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 mineral 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.

This spiritual physical body is invisible, but when Man has reached that stage of purification, it can be materialized to any of the lower levels - see also the Cleansed phantom topic page. It is this 'higher' or spiritual structure of Man, see Man's higher triad, that is eternal (see resurrection) and through which Man connects to the Second Adam, or Christ group soul of humanity.


Physical body: spiritual phantom and current earthly 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, also called 'phantom'
  • 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)


Across planetary stages of evolution
  • formation on Old Saturn, and adapted in many evolutionary stages to accomodate the other of Man's bodily principles (1911-10-10-GA131)
Inheritance and original sin
  • origin and relationship with the Fall and luciferic infection (also called 'original sin') and its redemption
    • for more specific positioning in an evolutionary context, see also the 'sin of the mindless' on Lemurian epoch
  • 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
Current epoch
  • 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


  • 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)

Inspirational quotes


We must be quite clear that to understand the physical body is not an easy thing. ... in order to understand the physical body, we must go back to the ‘phantom’ of Man.

This phantom is the form-shape which as a spiritual texture works up the physical substances and forces so that they fill out the form which we encounter as the Man on the physical plane. It is a transparent body of force that cannot be seen with the physical eye.

What the physical eye sees are the [mineral] substances which a person eats and takes into himself, and they fill out the invisible phantom. If the physical eye looks upon a physical body, what it sees is the mineral part that fills the physical body, not the physical body itself.


The physical body is made up of the physical and chemical processes in Man. These processes take place in the present human being within the human form. But this form itself is something that is altogether spiritual. It ought to fill us with solemn feelings when, on looking at the human form, we realise that with physical senses we are perceiving in the physical world something that is spiritual.


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.


(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.


The Phantom belongs to the physical body as its enduring part, a more important part than the external substances. ... that which was developed during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods is not the physical body that is laid aside at death. It is the Phantom, the Form, of the physical body.

So we see that physical, etheric and astral bodies are laid aside, and that the physical body seems to drain away completely into materials and forces which, through decay or burning or some other form of dissolution, are returned to the elements. But the more clairvoyance is developed in our time, the clearer will it be that the physical forces and sub-stances laid aside are not the whole physical body, for its complete configuration could never derive from them alone. To these substances and forces there belongs something else, best called the ‘Phantom’ of Man. This Phantom is the form-shape which as a spiritual texture works up the physical substances and forces so that they fill out the form which we encounter as the man on the physical plane. The sculptor can bring no statue into existence if he merely takes marble or something else, and strikes away wildly so that single pieces spring off just as the substance permits. As the sculptor must have the ‘thought’ which he impresses on the substance, so is a ‘thought’ related to the human body: not in the same way as the thought of the artist, for the material of the human body is not marble or plaster, but as a real thought, the phantom, in the external world. Just as the thought of the plastic artist is stamped upon his material, so the phantom of the physical body is stamped upon the substances of the earth which we see given over after death to the grave or the fire. The phantom belongs to the physical body as its enduring part, a more important part than the external substances. The external substances are merely loaded into the network of the human form, as one might load apples into a cart. You can see how important the phantom is. The substances which fall asunder after death are essentially those we meet externally in nature. They are merely caught up by the human form.

If you think more deeply, can you believe that all the work of the great Divine Spirits though the Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon periods has merely created something which is handed over at death to the elements of the Earth? No, that which was developed during the Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon periods is not the physical body that is laid aside at death. It is the phantom, the form of the physical body. We must be quite clear that to understand the physical body is not an easy thing. Above all, this understanding must not be sought for in the world of illusion, the world of Maya.

We know that the foundation, the germ, of this phantom of the physical body was laid down by the Thrones during the Old Saturn stage; during the Old Sun stage the Spirits of Wisdom worked further upon it, the Spirits of Movement during the Old Moon stage, and the Spirits of Form during the Earth stage of evolution. And it is only in this period that the physical body received the phantom. We call these Spirits the Spirits of Form, because they really live in the phantom of the physical body.

So in order to understand the physical body, we must go back to the Phantom.

If we look back to the beginning of our Earth-existence, we can say that the hosts from the ranks of the higher Hierarchies who had prepared the physical human body in its own proper Form during the Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon stages, up to the Earth stage, had from the outset placed this phantom within the Earth evolution. In fact the phantom, which cannot be seen with the physical eye, was what was first there of the physical body of Man. It is a transparent body of force.

What the physical eye sees are the physical substances which a person eats and takes into himself, and they fill out the invisible Phantom. If the physical eye looks upon a physical body, what it sees is the mineral part that fills the physical body, not the physical body itself.

But how has this mineral part found its way into the Phantom of man's physical body?

To answer this question, let us picture once more the genesis, the first ‘becoming’, of Man on Earth.

From Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon there came over that network of forces which in its true form meets us as the invisible phantom of the physical body. For a higher clairvoyance it appears as Phantom only when we look away from all the external substance that fills it out. This is the Phantom which stands at the starting-point of man's Earth existence, when he was invisible as a physical body.

Let us suppose that to this Phantom of the physical body the etheric body is added; will the Phantom then become visible?

Certainly not; for the etheric body is invisible for ordinary sight. Thus the physical body as phantom, plus etheric body, is still invisible to external physical sense. And the astral body even more so; hence the combination of physical body as phantom with the etheric and astral bodies is still invisible. And when the I is added it would certainly become perceptible inwardly, but not externally visible. Thus, as Man came over out of the Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon stages of evolution, he was still visible only to a clairvoyant.

How did he become visible? But for the occurrence described in the Bible symbolically, and factually in occult science, as the entry of the Lucifer influence, he would not have become visible. What happened through that influence?

Read what is said in Outline of Esoteric Science. Out of that path of evolution in which his physical, etheric and astral bodies were still invisible, man was thrown down into denser matter, and was compelled under the influence of Lucifer to take this denser matter into himself. If the Lucifer force had not been introduced into our astral body and I, this dense materiality would not have become as visible as it has become. Hence we have to represent man as an invisible being, made visible in matter only through forces which entered into him under the influence of Lucifer. Through this influence external substances and forces are drawn into the domain of the Phantom and permeate it. As when we pour a coloured fluid into a transparent glass, so that the glass looks coloured, so we can imagine that the Lucifer influence poured forces into the human Phantom, with the result that man was adapted for taking in on Earth the requisite substances and forces which make his Form visible. Otherwise his physical body would have remained always invisible.

The alchemists always insisted that the human body really consists of the same substance that constitutes the perfectly transparent, crystal-clear ‘Philosopher's Stone’. The physical body is itself entirely transparent, and it is the Lucifer forces in man which have brought him to a non-transparent state and placed him before us so that he is opaque and tangible. Hence you will understand that Man has become a being who takes up external substances and forces of the Earth, which are given off again at death, only because Lucifer tempted him, and certain forces were poured into his astral body. It follows that because the I entered into connection with the physical, etheric and astral bodies under the influence of Lucifer, Man became what he is on Earth and otherwise would not have been: the bearer of a visible, earthly organism.


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


discusses the forming of Man through twelve zodiacal cosmic influences


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.


In order really to understand what the whole choir of the Hierarchy of the Archai accomplished when they created the human form, we must remember that there is a very great difference between this form [editor: the 'phantom'] and the physical body of man.

The physical body is made up of the physical and chemical processes in Man. These processes take place in the present human being within the human form. But this form itself is something that is altogether spiritual. It ought to fill us with solemn feelings when, on looking at the human form, we realise that with physical senses we are perceiving in the physical world something that is spiritual.

For one who is able to see spiritually it is really the case that in the human form he sees a true Imagination which has descended into the physical world. If we wish to see Imaginations we must pass from the physical world to the neighbouring spiritual world, and then we realise how the human form is related to these Imaginations.


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')