient Atlanteans' etheric head protruded far beyond his physical head, then by degrees these two grew together and it was in the last third of the Atlantean period that the physical and the etheric heads exactly coincided. In the brain, near the eyes, there is a point which coincides with a very definite point in the etheric head. These points were apart in ancient times; the etheric point was outside of the brain. These two important points have drawn together and only when this occurred did the human being learn to say “I” to himself. Then appeared what we yesterday called the “Consciousness Soul.”

Through the coincidence of the etheric and physical heads, the appearance of the human head changed very greatly, for the head of the ancient Atlantean was still very different in appearance from the head of present human beings.

1910-01-25-GA118, longer extract on Yuga ages

[Kali Yuga]

Accordingly, in the sense first spoken of, Kali Yuga began approximately in the year 3101 B.C. Thus we realise that our souls have appeared repeatedly on the earth in new incarnations, in the course of which man's vision has been more and more shut off from the spiritual world and therefore increasingly restricted to the outer world of the senses. We realise, too, that with every incarnation our souls enter into new conditions in which there are always new things to be learnt. What we can achieve in Kali Yuga is to establish and consolidate our I-consciousness. This was not previously possible, for we had first to be endowed with the I.

If in some incarnation souls have failed to take in what that particular epoch has to give, it is very difficult for the loss to be made good in later epochs. Such souls must wait a long time until the loss can in some respect be counterbalanced. But no reliance should be placed upon such a possibility.


[A balanced healthy balanced constitution]

When the I  has been, shall we say, `lifted out' of the physical body, when it has passed through the portal of death, the physical body has no real life any longer, but becomes a corpse. In a similar way, under certain conditions, these projections cannot live in a proper way either.

  • For instance the I projection — that is, a certain quality of the blood — cannot be present in a proper way in the human organism if the I is not properly fostered. To turn the physical body into a corpse it is, of course, necessary for the I to depart entirely from the physical body.
  • But the blood can go a quarter of the way towards becoming a corpse if you prevent it from being permeated with what ought to live in the I, so that it can work in the right manner of soul and spirit on the blood.

You will gather from this that is possible to bring disorder into man's soul in such a way that the right influences cannot be brought to bear on the blood nature, the blood substance. That is then the point when the blood can change into a poisonous substance — not entirely, for in that case the person would die, but in part.

The human physical body is abandoned to destruction if the I departs from it, and in a similar way the blood is brought into a state of ill health — even if this is not necessarily noticeable — if the I is not fostered and interwoven with the right care.

So when is the ego not fostered and interwoven with the right care?

This is the case under certain quite definite circumstances. Let us look for the moment at the Postatlantean period. We see that as human evolution proceeds, certain definite capacities, certain definite impulses are developed in each succeeding cultural epoch. It is impossible to imagine people living in the ancient Indian period having a condition of soul development similar to ours. From cultural age to age , as human beings pass through succeeding incarnations on earth, different impulses are needed for the human soul.

Let me draw you a diagram. Imagine this to be the main actual physical body, the one that has to be filled with all the higher components of human nature in order to be a physical body at all.

Of all these higher components, I shall deal solely with the I, though I could deal with all three.

  • The shading here indicates that the physical body is permeated by the I. So, in a way, the other projections also have to be permeated.
  • Here let me indicate the projection of the etheric body, which is for the most part anchored in the human being's glandular system; for this, too, has to be permeated and inter-woven.
  • Thirdly, let me indicate what is anchored chiefly in the nervous system. This, again, in a certain way, must be interwoven with the workings of the I.
  • And the I body itself — this, too, has to be interwoven in the proper way.

As I said just now, as man passes through succeeding periods of evolution he has to step into different developmental impulses with each period. He has to absorb whatever the contemporary age requires him to take in.

  • In the first cultural age in the current epoch, ancient India, impulses of soul and spirit had to be absorbed which enabled the etheric body to be developed;
  • in the next age, ancient Persia, the astral body was developed;
  • in the age of Egypt and Chaldea it was the turn of the sentient soul;
  • in the Greco-Latin age, the intellectual or mind soul;
  • and today, the consciousness soul.

Whether the human being absorbs in the right way whatever is suitable for the age in which he is living will depend on whether he has properly entered into all these bodily principles — just as the physical body is permeated by the higher components of his being — so that they absorb what the age requires.

Suppose an individual during the fifth Postatlantean cultural age were to resist absorbing anything of what ought to be absorbed during this period; suppose he were to reject everything which could cultivate his soul in the manner required by the fifth Postatlantean cultural age. What would be the consequence?

His bodily nature cannot revert to an earlier state if he belongs to that part of mankind which is called upon at present to absorb the impulses of the fifth cultural age. Not everyone is called upon at the same time, but at present all the white races are called upon to absorb the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean period. Now suppose an individual were to resist this.

A certain member of his bodily nature — above all, the blood — would remain void of all that could be taken in, were he not to put up this resistance. This member of his bodily nature would then lack what ought to permeate its substance and its forces. This substance and the forces living in it —though not to a degree comparable to bodily death brought about by the departure of the I — would then become sick in its life forces, which become degraded so that man bears them as a poison within him.

Thus to remain behind in evolution means that man impregnates his being with a kind of formative phantom which is poisonous.

On the other hand, if he were to absorb what his cultural impulses require him to absorb, the state of his soul would be such that he could dissolve this poisonous phantom he bears within him.

By failing to do so, he allows this phantom to coagulate and become a part of his body. This is the source of all the sicknesses of civilization, the cultural decadence, all the emptiness of soul, the states of hypochondria, the eccentricities, the dissatisfactions, the crankinesses and so on, and also of all those instincts which attack culture, which are aggressive and antagonistic towards cultural impulses.

Either the individual accepts the culture of his age, and fits in with it, or he develops the corresponding poison which deposits itself within him and can only be dissolved if he does accept the culture. But if the poison is allowed to become deposited, it leads to the development of instincts which are opposed to the culture of the age. The working of a poison is also always an aggressive instinct.


Human beings acquire poison, sometimes in a very concentrated form, if they refuse to accept what could dissolve such poison.

Nowadays, untold people refuse to accept spiritual life in the form fitting for today, which we have been endeavouring to describe for such a long time, more recently even in public.

In such people, the lotus flower here [on the forehead) reveals very clearly what occurs in these cases, for the effects reach right into the realm of warmth, and such people leap up like flames against anything in the world around them which happens to reveal something that could bring healing to our times. Certainly, Mephistopheles, the devil, is abroad amongst us; but the development of even a small beginning — tiny flames stirring — starts when we refuse to accept something that is fitting for our time, so that we do not dissolve the poison but make it into a partial corpse and allow it to coagulate in our organism as a phantom of formative forces.

If you think this through properly, you will discover the cause of many dissatisfactions in life. For those who bear such a poisonous phantom within them are unhappy indeed. We would call these people nervous, or neurasthenic; but it can also make them cruel, quarrel-some, monists, materialists, for these characteristics are the result, more often than we might think, of physiological causes brought about by the poison being deposited in the human organism instead of being assimilated.

[Broader perspective]

You will see from all this that there belongs to the overall balance of the world in which we are embedded a kind of unstable equilibrium between what is good and right on the one hand, and its opposite, the effects of poisons, on the other. If it is to be possible for what is good and right to come about, then it must also be possible to err from what is right, for poisons to have their effect.

If we now apply this to the wider situation, we see that it must be possible today for people to attain to some degree of spiritual life, to develop within themselves impulses for a free, inner spiritual life.

To make it possible for the individual to attain to a life of the spirit, the opposite must also exist, namely a corresponding possibility to err along the path of grey or black magic. Without the one, the other is not possible. Just as you, as a human being, cannot maintain yourself without the firm foundation of the earth beneath your feet, so it is not possible for the illumination of spiritual life to be pursued without die resistance which must be permitted to exist and which is inevitable for the higher realms of life.

This is something I wanted to place in your soul today, for on this basis much can be understood. There has to exist the possibility for what is spiritual, but also for die deposition of the poison which is its polar opposite. And if it can be deposited then it can also be used — it can be utilized in every realm.

Many questions could be asked about this, but today we shall deal with only one:

How can we find our way through the maze? Is there not a very great danger that anything we approach in the world might contain the polar opposite, namely the poison, or at least that some-body or other might seek to make something poisonous out of it?

Of course there is always this possibility. Everything that is potentially very good can also be perverted and become the opposite. This must be the case in order that human evolution can take its course in freedom in accordance with the present cultural age. Indeed, the very best evolutionary impulses in our age are those most likely to be turned into their opposite.

This is valid for social life as well as for the human organism. In lectures given here last year, we saw that in the present age, to start with only germinally, the capacity is beginning to develop which will enable us to create a life of Imaginations — to develop thoughts which rise up freely — though so far this possibility is denied by materialists. However, it lies in the very nature of our present age that a life of Imagination must develop little by little.

What is the counter-image of a life of Imagination?

The counter-image of Imaginative life is fabrication, the creation of fabrications about reality and a corresponding thoughtlessness in alleging this or that. I have often described it in these lectures as an inattentiveness to truth, to what is actual and real.

The most wonderful thing with which mankind is presented in the fifth cultural age is the gradual ascent from mere one-sided intellectual life into Imaginative life, which is the first step into the spiritual world.

This can err and become untruthfulness, the fabrication of untruths in relation to reality. I am not, of course, referring to poetry, which is entirely justified, but to fabrication with regard to what is real.'

Another element which must come into being during the present age — we have discussed this here, too — is a form of thinking that is particularly conscientious and aware of its responsibility. When you see what anthroposophical spiritual science has to offer, you cannot but admit that, to understand what is said, sharply delineated thoughts are needed, thoughts which are imbued with the will to pursue reality in an objective way. Clear thinking is certainly necessary if our teachings — if I may call them that — are to be understood. Above all, what is needed are not fleeting thoughts, but a certain quietness of thought. We must work towards achieving this kind of thinking.



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References and further reading