Formative forces

From Anthroposophy

The formative forces underlie the living development and form-giving in the Four kingdoms of nature, they are also called etheric or life forces.

They are linked to the Spectrum of elements and ethers.

The spiritual beings of The elementary kingdoms are being how these forces come into being, and how they function. When these forces affect the Four kingdoms of nature on Earth, they work in constellation with the Elementals of nature and the third spiritual hierarchy consisting of angels, archangels and archai. The spiritual scientific framework is given in the Golden Chain section, see schema FMC00.142A below.



Schema FMC00.175A is a simplified variant of Schema FMC00.175 that summarizes the formative forces proceeding from the Elementary Kingdoms, all three active and interpenetrating all the time. They work together with the intelligence of the group soul from the different worlds.


Schema FMC00.030 shows the three main forces of nature, related to the formative etheric forces corresponding to the three previous planetary stages of evolution, and still working through on Earth. In the ancient mysteries these were referred to as the Three mothers

Compare with Schema FMC00.142A: light in the sub-material state is electricity and corresponds to the astral and EK3. The other two forces map to the lower and higher spirit world and EK2 and EK1. The second force, known by the Atlanteans as Tao, and now more popularly known as Vril, is indeed the growth force of nature.


Schema FMC00.142A is lifts out one aspect from Schema FMC00.142, as a graphical illustration to Schema FMC00.175A as well as Schema FMC00.030.


Schema FMC00.255 shows four types of earthly and cosmic laws. The physics of the current materialistic or mineral science is extremely successfull in describing the laws for the element earth, on our planet earth. However 'life', as we see it in the plant world, is governed by different laws, these are those of the etheric world and formative forces. Still other laws exists apply for the astral and spirit worlds. See below for reference lectures.


Schema FMC00.379 illustrates the rhythmic aspect of the etheric formative forces and the various planetary influences and their reversal, as explained in Wachsmuth (see below). This principle explains the principles underlying the differentiation of plant growth, see also the 'Further reading' section on Overview on etheric research and the plant kingdom.


Lecture coverage and references

In the lectures of 1921-06-24-GA205 and 1921-06-26-GA205, Rudolf Steiner describes four types of earthly and cosmic laws (see table below), and takes the perspective as if an ancient Greek would converse with a contemporary scientist. The Greek would point out that all our current knowledge is just one type of knowledge or lawfullness, denoted with the element 'earth'. Similarly, the second lawfullness, denoted with the element 'water', describes the etheric and its formative forces, not only in the plant kingdom but also in the inner movements or streams in the human being (forming the organs). See Schema FMC00.255 above.

Wachsmuth (posthumous publication of info from Rudolf Steiner)

Guenther Wachsmuth wrote two books on the etheric, and it is clearly apparent that certain information must have come from new indications by Rudolf Steiner. Indeed Wachsmuth’s two books ‘Etheric Formative Forces in Cosmos Earth and Man’ and ‘The Etheric World in Science, Art and Religion’ were published in German already in 1923 and 1927. They were thus written before, and started in the period (after the so-called 'scientific courses'), when Wachsmuth and Pfeiffer were investigating the etheric with counsel from Steiner. Whereas the first book has been widely available in English, the second has never been published in English (yet). However the editing and updating of an old and poor existing translation in the works by the FMC project.

The start of the second book presents the wave rhythm of etheric forces in the planetary system.

Please refer to Schema FMC00.003A and Schema FMC00.003 on Earth for the explanation below.

A first wave from the Saturn region to Sun region releases a second wave between Sun and Earth, with the principal of reversal.

If we now follow this wave action of the spheres of formative forces still further inward, we penetrate the sphere of the Earth. However, whereas the first two rhythms were of the same nature in the succes­sion of their forces, there now occurs, with the entrance into the terrestrial system of laws, that primal principle of reversal, of in­version, the validity of which for both the macrocosmic and the microcosmic evolutionary process has been shown in Volume 1 (p. 100 & 201).

The cosmic rhythms upon reaching the Earth :

  • do not release a rhythm in the same succession of force-spheres (warmth-ether, light-ether, chemical-ether, life-ether)
  • but the wave here reverses itself, as it were, and the forces-spheres follow one another now in precisely the reverse succession (life ether, chemical ether, light ether, warmth-ether), a process of inversion
    • whereby the exterior becomes the in­terior, and the interior becomes the exterior,
    • and which now repeats itself several times inwards within the body of the Earth.

It is then laid out how this, with two repetition and three reversals, gives rise to five waves of formative forces with their own rhythm (we will not go into this here), and then continues with what this means for things on Earth, specifically for plant growth for example:

If we now investigate the effects of these cosmic formative forces on the growth of plants on the surface of the Earth, for example, we must bear in mind that the life process of the plant presents a thrice-repeated rhythm of expansion and contraction (as already set forth in Volume 1, p. 64).

But this threefold rhythm in plant growth is only a continuation of that fourfold rhythm of the alternating expanding and contracting forces as this holds sway in the planetary spheres from the outermost sphere all the way to the surface of the earth.

If we perceive in each such alternation from expansion to contraction a breathing rhythm of the cosmos, we then recognize

  • four breath-rhythms which roll inward from the outermost spheres of the formative forces of the cosmos to the surface of the Earth,
  • where they are partly reflected and induce three breath-rhythms of plant growth in the reverse direction.

Thus seven breath-rhythms of the formative forces in the interaction of cosmos and Earth cause the creation of a plant on Earth. This shows how the planetary constellations naturally exert an important influence on the differentiation of plant growth. We now understand why the primeval Indian wisdom spoke of the ‘breath of Brahma’ and Christian wisdom of the ‘breath of God’ as the giver of life.


The knowledge of the cosmic harmony of this form-creating surging of the formative forces, surging from without inward and again from within outward, renders possible a profound and satisfying glimpse into the plan of the creation of the world.


Related pages

References and further reading