Human physical body

From Anthroposophy

The human physical body is a purely spiritual body (form which is called the 'phantom'), but current Man has this physical body consisting of substance as a result of Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences.

Whereas a purely spiritual body would be more spherical, Man receives a 'model' of the physical body required for life on Earth (with arms, legs, hands, feet) as part of the stream of heredity. This is related to the Fall and Original Sin.

As Man purifies his lower bodies through the forces of the I: first the astral body, then the etheric body and finally the physical body .. the transformation brought about first in the blood ultimately reaches the physical body so it becomes again a purely spiritual body.


  • the human physical body could not exist if it were purely mineral and the laws of materialistic physical science, it's make-up is due to and proves the existence and influence of the higher bodily principles (1917-01-01-GA174B)
  • the spiritual physical body
    • the difference between the physical body and its mineral contents, see cleansed phantom
    • link with the resurrection
    • if Man spiritualizes his lower bodies including the physical body and achieves full elemental balance, Man can make himself invisible. See IIH.
  • evolutionary:
    • formation on Old Saturn, and adapted in many evolutionary stages to accomodate the other of Man's bodily principles
    • the density of the physical body evolved in the current postatlantean epoch, eg between the ancient indian cultural age and today. Today it is more dense, and hence in the first three years the angel can 'mould' the lower three bodily principle less with the forces of the I. Hence this body requires Man to work and develop it's I-consciousness to the stages of clairvoyance to live in the spiritual worlds (1911-02-11-GA127)
    • physiognomy (and link with karma and future evolution) is linked to the previous point
  • zodiac man - forming of physical body through zodiac signs (Schema FMC00.257 and Schema FMC00.256)
    • clairvoyant perception of the physical body as made up of twelve imaginations (1913-03-29-GA145)
  • the 'model' for Man's earthly physical body, as related to the stream of heredity, see Embryo in the womb
  • the inherited physical body during the first seven years, and Man's own crafted second physical body during the next seven years
  • contemporary mineral science and it's treatment of health and disease
    • focus on physical body only, disregarding the other Man's bodily principles
    • the effect of mineral substances as used in contemporary materialistic medicine and focusing in the mineral physical body only: the mineral substance becomes diffused and acquired the human form, a phantom or double consisting of the substance taken in. This prevents the physical body to obey the influences of the astral and etheric bodies, artificially disconnecting it, whereby the physial body becomes an hardened independent being subject to its own laws. (1908-12-08-GA107 on Medicine)


Schema FMC00.257 shows how current threefold Man, that rises upright on Earth, gets form and life from three groups of zodiacal influences and three groups of planetary influences. Starting left, the embryo is formed in the womb, and the baby then rises upright (second drawing) as Man did in the Lemurian epoch, and starts Walking Speaking Talking (WST) through the powers of the human I. See more on Man as a threefold being


Schema FMC00.415 shows the physical body as a structure that embeds and hosts all other Man's bodily principles, and hence has a specific organization for each of them as part or subset of the physical body. If a new principle is added, as the human 'I' in the current Earth planetary stage of evolution, then this new principle has to be interwoven in a balanced and correct way. This is done over the various epochs and cultural ages, and because it is so complex offers many ways for this development to go wrong (see eg the sixteen paths of perdition), as explained in the lectures of 1917-01-01-GA174B and 1917-01-14-GA174B. See also Schemas FMC00.036 and FMC00.338 on I-organization.


Schema FMC00.127 illustrates the concept of 'zodiac Man', the fact that the various parts of the human body are an expression of the formative influences of the zodiac signs.


Schema FMC00.392 shows the elements of the physical body that relate to the three subsystems in Man as a threefold being, and the three worlds from which they are built by the three main triads of the spiritual hierarchies. See also the Bull, Lion and Eagle influences, see Sphinx.


Lecture coverage and references


What is called the physical body had its first foundations during the very earliest Old Saturn formation. That physical body was not as yet interpenetrated by an etheric body, or by an astral body; but was already so organised that after passing through all the transformations it experienced later, it could become the bearer of the spiritual earth-man of today.

Very slowly and gradually was this physical body organised during the Old Saturn evolution, and whilst ancient Saturn itself was being formed, the different signs of the Zodiac slowly revolved, and the human body member by member, took on its earliest form.

  • When Saturn stood under the sign of the Lion the beginning of the heart was formed;
  • the ribs or the thoracic cage were started while Saturn was under the sign of the Crab;
  • the foundation of the symmetrical shape of man, that is the reason for his being symmetrically built on two sides, arose while Saturn was under the constellation of Gemini.
  • Thus we follow piece by piece the formation of the human body, and when we look up to that part of the Zodiac, where Aries the Ram is, we can say: The upper part of our head originated when ancient Saturn stood under the sign of Aries;
  • the foundation of our organ of speech, when Saturn stood under the sign of the Bull.

And when you think of man distributed thus, you can see in the Zodiacal circle the creative forces for each of the human organs.

1911-02-11-GA127 (longer extract on Human 'I')

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.

1912-06-07-GA137 maps the members of Man to the zodiac signs


The physical body of a person undergoing occult development manifests more and more as a number of imaginations, of pictures which are in a sense inwardly alive and active, and are, or rather become, more and more interesting; for they are not just anything we please. When the person is beginning his development the pictures are not specially significant; and they are least so when the clairvoyant vision observes the body of a person who has not yet developed in occultism. In this latter case a number of pictures, a number of imaginations are perceived. To clairvoyant vision the physical substance disappears, and in its place appear imaginations: but these are so pressed together that instead of the pleasing inwardly shining aspect of a person engaged in occult development, they manifest as in an opaque substance. Even, however, in the case of a person who is not yet developed they are to be seen, and indeed as parts and each part signifies something in the macrocosm. Essentially one can distinguish twelve parts, each of which is really a picture — a painting of one part of the great cosmos. When all twelve are assembled together, the impression is given that some unknown painter has produced miniature pictures of the macrocosm, twelve in number, and from these has formed the physical human body. Now, when the individual is engaged in occult development, this picture grows larger and larger, and also appears inwardly more and more pleasing, radiant from within. This is because, in the case of an individual not engaged in occult development, the macrocosm is only reflected in its physical aspect; but in the case of one undergoing an occult development the spiritual content more and more manifests itself; the pictures of the spiritual essence of the macrocosm are to be seen. Thus occult development also shows us that a person engaged in an occult development, from being merely a physical microcosm, becomes more and more a spiritual one, that is, he manifests within himself more and more, not merely the pictures of planets and suns, but of entities belonging to the Higher Hierarchies. That is the difference between persons engaged and others not engaged in occult development. The more a person presses forward in occult development the more exalted are the Hierarchies manifesting within him. And thus we learn the structure of the world, as it were, by clairvoyantly observing the physical human body.


[The physical body]

Looking at the human physical body, we have to admit that if it were not filled with those higher components of existence, the etheric body, the astral body and the I, it could not be the physical body as we know it. The moment man steps through the portal of death, leaving behind his physical body — that is, the moment the higher components withdraw from the physical body — it begins to obey laws other than those which governed it while those components were present there. The physical body disintegrates; after death it obeys the physical and chemical forces and laws of the earth.

The physical body of man as we know it cannot be constructed in accordance with earthly laws, for it is these very laws which destroy it. The body can only be what it is because there work within it those parts of man that are not of the earth: his higher components of soul and Spirit. There is nothing in the whole realm of physical and chemical laws which could justify the presence of such a thing as the human physical body on the earth.

Measured by the physical laws of the earth, the human body is an impossible creation. It is prevented from disintegrating by the higher components of man's being. lt follows, therefore, that the moment these higher components — the I, the astral body and the etheric body — desert the human body, it becomes a corpse.

You know from earlier lectures that the diagram of the human being we have often given is quite correct as such, but that in reality it is not as simple as some would like. To begin with, we divide the human being into physical body, etheric body, astral body and I.

I have pointed out on other occasions that this in itself implies a further complication ..

  • the etheric body is something supersensible, something invisible that lives in the human being and cannot be perceived by the senses. But it has, in a sense, its physical counterpart because it imprints itself on the physical body. The physical body contains not only the physical body itself, but also an imprint of the etheric body. The etheric body projects itself onto the physical body; so we can speak of an etheric projection onto the physical body.
  • lt is the same in the case of the astral body. We can speak of the astral projection onto the physical body.
  • You know that the I projection onto the physical body may be sought in certain features of the blood circulation, where the I projects itself onto the blood. In a similar way the other higher components project themselves onto the physical body.

So the physical body in its physical aspect is in itself a complicated system, for it is fourfold. And just as the most important aspect cannot exist in the physical body if the I and the astral body are not in it — for it then becomes a corpse — so is it also in the case of these projections, for they are all present in the physical substance. Without the I there can be no human blood, without the astral body there can be no human nervous system as a whole. These things exist in us as a counterpart of man's higher components.

see further extracts and lecture continuation on Development of the I and I-organization

1921-10-28-GA208 discusses the forming of Man through twelve zodiacal cosmic influences

1921-10-29-GA208 describes how Man breathes in images through these influences, not just Man's outer form but also the form of the organs.

The life of circulation is in touch with the life of metabolism, with the result that the images are given physical substance and physical organs develop.


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Leendert F. C. Mees: 'Das menschliche Skelett. Form und Metamorphose' (1990 in DE, original 1980 in NL: 'Geheimen van het skelet - Vorm en metamorfose')