Human astral body

From Anthroposophy

The human etheric body is one of Man's bodily principles part of the structural make-up of Man, and so closely intertwined with the other bodily principles it should not be studied or considered as a separate entity. In one's lifetime, Man develops the astral body approximately between 14 and 21 years from the age of puberty.

When the astral body is together with the physical body, it has an egg-like shape. In accordance with individual characteristics, it has various radiant colours fluctuating and enclosed in an egg-shaped sheath. The auric egg has an underlying blue colour with a dark violet spot in the middle of the brain. It extends about two-and-a-half times the length of the head beyond the physical body, surrounds it like a cloud and fades away as you go from the head downwards. See also: Human aura

It has three key energy centers in a triangle consisting of brain, liver and heart. In the spirit world these form a six pointed figure, in the astral world a triangle. After death it is a wonderfully radiant, mobile formation.

Man's astral body is made up of a dual nature. Although the astral bodily principle was developed on Old Moon, the higher spiritual part only merged with the lower physical part in the Lemurian epoch in the current planetary stage Earth. As a result, Man still contains a lower animal nature. The spiritual beings living in Man withdrew slowly as Man developed his own I-consciousness, see development of the I.

Therefore in ancient legens and art we still find the image of the centaur, which reflects an actual human form in a certain stage of evolution (Lemuria before departure of the Moon) and above man and below animal. ( see 1908-09-09-GA106 below). Man is to a certain extent a centaur as his humanity is somehow 'mounted upon' his lower, bestial, astral nature. This dual nature is related to how Man moved from four to two legs and assumed an upright position in the Lemurian epoch. (see 1905-10-16-GA093a below)

Aspects

  • the astral body finds its functioning in Man's physical body through the nervous system, the different types of nerves were created on Old Moon (see FMC00.135 below).
  • kundalini fire as in-between-matter be­tween astral and physical matter that is the connection between physical and astral body
  • astral senses are called lotus wheels or chakras, see Development of the chakras

Illustrations

Schema FMC00.252 is a sketch illustrating the astral body, the right version is from original handwritten listener notes. See Human aura for more info, and Man's higher triad for the 'dark violet spot'.

FMC00.252.jpg

Schema FMC00.137 is an infographic as a reference to the moment in the Lemurian epoch where the fusion of the lower physical and higher spiritual part of Man took place, the human being assumed its upright position, and first got his astral body made up of a lower and a higher component. See lecture extract below.

Schema FMC00.135 shows (left) the nervous system as the instrument of the astral, interfacing with the blood and I-organization (right).

FMC00.135.jpg

FMC00.134 (see quote below) depicts the evolution of Man's astral body in the current Postatlantean epoch, linked to the development of the sentient, intellectual and consciousness soul. Compare also with schemas FMC00.013 and FMC00.129. See 1923-08-31-GA227 quote below.

Quotes

1923-08-31-GA227 (see below for more)

It is impossible to follow the evolution of man in its reality unless we are able to understand what happens to the human astral body in the course of earthly evolution.

Lecture coverage and references

1903-12-29-GA088

what connects the astral body with the physical body and its organs, and what leads them back together again?

There exists a kind of band, a connection that is an in-between-matter be­tween astral and physical matter. This is called kundalini fire. If you observe a sleeping person, then you can always follow the astral body in astral space. There is a luminous band leading to where the astral body is. The location can always be found. When the astral body separates, then to the same extent the kundalini fire becomes thinner and thinner. It becomes an increasingly thin track; it becomes more and more a thin mist. Now when you look carefully at this kundalini fire you will see that it does not always have the same form. In some places it is brighter and thicker; those are the places that lead the astral back again to the physical body. The optic nerve is therefore connected to an astral nerve through a thicker kundalini fire.

... The astral body with its kundalini fire cannot be completely lifted out of the physical body. Should it happen that someone actually decides not to return, the kundalini fire would continually draw him back to the body. It is as if he still belonged to the physical body. Such a per­son would follow the track of the kundalini fire. When the life forces are not yet exhausted, it is very difficult to lift the astral body out of the physical body. It is very difficult when someone is attached to a physical body that he can no longer make use of.

In this sense the destiny of a suicide and that of an accident victim are not that very different from one another.

...

The physical body is permeated by the nervous system. Every nerve center is connected to an astral center; for example, the optic nerve is surrounded by, is enveloped by an astral optic nerve, by an astral substance belonging to the optic nerve.

1905-10-16-GA093a covers the transformation of Man's structure (looking back on what had developed on Old Moon), and the impact of the divine intervention in the Lemurian epoch

.. in the Lemurian Epoch the union of the maternal and paternal principles takes place for the first time. This etheric head naturally branches out into the astral body which surrounds the human beings with its rays .... If one had found the means of lifting the head with the astral body out of such a human being something quite peculiar would have occurred. He would thereby have lost the possibility of holding himself upright; he would have folded up. Just the opposite procedure was taken with man at that time and through this he gradually raised himself to the upright posture. In the Lemurian Epoch, however, man was still at a stage at which he did not yet possess what we are assuming could be lifted out of him. In this earlier period he did not yet possess this etheric head with the astral body.

Man as he wandered over the earth was then really a being folded together. The two organs now used for work, the hands, were then turned backwards and formed additional organs of movement, so that he went on four legs. One must picture two people of the present day, man and woman, entwined in one another, think away the upper half of the body, leaving only the lower half there. The human being was actually male-female. He also had at that time an astral and etheric body, but not the one which he had later. This was a different astral body, that is, such a one as had reached its highest perfection on the Old Moon. There, on the Old Moon, the astral body together with the etheric body had acquired the capacity of developing a physical body which then had a crab-like form. The human being could stand on one pair of legs and make a kind of leaping movement.

This astral body with the etheric body was then of quite another nature. It had a form which was not entirely egg-shaped, but more like a bell which descended like a dome over the human being who went on all fours. The etheric body provided for all the life functions of this Lemurian human being. In his astral body he had a dull twilight consciousness similar to that of our dreams. His consciousness was however unlike the reminiscences inherent in our dreams, for he dreamt of realities. When he was approached by another human being unsympathetic to him, there arose in him a sensation of light which indicated what was unsympathetic.

Already on the Old Moon man had some slight power of using both his front limbs for the purpose of grasping, so that now the time came for assuming the upright posture. His other living companions were, in the Lemurian Age, of the nature of reptiles; animals of grotesque shapes who have left no traces behind them. The ichthyosaurs and so on are descendants of these animals. It is a fact that at that time the earth was inhabited by beings reptilian in character; human bodies too were reptile-like. When eventually this reptilian human being assumed the upright posture, the formation of the head, quite open in front, out of which gushed a fiery cloud, became visible. This gave rise to the tales about the winged serpent, about the dragon. Such was man's grotesque form at that time, reptile-like. The Guardian of the Threshold, the lower nature of man, frequently appears in a form of this kind. It represents the lower nature with the open formation of the head.

At that time, the union took place between these forms on the earth and the other beings already described. The astral body with the head formation united with the winged-serpent body with its fiery opening. It was the fructification of the maternal earth with the paternal spirit. In this way there proceeded the fructification with the Manas forces. The lower astral body merged with the higher astral body. A great part of the astral body, as it then was, fell away. One portion formed the lower parts of the human astral body, and the other newly acquired astral body, connected with the head, united with the upper parts of the human being.

and further

This union of the paternal spirit with the maternal substance was described in Egypt as the union of Osiris and Isis. From it came forth Horus. The merging of the serpent form with the etheric head, with the newly acquired astral body and head formation, led to the conception of the form of the sphinx. The sphinx is the expression of this thought in sculpture.

There were seven kinds or classes of such forms, all of which differed somewhat from each other, from the finest, approximating to the highly developed formation of the human form down to those which were utterly grotesque. These seven kinds of human forms had all to be fructified. One must conceive the descent of the ‘Sons of Manas’ in this pictorial way. Only then can one understand how the astral body of man came into existence. It is composed of two different members.

.. the astral body of man is composed of two different members. .. If we consider human development we shall find that the one part of the astral body is continually endeavouring to overcome the other half, the lower nature, and transform it. In so far as man today consists of astral body with etheric body and physical body, it is in fact only the physical body which in its present state is a product which has reached completion. In the case of the etheric body also there are two parts that seek to merge into one another. ...

.. The etheric body consists of two members, that part of human nature which originally came over from the Old Moon, and its opposite pole. They were at first not yet joined together; later they approached one another and became united.

The one is the pole of animality, the other the pole of the spiritual. The pole of animality is called ‘etheric body’, the pole of the spiritual, ‘mental-body’. The mental body is materialised ether.

Between them is the astral body and this too has arisen out of the union of a duality. Fundamentally it is also a two-fold formation. We have to differentiate in it a lower and a higher nature. The higher nature was originally connected with the mental body. This part of the astral body which has its seat in the mental body — what therefore has come into it from above — is the other pole of the lower astral body.

  • One of the characteristics of the lower astral body is that it has desires.
  • The upper part has instead of these, devotion, love, the giving virtue. This part of the astral body is called Buddhi.

1906-09-02-GA095 talks about the form and appearance of the astral body

When the astral body is together with the physical body, it is somewhat egg-like in shape.

After death it is a wonderfully radiant, mobile formation. In accordance with individual characteristics it has various colours, radiant colours. Its three gleaming points are at first widely separated, joined together but open below. They are centres of force; they draw progressively together and then they look like a small triangle. 1. Heart; 2. Liver; 3. Brain. These three points work together at the time of a new incarnation.

  • In Devachan they are radiant centres of force, which stream out from the three points.
  • In the astral world these three points form a triangle; in Devachan they form a six-pointed figure — two interlaced triangles. They are bells.

1908-05-25-GA103

Let us once more look back to the time when the human astral body with the I was immersed in the matrix of a common divine astral substance.

As you follow this evolutionary course, you find that development took place in such a way that it is possible to describe it schematically.

  • In the beginning, your whole astral being was embedded in the common astral substance and through the processes which we have just described, the physical and etheric enclosed it like surrounding shells. Thus individual human beings became separated from the general astral substance as detached parts. It was as though you had a fluid substance here before you and were dipping out parts of it.
  • The detachment of the individual human consciousness from the divine consciousness runs parallel with the formation of the physical body. Thus we may say that the further we progress, the more we see how the separate individual human beings enclosed in the shell of the physical body, develop themselves as parts which are severed from the common astrality.
  • It is true, the human being had to pay for this becoming independent by the darkening of his astral consciousness. Therefore he looked out from the sheath of his physical body and beheld the physical plane. The ancient clairvoyant consciousness, however, gradually disappeared.
  • Thus we see coming into existence the human inner being, an independent individual human inner being which is the bearer of the I.

When you observe the sleeping human being of the present, you have before you in the physical and ether bodies, which have remained behind in bed, what these sheaths, formed during the course of the ages, have produced through condensation. What had previously separated from the common astral substance returns to it each night in order to receive strength from it. Of course it does not enter so deeply into this divine substance as it did at that time, otherwise it would be clairvoyant. It retains its independence. This, then, is the independent individuality that came into existence in the course of evolution. It may be asked, to what is this independent individual human being indebted for its very existence, this inner being that seeks its strength outside the physical and ether bodies?

It is indebted to the physical and ether human bodies which were gradually formed in the course of evolution. They gave birth to that which dipped down into the physical senses and looked out into the physical world during the day, but which at night sank down into a state of unconsciousness, because it had severed itself from that condition in which it previously existed. In occult language, the part remaining in bed is called the real earth-man. That was “man.” And that part in which the ego remained day and night, that part born out of the physical and ether bodies was called the “child of man” or the “son of man.” The “son of man” is the ego and astral body, born out of the physical and ether bodies in the course of earthly evolution. The technical expression for this is the “son of man.”

1908-09-08-GA106 describes the formation of the nerves

At the time when all this had not yet happened, when Osiris had not yet withdrawn, man in his light-form did not have the foundation for something that today is of the greatest importance. We know that the spinal cord is important and nerves proceed from it. Not even the beginnings of these were present in the time when the moon had not yet departed.

These fourteen aspects of the moon, in the order in which they follow on one another, were the cause of fourteen nerve-filaments being annexed to the human spinal cord. The cosmic forces worked in such a way that these fourteen nerve-filaments correspond to the fourteen phases or aspects of the moon. This is the result of the Osiris influence. But something else also corresponds to the moon-evolution. These fourteen phases are only half the phenomena of the moon. The moon has fourteen phases from new moon to full moon, and fourteen phases from full moon to new moon. During the fourteen days leading to the new moon, there is no Osiris influence. Then the sun shines upon the moon in such a way that the latter gradually turns its unilluminated surface to the earth as the new moon. These fourteen phases from full moon to new also have their result, and for the Egyptian consciousness this result was achieved through Isis. These fourteen phases are ruled by Isis. Through the Isis influence fourteen other nerve-filaments proceed from the spinal cord. This makes a total of twenty-eight nerve-filaments, corresponding to the different phases of the moon. So we see, from the viewpoint of cosmic events, the origin of specific members of the human organism.

Many will now object that this does not account for all the nerves, but only for twenty-eight of them. There would have been only twenty-eight had the moon-year coincided with the sun-year. But the sun-year is longer, and the difference between the two caused the surplus nerves. Thus from the moon the influences of Isis and Osiris were built into the human organism. .

1923-08-31-GA227 (see schema FMC00.134 above)

When we survey this evolution of world and of man we find that at a certain definite time, Man encountered difficulties which had to be overcome on his way from being led exclusively by divine-spiritual Beings to the conscious work of raising himself to knowledge of these Beings and so to the gaining of human freedom. This point of time, which in a certain sense signifies the greatest crisis in the whole evolution of man, came approximately 333 years after the Mystery of Golgotha. Such dates are only approximate owing to time being reckoned in various ways. According to our present reckoning, it was 333 years after the Mystery of Golgotha that this crisis came about.

Looking back at this critical moment, we can describe it as follows: if the evolution of mankind and that of the Earth itself had continued as they were doing, if men had remained under the guidance of the divine-spiritual Beings who had been leading them up to that time, then, since it was intended by those Beings that men should acquire freedom, it would have been achieved — but with what result? At that time it would have meant upsetting the balance between the two parts of the human astral body.

Think of the connection between the physical body and the astral body: we will keep to the astral body first. Before the year 333 the greater part of the astral body had been active essentially in the upper man, and its smaller part in his lower body — the middle man being between the two. And because in those times the upper part of the astral body was the more powerful, it was through it that divine-spiritual Beings exercised upon man their greatest influence. In accordance with the plan for mankind, human evolution has proceeded in such a way that:

  • up to about 3,000 years before Christ those conditions for the astral body held good,
  • but by 1,000 years before Christ the lower part of the astral body was becoming larger and the upper part relatively smaller,
  • until, in the year 333, the two parts had become equal. This was the critical situation 333 years after the coming of Christ,
  • and since then the upper part of a man's astral body has been continuously decreasing. That is the course taken by his evolution.

It is impossible to follow the evolution of man in its reality unless we are able to understand what happens to the human astral body in the course of earthly evolution.

If human beings had not undergone this decrease in the upper part of the astral body, their Ego would never have been able to gain sufficient influence and they could never have become free. This decrease in the astral body therefore contributes to the evoking of freedom.

.. there is no sense in asking why the Gods have not arranged everything to give human beings pleasure: the Gods had to create a universe that was inherently possible. Much that gives men the greatest pleasure rests on that, besides other things which, until they are enlightened, they do not find at all agreeable.

This decrease of the astral body is connected with something else, for on the size of the astral body in the upper part of man — not on its size as a whole — depends his power to control, with his Ego and astral body, his physical and etheric bodies.

Hence all men are likely to have their health gradually impaired by this decrease in the astral body. We can form a true conception of human evolution only if we recognise that freedom has to be paid for on Earth by a general weakening of health. Not, of course, in the form of cholera or typhus, but freedom is not to be gained without bringing ill-health of some kind along with it.

If all human forces after the year 333 had remained as they were, men on Earth would have become weaker and weaker, increasingly powerless. And earthly life would have come to an end through this complete decadence of mankind.

A sun being to go through death – 333y before great crisis -> healing

At this point there took place what I should like to describe as follows. At a gathering of those divine-spiritual Beings I spoke of as belonging to the Sun, it was decided to send down to the Earth their representative, the Christ, there to go through something that the divine Beings connected with mankind would be experiencing for the first time. Birth and death are certainly not what materialists imagine them to be, but they are part of man's earthly existence.

None of the divine-spiritual Beings above man — Angels, Archangels, and so on up to the highest — had ever known death, but only metamorphoses. They change from one form to another, but they are not born and do not die. A man, too, changes form, but at the same time he lays aside his physical and etheric bodies, thus making birth and death a more radical change than any change experienced by the higher Hierarchies.

So the leaders in the harmonies and impulses of the Sun resolved to send down to Earth the Christ, as a Being who had not yet experienced birth and death, so that He might go through this purely human destiny. The Mystery of Golgotha, therefore, is not merely the concern of mankind; it is also a concern of the Gods, and this can be put into words such as these: The Sun Gods met and held counsel together as to the steps they should take for warding off from mankind the danger of becoming weaker and weaker through the decline of the astral body.

And so the Christ was sent down to Earth and went through birth and death — naturally not as a human being but as a divine Being. The consequence was that through the Mystery of Golgotha, through the fact of Christ's death, forces came into Earth-evolution for the healing of those other forces which, in the sense already described, were the cause of sickness. Thus Christ became for mankind, in very truth, the great cosmic and terrestrial Healer of mankind.

In other words, His forces entered everything that has to be healed in human beings, so that man, having his tendency to decadence on the one hand, but on the other the saving forces of Christ, can find his way to freedom. Therefore, provision was made in world-evolution to ensure that, 333 years before the great crisis, the Mystery of Golgotha should take place.

Human evolution on Earth, accordingly, could not have gone forward without this threat of disastrous universal sickness, to begin in the year 333. Then, through the Mystery of Golgotha, came the great universal healing.

Everything therefore done by man without Ego-consciousness, everything that derives from the deeper forces tending to his future downfall, can be healed through association with the Christ.

That is what the Mystery of Golgotha means for earthly and human evolution.


Discussion

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman: 'Extending practical medicine' (1925)