Embryo in the womb

From Anthroposophy

The process of development from conception to birth is a coming together of a physical heriditary stream and a spiritual soul-spirit, whereby the development is a result of etheric formative forces related to the cosmic spiritual influences of moon, the planetary system and the constellations (see also the Golden Chain).

Man receives a Model for hereditary physical body from the stream of heredity, which is the basis for the physical body in the first seven years. This model is influences in the womb by Man's own etheric body, astral body and I, causing individuation. This continues after birth, where the conflict between the hereditary physical body and Man's individual spiritual seed and bodies are the cause underlying child diseases in the first years.


  • the spiritual zodiacal influences from which the physical body gets created (1917-11-25-GA178), see also Zodiac man
  • in the human embryo, the physical organization of the 'invisible man within us' (containing forces of growth and nourishment) is present in the embryonic envelopes or sheaths: the chorion, the allantois, the amnion, and the yolk sac (1923-02-11-GA221)
  • recapitulation of Man's earlier stages of evolution during growth of the embryo
    • comparison of the states of Old Moon and in the embryo, and why Man cannot come out of an eggshell (1924-06-30-GA354)
    • Ernst Haeckel's biogenetic law and theory of recapitulation, see wikipedia
  • connection to the Moon influences and rhythm of ten moon months of 28 days (1920-11-26-GA202, and 1909-12-09-GA058)
  • preview of the earthly life before birth
  • prenatal eduction (1919-08-21-GA293)

phases in the nine months

  • conception
    • the greek concept of 'chaos' in the mothers womb, or 'the ovum as chaos': the purpose of fertilisation and the processes in the mother's body is to produce this state of chaos in the ovum, within the mother's organism there is matter which has been completely broken down. (1924-03-29-GA239)
    • the fertilized egg and simple embryo merges with the spiritual seed of the physical body
  • two to four weeks, or 17 days, after conception (1903-11-04-GA088)
    • the zygote is approached by the astral being. The astral world contains many funnel shaped forms, human beings on their way seeking physical and hurrying through astral space with great speed and seek physical matter. The astral forms have the most varied colorings, and a bright yellow stripe. The astral body seeks out the physical body and approaches it when the embryo has the approximate shape of a fish.
    • the human being is then 'ensouled'
      • two possibilities:
        • for most people: the ray or band of light splits into two brightly shining parts or streaks or rays. This is the case for most people; and thus it would appear to you if you could follow human beings at their origin.
        • for a few people - those who will have clairvoyant faculties: a somewhat different process, they display an enduring brightly colored stripe, which pales somewhat at the point when it disappears entirely in other people; but it does remain.
      • the usual process - where the streak divides - is that the astral form now unites with the physical embryo. The latter is permeated by the two cones of bright yellow light or fluid.
        • one drop of the astral form flows through and permeates what will later grow to become the sympathetic nervous system
        • the other drop of shining light permeates the spinal cord system and especially the brain . When this moment occurs, then what human beings have brought with them from earlier lives and what they have from the physical world, unite and together constitute the full human being.
  • two to four months after conception
    • In normal cases, the I unites with the other members of the human organism in the third week, but only comes into operation as as active inner force in the last months before birth and then only gradually. However "When an I quickens an embryo, we have to do with an I that has come from earlier incarnations." (1909-09-19-GA114)

Before and after


Schema FMC00.331 connects Schema FMC00.321 (descent from the spiritual world) with the process of pregnancy in the mother's womb. Adapted from Wachsmuth.


Schema FMC00.332 shows blackboard drawing illustrations for the various phases


Schema FMC00.333 depicts the development of Man's physical model based on the two influences: those of the heriditary model (dark blue below) and the growth forces developed by pre-earthly Man (green below). See also: Model for hereditary physical body


Compare the above with the notebook entry upper right of FMC00.339A on Rudolf Steiner's Gesamtausgabe (GA), pointing to 'where the prenatal moulding of the spiritual world' happens in the womb

Schema FMC00.321 provides a schematic overview of the process of descent from the so-called 'midnight hour' in the spirit world, upto physical incarnation on Earth, and the connection between the spiritual process and the physical process. Adapted from Hoffmeister, see references below.


Lecture coverage and references

1903-09-18-GA090C oa describes (freely translated here)

.. how the spiritual seed from the spirit world descends and clothes itself in astral matter, becoming a coloured funnel-like form radiating star-like beams from its middle part. The core seed coming from the spirit world is in a cilinder form that radiates yellow golden light, and that is surrounded by astral matter so that the I takes a sort of funnel-like form. All this happens at extremely high speed. What is in this yellow golden radiating cilinder is the mental-astral sheathing of the I. ... The size of these funnels can vary, one can be quite large and another real small.

and than also goes into the contributions of mother and father in the sexual procreation on a detailed level of the cell replication of the embryo, describing a threefold insemination of the physical by the spiritual

  • first on the physical plane
  • a second with a split double fertizilization on the astral plane
  • thirdly the entry of the I

the workings of the 'physical prana' with a rosy colour that pervades the cells .. .. the beam-cilinder disappears in the funnel and divides in two parts and get into the embryo where they form the two parts of the nervous system, the sympathic and the central nervous system. The 'physical prana' further organizes the brain and spine.

.. after 20-30 days the beam cone comes back into play .. so besides the 'physical prana' we have a second prana [or etheric] led by the astral that works in the nervous system and develops the brain so the I can actually enter

.. only in a third phase can the I enter as 'mental prana'


[Birth process – descent astral being]

Now that we have seen both the descent of spiritual beings and the way the physical world comes to meet the descending spiritual being, we will observe the process one more time. What I am saying is fact, it is definitely certain. I will portray the elements that are present in the origin of a human being from both sides. To begin with we have the zygote, the germ that resembles a tiny fish in its first days. I need to indicate this only with a sketch; it looks like this. [A sketch was drawn on the chalkboard; the drawing has not been preserved.]

Ap­proximately on the seventeenth day this zygote is approached by the astral being. A spiritual researcher knows this astral being just as well as a physical researcher knows the physical being.

A seer sees in the astral world many funnel shaped forms. Those are human beings on their way to incarnation; those are the beings seeking their physical incarnation. Ensouled by the pressing wish to incarnate, these forms hurry through astral space with great speed and seek physical matter. Those who have read the second part of Goethe's Faust and remember the scene with the homunculus will be able to understand it only if they know that Goethe wanted to portray this process.

These astral forms have the most varied colorings, which we can hardly imagine. Within these astral bodies there is a stripe that is lost in the indefi­nite. It has a bright yellow color. These astral bodies are connected with a physical body that they themselves seek out when the embryo has the approximate shape of a fish.

  • Then a change occurs. The light ray, or band of light, is split into two parts, into two brightly shining streaks or rays. This is the case for most people; and thus it would appear to you if you could follow human beings at their origin.
  • A somewhat different process is displayed by a few people. Only a few people show a somewhat different process. A few people display an enduring, brightly colored stripe, which however does pale somewhat at the point when it disappears entirely in other people; but it does remain. This is present in those people who will have spiritual vision.

Let us remain for a moment with the usual process, in which the band of light is divided. The astral form now unites with the physical embryo. Everything is permeated by this one little drop, so to speak; by a bright yellow fluid. This later grows into the so-called sympa­thetic nervous system, which takes care of the human being's physi­cal nervous system. In addition to the brain and spinal cord system we have another nervous system, the sympathetic, which directs the body's lower functions.

  • One drop of the astral form flows through and permeates the sympathetic nervous system,
  • the other the brain and spinal cord system.

Thus the human being is ensouled. Accord­ing to cosmic laws, the two cones of light go over into the physical body and permeate it with spirit. This shining light appears anew with every human being, especially permeating the brain. When this moment occurs, then, as a matter of fact, what human beings have brought with them from earlier lives and what they have from the physical world, unite together. Thus the two entities unite, which together constitute the full human being.

We have lived in previous incarnations; we have passed through the spiritual world; there we were spirit. The spirit descends through the astral world and is enveloped in astral substance. Human beings attract this substance, which is what they bring with them from ear­lier lives, from the astral sphere. These are the two things that human beings bring with them: the spiritual and the astral. The shining light represents the abilities that we have brought from previous lives. These enter into the entity after it has satisfied its burning desire to be united with an astral organism. From then on the human embryo grows not only by means of physical forces but also from within. What has been achieved in previous lives now works from within outward in producing a body. It is not your organism that produces your soul, but your soul produces your organism. The human em­bryo is only a few days old when it is united with the soul. It is the only thing that is given to us from outside. It is given to us following very specific laws. We will discuss them in more detail.

As a matter of fact, we understand the birth and death of human beings only when we know the two entities they are composed of, and how these two entities have flowed together to create a whole human being. It is then the case that we ourselves work on our external or­gans; they are not a product of the external world. They are an image of what we have brought with us.

1909-09-19-GA114 - more on The being of Elijah

Now when the human embryo develops in the body of the mother, the I unites with the other members of the human organism in the third week, but does not come into operation until the last months before birth and then only gradually. Not until then does the I become active as an inner force; in a normal case.

When an I quickens an embryo, we have to do with an I that has come from earlier incarnations.

In the case of John, the I in question was inwardly related to the soul-being of the Nathan Jesus.

Hence according to the Gospel of St. Luke, the mother of Jesus went to the mother of John the Baptist when the latter was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, and the embryo that in other cases is quickened by its own I, was here quickened through the medium of the other embryo. The child in the body of Elisabeth begins to move when the mother bearing the Nathan Jesus-child approaches; and it is the I through which the child in the other mother (Elisabeth) is quickened. (Luke I, 39–44).




1915-01-03-GA275 - more context on this lecture on Future Jupiter

These beings that arise through immoral actions have the particular inclination to be parasites in human evolution on Earth under Lucifer's leadership, and to seize hold of the evolution of the human being before he makes his physical entry into the world. They attack man during the embryonic period and share his existence between conception and birth.

Some of these beings, if they are strong enough, can continue to accompany the human being after birth, as seen in the phenomena of children who are possessed.

What is brought about by the criminal demon parasites attached to unborn children is the cause of the deterioration of the generation succession, which are not as they would be if these demons did not exist. There are various reasons for the decline of families, tribes, peoples and nations, but one of them is the existence of these criminal demon parasites during Man's embryonic period.

These things play a great part in Earth evolution as a whole, and they bring us into contact with deep secrets of human existence. This is often the cause of people acquiring certain prejudices and points of view before they are born into earth existence. And people are tormented by doubts and uncertainties in life and all kinds of other things, because of these demonic parasites.

There is not much more these beings can do with the human being once his I has entered and made itself felt, but they prey on him all the more before he is born or during his earliest years.

Thus we see that evil actions have a significant effect in the cosmos, too, and work creatively, but their creativity works in the direction of Old Moon existence. For what Man passes through in the embryonic period when these demonic beings can prey on him, is basically the heritage of the Old Moon stage, which makes its appearance in subconscious, instinctive behaviour. Something that even physical science preserves an instinct for is that, in older and better times, Man's embryonic period was not calculated according to ordinary months but lunar months, therefore it speaks of ten lunar months, and knows certain other things, too, concerning the connection of embryonic development with the phases of the moon.


So we see that our Earth evolution contains two tendencies:

  • good deeds that contain the impulse to work creatively on Earth in preparation for Future Jupiter, so that Man's successor on the human level can come into being.
  • But evil deeds have also brought into our evolution the tendency to drag the Earth back again to the Old Moon stage, and make it dependent on everything to do with the subconscious.

If you think about it, you will find a great number of things that are connected with these subconscious impulses; in fact, there are far more of these subconscious impulses in materialistic humanity of modern times, than there were in bygone ages when people were less materialistic.


This relates to the egotistical group exploitation of the mystery of birth. One is striving to wrestle here with real cosmic understanding. Modern man has completely replaced this cosmic understanding with a terrestrial understanding. When man today wishes to examine, for example, how the embryo in animals and man develops, he examines with a microscope what exists precisely in the place on earth onto which he has cast his microscopic eye; he regards this as what is to be examined. It cannot be a matter only of this, however.

It will be discovered - and certain circles are coming close to this in their discoveries - that the active forces are not in what one meets with the microscopic eye but are rather within what streams in from the cosmos, from the constellations in the cosmos. When an embryo arises, it arises because into the living being in which the embryo is being formed are working forces from all directions of the cosmos, cosmic forces. When a fertilization takes place, what will develop out of the fertilization is dependent upon which cosmic forces are active.

There is one thing that will come to be understood today that is not yet understood. Today one looks at some living being, let us say a chicken. When in this living being a new embryo arises, the biologist examines how, so to speak, out of this chicken the egg grows. He examines the forces that are supposed to allow the egg to grow out of the chicken. This is a piece of nonsense. The egg does not at all grow out of the hen; the hen is only the foundation; the forces work out of the cosmos, forces that produce the egg on the ground that has been prepared within the hen. When the biologist today works with his microscope, he believes that what he sees in the microscopic field also includes the forces on which what he sees depends. What he sees there, however, is subject to the forces of the stars that work together in a certain constellation, and when one discovers the cosmic here, one will discover the truth, the reality: it is the universe that conjures the egg from the hen.

All of this, however, is connected above all with the mystery of the sun and, observed from the earth, with the mystery of gold. Today I am offering a kind of programmatic indication; in the course of time these things will become clearer.

1918-12-22-GA187 goes into what happened just before birth to Nikolaus von der Flüe

For the event of birth, the Christmas event, the human and Christian heart must develop an ever deeper sense of mystery. One may say that men have seldom looked from a high enough level upon the mysterious nature of birth. Seldom, indeed; but then at such moments its tidings speak to the depths of the human soul.

So it is, for instance, with the images associated with that spiritual genius of fifteenth-century Switzerland, Nikolaus von der Flüe. It is related of him - and he himself told it - that before his birth, before he breathed the outer air, he beheld the physical form that he would have after birth and during the course of his life. Also, he beheld before birth the ceremony of his own christening, with the persons who were present and who were then around him in his early childhood. With the exception of one elderly person whom he did not recognize, he knew all these people because he had seen them before he saw the light of the physical world.

However one may view this story, one cannot but see that it points impressively to the mystery of human birth, which is so magnificently symbolized for world history by the Christmas imagery. The story of von der Flue suggests that there is something connected with our entrance into physical life that only by a very, very thin wall is hidden from our everyday view, a wall so thin that it can be broken through when a karmic situation exists as in the case of Nikolaus von der Flüe. Such moving allusions to the mystery of birth and Christmas still meet us here and there. But one must say that as yet mankind is hardly aware of the fact that birth and death, the two boundary pillars standing there in the physical world, reveal themselves even in their physical appearance as spiritual events that could never occur in the ordinary course of nature, as events in which, on the contrary, divine spiritual Powers actually intervene. This is evident from the fact that both these boundary experiences still remain mysteries, even in their physical manifestation.


[Pre-natal education]

And so it is with the questions that are asked about domains that do not lie so close at hand. People begin thinking about education and then they ask about pre-natal education.

But before birth the human being is still in the protection of Beings who stand above the physical. It is to them that we must leave the immediate and individual relationship between the world and the human being. Hence a pre-natal education cannot be addressed to the child itself. It can only be an unconscious result of what the parents — especially the mother — achieve. If until birth the mother behaves in such a way that she brings to expression in herself what is morally and intellectually right, in the true sense of the word, then of its own accord what the mother achieves in this continuous self-education will pass over to the child. The less we think of beginning to educate the child before it sees the light of the world and the more we think of leading a right and proper life ourselves, the better will it be for the child. Education can only begin when the child becomes a true member of the physical world — and that is when he begins to breathe the external air.

Now when the child has come forth on to the physical plane, we must realise what has really happened for him in the transition from a spiritual to a physical plane. Firstly, we must recognise that the human being is really composed of two members.

  • Before the human being comes down to earth a union is entered into between the spirit and the soul, meaning by spirit what for the physical world of today is still entirely hidden, and what in Spiritual Science we call Spirit-Man, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Self. These three members of man's being are present in a certain way in the super-sensible sphere to which we must now work our way through. And between death and a new birth we do already stand in a certain relationship to Spirit-Man, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Self. Now the force which proceeds from this trinity permeates the Soul element in man: Consciousness Soul, Intellectual or Mind Soul, and Sentient Soul. And if you were to observe the human being when, having passed through the existence between death and a new birth, he is just preparing to descend into the physical world, then you would find the spiritual which we have just described united with the soul. Man descends, as it were, as Spirit-Soul or Soul-Spirit from a higher sphere into earthly existence. He clothes himself with earthly existence.
  • In a similar way we can describe the other member of man's being which unites itself with the one just described. We can say: down there on the earth the Spirit-Soul is met by what arises through the processes of physical inheritance. And now the Soul-Spirit or Spirit-Soul meets with the Life-Body in such a way that two trinities are united with two other trinities. In the Spirit-Soul: Spirit-Man, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Self are united with that which is soul, namely: Consciousness-Soul, Intellectual Soul and Sentient Soul. These two trinities are united with one another, and descend into the physical world where they are now to unite with the Sentient or Astral body, Etheric body and Physical body. But these in turn are united — first in the body of the mother and then in the physical world — with the three kingdoms of the physical world: the mineral, the plant and the animal kingdoms. So that here again, two trinities are united with one another.

If you regard with an open mind the child who has found his way into earthly life, you will observe that here in the child, Soul-Spirit or Spirit-Soul is as yet dis-united from the Life-Body. The task of education conceived in the spiritual sense is to bring the Soul-Spirit into harmony with the Life-Body. They must come into harmony with one another. They must be attuned to one another; for when the child is born into the physical world, they do not as yet fit one another. The task of the educator, and of the teacher too, is the mutual attunement of these two members.

Let us now consider this task more concretely. Amongst all the relationships which man has to the external

1920-11-26-GA202 (SWCC) explains how the remnant of Old Moon forces still related to the rhythm of today's Moon, form Man's head during ten rounds of Moon months

.. imagine the diagram in relation to a relevant point in human development: imagine, that is, that through some course of events there establishes itself in the mother's body the spirit-germ of a human being, coming straight from his development between death and rebirth. During this time the Moon is working on the embryo. Then, as a result of the Moon working in from the Cosmos - in connection with other cosmic bodies - the configuration of the human head in the body of the mother. The configuration of the human head is altogether the work of the Moon.

Perhaps you will say: But surely we have not to assume that it is always the full Moon which sheds its rays on eyes or nose, and that the back of the head, which should depend on inner development and not on the external world, is always exposed to the influence of the new Moon?

It is true that this is not unconditionally so. In essentials, however, the full Moon is active on some part of the face, whereas the activity of the new Moon is concentrated on the back of the head. In the body of the mother, too, the child has a special position in relation to the Cosmos. According to how the Moon sheds its rays more or less obliquely on that part of the embryo destined to become the face, the human being will have certain of those gifts bestowed upon him which depend upon the head. He will have different gifts, physically, if the bright moonlight sheds its beams on his mouth rather than upon his eyes. This is connected with a person's talents, in so far as they depend on the Cosmos. But the essential thing to be borne in mind today is that during the embryonic development of the human being the chief influences proceeding from the Moon are those that give form to the human ovum, starting with the formation of the head. For in the human being the head is the first thing to take shape. This is brought about by the Moon —that is, by the movement and activity remaining over from the old Moon and from the other previous embodiments of the Earth. You see here how the head is cosmically connected with the external world; how during the development of the embryo the human being is caught up in that cosmic condition to which the tone is given essentially by the Moon and its activity.

This comes about through the movement made by the Moon, through the encirclement of the head by the Moon, which occurs ten times during the human being's embryonic development.

  • Thus the Moon first passes by and works upon the formation of the human face — leaving it then in peace to continue its growing. During this period the Moon retires.
  • When the formation of the face has been in abeyance for some time, the Moon re-appears and gives it a fresh impetus.
  • It does this ten times. And during these ten lunar months the human head is formed rhythmically out of the Cosmos. Thus the human being waits for ten times twenty-eight days in the mother's body, under the influence of cosmic forces mediated through the moon.

Now what really happens here?

As a being of soul and spirit a man descends to the personality he has chosen out of the whole Cosmos to be his mother. And from that time the Moon takes over the formation of his head. Were he to remain within the mother's body for twelve lunar months, a quite self-enclosed, circular formation would result. But he remains there for only ten lunar months. Hence something of his development is left incomplete, and after birth all that works in out of the Cosmos is occupied with this. Thus, before birth, ten-twelfths of the cosmic forces work upon the forming of the human head, the remaining two-twelfths being left over for the formative work which continues outside the mother's body — though it actually begins during the embryonic period. In addition to the cosmic forces there are others, and these come from the Earth itself: they do not work on the head but on the limb-system.

If you imagine this to be the Earth (diagram) and this to be a diagram of man's limb-system, then the forces which in the limbs continue their activity inwardly are essentially earthly, telluric. Into arms and hands, in legs and feet, there play forces of the Earth, and this process, continued inwardly, becomes metabolism. But this inward metabolism is outwardly an interchange of forces. When you move your arm or your leg the movement is not simple; it has to do with the forces of the Earth. When you move your legs in walking you have always to overcome the force of gravity, and what happens results from the interplay between these forces of gravity and the forces working inwardly.

Whereas in metabolism these inward forces enter into interplay with the chemical properties of the Earth-substance, there is an interchange between the forces in arms and legs and the forces of the Earth. These activities are connected with temporal conditions different from those prevailing in the mother's womb. In the mother's body we have ten times twenty-eight days — that is, ten moons or 280 days.

Here we have to do essentially with the course of the day. Where the development of the limb-man is concerned we have to do with the course of the year. We see also how in their earliest stage the human limbs are developed with a continually decreasing rapidity. A man needs actually twenty-eight years for their full development, though this is certainly not so evident during the final seven years as it is up to the age of twenty-one. He needs twenty-eight years to develop his limb-system outside his mother's body, though it is within the mother's body that the development begins.


This of course gives problems for scientifically orientated thought. The modern scientific way of thinking clings most closely to how the point of germination develops in the mother's body, in the belief that the human being simply grows out of the mother's body after fertilisation because the mother's body has the inherent forces to make the embryo grow. But actually it is not like this. Such a solution only considers the shortest route.

The human is a being who stands in the world in relation to the entire cosmos and who is in a continuous interaction with the totality of the cosmos. How would you respond if someone were to say: A particular quota of air which is within you at a particular time, has grown out of your body. It hasn't grown out of your body, you have breathed it in, and as a result have it in you to create a whole out of the entire environment. Only because one doesn't look externally at the cooperation of the entire macrocosm, only because the human embryo develops in the mother's body, only because one sees that there is also an influence happening from outside which surely connects a person to the entire cosmos, does one believe that the embryo simply comes out of the mother's body by itself.

This human germ actually clearly comes out of the spiritual world. It uses that place in which it can gradually find a door to enter into the physical world. It is within that which spreads itself out in space, where there is no door for the human being who has lived between death and a new birth, to enter into the physical world. It is only within the human body itself where there is such a door. The forces working there are not the forces of the father and mother, but are cosmic forces which through the motherly body search after the conception for entry into the physical world, after it had developed a desire as a soul spiritual being.

1921-10-08-GA207 (click link to read in full)

How does this incorporation into physical existence now take place?

In earlier lectures, and also again yesterday, I have pointed out that in modern science it is expected by many that someday cells will be found to have the most complicated chemical structure for which the most complicated chemical formula will be discovered. That idea, however, is completely wrong. In the cell, even in the ordinary organic cell (see drawing), the chemical cohesiveness is not stronger than in an ordinarily complicated chemical compound; on the contrary, the chemical affinities become most chaotic in the fertilized germ-cell. The fertilized germ-cell is chaos in relation to what is material, chaos that disintegrates, chaos that really disintegrates. Into this disintegrating chaos pours what I have described to you as the human being, which was formed as I just described (lilac on drawing).

What is actually physical is then formed, not through the germ itself but through the processes taking place in the mother's body between the embryo and the environment. What descends from the spiritual world is thus actually placed into the emptiness and is only then permeated with mineral substance.

1922-04-30-GA212 mentions how a copy of the pre-birth life is pulled together in the CSF, how the CSF at birth contains a ‘photograph’ copy of the etheric body. And then it remains isolated as an ‘imprint’ in Man, isolated from external interactions being

  • impressions
  • cosmic rhythms, eg breath astrality that pushes against it

1922-05-26 goes further in describing the etheric body and heart at birth

[descent to earth in order to penetrate a physical body]

Before man approaches his physical body, or rather the embryo, he draws to himself the forces of the etheric world. The characteristic of the physical world we live in here, is that we perceive it through our senses and understand it with our earthly intellect. Yet everything in the physical world is permeated by the etheric world. Everything we see and hear and so on is everywhere permeated with the etheric world, the world in which man lives prior to his life on earth. Before uniting himself with the physical world, through the embryo, he draws forces from the etheric world and fashions his etheric body.

In order to represent this more exactly let me draw a dia­gram on the blackboard.

Let us imagine this to be the soul and spirit of man approaching from the spiritual world (see drawing, violet). That which man draws towards himself from the general ether becomes his etheric body. He clothes himself, as it were, with his etheric body (orange) as he descends from the spiritual world.

We must enter somewhat more closely into the nature of this etheric body. The etheric body which develops within man is a world in itself. One might say that it is a universe in the form of images. In its circumference it has something like stars (yellow stars), and in its lower part something reveals itself which is more or less an image of the earth. It even contains a kind of image of the sun and moon.

It is of extraordinary significance that we, in our descent into earthly life, draw together forces from the universal ether and thus take with us, in our ether body, a kind of image of the cosmos. If one could extract the ether body of man, at the moment when he is uniting himself with the physical body, we should have a sphere which is far more beautiful than any formed by mechanical means—a sphere containing stars, zodiac, sun and moon.

These configurations of the ether body remain during embryonic development, while the human being grows to­gether more and more with his physical body. Though they fade a little they remain. Indeed, they remain right into the seventh year, until the change of teeth.

1922-09-30-GA347 (SWCC)

[two to four weeks after conception]

If you examine the developing embryo in the womb, say two to four weeks after conception, it looks extremely interesting.

First of all, you can see the lining of the mother's uterus filled with many blood vessels, which are there only in pregnancy and are connected with other vessels in the body. In other words, this little round form is inserted into the mother's own blood system [drawing]. The blood usually circulates throughout her body, but now in pregnancy it also circulates through the outer parts of this round form.

Within this form you find all the organs. For instance, there is one that looks like a bag or sac and next to it is another, smaller bag. The above-mentioned blood vessels continue into these sacs. When the woman is not pregnant, these blood vessels are not there because then the round form as a whole is not there either. But in pregnancy we find those blood vessels, and they continue into the sacs I described. In other words, during the first few weeks of embryonic development the blood vessels reach into this round form, to which the embryo, still very small, is connected. And strangely enough, if I wanted to draw an enlarged picture of what the child will look like in the next phase of embryonic development, I would have to do it like this [drawing]

The embryo is nearly all head. Everything else is still very tiny.

  • You see that I drew two extensions to the head. They will later turn into arms.
  • At this point, the legs are practi­cally non-existent. Instead the two sacs I described are attached to the embryo, as you can see in the drawing. Blood vessels lead into them and provide nourishment for the head.
  • There is no stomach nor heart yet.

In the first few weeks, the embryo does not have any blood circulation of its own. It is really only head.

[two to three months after conception]

As it grows into the second and third months, other organs develop and human fea­tures emerge. But the foetus is still being nourished from the outside, that is through those sacs; they store the food substances. The blood, however, is provided directly from outside this little growing organism. The foetus cannot breathe yet, but receives oxygen via the mother. At this stage, the foetus is actually a human head; the other organs are not yet of much use to it. Its lungs and stomach do not function yet. It also cannot eat in our sense of the word. All its nourishment must be received in such a way that it sustains the head. The foetus cannot breathe and does not yet have a nose either. The organs are developing, but it cannot use them yet. The foetus in the womb is all head, but, mind you, everything is soft. What will later develop into the brain is here still terribly soft and fully alive.

If you had a gigantic microscope and with this could examine the head of an embryo in the second or third week after conception, except for size the head would resemble the ancient earth at the time when ichthyosaurs and ple­siosaurs waded about on it. Where can we find in our time a picture of the earth as it was in ancient times? In the human head before birth, in the head of the human embryo. It presents a clear image of the earth of that period.

The sacs attached to the embryo will be discarded as the so-called afterbirth after they have broken, leaving the child to be born. In other words, what is discarded as afterbirth, consisting of torn blood vessels, nourished the foetus. These two organs, called allantois and amnion, are vital to the foetus during pregnancy because they function as stomach and respiratory organs for the unborn. But as soon as the child is born and can breathe and eat, they are no longer needed and will be discarded as the so-called afterbirth.

1923-02-11-GA221 is about 'the invisible man within us' (SWCC)

When we consider the human being, two beings can be clearly distinguished.

.. I have explained how the physical organization of the human being is spiritually prepared during the preearthly life. In a certain sense it is then sent down as spiritual organization before the human being enters with his I into earthly existence.

This spiritual organization continues to be active essentially during the entire physical life on earth, but it does not express itself during physical earthly life as something outwardly visible. The outwardly visible aspect of this spiritual organization is essentially cast off at birth, consisting of the embryonic membranes that envelop the human embryo during its development — the chorion, the allantois, the amnion, the yolk sac — everything, in other words, that is cast away as physical organization when the human being attains a free physical existence on leaving the womb.

Yet this pre-earthly organization continues to be active in the human being throughout his entire life. It is somewhat different in character, however, from the body soul-spirit efficacy of the human being during his physical earthly life.

In a certain sense, we have 'an invisible man within us'. It is contained in our growth-forces as well as in those hidden forces through which nourishment occurs. It is contained in everything in which the human being is not consciously active. Its work extends into this unconscious activity, right into the growth activity, into the daily restoration of forces through nutrition. And this work is the aftereffect of the pre-earthly existence, which in earthly existence becomes a body of forces that is active in us but does not come to conscious manifestation. Today I would like to describe to you the character of this invisible man, which we all carry within us, contained in our forces: growth and nutrition, as well as in our reproductive forces.

Proceeding schematically, we can say that this invisible man also contains the I, the astral organization, the etheric organization (and therefore the body of formative forces), and the physical organization. Of course in the human being after birth the physical organization of the invisible man is inserted into the other human physical organization, but in the course of today's considerations you will begin to understand how the invisible man can lay hold of the physical organization.

Drawn schematically it would look like this (see drawing, [right]). In this invisible man we have first the I organization (yellow); then we have the astral organization (red), then the etheric organization (blue), and finally we have the physical organization (white). This physical organization of the invisible man penetrates only into the nutrition and growth processes, into everything where the lower man, as we have often called it — the metabolic-limb man — manifests itself in the human organization. All currents, all effects of forces in this invisible man proceed from the I organization into the astral, then into the etheric, and on into the physical organization (see arrow). They then spread out in the physical organization.

In the human embryo, what we call here the physical organization of the invisible man is present in the embryonic envelopes, in the embryonic sheaths, the chorion, the allantois, the amnion, and the yolk sac.

In the human being after birth, however, the physical organization of the invisible man is contained in the nourishing and restorative processes in the human being. Thus viewed from outside, this physical organization is not separated from the other physical organization of the human being but is united with it.


[Moon sphere – sending/loosing spirit germ – violent feeling of bereavement]

1/ And here, in the moon sphere, we find the 'small package' deposited by us (only an image); we find again what represents the worth of our moral qualities. And this package must be retrieved. It will be seen in the course of the next days what a significant part is played in this connection by the Christ-impulse. We must embody within us this package of destiny.


  • while embodying within us the package of destiny and entering the moon sphere,
  • while gaining a stronger and stronger feeling of self-consciousness and transforming ourselves inwardly more and more into soul-beings,
  • we gradually lose the tissue woven by us out of our physical body. The spiritual germ woven by ourselves is lost at the moment when the physical germ, which we shall have to assume on earth, is engendered through the act of conception.

2/ The spiritual germ of the physical body has already descended to earth; whereas we still dwell in the spiritual world.

3/ And now a vehement feeling of bereavement sets in. We have lost the spiritual germ of the physical body. This has already arrived below and united itself with the last of those successive generations which we have watched. We ourselves, however, are still above. The feeling of bereavement becomes violent.

And now this feeling of bereavement draws out of the universe the needful ingredients of the world-ether.

Having sent the spiritual germ of the physical body down to earth and remained behind as a soul (I and astral body), we draw etheric substance out of the world-ether and form our own etheric body.

4/ And to this etheric body, formed by ourselves, is joined — approximately three weeks after the fecundation has taken place on earth — the physical germ which formed itself out of the spiritual germ, as I have previously described.

5/ It was said that we form our etheric body before uniting ourselves with our own physical germ. And into this etheric body is woven the small package containing our moral worth. We weave this package into our ego, our astral body, and also into our etheric body. Thus it is joined to the physical body. In this way, we bring our karma down to earth. First, it was left behind in the moon sphere; for, had we taken it with us into the sun sphere, we would have formed a diseased, a disfigured physical body.

The human physical body acquires individuality only through the circumstance of its being permeated by the etheric body. Otherwise, all physical bodies would be exactly alike; for human beings, while dwelling in the spiritual world, weave identical spiritual germs for their physical body. We become individual Personalities only by means of our karma, by means of the small package interwoven by us with our etheric body which shapes, constitutes and pervades our physical body already during the embryonic stage.


[Moon sphere]

After this, man comes again into the sphere of the Moon. Let me remind you how during his first passage through the Moon sphere Man's thoughts were directed, for good and evil, to the primeval Teachers of the human race, to the starting-point of earthly existence, when superhuman Teachers imparted superhuman wisdom to the men of Earth.

When Man comes down into the Moon existence for the second time, there is less inducement for him to turn his attention to what was on Earth long ago. For now the period of time that man spends above in the Cosmos, in this Moon existence, is the same period of time as takes its course on Earth below between conception and birth.

Man's embryonic life runs hand in hand with a particular cosmic development.

  • Up there in the Moon sphere he is passing through a definite phase of evolution
  • while below, stage by stage, the physical embryo is being prepared — the physical embryo with which he then gradually unites.

How does this macrocosmic life of the human being take its course during this second period of evolution in the Moon sphere? What does man accomplish there?

1924-03-29-GA239 explains the process of fertilization connecting it to the greek term of chaos

I have often emphasised in Anthroposophical lectures that the formation of the human embryo in earthly life, even when investigated from the purely scientific point of view, provides the proof in itself that something extra-earthly is at work in the process. Natural science believes the ovum to be the most complex structure that can possibly exist on Earth. Much thought is given to this complex structure of the ovum and recently we have been hearing about the wonders of the atom and the molecule! The structure of a cell is said to be indescribably complex.

But this is a fallacy, for the ovum is, in reality, chaos; it is not a complex structure. The chemical physical structure goes to pieces, and before a living being can arise the ovum must have been in a state of chaos.

The very purpose of fertilisation is to produce this state of chaos in the ovum, so that within the mother's organism there is matter which has been completely broken down. The processes in the mother's body produce this state of chaos.

And now think of a crystal. The Cosmos cannot work in a crystal with its hard, firm edges; neither can the Cosmos work in the substance of a plant, which also has solid form; nor in that of an animal. Fertilisation means that the ovum becomes a chaos. Only then does the whole surrounding Cosmos work in upon this germinating entity and build up the living human form in such a way that the being of soul and spirit coming from earlier earthly lives can enter into it.

1924-04-21-GA316 goes into the heredity model

Picture it as follows: the human being has had his body. This body which has come to him from the line of heredity is a model; he has it as a model.

Into this body he takes earthly substance. If he were to work only with the forces he brings with him from pre-earthly existence he would elaborate this earthly substance which he takes into his body in the first seven years into quite a different form. He would call forth quite a different form. He does not come at birth with the tendency to give form to a being with eyes, ears, nose, like the being who stands on the earth. He enters with the tendency to structure the human being in such a way that very little is structured by way of the head through his pre-earthly being; it is especially upon everything else that the greatest care is expended. What is stunted in the embryonic life is developed in the astral, in the ego organization.

Of the physical embryo, therefore, we must say: Physical nature in the embryo is developed in a wonderful way but the pre-earthly human being has very little indeed to do with it. On the other hand the pre-earthly human being plays the very greatest part in all that lies around the embryo. It lives in what is demolished in the physical world, amnion, chorion, and so on. Within this lives the pre-earthly man.

You can picture it rather like this. To begin with, the cosmos is copied. This is what the human being wants, in reality, to do when he has come down from the pre-earthly into earthly existence.

Why does he not do it?

Because a model is already provided. And in accordance with this model, with the substances received, he transforms the pre-earthly during the first seven years of life. His inherent tendency would be to form a more spherical being, a being organized into a sphere. This is transformed in accordance with the model and so the pre-earthly forces work out this second physical man who is there from the seventh to the fourteenth years, but to begin with, by adhering to the model which comes from the forces of heredity.

There, you see, you have two, actually distinguishable entities of forces in the human being.

[Evolutionary perspective]

How can you understand these force entities?

Take, with the outlook and feeling of the physician, the book Outline of Esoteric Science and read where the earth's evolution is spoken of. At first there is an old Saturn stage, then an Old Sun stage. If you follow the description of the Earth evolution you will find that until the separation of the sun, sun, moon and earth were one, combined together in one. Afterwards there is a separation of earth and sun, earth and moon. Up to the middle of this evolution, therefore, the human being lives in the cosmos. He lives in sun and moon just as he lives in the earth. After the separation of the sun he lives outside the sun; after the separation of the moon, outside the moon. Until the separation of the sun, therefore, the cosmic forces were working upon man's nature; those forces, too, which are today outside the earth in the moon and in the sun were working in the human being because he belonged to the world in which the sun and moon were still present. There followed for the human being an evolution during which sun and moon were outside.

There was a phase of evolution which contained within it all that today is both earthly and of the nature of sun and moon; later on, the extra-earthly emancipated itself from the earthly. The earthly went on along its own path, it dried up, hardened, became physical — and you find this today in the stream of heredity; it has densified within the stream of heredity. What the human being has received since the separation of the moon and sun lies in the forces working in from the cosmos. That is the point.

So that in the model that is received in order that the second man may be elaborated, you have a model that really represents a primeval, artistic principle given by father and mother, originating when sun and moon were still united with the earth. It was then that the forces which really give the human being his earthly configuration were developed. For you will readily understand that the configuration of the human being is an earthly one.

Try to think of the being of man entirely removed from the earth. What could be done with it?

You would be extremely unhappy if after death you were to make use of anything like legs. Legs have purpose only when the earth's forces of attraction pass through them, when the legs are within the sphere of the earth's forces of attraction. Legs — and arms and hands, too — have meaning and purpose only on the earth. So that a whole section of the human organism, in the way it is developed, has purpose only when we are earthly man. What we are as Earthly man has no meaning so far as the cosmos is concerned. Therefore when we come to the earth as beings of spirit and soul, our wish, to begin with, is to form quite a different organization. We want to build a sphere and to generate all kinds of configurations within this sphere, but we have no wish for this being with whom the cosmos itself can do nothing. This being is given us as a model and we build up the second man in accordance with this model.

[Childhood illnesses]

In the first life-period, therefore, there is a perpetual struggle between what comes from us out of the previous incarnation and what comes from hereditary development; the two elements fight with each other. The illnesses of childhood are the expression of this fight. Just think how intimately the whole inner being of soul and spirit is bound up with the physical organization during early childhood. When the second teeth appear you can see how they push up against the first, how they still have tussles with each other, and in this same way the whole second man has tussles with the first. But within the second man there is the super-earthly being; in the first a foreign, earthly model. These two work into one another and if you observe this inter-working truly you can see how,

  • if the inner man, who as a being of soul and spirit was present in pre-earthly existence, has too much the upper hand for a time, working into the physical very strongly and having, willy nilly, to adjust itself by dint of effort to the model, that it damages the model by striking up against it everywhere, saying: I want to get this particular form out of you — then the fight expresses itself as scarlet fever.
  • If the inner man is tender, so that there is a continual shrinking back, a wish to mold the in-taken substances more in accordance with their own nature, and resistance is put up to the model, the struggle comes out as measles.

1924-06-30-GA354 (SWCC)

There is a condition in which the human being cannot live in the air: that is the very earliest human state, the embryo. During the embryonic time the human germ or embryo obtains air and all that it needs from the body of the mother. It must be in something living.

If the human embryo is removed by operation from the body of the mother, it cannot yet live in the air. During the embryonic condition the human being needs to have live surroundings. At the time when man, animal, and plant existed, but as yet no stones or minerals as we have them today, everything was alive and man lived surrounded by what was alive just as now he lives as embryo in the mother's body. Naturally he grew bigger. Think of this: If we did not have to be born and live in the air and breathe on our own, then our span of life would end with our birth. As embryo we could all live only ten moon-months. As a matter of fact, there are such creatures that live only ten months; these do not come to the outer air but get air from within a living environment. So it was with man a long time ago. He certainly grew older, but he never came out of the living element. He lived in that state all the time. He did not advance to birth; he lived as embryo. At that time there were as yet no minerals, no rocks.

If the body of a human being is dissected today, the same carbonate of lime will be found in his bones as you find here in the Jura Mountains. There is now a mineral substance inside the body that was not present in the earlier condition. In the embryo too, particularly in the first months, there is no deposit of mineral; everything is still fluid, only slightly thickened. And so it was during this earlier condition; man was not yet bony, having, at most, cartilage. Of such a human being we are reminded today only by the human embryo.

Why cannot the human embryo come immediately out of the mother's body?

Because the world today is a different world. As long as the Old Moon lasted, the whole earth was a womb, inwardly alive, a real womb. There was nothing yet of stone or mineral. It was all a gigantic womb, and we can say that our present earth came forth from this gigantic womb.

Earlier this immense womb did not exist at all. What was it then? Well, in fact, earlier there was something else in existence. Let us just consider what came before. You see, if a human being is to develop in the mother's body, if he is to be an embryo, he must first be conceived. The conception takes place. But does nothing precede conception?

What precedes conception is the monthly period in the woman:

  • A very special process takes place in the female organism that is connected with the expulsion of blood. But that is not the only thing; that is only the physical aspect.
  • Every time the blood is expelled something of a spiritual-soul nature is born at the same time, and this remains. It does not become physical, because no conception has taken place. The spiritual-soul element remains without becoming a physical human body.

What for a human being must be there before conception was also there during the cosmic Old Sun condition! The whole Old Sun was a cosmic being that from time to time expelled something spiritual. So man and animal lived in the air-like condition, thrust out, expelled by this whole body. Between one condition (Old Sun) and the other (Old Moon), it came about that the human being became a physical being in water. Formerly he was a physical being only in air. During this Old Moon condition we have something similar to conception, but not yet anything similar to birth. What was the nature of this conception during the Old Moon condition?

The Old Moon was there, an entirely female being, and confronting it was not a male being, but all that was still outside its cosmic body at that time. Outside it were many other cosmic bodies that exerted an influence. Now comes the drawing which I have already made here.

So this cosmic body was there and around it the other cosmic bodies, exerting their influence in the most varied ways. Seeds came in from outside and fructified the whole Moon-Earth. And if you could have lived at that time and set foot on this primeval cosmic body, you would not have said when you saw all sorts of drops coming in “It is raining,” as one says today. At that time you would have said, “Earth is being fructified.” There were seasons when the fructifying seeds came in from all directions, and other seasons when they matured and no more came in. Thus at that time there was a cosmic fructification. But the human being was not born, only fructified; he was only called forth by conception. The human being came out of the entire Earth-body, or Moon-body, as it was then. In the same way fructification came from the whole cosmic surroundings for animal and plant.

Now later through further cooling there came about a hardening of all that lived then as man, animal, and plant. There, in the Old Moon condition we still have to do with water, at most, a hardening through the cooling. Here on the earth the solid, the mineral appears. So now we have a fourth condition [see drawing]: this is our earth as we have it today, and it contains man, animal, plant, mineral.

Let us just look at what the bird, for instance, has become on the earth. During the Old Sun condition the bird was still a sort of air-sack, it consisted of nothing but air, a mass of air floating along. Then during the Old Moon condition it became watery, a thickened watery thing, and it hovered as a kind of cloud — only not like our clouds but already containing a form. What for us are only formless water structures were at that time forms. There was a skeleton form, but it was fluid. But now came the mineral element, and this was incorporated into what was only water structure. Carbonate of lime, phosphatic lime and so on went the length of the skeleton, forming solid bones. So at first we have the air-bird, then the water-bird, and at last the solid earth-bird.

This could not be the same in the case of man. Man could not simply incorporate into himself what only arose as mineral during his embryonic period. The bird could do this, and why? You see, the bird acquired its air form here (Old Sun condition); it then lived through the water condition. It is essential for it not to let the mineral come too close to it during its germinal state. If the mineral came to it too soon, then it would just become a mineral and harden. The bird while it is developing is still somewhat watery and fluid; the mineral, however, wants to approach. What does the bird do? Well, it pushes it off, it makes something around itself, it makes the eggshell around itself! That is the mineral element. The eggshell remains as long as the bird must protect itself inwardly from the mineral; that is, as long as it must stay fluid. The reason for this is that the bird originated only during the second condition of the earth. If it had been there during the first condition, it would now be much more sensitive to warmth than it actually is. Since it was not there at that time, it can now form the hard eggshell around itself.

[Why can Man not slip out of an eggshell]

Man was already present during the first condition of the earth, the warmth condition, and therefore he cannot now hold off the mineral while he is in the embryonic stage. He can't build an eggshell; he must be organized differently. He must take up the mineral element from the womb, and so we have mineral formation already in the embryo at the end of its development. Man must absorb some mineral from the womb; therefore, the womb must first possess the mineral that is to be absorbed. So in the case of man the mineral element is incorporated quite differently. The bird has air-filled bones; we human beings have marrow-filled bones, very different from the bones of the bird. Through the fact of our having this marrow a human mother is able to provide mineral substance to the embryo within her. But once the mineral element is provided, the human being is no longer able to live in the womb environment and must gradually be born. He must first have acquired mineral constituents. With the bird it is not a matter of being born, but of creeping out of the eggshell; man is born without an eggshell. Why? Because man originated earlier and therefore everything can be done through warmth and not through air.

From this you can understand the differences that still exist and that can be observed today. The difference between an “egg-animal” and such a being as man, and also the higher mammals, lies in the fact that man is far older than, for instance, the bird species, far older than the minerals. Therefore, when he is quite young, during the embryonic stage in the womb, he must be protected from the mineral nature and may only be given the prepared mineral that comes from the mother. In fact, the mineral element prepared in the mother's body must even for a certain time after birth still be given to him in the mother's milk! While the bird can be fed at once with external substances, man and the higher animals can only be nourished by what the mother's body provides.

What the human being has today in our present Earth condition from the mother's body he had during the previous cosmic condition from the air, from the environment. What he had around him during his whole life was of a milk nature. Our air today contains oxygen and nitrogen but relatively little carbon and hydrogen and particularly very, very little sulphur. They have gone. During the Old Moon condition it was different; in the surrounding air there were not only oxygen and nitrogen but also hydrogen, carbon, sulphur. That made a sort of milky pap around the Moon, a quite thin milk-pap in which life existed. Today man still lives in a thin milk-pap before he is born! For it is only after his birth that the milk goes into the breast; before birth it is in those parts of the female body where the human embryo is lying. That is an amazing thing, that processes in the mother's organism that belong to the uterus before birth afterwards go to the breast. And so the Moon condition is still preserved in man before he is born, and the actual Earth condition only comes at the moment of birth with the Moon-nature still present in the breast milk.

... If people do not press forward to a spiritual science, they simply cannot solve the mystery of why a bird slips out of an egg and can at once be nourished with external substances, while a human being cannot slip out of an egg and must come out of the womb to be nourished by mother's milk. Why is it?

It is because the bird originated later and is thus an external being. Man originated earlier, and when he was undergoing the Old Moon-condition, he was not yet as hardened as the bird. Hence today too he is not yet so hardened; he must still be more protected, for he has within him much more of the original conditions.


[three weeks after conception - like a fish on Old Moon condition]

Now let us look not at the bird species but at the fishes. The bird species developed for the air, the fish species for the water. Not until what we call the Moon condition were certain earlier air-like bird-beings transformed in such a way as to become fishlike — because of the water. To the bird-like beings were added the fish. One could say that the fish are birds that have become watery, birds received by the water. You can gather from this that the fish appeared later than the birds; they appeared when the watery element was there, that is, during the Old Moon period.

And now you will no longer be astonished that everything swimming about in a watery state during the Old Moon time looked fish-like. The birds looked fish-like in spite of flying in the air and being lighter. Everything was fish-like. Now this is interesting: if we look today at a human embryo on about the 21st or 22nd day after conception, what is its appearance? There it swims in a fluid element in the mother's body, and it looks really like a tiny fish! The human being actually had this form during the ancient Moon period and he has it still in the third week of pregnancy; he has preserved it.

You can say, then, that Man worked himself out of this Old Moon form, and we can still see by the fish form he has in the embryo how he has worked himself out. When we observe the present world, everywhere we can see how formerly it all had life, just as we know of a corpse that it had life earlier.


... I said that with conception the potentiality of the physical human being is there, and gradually the embryo develops. I also described what happens earlier, the processes in the female organism, what is pushed out in the monthly periods, and how a spiritual element is pushed out too. Now in this process there is always something of the nature of fever, even in a perfectly normal, healthy woman. This is because there is a warmth condition; it is the warmth condition that has been preserved from the ancient first condition that I have in the drawing called Old Saturn. This fever condition still endures.

Foresight - life preview tableau - vision of the future life

United with the etheric body, as its body of time and destiny, the individuality gains a "vision of the future," a preview of its future earthly existence:


When the individuality now connects with the future etheric body, a moment of vision occurs, like the review over the past life after death. But it presents itself in a dif­ferent way: as a vision of the future, a foresight.


Just as the memories of one's past life rise as a tableau before the soul just after death, a kind of preview of future life precedes the new incarnation. We do not see every detail, but a rough outline of all the circumstances of the life to come. This moment is immensely important. It can even happen that those who endured a great deal in an earlier life, and experienced great hardship, suffer a shock when they perceive their new situation and destiny, and therefore keep their soul from fully incarnating so that only a part of the soul enters into the body.

Whereas the after death tableau is ‘objective’, the before birth tableau is ‘subjective’ (GA095), as Peter Selg writes:

In contrast, the preview of the earthly biography, which occurs during the passage through the lunar sphere when the soul is approaching the earth—that is, during the first three weeks after conception—directly affects the soul of the incar­nating individuality. The preview does not have the same finality and supra-personal detachment that characterized the after-death etheric review. It can induce a severe sense of shock. Rudolf Steiner spoke of potential constitutional defects and illnesses resulting from this situation, caused by the incomplete penetration of the physical body and manifesting in epileptic fits or impaired mental development.


GA218 (p172)

the human spirit-soul remains in the "lunar sphere," where it pulls together its etheric body out of the "ingredients of the world ether."

The etheric body is the organism that will later enable it to enter into a connection with the developing physical germ:

“[…] We are left behind as a spirit-soul being, which feels an affinity to what has fallen away from it, but is not immediately able to unite with it. It can unite with it only if, in this state, it now contracts into its etheric body the ether forces, which are in the entire cosmos.”

GA215 (p104)

"The human being clothes itself in its etheric organism."'

Rudolf Steiner described how this process is initiated by the "deprivation," which the individuality experiences because of the departure of the spiritual germ.

During long epochs of existence, between death and new birth, the human soul has worked in cooperation with beings of the spiritual world in order to create a “spirit-seed” for a new Earth body.

When the soul descends, as it were, into the last stage before entering the Earth-sphere, it enters the Moon-sphere and loses contact with the “spirit seed.” This seed connects with what is offered up from the substance of physical inheritance.

In the feeling of loss, the human soul, having vested itself in advance with an astral body, draws together out of the cosmic ether an etheric body.

In the third week after conception the human I, enwrapped in astral and ether bodies, connects with what has developed as a synchronization of physical and spiritual seeds, and unites the more intimately with it during the embryonic period following.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Max Hoffmeister: 'Die übersinnliche Vorbereitung der Inkarnation' (1979, 2nd edition 1991)
  • Wolfgang Schad
    • Die Vorgeburtlichkeit des Menschen. Der Entwicklungsgedanke in der Embryologie (1982)
    • Verantwortbare Freiheit aus Menschenverständnis. Zur individuellen und gesellschaftlichen Problemlage des Schwangerschaftsabbruchs. (1992)
    • Schad as editor: 'Die verlorene Hälfte des Menschen' (2005 third edition, book on the placenta)
  • Peter Selg: Unbornness (2010)