Human character - the I and threefold soul

From Anthroposophy
  • In every-day language we use the term 'human character', or a Man's character, to denote the sum of characteristics that describe a person in his behaviour and the way he reacts to the countless situations of everyday existence. These reactions differ according to the person, and we interpret this by saying that the characters of these individuals are different. Human character includes that person's physical characteristics, psychological attributes, and particular aspects of behaviour, as shown through a Man's actions. These characteristic sets of behaviors, cognitions, and emotional and mental patterns is related to Man's Personality and the complex nature of his constitution.
  • In human sciences, psychology attempts to describe and explain the tendencies that underlie differences in behavior, personality and human character. Psychologists have taken various approaches including biological, cognitive, learning, trait-based theories, and psychodynamic or humanistic approaches.
  • In the arts, a character or character sketch renders a thumbnail portrayal of an individual with descriptions, and particularly attempts to capture behavioural patterns, expressions or gestures that get to the essence of the individual. .

In spiritual science:

The development of the I shows how Man received the fourth bodily principle of the human 'I' through the sacrifice of the Spirits of Form (SoF) that let their substance ripple in and take hold of Man's astral, etheric and physical bodies. These faculties are called respectively the sentient, intellectual and consciousness soul, together making up the threefold soul. Man's individual spiritual I uses these lower bodies, and - as part of the development of humanity across the ages - grows into using the available faculties: starting with the sentient soul .. upto the consciousness soul. This aspect depends on:

.

The natural development of the I is one of growth from the sentient soul experience growing into intellectual and later consciousness soul. Thereby the I uses an always larger part of Man's lower structure as a means to function and express. This is represented on Schema FMC00.431 by the arrows to the right. The consciousness soul is pivotal as it brings fructification from the spiritual world and moral impulses that are brought down also to the intellectual and sentient souls. As a result, Man's human character is undergoes transformation as the I matures in the mastery and use of the threefold soul.

It is important to realize Man does not leave behind the one aspect for the other, but gains in spiritual maturity: the mastery of having grown into the intellectual soul changes the sentient soul, and similarly the consciousness soul fructifies and changes the intellectual and sentient souls.

Hence, the human 'I' is really alive in the three lower bodily principles or members of Man all the time, and these three aspects are called the threefold soul. How the I holds the middle (or can be seen in the workings) of the threefold soul is also described in the lectures referenced on Schema FMC00.428A (below).

Aspects

  • physiognomy as the physical expression of human character (1910-03-12-GA068B and 1910-03-14-GA058)
  • link between soul disposition or state of the soul (gemüt) and temperament (1908-10-26-GA244 Q&A 172.1 and 1911-11-09-GA244 Q&A 218.3)
  • Laocoön group (or also Laokoon or Laocoon) (1910-03-14-GA058, 1917-01-24-GA292) - and Lessing's views
  • lesser and greater guardian of the threshold

Inspirational quote

1909-10-29-GA068B

The I 'plays on the instrument of the soul and the different strings of human soul life', what comes out as music and the expression of individual soul life, is what we know as and call human character

Illustrations

Schema FMC00.431 provides and overview on how the I 'plays on the instrument of the soul and the different strings of human soul life', what comes out as music and the expression of individual soul life, is what we know as and call human character.

  • how the I pulses through, works on, and develops the human soul
  • the human I works itself up sentient -> intellectual ->  consciousness soul and can express itself in each of the three areas of soul life
  • the I works order & harmony in the soul life, so a mutual fructification of sentient, intellectual, consciousness souls

Note: the schema was assembled mainly on the basis of the original german lecture versions of 1909-10-29-GA068B and 1910-03-12-GA068B. Purpose was to present a foundation. It can most probably be enrichted by including contents from the other five lectures.

FMC00.431.jpg

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.

FMC00.428.jpg

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.

FMC00.428A.jpg

Lecture coverage and references

Overview coverage

Below are seven main lectures part of 1909-GA058 and GA068B.

  • GA058 volume was first published in 1984, with the title: Metamorphoses of the soul, paths of soul experience. Interestingly, the lectures in that volume first have 1909-12-05-GA058 (anger: the chained Prometheus), then 1909-10-22-GA058 (truth, and Goethe's Pandora), 1909-10-28-GA058 (Andacht), and then 1910-03-14-GA058 (human character).
  • The chronological ranking of lectures now shows that although four lectures constitute the headlines of this volume's title, Rudolf Steiner actually covered this quite differently. GA068B was published in first edition in 2021, nearly 40 years later and over a century after the lectures were held.

This is another illustration that shows how the constitution of the original GA included the guiding principle to not include the publishing of what were regarded 'double' lectures with similar contents or coverage than other lectures. Indeed Rudolf Steiner sometimes held lectures that were quite similar or congruent in contents. These alternative or complementary lectures were only published as part of the GA2025, most typical examples of which are GA111 and GA117A. For the earnest student, these lectures sometimes contain important details, another phrasing or other differences.

The above example also shows that no 'contents based coherence' or 'study logic' was used for the assembly of the volumes, as lectures could have been presented differently, as the logic of Schema FMC00.431 shows.

Note that in 1910-GA059, Vol 2 of Metamorphoses of the soul, Rudolf Steiner goes into characteristics such as conscience, laughing and crying, human error, praying, positive and negative soul disposition, and so on.

Reference extracts

1909-10-21-GA068B

anger

1909-10-22-GA058

The mission of truth

synopsis:

The I is confined between losing itself and egoism. Lessing demands that man strive for truth. A sense of truth leads to selflessness. The one-sided point of view does not lead to truth. Passions, desires, have to be overcome; to the same extent peace and harmony rules among man. There is the truth of reflective thought about outer observation, as well as truth which comes about by creative thought. Among the latter are the truths of spiritual science. Reflective thinking can lead to egoism; truths arrived at by creative thinking, which lead into the future, liberate us from our self. This is the contrast between Epimetheus and Prometheus. Both the Titan brothers must work together. Wisdom and the Word have to unite with the deed.

1909-10-28-GA058

andacht

The mission of 'reverence'

synopsis:

The “Unio mystica” is the union with the eternal-feminine within human reach. The human being should strengthen his I but he must not harden it into egoism. The will is able to develop devotion towards the unknown, the feeling develops love for the unknown. When both are united reverence comes into being, which leads to knowledge of the unknown. Love without judgement leads to sentimental enthusiasm. Love and devotion imbued with the right kind of self-feeling lead upwards.

Gestures of reverence are the bended knee, folded hands, the lifted face. The soul purifies within itself a feeling for what is beautiful and what is good. The will, purified by reverence, builds up moral ideals. In old age the strength arises to be active in life. We draw near to the almighty, Increasingly rich knowledge is the result of educating the consciousness soul. The “eternal-masculine” must permeate all reverence. The strong Iascends to higher regions.

1909-10-29-GA068B

human character (1)

1909-12-05-GA058

The mission of anger

synopsis:

There are hidden faculties in the soul. Soul and spirit can issue only from soul and spirit. The fact of repeated earth lives is a consequence of this. The sentient soul is connected with the sentient body, the Intellectual soul with the ether body and the consciousness soul with the physical body. In the sentient soul lie images, antipathy and sympathy. The intellectual soul forms thoughts and judgements with the outside world. We have to make ourselves as many-sided as possible and overcome egoism. Anger can educate the human being to calmness and true gentleness.

Prometheus brought language, knowledge, writing and fire to mankind, all of them gifts which educate the I. The wrath of Zeus extinguishes the power of the I in Prometheus. Zeus is succeeded by Christ, anger by the loving I.

1910-03-12-GA068B

andacht

1910-03-14-GA058

human character (2)

Note: the date on rsarchive has the wrong year (checked against V1 in DE edition)

synopsis:

The divisions in the being of Man must be overcome by the unified character. At its foundation lies the harmony brought forth by the I from the interaction of the three soul members. The human being ripens through experience and wisdom learnt from life. Experiences are transformed into abilities. They are limited by the disposition of the physical and ether bodies. The forces which we have woven into archetype can only enter existence in a new life. The outer is an expression of the inner being.

Laocoon, an image of the human being from which the I is absent. True ripeness of experience is not attained until the 35th year of age. Joy and love fill the physical body of the child with strength. Then there are fewer obstacles for the I in the period of the consciousness soul. Similar links exist between the ether body and the intellectual soul and the periods when they manifest themselves. The experience of authority in the period from 7 to 14 provides the foundation for courage. The ideals presented to the human being in the period from 14 to 21 are imprinted on the sentient soul. Immersion in the cosmic secrets further remoulds the character.

Character is evident in facial expression, the physiognomy and the formation of the skull.

Laocoön and Niobe groups

1917-01-24-GA292

This is the famous Laocoön group — the starting-point, as you know, of many an artistic discussion, ever since Lessing's Laocoön of the 18th century. It is the work of three sculptors of the School of Rhodes. Lessing's writings on this subject are, indeed, most interesting. He tried to show, you will remember, how the poet describes is not placed before the eyes. We must call it to life in our imaginations. Whereas what the plastic artist has created is there before our eyes. Therefore, says Lessing, what the plastic artist portrays must contain far more repose; it must represent moments which can at least be imagined — for a single moment — in repose.

Much has been said and written about this Laocoon group, especially in relation to Lessing's explanations. It is interesting how the aestheticist, Robert Zimmermann, — without, of course, having any knowledge of Spiritual Science — arrived at an explanation which needs, no doubt, to be supplemented, but which was none the less correct for an age that had not Spiritual Science. His explanation contains — albeit only as an instinctive suggestion — some element of what I have been setting forth today. We see the priest, Laocoon, with his two sons, wound around by the serpents and going towards their death. Now we cannot but be struck by the peculiar way in which the body has been moulded. Much has been written on this subject. Robert Zimmermann rightly pointed out: The whole representation is such that we have before us the very moment where the life (or, as we should say, the etheric body) is already fleeing away. It is already a moment of unconsciousness. Hence the artist represents it as though the body of Laocoon were already falling asunder. That is the marvellous quality about this figure. The body is already being differentiated into its parts. Thus even in this late product we see how the Greek was aware of the etheric body. He brings to expression the actual moment where life is passing into death. It is the quick withdrawal of the etheric body through the shock — the shock that is expressed by the awful snakes coiling around. This effect of the etheric body withdrawing from the physical, and the physical falling asunder, is the characteristic thing in the Laocoon; not the other things that are so often said, but the peculiar way the body becomes differentiated. We could not imagine the body thus, unless we conceived it as the moment when the etheric body is drawing away.

...

To the same epoch belongs the famous Niobe Group, Niobe losing all her children through the wrath of Apollo.

Discussion

[1] - Terminology: 'Andacht'

The German term Andacht is used and imported into English language for use within spiritual science, because the specific and rich intended meaning by Rudolf Steiner of this German word cannot be translated appropriately to English, without causing major misunderstandings when an existing equivalent English word would be used).

This is an example where words fall short of intended meaning in a spiritual scientific context. In normal everyday use and waking consciousness there is no single word for the subtle meaning described and intended. In fact any word is just a 'label' for what is intended and described here.

Hence, in this context and framework, translating the single word literally just does not work. 'Andacht' can not be translated by: attention, attentiveness, reverence, devotion, 'on-thought', or any single word.

As described in 1910-03-12-GA068B:

Andacht is that what gets aroused in the soul as inner impulses for the unknown, for what we do not know yet, as we can not understand it yet.

Did we not have anything in us that points us to what we can not understand, then this urge and longing could not awaken, to come to the unknown. All that we want to understand and can only understand once we have entered into it, this first has to work in us in a dark way as yearning or longing in our soul.

That what draws us into that, what we have not yet grown into, under what we do not find ourselves yet, but rather find ourselves outside of still, that is Andacht.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • F. W. Zeylmans van Emmichoven: 'The Anthroposophical Understanding of the Soul' (1982 in EN, original in NL 1946: 'De Menselijke Ziel')
  • Karl König : 'The human soul' (1959 in EN, in NL 1964/1996)
  • Otto Julius Hartmann (1895-1985):
    • Die Frage nach der Seele: die menschl. Seele in Beziehung zu sich selbst, zu d. Mitmenschen, z. Weltall
    • Fragen der Seele in der Welt von heute
    • Von den Geheimnissen der menschlichen Seele (1982-84)
  • Joseph Ennemoser: 'Untersuchungen über den Ursprung und das Wesen der menschlichen Seele (1980)
  • John Gunning: 'The balance of the soul' ('Seelengleichgewicht'), articles Part 1 and 2 in Anthroposophical Quarterly No 21, issue 2.
  • Christof Gestrig: 'Die menschliche Seele. Hermeneutik ihres dreifachen Wegs'