The human I is what makes Man the crown of creation by the Gods, by the spiritual hierarchies. It sets Man apart from all other kingdoms of nature: animals, plants, minerals do not have an I-consciousness.
After preparing the structure of Man in the previous three planetary stages with a physical body, etheric body and astral body, the evolutionary goal for development on current planetary stage Earth is the development of I-consciousness at the fourth condition of consciousness.
The human I-consciousness evolved in various stages, first nurtured in the womb of the archai and the warmth of Old Saturn, through the preparation of human group souls of humanity as spiritual prototypes on Old Moon and upto the Lemurian epoch in the Earth planetary stage, where Man's higher triad joined with the physical bodies below. See also Development of the I.
In the Lemurian epoch, Man's consciousness arose by an impulse of the Spirits of Form (a.k.a the Jehovah impulse, by the Elohim) whereby the warmth entered each human being and brought the love and memory of the blood-lines. The Luciferic infection that took place in this process (see Jehovah-Lucifer topic), is countered by the Christ impulse that contains the impulse for Man to cleanse his lower bodies and become a spiritual being characterized by brotherly love and freed from the Luciferic, Ahrimanic and Asuric influences.
Currently this is still an ongoing process of individuation, whereby Man is moving from the human group souls, in a evolutionary process on the basis of the previous human races, towards a fully individual and independent I-consciousness. (re 1907-12-27-GA101).
The unique novel aspect related to the 'I' is that Man is set free from guidance by the higher hierarchies: the capacity for thinking and free will, as the basis for love. This freedom in self-consciousness is also the key lever for the spiritualization of the lower bodily principles into Man's higher or spiritual self or 'I': it is by conscious work on ourselves that Man will evolve into a spiritual being, which is the purpose of evolution. See Man's transformation and spiritualization.
To avoid misunderstandings with terminology, it is important to make the distinction between: two aspects:
- Man's threefold soul holds a grip- with varying degrees - on the lower bodily principles of physical, etheric and astral bodies, and this is the mechanism of reflection causing humanity's current waking consciousness. This is the 'I'-consciousness provided by the Spirits of Form (SoF) in the current Earth cycle, as sketched in 'development of the I'. It is currently still limited to mineral I- consciousness. With threefold soul we refer to sentient, intellectual, and consciousness soul - see Man's bodily principles.
- Man's spiritual or 'Higher Self', or the core of Man's purely spiritual seed, see Man's higher triad. The life spirit and spirit man principles are to be found in the buddhi and nirvana worlds. See Schema FMC00.128 below. This links to the Christ principle in Man, 'not I but the Christ in me' - see also Threefold Sun.
The threefold soul is used by Man's spiritual Higher Self to have a daytime mundane waking consciousness experience with freedom and karmic learnings during daytime of incarnate life, experiences that are 'worked' during the night-time sleeping process and between death and a new birth. This evolutionary process results in a spiritualization of Man's lower bodies to the higher spiritual principles. Connection points in this process are also on three cycles, see the Three meetings.
The human 'I' consciousness is currently mineral: Man gathers consciousness through his physical senses. In the future he will further develop his astral senses, and further his consciousness in the next planetary stages of evolution - see Twelve conditions of consciousness.
The study of the 'I' can be approached from different angles to shed light on various aspects. Below is a list of subtopics or perspectives, they are listed in a very temporary tentative order, because they cannot really be clustered as they are interrelate and flow into one another.
contemporary waking consciousness
- Man's lifecycle aspect
- the first three years of Man - the Son of God and the Son of Man (1911-02-11-GA127)
- the first three years the I works upon Man, on the moulding of the three lower bodily principles, with the power of the angels streaming into it. The I is then the lowest member of an angelic being (that also speaks through the child).
- what happens with Man around ages 3 and 9, and how does this relate to the period of life between 21 and 42 when Man develops his threefold soul? See Schema FMC00.244 below.
- related: what would be the result if Man would receive the I-consciousness in the second seven year life period? (1913-11-17-GA266/3)
- the first three years of Man - the Son of God and the Son of Man (1911-02-11-GA127)
- where is the 'I really located? it is not physical on Earth, but where is the true I located?
- our real self or higher 'I', is widely extended over the world around us, and the whole external world is our body when considering ourselves as a member of the spirit world
- Man's true 'I' stays in the higher spirit world and 'waits' there during the whole life of Earth (1917-12-19-GA165 and 1915-12-19-GA165).
- see more on Man's higher triad#Aspects and Man's higher triad#.5B2.5D - Connecting the worlds of our .27true spiritual I.27 with our .27physical I.27
- see Schemas FMC00.289 and FMC00.289 and references below and on Man's higher triad
- difference between the illusion of the personal 'I' and the true spiritual 'I' (1908-06-15-GA266/1, see also Q00.009 - the idea of no self)
- the I is not in, but outside our daytime waking consciousness (1919-10-19-GA191), it can be found in the blanks in our consciousness during sleep, or in our willing (where Man is also asleep)
- at night, the I and astral body
- move out of the blood and nervous system
- into the glands and sense organs (1913-12-30-GA266/3)
- The elementary kingdoms brings forces through spiritual beings that bring warmth and renewal to maintain our body while the I and astral body are out (1907-12-04-GA098)
- in the human aura (1910-06-05-GA125 below), being worked at all times by twelve zodiacal streams
- the soul's connection into the lower bodily principles: how does the highest principle of the I and the threefold soul take hold over the lower principles (eg the nervous system), see the I-organization
- the human blood:
- how does the 'I' find it's physical expression in the human blood (incl. how the blood was intended to be spiritual, but has become a physical substance because of the Luciferic infection)
- the blood circulation needs to be vertical for the I to take hold of it, that is why animals cannot have an individual I (1909-10-26-GA115)
- how the human 'I' lives in the warmth body .. and the two types of warmth (1913-12-30-GA266/3)
- the connection with the spirit world
- the two 'I'-points (1907-11-29-GA266/1,1908-01-07-GA266/1)
- where do we see the I at work in Man,
- how to understand the threefold nature of the I with the sentient, intellectual and consciousness soul?
- the link with breathing: with each breath we inhale or exhale our 'I' (1906-10-02-GA266/1 below and 1922-04-01-GA211)
- how did the I develop in the Earth's evolutionary stages: in the Lemurian-Atlantean epochs and in the current Postatlantean epoch
- how is the 'I' the instrument for Man's transformation and spiritualization, of the lower bodies to the higher triad, and what does it imply?
- process of individuation from the human group soul(s) - with an average lifecycle of some 500 years (re 1907-12-27-GA101)
- relation between the divine monad and Man's higher triad
- in the blood, the forces of the I encounter the forces of morality or moral impulses that enter the body through the head (see 1916-08-05-GA170 below, as well as Virtues)
- at what level do we have to think of the 'I' in terms of the different planes or worlds
- how does the I relate to the causal body and Man's higher principles .. see also Schema FMC00.197 and the Discussion area on Man's higher triad.
- the relationship with the spiritual hierarchies
- the second hierarchy and the Spirits of Form (ao explained in RSL of Schema FMC00.244)
- the experience of the true 'I' in the higher spirit world and relation to the First Hierarchy H1 (1923-04-22-GA084)
- the distinction between three main aspects of life and consciousness given to Man by the Sun is coined in the concept of the 'Threefold Sun', besides the physical Sun (warmth and sunlight providing physical life on earth) and the spiritual Sun (the SoF providing the threefold soul and waking consciousness), the third Sun aspect is that of the Christ, the divine spark in Man, the 'not I but the Christ in me'. See also Schema FMC00.183 below.
- the human I as 'the sharp two edged sword' (as mentioned in the Book of Revelation, explained in ao 1908-06-25-GA104), leading both to the highest and the lowest: on the one hand it gives Man independence and freedom as the basis for the spiritual unification of humanity (dissolving old blood relationship based love and separation in races and tribes) but it is also the foundation of discord and cause of war between all different I's and their individual and group egotism. This links a.o. to the many ways that the I can develop wrongly (see also Development of the I), with culmination in the War of all against all (one side of the sword) before the great Sixth epoch (the other side of the sword).
- the fourfold nature of the 'I': as something outwardly perceptible, as speech and song, as creative fantasy, as inner experience (1915-01-09-GA161)
- relationship of the 'I' with memory, intelligence and sense perception (1920-02-13-GA196 and 1920-02-14-GA196)
We have to understand very clearly that the true essence of the human 'I' is outside everything we can observe as the human body
Among all of the works of human speech, this word 'I' has a special place. In approximately the third year of life, Man learns to use this word. This is an age, however, in which there is as yet no actual I-consciousness present. Therefore, one learns at first to speak this word only automatically. Only in the twenty-first year of life does the birth of the I take place. However, what appears there is still, even through one's whole life, not the true I.
Ordinary human beings meets the I again only after death. So until death, all human beings use the word I always only provisionally.
The I of the human being is surrounded by three sheaths. The I itself is not egotistical, only these sheaths are.
Schema FMC00.428 illustrates the I as the center or cardinal point of two opposing streams of Jehovah (Spirits of Form) and Lucifer. The Jehovah SoF impulse infused love into Man's physical blood from below, the Luciferic influence brought Man's freedom and egoism from above, into Man's astral body and developing sentient soul. Both influences were first subconscious, and develop to full consciousness only with the maturing of Man's threefold soul. The Christ Impulse brought about a shift, see Schema FMC00.428A.
Schema FMC00.428A adds the explanation from Rudolf Steiner's narrative in the sources listed, against the background of Schema FMC00.428.
It shows how "the Christ Impulse triggered a reversal of the influences of the two crossing streams", and gave Man independence in love and allowed for a spiritualization of love, as love without true freedom is not love.
Note: all texts originate from the GA244 sources listed, but were aggregated into a single schema explanation.
Schema FMC00.428B is, for reference, the clean base schema of Schema FMC00.428A and FMC00.428 without additional annotations.
Schema FMC00.001 is an example of a schema that Rudolf Steiner himself presented, as a way to use schemas to capture spiritual scientific perspectives for study. It represents the different aspects of the 'I' we have today on Earth, and how this I-consciousness evolves across the stages of the solar system evolution.
Compare with Schema FMC00.036 on the I-organization and superimpose the latter on Schema FMC00.289 below.
Schema FMC00.001A contains the original schemas from various typoscripts
Schema FMC00.128 sketches the threefold soul with its three components in the lower spirit world, long the Planes or worlds of consciousness. One can see that as the rippling in of the sacrificed substance of the SoF took hold of the astral, then etheric, and then physical body; that it was weaving into the l in the three lowest level of the Spirit world, the atmospheric (air), oceanic (water), and lastly continental (earth) regions.
When Man creates something new, he is really Free Man Creator in the fourth sublayer. When Man works on the transformation and spiritualization of his lower bodies, he writes into the higher regions and 'overwrites' the scaffolding structure received by the higher hierarchies.
Schema FMC00.289 depicts the crucial difference between Man's true 'I' which is a spiritual entity in development - see Man's higher triad, and our 'self-image', what we call 'I' based on sensory experience in the physical world. The difference is explained in GA206 in the lectures of 12, 13, 14 and 20 August 1921 - see Schema FMC00.290 below. However it is recommended to first study the other lecture references given in FMC00.289 to develop the frame required for contemplative understanding.
- During incarnate life, the astral body is the enabling gateway between the threefold soul and the physical and etheric bodies - see also the rhythm of a day and especially the process of waking and sleeping (also re 1923-09-02-GA223 extract below) for more background on how the astral impressions are imprinted on etheric and physical bodies during sleep. Furthermore and related, see also: the Three meetings, and The etheric heart as an astral recorder.
- Man's true 'I' stays in the higher spirit world and 'waits' there during the whole life of Earth (re 1917-12-19-GA165 and 1915-12-19-GA165 extracts below). After death and going through the 'astral rewind' in kamaloka, Man's higher triad receives the fruits of the previous life and continues it's journey in the spirit world.
Schemas FMC00.289A and FMC00.289B are drafty 'study schemas' (click to enlarge) that use the base schema to annotate some other workings of Man's multifold bodily structure. Compare this with Schema FMC00.141 on Overview Golden Chain.
Schemas FMC00.289A positions the threefold soul in the lower spirit world, as the forms from which the three lower bodies are developed by the 'I' during the seven year periods in life after Man incarnates into a physical body with a 'luggage' of the stream of inheritance that is then confronted (re original sin). It also shows the threefold soul or 'lower I' and its link to the spiritual 'higher I'. The transformation of the lower to the higher bodily principles is illustrated by the amber arrows between the layers in the lower and higher spirit world.
Note: This work schema is to draw the attention to the special role of the fourth layer of the spirit world in both the macrocosmic and microcosmic perspectives, hence the inserted picture on the upper left (Schema FMC00.067 see Creation by the three logoi) where the second and third outpourings meet eachother between higher and lower spirit world.
Schemas FMC00.289B is a second work schema that attempts to illustrate where some main processes take place between Man's principles
- during incarnate life (light blue arrow below): the process where the threefold soul has astral experiences that are incorporated during the sleep process at night. Compare this to FMC00.248 on Three levels of sleep to see Man's connection in the lower and higher spirit worlds during sleep levels SLS2 and SLS3. This key point is elucidated in 1919-10-19-GA191: our life experience consists of conscious daytimes, interrupted with unconscious sleep periods, which are 'blank' for our daytime waking consciousness. The true I is active and to be found in these 'blank' periods
- the process between death and a new birth (light blue arrow upper right) depicts what is already explained under FMC00.289 above.
Schema FMC00.290 is assembled from scans of BlackBoard Drawings (BBD) from the GA206 lectures. Click to enlarge.
It shows - on the left - Man's fourfold bodily principles, and how the I confronts itself in the physical world through the world of the senses. This is symbolized - on the right - by the snake biting its own tail, see drawing on the right and Schema FMC00.002 on Homer's Golden Chain. The lectures explain how the 'I' (in blue), confronts and receives the impressions from the physical world experience (in red). Link this to the study of the above Schema FMC00.289.
The key lecture for the 'snake symbol' is 1921-08-13-GA206: the fact that the 'I' has an inner recollection (of say a man in the street), and now receives an sensory impression experience (of that man we see in the street). The inner and outer experiences meet, and this experience is 'I-consciousness'. See further on Waking consciousness
Schema FMC00.244 illustrates the premature awakening of I-consciousness due to Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences, before the actual work of the normal Spirits of Form (SoF) between age 21 and 42. In the original plan, Man would have remained in a spiritual conditions outside of this period. Illustrations from 'The human life' by George O'Neil.
Schema FMC00.131 shows how the Third Hierarchy (H3) of angels, archangels and archai 'lives' in the soul activity of our I, and how these soul capacities evolved after originating in earlier planetary evolutionary stages.
Schema FMC00.183 has -on the left - the blackboard illustration to "not I but the Christ in me". Reference 1922-03-25-GA211 gives a concise summary of the evolutionary stages of the 'natural' Christ experience in nature (which we find back in the Arthur stream and pagan Christianity), to 'the Christ in me' after MoG (which we find back in the Parsifal stream: Man needs to look inside of him instead out in nature to find the Christ).
See more on: Christ Module 6 - principle in image and story.
Lecture coverage and references
A man who has thus ascended this step is called a homeless man, because fundamentally he has found the connection with a new world, because it rings to him out of the spiritual world, and because he thereby no longer has his home, so to speak, in this physical world. One must not misunderstand this: the Chela who has reached this stage is just as good a citizen and family man, just as good a friend, as he was before he had reached the stage of Chela. He need not be torn away from anything. What he has experienced is an evolution of the soul, thus acquiring a new home in a world lying behind this physical one.
What then has happened? The spiritual world sounds within man, and through this sounding of the spiritual world, Man overcomes an illusion, the illusion which takes in all men before they begin this stage of development. This is the illusion of the personal self. Man believes himself to be a personality separate from the rest of the world. Mere reflection could teach him that even physically he himself is not an independent being. Bear in mind that if the temperature in this room were 200 degrees higher than it now is, none of us would be able to survive as we now survive. As soon as the outer situation changes, the conditions for our physical existence are no longer there. We are simply a continuation of the external world, and are as separate beings absolutely inconceivable. This is still more the case in the world of the soul and of the spirit. Thus we see that Man conceived of as a self is only an illusion — that he is a member of the universal divine spirituality. Here man overcomes the personal self. Here arises what in the mystic chorus of Faust Goethe has expressed in the words: “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis.” (“All that is transitory is but a likeness.”) What we see is only a picture of an eternal being. We ourselves are only a picture of an eternal being. When we have surrendered our separate being — for we live a separate life through our etheric body — then we have overcome our outer, separate life, we have become part of universal life.
(p 126 in 2007 edition; partial temporary extract, SWCC rephrased to merge records A and B) links the 'I' with breathing:
Our physical body is not our 'I', we are not permitted to identify with it, it is just an instrument for the tasks of the fifth epoch (in previous epochs it was a different type of body and 'I' relationship) .. so we have to handle it as a tool for our tasks. Our 'I' should have power over it.
Our 'I must give birth to the spiritual body out of our physical body. Our spiritual body is called atma, atma means breath. Through regulated breathing in meditation we build our spiritual body. As a matter of fact, with each breath we inhale or exhale our 'I'. ... The 'I' streams into our external physical body with every inhalation and out again when we exhale. ...
When Man inhales, the lungs full with air and the air enters into the finest branches. The spirit of the human being lives in the air. When humans inhale they inhale their spirit, when they exhale they exhale their spirit. The human spirit is developed more and more. Therefore, alternately the spirit of Man is inside or or outside in the world. The growth of the spiritual body is being furthered through inhaling and exhaling, but a great deal depends upon what humans add to their spirit when exhaling (in terms of thoughts). Their spirit is assembled through these thoughts, they are building up and creating their spiritual body through the thoughts they add to their breath.
The 'I' has a direct connection with a spot behind the forehead just a little above the root of the nose, thinking has a direct connection with the larynx, feeling with the hands, and willing with the feet and altogether with the frame of the body. If we send these forces streaming through our body with the help of regulated breathing, then we are building up our spiritual body.
.. is on the two points of the 'I'
The 'I' is not just one point that has gradually united [with the physical body] through the growth of the front part of the brain and the entry of the etheric body into the area above the root of the nose; rather, there is a second point of it. The line connecting this point changes. The direction of this line points to the center point of the Sun. The more the human being develops, the more these two points approach one another. Humans who are evolving must place themselves in this point, that is, outside, and they must learn to look at their body as if looking at something physical external to themseleves: that redeems the human being frm egotism. A lively recalling and experiencing of the Mystery of Golgotha and the fact that the superfluous, egotistical blood of humankind flowed there, is a help to this end.
.. is on the two points of the 'I' - see also 1907-11-29-GA266/1 and the two records A and B on the topic page Kundalini
Rephrased from both records A and B)
When a person meditates, this awakens forces in and develops the hypophysis, it “begins to to shine brighter and brighter, sends forth rays, and gradually with its rays it encompasses the pineal gland lying in front of it, and stimulates it.”
This process organizes the organic formation of the astral body, from the chaos of feelings and sensations, into spirit-self or manas.
When the hypophysis causes golden threads to flow around the pineal gland,
then the time has come
when [the transformation of the astral body into spirit-self, into manas], has progressed far enough ... for the etheric body to be transformed into buddhi.
The I acts downward from above; so how would its physical organ have to lie?
The physical organ of the I is the circulating blood; and the I could not function downward from above without an organ running in the same direction in the human body. Where the main direction of the blood-stream is horizontal, not vertical, there can be no I as in men. The main direction of the blood-stream had to raise itself in man to the vertical in order to enable the I to lay hold on the blood.
No I can intervene where the main blood-stream runs horizontally instead of vertically. The group I of animals can find no organ in them, because the main blood-line runs horizontally. Through the erection of this line to the vertical in man, the group I became an individual I.
This difference between men and the animals shows how erroneous it is to set up a relationship inferred from purely external phenomena. That act of rising from the horizontal to the vertical is an historic incident, but it could no more have taken place without an underlying will, without the co-operation of spirit, than the raising of the hammer could have done. Only when a will, a spiritual force, courses through the blood can the horizontal line pass over into the vertical, can the upright position come about and the group soul rise to become the individual soul. It would be illogical to recognize the spiritual force in one case, that of the hammer, and not in the other, in man.
(p48 in the 2015 edition)
In this way we can come closer to the concept of what the actual spiritual part in the human being is. It is not enclosed by a person's skin but extends beyond the physical human being. The actual spiritual entity extends its feelers into the human being, it sends the essential part, the spiritual part into the human being.
Where is the actual I located in the human being?
We find the spiritual human being, the supersensory I-human being surrounding the physical human being.
And when we look at the human aura, which is formed like an egg, then the I-consciousness will work most effectively in the shell, in the auric egg. It is this fact which leads to a proper solution of the problem.
and the lecture then continues to sketch the twelve zodiacal streams that work on Man from all sides at all times.
[The first three years]
Now it is not only in the process of human evolution as a whole that a change takes place in this inter-relation of the several members of man's constitution; the same is also true in the life of the individual. There is by no means the same relationship between etheric body and astral body and I in early childhood as there is in the later years of a Man's life. In considering the development of the individual himself, account must be taken of the fact that the relationship between the members of his constitution changes. A very specially important period in the course of an individual human life is the one that comprises approximately the first three years. In that period, every individual is fundamentally a different being from the being he is later on. We know that these first three years are sharply demarcated from later life by two facts.
- One is that it is only after this first period that the human being learns to say “I”, to grasp and understand his I-hood.
- The other is that when, in later years, a man is looking back over his life, he can at most remember only as far back as this point of time, the point at which this three-year period is separated from the later life. In the normal state no human being knows anything of what happened before this point of time.
In a certain respect man is then quite a different being. ...
One of the most important things of all is that we should bear in mind the division between the first years of life and the later years, and regard Man during those early years as a being who is quite different from the one he is later on. It is only later that the I appears, the I with which everything else is bound up. But let nobody believe that before this point of time the I was inactive. Of course it was not inactive! It is not the case that until the third year of life the I remains unborn. It was already there, but its task was not that of penetrating into the activity of consciousness.
What, then, was its task? The I is the most important spiritual factor in the development of the three sheaths of the child: astral body, etheric body, physical body. The physical sheath of the brain is constantly re-moulded and there the I is continually at work. It cannot become conscious because it has a quite different task to fulfil: it has first to shape the instrument of consciousness. That of which we later become conscious works, to begin with, upon our physical brain during the first years of life. The task devolving upon the I changes — that is all. It works first upon us, then within us.
The I is in reality a sculptor and the greatness of what it achieves in the actual forming of the physical brain can never be adequately described. The I is a supreme artist! But what is the source, the giver of its power? The I has this power because, during the first three years of life the forces of the angels, of the Hierarchy next above our own, stream into it. In very truth — and this is no figure of speech, no simile, but an actual truth — an angel, that is to say, a being of the nearest higher hierarchy, works in Man through his I, moulding and shaping him. It is as if the Man were borne by the whole current of spiritual life, as if he were floating upwards to the higher Hierarchies whose forces stream into him.
And the moment he learns to say “I”, it is as if some of this force were cut off, as if he himself were called upon to do something formerly done by the angel.
[State of consciousness first cultural age of ancient India]
In the first years of life there is actually given to us something like a last echo of what prevailed to a certain extent through the whole of human life in the first Post-Atlantean epoch. Immediately after the great Atlantean catastrophe, throughout the whole of his life or at very least through the first half of it, the human being was more or less like he now is during the first years of life only.
We can picture this clearly if we think of the early Indian cultural age . The most truly childlike among the men of that epoch were the great Teachers of the Indian people, the Holy Rishis. If we were to picture the Holy Rishis according to the pattern of a modern savant, we should be very far from the truth. If a Man were to encounter them today he would not regard them as of any account at all; they would seem to him to be nothing more than naïve, childlike peasants — but the childlike quality that was manifest in the Rishis is perhaps nowhere to be found today. At certain times an inflowing stream of inspiration became articulate through them and then they gave voice to secrets of the higher worlds, because throughout their whole life the word “I”, in the sense in which modern Man uses it, never passed their lips. They never said “I”. They differed from a child today inasmuch as a child possesses the faculty of ideation. But the highest treasures of wisdom flowed into them in the same form of soul-life; it was as if a child today were to give utterance to the most sublime wisdom during the first three years of its life.
Actually it is not the child who is speaking — but perhaps this applies now only to a part of mankind. I have so often referred to the saying: The wisest can learn most from a child. And when someone who is himself able to look into the spiritual worlds has a child before him, with the stream that rises up into the spiritual world, it is as if — forgive the homely expression — he has in the child something like a telephone-line into the spiritual worlds. The spiritual world speaks through the child, but men are not aware of it. The wisest can learn most from a child. It is not the child that is speaking, but the angel is speaking out of the child.
[Change after period of first three years]
What is there to be said of Man's whole constitution in later years, bearing in mind that in the earliest period of his life the I is not merely the fourth member of his own being but at the same time the lowest member of an angel?
— for we can speak of these “members” of an angel in connection with this period and of the child's I as the lowest member of the angel. The connections between the members are quite different from those prevailing in later life. The question therefore is:
What is the nature of the change? What is it that takes place in later life?
It is as though the living stream had been cut off; the human being loses the living connection with the spiritual world. Hence it is in the earliest years of life that the forces a human being brings with him from his former incarnations are most perceptible. It is then that the essential, spiritual core of his being works the most strongly and deeply to elaborate the bodily organisation in such a way that it is suitable for the incarnation.
How is the later normal consciousness related to this?
The answer is that, today, the human being simply no longer has a bodily nature — the etheric body and its relationship to the physical body — such as was present in and at the time of the Holy Rishis. In that epoch there persisted through the whole of life the inherited relationship between etheric body and astral body that made it possible for the I to mould the outer sheath of the human being.
Today, already at birth, we inherit such a dense and demanding physical body that only a small part of the work formerly accomplished by the I can now be carried out. Our physical body is no longer really suitable for what we ourselves are during the first three years of our life. What we inherit is a physical body that is suitable for the later years of life, and this body is not adapted for directing the eyes upwards into the spiritual worlds. The child himself has no knowledge of what is streaming down into him and those around him most certainly have none; for the physical body has altered, has become denser, drier.
We are born with a soul that in the first three years of our life still stretches up into the spiritual worlds; but we are born with a body that is called upon to develop, through the whole of the rest of our life, the consciousness in which the I lives. If we had not this dense physical body it would be possible for us in the conditions of the present cycle of human existence to remain childlike in the sense indicated; but because we have this dense physical body, communion with the spiritual world during the first three years of life cannot come to full consciousness.
[Two beings within us – Son of Man and Son of God]
What is it that must now be fulfilled in the course of the evolution of humanity? What is the one end only way in which to achieve it?
This can most easily be expressed by the two concepts which in earlier times designated these two beings within us.
- The one is the concept of the being of spirit-and-soul in the first three years of childhood, the being who is now no longer really adapted to the external nature of man and is, moreover, unable to unfold I-consciousness: this being of spirit-and-soul was called in olden times the Son of God.
- And the being whose physical body today is so constituted that I-consciousness can awaken within it was called the Son of Man.
The Son of God within the Son of Man. The conditions prevailing today are such that the Son of God can no longer become conscious in the Son of Man, but must first be separated if the I-consciousness of today is to arise.
It is the task of Man, through conscious absorption of the realities of the spiritual world, so to transform and make himself master of his external sheaths that the Son of Man is gradually permeated by the Son of God.
When the Earth has reached the end of its evolution, man must have consciously achieved what he has no longer been able to achieve from childhood onwards: he must have completely permeated what he is as Son of Man with the divine part of his being.
What is it that must completely permeate and flow through his human nature? What is it that must pour into every part of the physical, etheric and astral bodies, so that the whole Son of Man is permeated with the Son of God?
[continues to describe the 'ideal of Man' and link to the Christ]
.. the threefold soul and astral, etheric, physical body is linked to the intuition, inspiration and imagination soul (SWCC)
See more on: Man's transformation and spiritualization
In our present age, the consciousness soul is first localized in the physical body, that is: it uses the physical organs. The intellectual soul, containing the inner feeling forces of sympathy and compassion, is located in the etheric body, which means that it uses etheric movements. The sentient soul, containing impulses, desires, passions, uses the forces localized in the astral body. When the sentient soul is changed into the intuition soul, you must imagine that in a kind of correspondence, the astral body becomes an instrument of this intuition soul. Similarly the inspiration soul is the transformed intellectual soul and its instrument is the human etheric body. The imagination soul or transformed consciousness soul uses the physical body as its instrument.
Thus the astral body and the Self of a human being undergoing occult development present the picture of a sun — which is the astral body — surrounded by its planets — that are a number of multiplications of the Self, sent out into other beings in order that the student through that which his multiplied Self rays back to him from these other beings may know their nature.
The feeling we have when becoming acquainted with the inner nature of the members of the higher hierarchies (we learn to recognise their external being through the physical body and the etheric body; and to recognise them inwardly through the astral body and the Self, we come into communication, as it were, with these beings who belong to the higher hierarchies through the astral body and Self) — the feeling we have is as though
- we had to make our self in our astral body into a sun and to separate from oneself, a Self capable of active participation in the nature of the hierarchy of the angels;
- another Self which has that gift as regards the hierarchy of the archangels;
- and yet another Self which has the gift with regard to the hierarchy of the Spirits of Form.
- A fourth Self participates in the nature of the hierarchy of the Spirits of Motion,
- a fifth in that of the hierarchy of the Spirits of Wisdom and of Will (Thrones),
- a sixth Self or I in that of the hierarchy of the Cherubim,
- and a seventh in that of the hierarchy of the Seraphim.
It is possible for a person, when he develops the four parts of his being and continues this development to a high stage, actually to attain to the experience we have just described. This is possible; and in addition to this development of his Self in the manner I have just indicated, he can attain to a still higher development of his Self.
For through the separation of seven selves from the eighth Self, this eighth self, which remains behind, undergoes a higher development. Consider the matter in this way:
- We have the original Self of man, which is given to him before he undergoes occult development. He then undergoes this, and thereby sends forth from himself seven Selves. In order that the Self originally given him may be able to send forth seven Selves he has to exercise an inner force, the result of which is that the Self rises a stage higher. But now I want you to reflect that the process which I have described in its most extreme development, as it were, only comes about gradually. A person undergoing occult development does not, of course, at once become a perfect Sun in — the astral body, surrounded by the planets of his Selves, but he first attains to an imperfect Sun existence, and imperfect developments of his planetary Selves; all this takes place gradually.
- And, at the same time, the development of the ordinary Self into the Higher Self takes place slowly and gradually. When this development has reached a definite stage, when the Self has reached higher and higher attainment, then gradually comes the power to look back at former incarnations. This is the stage which gives one the power to look back to previous incarnations; it is the development of the Self beyond itself, the attainment of forces beyond itself, which give it at the same time power truly to understand higher Hierarchies. We might say that, to clairvoyant vision, a person, through occult development, with respect to his Self and his astral body, becomes star-like — similar to a starry system.
In the above I have briefly described what is presented to another person who is becoming clairvoyant, whereas in the previous lectures I spoke more of the inward experiences. There is still something important which I have to lay before you, which is to amplify an indication already made. When the student develops his astral body and his Self he attains, as you have heard, to observation of a world, previously empty, now filled with the beings of the higher hierarchies, angels, archangels, archai, etc.
- the Causal body is the book of life that contains previous incarnations, hence the eight level and starry system spoken of above e, and correspond to the higher spirit world, see Man's higher triad
- note the mapping of the elements of Self to the hierarchies may contain inconsistencies, as the Archai are not mentioned and the fifth component combines two hierarchies.
is about how Man's 'I' lives in its own (luciferic) warmth sphere or aura, but in meditation one can also experience a cooling down effect when the second type of (macroscopic) warmth enters. See Schema FMC00.033 on Damming up between heart and brain.
When meditants look at themselves from outside, they can get the feeling of a space filled with only warmth, like a kind of oven. What lives in this is what lives and weaves in us, in our human soul life, as our own nature.
We know that there are four kinds of ether: warmth ether, light ether, chemical ether, and life ether. Warmth is not merely the movement of molecules, as physicists believe, but it is the first of the four ethers.
The warmth we have as our own warmth does not come from physical or chemical processes, but from the fact that an "I" and an astral body are active. This at least with human beings; with animals it is different.
During meditation, it is possible to feel our own warmth within, and even (far) outside of our body as a warmth sphere that fills the place where we would otherwise feel our body, and somewhat beyond, further outwards.
It is not easy to sense this warmth ether that surrounds us, much attention is necessary for it. We normally do not feel this because thoughts, memories, cares, etc., arise and want to disturb our meditation. When we make progress in esotericism and conquer these disturbances, however, we can feel around us the aura of warmth that our "I" and astral body draw to themselves out of the circling warmth ether.
In this warmth ether, we must not feel ourselves limited by our skin, but must extend beyond it, just as esotericists learn to feel themselves to be far greater than the limits of the skin.
We feel ourselves full of inner warmth, like an oven. Into this substance pour the unpurified feelings, desires, and so on, and cloud the meditation by darkening the light (light ether) that wants to enter. Meditate: "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not accept it."
Because indeed the words of the John Gospel apply here: "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it."
For what rays in and out of ourselves, this warmth is darkness that prevents the divine light from shining into us. It is our luciferic soul-life that presses outward as darkness (warmth) and hinders the divine-luciferic (wisdom) light from raying into us from out of the spiritual worlds (Spirit of Truth—Holy Spirit).
The light wants to penetrate from outside, but it cannot, because in the warmth itself a battle is taking place between two kinds of warmth.
It will be difficult for people to recognize that these two kinds of warmth exist. [link is made with farmer’s wisdom, that in a thunderstorm a battle is taking place between two powers, two weathers moving towards one another]
We can more easily imagine that there are two kinds of light:
- the inner light that comes from lucifer,
- and the outer light, the divine light that we see coming toward us in meditation.
- our own warmth, which is luciferic,
- there is also the warmth that can radiate toward us from outside, and that we at first sense as a coldness during meditation.
This warmth out of the spiritual world is felt by us as the opposite, as a breath of cold upon us. It is a good sign during meditation to feel ourselves breathed upon by this coldness that radiates out of the spiritual worlds, which is the warmth of the spiritual world.
It is not comfortable to feel the divine warmth washing around us—warmth that we feel as cold—but this is precisely the spiritual burning process.
We must go through the fiery oven of our own luciferic soul-life that we have set outside of ourselves. And then we feel ourselves washed with the divine warmth that is like the cold, so that the burning process is like a freezing process. Thus must all of our darkness and egotistical warmth be burned before the divine light can ray in upon us.
We have passed as if through a fiery oven in which everything luciferic within us is burned, and yet this fire of the divine wrath—which is actually love—is felt as coldness being breathed upon us.
When we have gained the knowledge of this process, we come to say: Thank God that I am being tormented, that I would be found mature enough to experience the divine warmth that burns away what should not exist in me.
When the warmth from outside (which at first is felt as coldness) moves into us, then with it comes light that comes from the good side of Lucifer. The spirits of the good hierarchies use Lucifer in order to shine this light into us.
Now we all know that the highest member of human nature is the I.
We learn to utter ‘I’ at a definite time of our childhood. We enter into relation with the I from the time to which in later years memory carries us back. Up to that time the I worked formatively upon us, up to the moment when we have a conscious relation to our I.
The I is present in our childhood, it works within us, but at first only builds up our physical body. It first creates the super-sensible forces in the spiritual world. After passing through conception and birth, it still works for a time — lasting for some years — on our body, until that becomes an instrument capable of consciously grasping the I.
A deep mystery is connected with this entry of the I into the human bodily nature. We ask a Man we meet how old he is, and he gives as his age the years which have passed since his birth. As has been said, we here touch a certain mystery of spiritual science that will become ever clearer and clearer in the course of the near future, but to which I shall now merely refer. What a Man gives as his age at a definite time of his life, refers only to his physical body. All he tells us is that his physical body has been so many years evolving since his birth.
The I takes no part in this evolution of the physical body but remains stationary. It is a mystery difficult to grasp, that the I, from the time to which our memory carries us back, really remains stationary: it does not change with the body, but stands still. We have it always before us, because it reflects back to us our experiences. The I does not share our Earth journey. Only when we pass through the gates of death we have to travel back again to our birth along the path we call kamaloka in order to meet our I again and take it on our further journey. Thus the I remains behind. The body goes forward through the years. This is difficult to understand because we cannot grasp the fact that something remains stationary in time, while time itself progresses. But this is actually the case.
The I remains stationary, because it does not unite with what comes to Man from the Earth-existence, but remains connected with those forces which we call our own in the spiritual world. There the I remains; it remains practically in the form in which it was bestowed on us by the Spirits of Form. The I is retained in the spiritual world. It must remain there, otherwise we could never, as Man, fulfil our original task on Earth and attain the goal of our Earth-evolution.
That which Man here on Earth has undergone through his Adam-nature, of which he left an imprint in the grave when he died in Adam, that belongs to the physical body, etheric and astral body and comes from these. The I waits; it waits with all that belongs to it the whole time Man remains on Earth, ever looking forward to the further evolution of man, beholding how Man recapitulates when he has passed through the gates of death, and retraces his path. This implies that as regards our I we remain in a certain respect behind in the spiritual world. Man will have to become conscious of this, and humanity can only become conscious of it because at a certain time the Christ descended from those worlds to which mankind belongs, out of the spiritual worlds Christ descended, and in the body of Jesus prepared, in the twofold manner we already know, that which had to serve him as a body on Earth.
When we understand ourselves aright, we continually look back through our whole Earth life to our childhood. There, in our childhood, precisely the spiritual part of us has remained behind. And humanity should be educated to look back on that to which the spirit from the heights can say: ‘Suffer the little children to come to Me!’ Not the Man who is bound to the Earth, but the little child. Humanity should be educated to this, for the Feast of Christmas has been given to it, that Feast which has been added to the Mystery of Golgotha, which need otherwise only have been bestowed on humanity as regards the three last years of the Christ life, when the Christ was in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. ...
What about the part we could call the moral-etheric aura?
First of all, this part works on the entire human being. But it works on the I and the I works on the bodily part of man, for example in the blood. The most important thing in the blood is the I . Morality affects the blood.
You should not concentrate too much on the physical aspects of the blood; the physical blood is only there to occupy, so to speak, a position in space where the forces of the I can work. Instead, consider the blood in the light of morality that affects the I.
In the blood, the forces of the I encounter the forces of morality. This is true for the man who stands here in the physical world: there is a spiritual encounter between what pulses in his blood and the moral forces that radiate into it. In the course of this encounter, the really moral impulses drive out what otherwise would emanate from the blood.
Picture this as the bloodstream: the I flows in it and morality is at work there, too. (See drawing.) Morality, then, has to counter the initial stream of the I. Therefore it must be a counter-force to this flowing force of the I . And so it is. When someone has the impulse to take a strong moral stand, this moral impulse has a direct effect on his blood. This effect even precedes the perception, mediated by the head, of the moral event and the moral process. This is what led Aristotle to make a wonderful observation. He said that morality depends on a skill and that actual moral practice is the child of something further — it is the child of intellectual judgement.
To put it radically, the head is a spectator. And so, as we move about here on the physical plane, the forces of the I that are the basis of the circulation of the blood interact with moral impulses pressing in upon us from out of the spiritual world. Essentially, this interaction is based on the fact that we occupy our entire body with our waking consciousness. The I really does have to be present as conscious I in the pulsing of the blood.
Perhaps you are wanting to say — I will slip this in parenthetically — Yes, but the I and the astral body are outside of the physical body and etheric body when one is sleeping. How can the I and the astral body be the prime active forces here, since the shapes and movements still persist during sleep, during the time the astral body and I are absent! To be sure, the essential parts are outside the body, but, as I have often emphasised, this withdrawal from the body only applies essentially to one part of it, the head. I have said explicitly that the interaction of the I and astral body with the rest of the organism is all the more intensive when these are not at work in the head. The I and the astral body are not separated from the rest of the organism in the same way as they are from the head.
But it is through the head that morality pours in when it encounters the I forces in the blood. That is why I said earlier that the head must be included here as part of the entire body. For moral impulses cannot pour into the body directly, but have to enter by way of the head. This implies that the person must be awake. If a man is asleep and his I and his astral body have withdrawn from his head, morality would have to pour into the head and body by way of the physical and etheric, rather than spiritually. But this is not possible, for these have nothing to do with morality.
Now, if you will be entirely honest with yourself, there is a simple thing that will convince you of the truth of what I am saying. Just ask yourself how moral you are in your sleep or in your dreams — assuming that morality is not just a reminiscence of physical life! Now and then morality and everything to do with morals has rather a bad time in the world of dreams, does it not? Things can be quite amoral there; the criteria of morality are no more applicable there than they are in the world of plants. As such, moral impulses can only be applied to waking life. So you can see that morality involves a direct influence of our spiritual environment on the forces within us radiating from the I .
(of which the title contains the subphrase 'the secret of the I')
We know to begin with that the highest member of human nature is the I. We learn to express our I at a definite moment in childhood. We gain a relationship to this I at the point to which we have memories in later life. We know from the most varied spiritual scientific considerations that until this point in time the I itself was active in forming and structuring us. This remains the case until the point at which we begin to have a relationship, a conscious relationship, to our I. In the child, this I is there also, but it works within, its first task is to form our body. To begin with it creates the super-sensible forces in the spiritual world. When we have gone through conception and birth it still works creatively on our body for a period of time that lasts a few years, until we have our body as a tool so that we can consciously comprehend our self as an I.
A deep mystery is connected with this entry of the I into the human bodily nature. When we meet a person we ask him, “How old are you?” He gives his age as the years that have passed since his birth. As has been said, we touch here on a certain mystery of spiritual science that will become more and more clear as time passes. ... What a person gives as his age at a definite time of his life is connected with his physical body. He says nothing other than that his physical body has been developing for so-and-so long since his birth. The I does not go along with this development of the physical body. The I stays there.
This is a difficult mystery to grasp, that the I stays at the point of time to which we can recollect, the point at which we remember ourselves. It does not change with the body, it stays there. For just this reason we always have it in front of us so that, as we look, it can mirror our experiences for us.
The 'I' does not take part in our earthly journey. Only when we have gone through the portal of death must we take the path that we call kamaloca backward again to our birth in order to re-encounter our I and then to take it along on our further journey. The I remains behind. The body pushes itself forward in years while the I remains behind, the I stays there. This is difficult to comprehend because one cannot imagine that something remains standing in time while time keeps moving. Nevertheless this is so, the I stays there, and it remains there because the I does not actually unite itself with what approaches the human being from earthly existence. It remains united with those forces we call ours in the spiritual world. The I remains there, the I fundamentally remains in the form in which it has been conferred on us, as we know, by the Spirits of Form.
This I is retained in the spiritual world. It must be held in the spiritual world, for otherwise we would never be able to achieve again the earth's original goal and aim as human beings during our earthly evolution. What the human being underwent here on earth because of his Adam nature, you could say, of which he takes an impress into the grave when he dies as Adam — this clings to the physical body, etheric body, and astral body, this comes from these. The I waits, waits with everything that is in it, waits the entire time undergone by the human being on the earth. It looks only toward the further development of the human being as he repeats it for himself when he has gone through the portal of death and follows this path in reverse. This means that we remain with our I back in the spiritual world (this is meant in a specific sense).
Humanity ought to become conscious of this fact. And humanity is only able to become conscious of this fact because at a certain time the Christ descended out of those worlds to which the human being belongs, out of the spiritual worlds.
describes the world of the I as related to the experience of time, the experience of the first and second hierarchies, and then: the true I when meeting the first hierarchy
And when, in the way I have indicated, sustained effort rewards us with the experience of the ‘I’ which goes from earthly life to earthly life and, between them, passes through the other lives between each death and a new birth, then we enter the spirit-world proper, the higher spirit-world. What happens in this world to begin with, is that we enter into a special relationship to our true ‘I.’ The ‘I’ we experience inwardly here in this life on earth between birth and death is, as we know, bound to the physical corporeality. We are aware of it as long as we experience ourselves in the physical body and, in a way, we are forced to practise selflessness when we rise into the etheric world and the astral world. There we have at most something like a recollection of this earthly ‘I.’
But now we find the true ‘I’ as it passes from earthly life to earthly life. Our first impression is that of an entirely different being. We say to ourselves: Here I live through this earthly existence between birth and death. Looking back I see that strip of etheric world which takes me back as far as my birth on earth. Then my vision opens into world-wide realms existing only in time, where to speak of space would be quite misleading; but in a wide perspective the world appears to me in all its fullness, as it lives and weaves between death and a new birth. Looking through and beyond the ether, the world of the third Hierarchy, and through the astral, where I was between death and a new birth as in a super-sensible world whose life is revelation of the Logos manifesting as the Cosmic Word — as my vision penetrates all this, I finally behold a being at first far remote, a being representing the essence of my previous life on earth. First, then, I see myself here in this earthly life with my present ghost-like ‘I,’ and then, looking far back through all that has just been described, I see what constitutes the essence of my previous life on earth. But at the same time I perceive how the content of the latter, as the gradually evolving ‘I,’ has been passing through the worlds I have been observing in retrospective perspective as far as my present life on earth. To begin with I do, in fact, perceive my true ‘I’ as some strange, remote being. And in this being, strange as it appears to me at first, I recognise myself.
Every word in this passage should be taken with absolute seriousness because every single word is of significance. This whole experience must culminate in the realisation that the true ‘I’ first taken to be some strange being, is indeed one's own self; that there appeared what seemed to be some other being which lived in the far distant past, but that it is, in fact, you yourself.
And then one discovers how this self has flowed from the previous existence on earth into the present earthly life, but that now, in this life, it is covered up, as it were, and could emerge only if all that befalls between going to sleep and waking were to stand revealed before the soul. It is there that all that which on its way through the astral and etheric world has reached us from our previous life on earth, continues to live and weave.
It is a world of earthly contradictions mingled with chords of heavenly harmonies in this inner process of the striving soul: earthly contradictions inasmuch as by means which are designed to meet the needs of ordinary daily life on earth, one cannot really reach one's own true ‘I.’ As it is, only the first rudiments of love live in our earthly ‘I.’ And even so, a glow is shed over life on earth through the power of love which radiates into this earthly life. But this love must grow stronger. It must gain sufficient strength to enable man to behold the etheric world and the astral world through the power of love and thus to overcome what lives in him as his lower self, as egoism — the opposite of love — to gain mastery over that which, as the antithesis of love, enables him to experience himself in earthly life as an independent ‘I.’ Love must grow so strong that one learns to ignore this earthly ‘I,’ to forget it, to disregard it. Love is the identification of one's own self with the other being. This impulse must be so strong that one ceases to heed one's own ‘I’ as it lives in the earthly body. Here then arises the contradiction, that it is precisely through selflessness, through the highest capacity for love, that one advances towards one's own true ‘I’ beckoning as it radiates through the cycles of time.
One has to lose one's earthly ‘I’ to behold one's true ‘I.’ And he who fails to accomplish this act of surrender has simply no means of finding the true ‘I.’ One could say that the true ‘I’ does not want to be sought whenever revelation of its presence is desired. If sought for, it hides. For only in love will it be found, and love is a surrender of self to the other being. For that reason the true Self must be found as if it were another being.
At the moment of coming face to face with one's true ‘I,’ one also becomes aware of what lives in a wider world, in the spiritual world itself. One meets the beings of the first Hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones.
And just as there one finds again one's ‘I’ — of which one has really only a reflection in earthly life — so now one finds the entire world of earthly environment in its true spiritual form. Hence one must also love this earthly world to find the world of its primal origins, together with the true ‘I.’
Among all of the works of human speech, this word 'I' has a special place. In approximately the third year of life, the human being learns to use this word. This is an age, however, in which there is as yet no actual I-consciousness present. Therefore, one learns at first to speak this word only automatically. Only in the twenty-first year of life does the birth of the I take place. However, what appears there is still, even through the whole life, not the true I. The ordinary human beings meets the I again only after death. So until death, all human beings use the word I always only provisionally.
Meditants must become especially conscious of this provisional use of the word I .. learn that they must find their way to the true I gradually, by learning first to experience it through all their three sheaths.
The I of the human being is surrounded by three sheaths. The I itself is not egotistical, only these sheaths are. If the I is freed from its sheaths, it wants immediately to spread or expand itself out to the whole cosmos. However, it is enclosed in its three sheaths.
In the East, the image of this 'being enclosed' is the lotus flower, as also in the lotus flower, the innermost core is surrounded by three circles of blossom petals. Therefore in India this was expressed with the words:
Aoum mani padme auoum
My I is enclosed in the lotus flower
If you want to come to thre true I, you must go through all three sheaths, these are the three stages that lead to the I.
[continued with EDN - ICM - PSSR for these three stages, whereby a sheath falls upon each stage]
- Aoum: A is the sound of awe, O the sound of reverence, U the sound of fear, together they result in a sound of respectful reverence and awe
- Mani is the phonetic expression of the purest, most inward, essential .. hence in Man it represents the I, in the lotus flower the innermost part of the flower where the fragrance arises
- Padme means 'in the lotus'
.. sketches that the body we call 'I' to with our waking consciousness in the physical world, is not our true I at all.
This is introduced in the following way:
When we look back in memory, seeing the things we experienced while awake and omitting the periods of sleep, the fact is that we see a void, a nothing, in the intervals of time when we were sleeping. It is as though you were looking at a white wall where at one place the white paint was lacking; you see a black circle. Or there might be a hole with no light behind it; you see the empty hole inasmuch as you see darkness. So do you see the darkness when you look back on your own life. The times you spent asleep appear as darkness in the midst of life. And in reality it is to these darknesses of life that you say ‘I.’ If you did not see the darknesses you would have no consciousness of ‘I.’ You owe the ability to say ‘I’ to yourself, not to the fact that you were active every day from morning until night, but to the fact that you were also sleeping. The 'I' as we know it in this earthly life is, to begin with, darkness of life, emptiness, even non-existence. If we consider our life truly, we shall not say that we owe our consciousness of self to the day but rather that we owe it to the night. This is the truth. It is the night which males us real human being and no mere automata.
and then goes on to sketch the situation when Man is asleep, and the I is outside this body:
Truth is, we never bring our real and inmost I with us from the spiritual world into the physical and earthly; we leave it in the spiritual world. Before we came down into earthly life it was in the spiritual world, and it is there again between our falling asleep and our awakening. It stays there always, and if by day — in the present form of human consciousness — we call ourselves an ‘I,’ this word is but an indication of something which is not here in the physical world at all; it only has its picture in this world.
We do not see ourselves aright if we say: ‘Here am I, this robust and real man, standing upon Earth; here am I with my inmost being.’ We only see ourselves aright if we say: ‘Our true being is in the spiritual world, and what is here of us on Earth is but a picture — an image of our true being.’ It is entirely true if we regard what is here on Earth, not as the real man himself, but as the picture of the real man.
I will now show how you can see this picture-character of man more clearly. Let us imagine ourselves asleep. The I is away from the physical and etheric body; the astral body too is away. Now it is the I which works in the blood of man and in his movements. In sleep the movements cease, inasmuch as the I is away; the blood however goes on working, and yet the I is not there. We need only think of the physical body and we must ask ourselves: What happens to it while we are asleep? Something must still be living and working in the blood, even as the I lives and works in it by day. Likewise the astral body, living as it does in the whole breathing process, leaves it by night, and yet the breathing goes on. Here again, something must be there within the breathing process, working in it even as the astral body does in waking life.
Thus every time we go to sleep, with our astral body we forsake those inner organs which are the organs of respiration, and with our Ego we forsake the pulsating forces of our blood. What then becomes of them by night?
The answer is that while Man lies asleep in bed,
- Beings of the adjoining Hierarchy enter into the pulsating forces of the blood from which his I has departed. Angels, Archangels and Archai are then indwelling the self-same organs in which the human I dwells in waking life by day.
- Moreover in the breathing organs which we have forsaken inasmuch as the astral body is outside by night, Beings of the next higher Hierarchy — Spirits of Form, of Movement, and of Wisdom — are living then.
Thus when we go to sleep at night, setting forth with our I and astral body, leaving behind the body of our waking life, Angels, Archangels and higher spiritual Beings enter into us and animate our organs while we are outside — until we re-awaken.
- And what is more, as to our ether-body, even in our day-waking life we are not able to fulfill what is needed there. The Beings of the highest Hierarchy — Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones — have to indwell this ether-body even while we are awake; they remain there always.
- Lastly the physical body; if we ourselves had to achieve all the great and wonderful processes taking place there, we should not merely do it very badly; we could not set about it at all. Here we are utterly helpless. What outer anatomy ascribes to the physical body could not even move a single atom of it. Powers of quite another order are required here, namely none other than those that have been known since primeval times as the supreme Trinity — the Powers of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They — the essential Trinity — indwell the physical body of man.
Therefore in truth,
- throughout our earthly life our physical body is not our own. If it depended on us, it could not go on at all. It is, as was said of old, the true Temple of the Godhead — of the Divine threefold Being.
- Likewise our ether body is the dwelling-place of the Hierarchy of Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. They have to help in caring for the organs which are assigned to the etheric body.
- As to those physical and etheric organs on the other hand which are deserted every night by the astral body, they are provided for by the second Hierarchy.
- Lastly, the organs forsaken during sleep by the human I have to be cared for in the night by Angels, Archangels and Archai.
There is a constant activity within the human being, proceeding not only from man himself. Only in waking life he lives in this bodily nature, so to speak, as a subtenant. For at the same time it is the Temple and the dwelling-place of spiritual Beings — the Beings of the Hierarchies.
Bearing all this in mind, we only see this outer form of man aright if we admit: this form or Man is a picture of the working-together of all the Hierarchies, they are within it. Look at this human head in all the detail of its form; look at the rest of the body in its human form. I do not look at it truly if I describe it as a reality — as a real being, thus or thus. I only look at it truly if I say: It is a picture of an invisible, super-sensible working of all the Hierarchies together. Only when things are seen in this way can one speak truly and in detail of what is commonly propounded in a rather abstract manner. The physical world is not the true reality, so it is said; it is a maya — the true reality is behind it. Yet such a statement does not help us much. It is too general, as if one were to say: Flowers are growing in the meadow. Just as this statement will only be of use if you know what kind of flowers, so too the knowledge of the higher world can only be applied in practice if one is able to point out in detail how it is working in the outer picture, maya, or reflection, which is its physical, sense-perceptible manifestation.
See also: Q00.001 - the physiology of the human I
Note  - All we can say 'I' to
One can distinguish various aspects of Man's I-consciousness, depending on the environment and experience.
- During incarnate life in a physical body on Earth, Man says 'I' to his physical body and image in the mirror. This 'I' is a reflection in the physical world or 'maya'. With his true spiritual 'I' in the spirit world, Man is 'everywhere' around in space and not confined to just the physical body.
- Immediately after death, when the physical body falls away, Man sees his life memory tableau and this also he relates to as his life and being, as it encompasses all his earthly I experienced in this last incarnation. See Laying off the etheric body after death
- After the etheric body has expanded and 'evaporated' into the world ether, Man experiences his karmic inscriptions in kamaloka. During this period, which can be said to last approximately a third of the physical incarnate life, Man also has a different I experience and is submerged in this other self that consists of his own karmic deeds, which he experiences quite differently than on Earth. See Journey in the astral world after death
- In this karmic journey 'upwards' we can either include, or separate, the experience in the spirit world
- Furthermore, there is the true spiritual self or Man's higher triad in the higher spirit world.
- And again, we may choose to still distinguish the seeds of Man's higher spiritual structure (of life-spirit and spirit-man) in the nirvana and budhi worlds, from the structure in the higher spirit world.
In a lecture (to be specified), Rudolf Steiner describes the I's numbers 2,3 and 4 as the various memory effects of our life on Earth 1. In 1913-GA017 this is described as 'the other self' or a higher structured I-being. Which we can understand by studying Schema FMC00.389A and gaining insight into these 'karmic inscriptions' by various beings, because that is what is meant here, it is the mechanism underlying the workings of karma.
Schema FMC00.289 and variants above can be used as illustrations to study these various aspects of the human consciousness experience and related 'I'-identity that we have in the various worlds.
Furthermore also see Schema FMC00.197 and Schema FMC00.056 on Man's higher triad, and the often recurring topic 'where does my true I live' covered on: Man's higher triad#.5B2.5D - Connecting the worlds of our .27true spiritual I.27 with our .27physical I.27
Note regarding the various aspects of the 'I listed above:
- See also Linde 2020 p 252-253, as well as his references to Prokofieff. These authors only mention 3 and 4 of the above.
- These various aspects càn be confusing as long as one does not have a full understanding of how they all relate and hang together. However the key is (related to the concept of the Golden Chain and IAO and) the fact the higher descends and clothes itself in various lower bodily structures to have the independent free I experience of the current human threefold soul. Because of the complexity of the current incarnation process, these various aspects may indeed naturally confound or confuse Man on who he really is in these different worlds, hence the Greek saying 'Man, know thyself' as a pointer to this journey.
Note  - Various
Compare schema FMC00.128 above with schema FMC00.067. Observe that the fourth sublayer of the spirit world - where Man creates, corresponds to where the two outpourings by the two Logoi meet. Compare this with FMC00.042: 1908-01-27-GA102 describes how, when Man's I began to work, the number of zodiac streams changed.
Evil and the nature of the human 'I'
Only the true human 'I' is not egoistic; the astral body, the etheric and the physical very much are.
1/ The 'I' is the human spirit or the divine spark within Man, so it cannot be neither egotistical, nor it can die, but it passes through the spiral of many lives with the aim to achieve perfection. [Be perfect as your Father in Heaven Is]
The rest of the human being's aspects are mortal and polluted by the intervention of those two groups of spirits - the Lucifer and Ahriman. A third evil power aims for take over the 'I', the asuras.
2/ Man's true 'I' is a spiritual entity arising from budhi and nirvana planes, rippling through to and clothing itself in the two highest layers 7 and 6 of the spirit world (higher devachan) .. the immortal spirit part going through incarnations (also called the causal body) is the spirit-self at layer 5, it's the purified part of the astral body.
The layers 1,2,3 of the spirit world in lower devachan make up the sentient, intellectual, consciousness soul. By actively working our lower bodies we ennoble and spiritualize the lower bodily principles and develop our spiritual I or the higher triad consisting of spirit-self, life-spirit and spirit-man (aka manas, budhi, atma).
The luciferic principle polluted the 'I' from the very start of the process of building the sentient soul in the Lemurian epoch.
Furthermore, 'what we call our I with our current waking consciousness' is not our true 'I' though but nothing but a reflection, arising as the sum of experiences in maya through our lower bodily principles.
That last sentence may be used to contemplate how difficult it is to try and apply rational thinking or reasoning to such complex concepts that in any way flow into one another (re structure of the 'so-called I-organization').
But as the 'spiritual I' originates from the budhi plane, it stands above evil and egoism. (there is no evil above the mental world, in the budhi plane). The egoism is due to the luciferic infection and we can find it in our blood even, that is why the blood is a dense fluid and not cleansed spiritual as was the blood of Christ. In our blood we still find the various elementary kingdoms, and Man currently only works in the warmth element, but in the future will take control and cleanse the other elements thereby purifying not only the blood but also cleansing the lower bodies, see also the cleansed phantom of Christ at the resurrection.
3/ In terms of the different adverse influences, pure egotism is more an asuric rather than luciferic or ahrimanic influence.
Still in view of the contemporary and future challenges, and what we can see in the world around us, we should be very aware of these asuric influences, and the sorat and antichrist impulse. Whereas the luciferic and ahrimanic influences can be mapped to sentient and intellectual soul with a high-point in the lemurian and atlantean epochs, it’s the asuric influences that are the true challenge for mankind in the current epoch, and will lie at the basis of the future war of all against all.
The consciousness soul should develop into spirit self, and not go overripe in its development staying with a focus on our reflected I-image only. Always found it remarkable (and surely there are deep reasons behind this) that RS went very far into covering Luc and Ahr influences extensively, but ‘stayed out’ of commenting or educating us explicitly to the same degree on the asuric influences. However spiritual science provides enough of a foundation for us to do that homework for ourselves. As a simple start, I believe it is very much worthwhile studying the clues RS gave on this, and mapping to what we see developing in the world today. For example the influence of porn and sexual perversity, or just the plain concept of a ‘selfie’. Could we have imagined a few decades ago how people would spend their lives taking pictures of themselves all the time, and how can one not relate this to a (more than symbolic) wave of egotistic influence? All this in a world where the internet is tearing down the social fabric of direct human relations and eroding or hollowing out our interactions. The saying seems to apply here also: people are least aware when the devil has them by the throat.
Note  - In response to a question
Imagine you, as a human being .. are divine in nature, your core is a spirit seed in a world beyond good and evil, time and space.
In order to go through a path of growth and development, the need for individuation makes you split off into a spirit drop (call it atma or spirit-man in the higher spirit world), that aims to gather experiences in the lower worlds in order to develop further by knowing oneself down to sacrifice. For this you equip yourself with the manas spirit-self, the causal body or book of life to record learnings from all incarnations. This true spiritual core of you we call Man's higher triad, still in the formless higher spirit world (or arupa devachan) beyond form, space and time.
Now to enable your spiritual I to get these experiences for growth and development through self-consciousness, you need to descend into the lower worlds, astral and physical, you therefore will need to clothe yourself into forms so your spiritual I can 'use' these bodies .. so you create yourself the forms for your lower bodily principles in the lower spirit world. This part of your structure we call the human soul, it is the part between the lower bodies and your true spiritual I. Your human soul is threefold and can be said to consist of a sentient, intellectual and consciousness soul. It is the spiritual part of the lower astral, etheric and physical bodies that your spiritual I will take hold off, use, and grow in and through.
In the current process of physical incarnation, which is a temporary phenomenon for you as a part of the tenth hierarchy called humanity, as part of this lowest part of the development during Earth planetary stage of evolution, you descend into the lower worlds and create for yourself an astral and etheric body and find a physical body. Now you are on Earth with your spiritual I fully woven into the lower spiritual structure of your soul and using the lower bodies. However you grow up and develop as a human being and use your physical senses and developing mundane waking consciousness in the physical world. You see yourself in the mirror of actions and interactions with other human beings, and you say 'I' to this entity in a physical body that thinks, feels, acts, interacts with others .. and this way looks at your mirror image.
For a picture illustration of this, see Schema FMC00.289 and Schema FMC00.289 on this page (above).
At this stage you have forgotten that you, as a spiritual entity, are not here in your physical body, but are 'everywhere' .. you are actually in the spirit world, you are everywhere. And all these other human beings and yourself are connected, like branches of the same tree, drops of the same ocean (or Monad), they are actually part of one and the same great group soul of humanity. This is why all religions have the golden rule: 'what you do to another you do to yourself'. Only, we don't have a clue how real that really is .. as we loose ourselves in the maya mirror of the physical world rendered by the great cosmic fractal.
Now to the question (2022-05-28 as response to quote Man's transformation and spiritualization#1912-11-03-GA140)
Which kind of "worth" is Rudolf Steiner speaking of exactly here, and why should we keep or restore it ?
In other lectures he constantly points out that "burning" the I is what we should do, and the aim is for us to get rid of it, or at least to not let it lead us.
Can anyone shed some light on this ?
Regarding "not to let us be lead by the I". This means: to not be driven by the mirror image or what we believe to be our I, this worldly I which is not our true spiritual I. Lots of confusion has arisen by interpretation of what is truly said here, if one is not clear on what 'I' is meant, hence the introduction above. Rudolf Steiner uses the term 'I' and many variants to describe all of the above, and because it is not simple, people can get lost in meaning. An an illustration see Frank Linde's essay 'Wer ist Ich' (in the book 'Wer is Christus'), some 80 pages listing all the different formulations Steiner used in 20 years. Parsing the terms and descriptions literally will never allow to build a consistent understanding of the whole, rather this has to come through insight and an understanding of the spiritual realities described (which may represent a challenge for many people, as it requires extensive dedicated study and contemplation). Related to this part of your question also see Q00.009 - the idea of no self, or blotting out one's self
The 'worth' is measured on a balance of righteous balanced development of the I towards its evolutionary goal. Humanity received this human I principle and in consecutive periods of evolution, from the Lemurian epoch onwards, adds experiences and changes its structure to evolve. In the current Postatlantean epoch, each cultural age enabled human beings to 'incorporate' the learnings of the age through incarnations into the spiritual soul structure. This way each human being grows like a flower from the bud, it unfolds evolving consciousness from sentient soul, intellectual soul, to current consciousness soul.
For an illustration of how the spiritual I uses the threefold soul, see for example the two versions of Schema FMC00.428 on Human character - the I and threefold soul.
Now note that this evolution or Development of the I as described is actually quite tricky and should not be taken for granted , as Man's soul is between adversary influences and a real battle for the human soul is going on . How this can go wrong, so on  see for example the quote on Sixteen paths of perdition#Inspirational quotes. Actually the whole topic page on Sixteen paths is on this point. The lecture referenced can be read here: I-organization#1917-01-01-GA174B. For an illustration of , see Schema FMC00.238 on I-less human beings that illustrates how Man's development takes place sandwiched between Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences.
We are currently living in important times: the Christ Impulse allows Man to use one's consciousness soul to develop the next principle of manas or spirit self, and this is the start of Man's spiritualization. We are to transform our lower bodies and spiritualize 'up' again. This is the aim of our current epoch, and especially "the current and next cultural ages are decisive". See quote on Schema FMC00.052 on Current Postatlantean epoch. This very Schema you can relate to yourself as an Individuality, and your current and the following incarnations you still have.
To conclude, a bit more practical on the 'worth'. Another way to approach this, much more concretely and personal, is done in the process of Initiation where exercises strive for the development of elemental balance in one's soul, and afterwards spirit. By self-assessment one maps the character in its positive and negative sides and uses the four elements and character transformation to work on self-transformation. See for example Initiation exercises#Elemental balance - transformation of soul mirrors, or concretely IIH steps 1 and 2. You find this back in many places and forms, the previous links point to the real stuff, but eg see also shadow work in psychology, or the six basic exercises by Rudolf Steiner are also about this. What is done here is to you use your consciousness soul to place yourself at the steering wheel and drive your spiritual development in an active conscious way, so initiation is a fast track (versus the wheel of reincarnation), whereby we speed up our development by doing the 'Work'.
- Human character - the I and threefold soul
- Man's higher triad
- Man - the human being
- Blood is a special fluid
- Development of the I
- Man's transformation and spiritualization
- Threefold Sun
- Waking consciousness
References and further reading
- Iwer Thor Lorenzen
- The 'I-Principle (in Man, Earth and Cosmos)'
- original DE typoscript 'Das Ich Prinzip', fully translated in EN in 2016 by the FMC project (initiative behind this site)
- Part II in Metamorphosen (in der Entwicklungsgeschichte von Mensch und Tier): Die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen im Lichte moderner Geisterkenntnis
- The 'I-Principle (in Man, Earth and Cosmos)'
- Karl König: The human soul
- F.W. Zeylmans van Emmichoven: 'The anthroposophical understanding of the soul'
- EN version of 1982, translation of the Dutch(NL) original 'De menselijke ziel' (1946).
- Frank Linde: Wer is Ich (p. 216 to 290 in 'Wer is Christus' (2020)
- Sergei O. Prokofieff:
- 'Riddle of the Human 'I': An Anthroposophical Study' (2017 in EN, original in DE in 2010 as 'Das Rätsel des menschlichen Ich. Eine anthroposophische Betrachtung')
- 'Rudolf Steiner's path of initiation and the mystery of the ego. The Foundations of Anthroposophical Methodology' (2013 in EN, original in DE 2011 as 'Der Einweihungsweg Rudolf Steiners und das Geheimnis des Ich (Ein Beitrag zum Bologna-Vortrag Rudolf Steiners)'
- note: the Bologna lecture refers to 1911-04-08-GA035
- Philip Kovce: 'Ich-Bildung. Der Mensch als Schöpfer seiner selbst. Motive einer ungeschriebenen Philosophie Gerhard Kienles' (2017)