Human skeleton

From Anthroposophy

The bony system is:

  • the foundation that gives the human physical body his basic form and provides a structure and support for the organs and what brings order into the blood-system.
  • the most lifeless and unconscious part of Man that provides an instrument and basis for the conscious human 'I' (blood system)
  • an imagination created by the Spirits of Form, filled out with matter due to the Luciferic infection.



  • the form of the skeleton or bone structure of Man as an imagination created by the Spirits of Form, then filled out with matter due to the Luciferic infection (1911-12-30-GA134, see Luciferic influence on Man#1911-12-30-GA134)
  • skeleton as an correct symbol and expression of the spirit (and of physical death) (1924-01-07-GA352) - link with Luciferic infection, see also a.o. Luciferic influence on Man#Death - illness - original sin
  • Man's bony system only hardened in the Atlantean epoch (1907-06-04-GA099)

Consciousness and thinking

  • skeleton and consciousness and thinking
    • skeleton is the physical picture of the I-organization. The organizing power of the I forms the basis for the brain that can thus can become the bearer of conscious mental and spiritual I-activity. In contrast, the I-organization is completely exhausted in the bony system in its physical organizing activities, so that the processes in the bones are the most unaware - subconscious (1925-GA027 Ch. 6).
    • the bony system is the most unconscious part of Man that provides an instrument and basis for the conscious I (blood system), however the I has no consciousness of anything that goes on within this bony system (1911-03-27-GA128)
    • abstract thinking (about something in the external, inorganic nature) is done primarily with the bones, with the skeleton .. and this happens from about the twelfth year onwards. The brain produces passive mental images for the processes going on during the activity of thinking, but these images reflected by our brain lack the element of will. When thinking is directed toward outer physical nature, the entire human organism is involved to a certain extent, but especially the skeleton. In the twelfth year, a child’s thinking enters the realm of the skeleton. (1922-01-02-GA303)
  • Consciousness is not possible without the gradual destruction of life: the astral body is constantly destroying the etheric body. The moment consciousness shoots into what is merely life, a process of hardening, of ossification, begins in the physical body. This hardening process in the skeleton-formation is governed by the astral body. (1907-10-21-GA101)

Substances and forces

  • substance and formative forces of Man's bony structure (see Schema FMC00.542 and more on Working of substances and their forces)
    • bone contains over 80% of the body’s supply of Ca and P
    • skull includes Saturn forces, long extended bones are expression of Moon and Earth forces (1924-01-09-GA316)
    • calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate as products of an excretion process (1924-01-04-GA316) - see also Schema FMC00.542
      • calcium phosphate (Ca3(PO4)2 or bone phosphate of lime, also BPL) is the focal point for the workings of the formative forces that construct the skull
      • calcium carbonate (CaCO3 or limestone) is the focal point for the workings of the formative forces that construct of the long bones
    • bone-formation, and the skeleton as physical basis of the I-organization (refer also to ao Schema FMC00.542)
      • silicic acid is the physical basis of the I-organization: the silicic acid process carries its activities along the paths of metabolism into those parts of Man where the living becomes lifeless, and thus constitutes the physical basis of the I-organization (1925-GA027 Ch. 14)
      • skeleton is the physical picture of the I-organization which is completely exhausted in the bony system in its physical organizing activities, so that the processes in the bones are the most unaware (1925-GA027 Ch. 6)
      • carbonic acid process: (key quote to meditate upon): "The portion of carbonic acid which the metabolism carries up into the head is there combined with calcium, and thus develops a tendency to come into the sphere of action of the I-organization. Through this, calcium carbonate is driven under the influence of the head nerves, motivated inwardly by the I-organization, toward bone-formation."(1925-GA027 Ch. 6)
  • the so-called bone-glue (liquefying processes in what is mingled with bone-salts) (1911-03-27-GA128), see also: lime as the glue (1924-06-11-GA327)
    • in context initiation: Man sends the forces of the ‘I’ right into the marrow of the bones and a considerable part of his occult development consists in changing the passive relationship in which he stands to his bone-marrow into a conscious one. At the present time he can only work upon what is contained within the bones of the skull, upon his brain, but preparation is being made to enable him to work upon that semi-fluid element which permeates the bones. (1907-10-21-GA101)


  • formation of shell and bony structure
    • in the animal kingdom, from no bony system to an external shell to an internal skeleton with higher warm-blooded animals and Man (1924-01-07-GA352)
    • difference between higher animals (eg apes) and Man: earthly resting gravitational and extraterrestrial raising formative forces (as the head stands vertical on the body in the case of Man, or not in the case of animals) (1920-03-21-GA312)
    • also covered in 1907-10-21-GA101
  • hybrid twofold origin of Man's outer formation: 1) the spherical form of his head fashioned from the cosmos 2) skeleton attached to the head formed more from the whole line of heredity (1918-01-29-GA181)
  • metamorphosis
    • skull is an expression of the previous incarnation (1911-03-26-GA128)
    • process during death and a new birth
    • see also book under Further reading section below by Leendert F. C. Mees: 'Secrets of the Skeleton: Form in Metamorphosis

Christ Impulse

  • see also further coverage of another aspect on the topic page for the Baptism: when the Christ entered the body of Jesus, the formative force of the life ether flashed onto the very bones of the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. The bones changed as Christ could crumble them and assemble them together again through cosmic warmth.


Schema FMC00.542 illustrates the process of breathing air and the two streams of oxygen and nitrogen combining with liquid carbon in the human body and giving rise to processes generating carbonic acid and cyanic acid. Click twice and open in new tab to enlarge.

  • from the intake of oxygen (remnant of the separation of the moon): the carbonic acid stream 'flows up' to combine with sodium and iron to carbonic iron (and links Man to the moon); this is why 'soda in the head-nerve subsystem' is linked to thinking.
  • from the intake of nitrogen (remnant of the separation of the Sun: the cyanic acid stream 'flows down' to combine with calcium oxides (lime) to generate cyanide (and links Man to the sun); this links to the limb system and willing.

Note this schema focuses on the stream of coarse breathing of air as part of the middle rhythmic subsystem of Man. The silica and calcium processes (see above head and below the figure) are polar opposites related more typically to the head-nerve and metabolic-limb systems, though these processes work in the whole human body and affect all three subsystems (see 1921-04-11-GA313 and 1920-03-29-GA312 and other schemas).


Lecture coverage and references

Coverage: two essential lectures for building an understanding of the human bony system are 1924-01-07-GA352 and 1911-03-27-GA128 that offer two complementary perspectives.


formation of cartilage and bones in Atlantean epoch


You are all acquainted with the elementary fact that man consists of physical body, etheric body and astral body; within the astral body is the ‘I’, the Ego. The ‘I’ works, to begin with, upon the astral body, continually transforming one part of it. When the ‘I’ came down from the bosom of the Godhead and began for the first time to work upon the astral body, this astral body was, in point of fact, a gift bestowed upon man. Let us picture man at the moment when the ‘I’ penetrated into him. The physical body, the etheric body were there, and penetrating them, the astral body. Then, from above, the ‘I’ strikes into this body and begins to work in the human being. The part of the astral body that is shaped by the ‘I’ is therefore twofold — one part is also possessed by the animal and another arises in the human being because the ‘I’ has worked upon the astral body. In the animal there has been no such incision of the ‘I’; the astral body of the animal has been formed in a particular way, but by powers outside. Everything that comes from the higher worlds shapes and brings about new transformation in the old organ. It is from this standpoint that we must study the relations between these three bodies.

The physical body is composed of the physical and chemical substances existing in the external world; with these alone, without the other bodies, it would simply be mineral. But the ether body, or life body, permeates it in all directions.

What is the function of the life-body?

At every moment it counteracts the destruction of the physical body, fights against this destruction; without the life-body the physical body would succumb to the chemical and physical forces and disintegrate, as indeed it does as soon as the life-body has abandoned it at death. While the two are united during life, the etheric body fights all the time against this disintegrating process.

And what is the function of the astral body?

It is very important to study this. In a certain sense the astral body is occupied during waking life — not during sleep — with killing the etheric body all the time, with suppressing the forces unfolded by the etheric body; hence the body becomes exhausted during the day. The astral body is constantly destroying the etheric body. But if this did not happen no consciousness would arise. Consciousness is not possible without the gradual destruction of life. The spiritual activity of life which we are describing, the wonderful, scintillating life in the ether-world and the constant suppression of this rhythm by the astral world — this is what gives rise to consciousness.

These processes in the spiritual worlds express themselves in the physical world in the following way: The moment consciousness shoots into what is merely life, a process of hardening, of ossification, begins in the physical body. The more the soft, organic life-masses are permeated inwardly by hard, bony formations, the nearer does the animal approach to a conscious state. In the molluscs and snails these hardened inner organs do not yet exist; the hard shell is excreted in order that the dim consciousness possessed by these animals may arise. In animals with a higher degree of consciousness, all osseous substance is secreted as a secondary activity; the hard, cartilaginous tissues and bony structure are separated out from soft, gelatinous masses. In the highest animal this process has almost reached its culmination in an organic system that is practically finished and complete.

In man, something special happens: A new incision takes place which partially transforms the astral body. A new direction is given to the earlier tendency towards ossification. If Man had left the astral body unchanged and had worked only in the direction of skeleton-formation, no culture would have been possible on the earth. The part of the astral body which was kept separate, brought about a new tendency, a particular task. The hardening process in the skeleton-formation is governed by the astral body.

How does this tendency make itself manifest?

Whereas the former tendency led more and more towards hardening, towards fixing a culminating point for the astral system in evolution, the astral body in man keeps something back, something that has a tendency to soften again. This makes it possible for evolution to advance. If this tendency had been absent, if everything had streamed into the bony system, there would be no progress, no culture. Animal species do not progress; the evolution of the tiger species, the lion species, has reached its culmination and goes no further. Man, however, with the part of the astral body which has been kept separate, is able to take what has hardened back again and new organs, soft and pliable organs, can be formed. This is extraordinarily significant! In the animal there is no such tendency.


Let us now go further and consider Man as he is today; he consists of organs on the ascending and descending lines of evolution. Stage by stage the astral body has been membered into him. There was a time when his organs were like plants, of the nature of plants. As the result of the astral body having built the nerve-system, the plant-body took flesh upon itself. This process was only gradual and did not affect all the organs at the same time. If we were to go back to pre-Lemurian times in evolution we should find that the human body still had organs of an entirely plantlike nature.

All the organs in the human body in which the sensual desires work less strongly were the earliest to be transformed into organs of flesh; the organs in which the sensual appetites work most strongly — the sexual organs — were the latest to be so transformed. For long, long ages these organs retained their plant-nature and they will be the first to wither away and pass over into a plantlike existence.

It was not until sensual desire had already taken deep root in the human being on his path of descent that the sexual organs were transformed from their plant-nature into organs of flesh. Spiritual science looks back to a godlike age in remote antiquity when the sexual forces were as yet unknown to Man. Such a being could have been seen in the ancient Mysteries — a human being still without sex. At the places where the sexual organs are now situated we should have been able to see in this being creeper-like plant-formations, organs permeated by the etheric body only, untouched as yet by the astral body. Such a being was the figure of the Hermaphrodite in the Mysteries; he appeared in the form which spiritual science can confirm as having been a Man’s actual form in those remote ages. He has plant organs at the place where the organs of reproduction are situated today and creeper-life plants go out from his loins. We can now understand why among very ancient people and in the Bible legend, the fig-leaf is spoken of. It was not there as a cover but pointed to an ancient, sacred existence when the human being was still plantlike at this place in his organism.

[skeleton of bones and bone-marrow]

But there is still more to be said. We can observe this overcoming of the hardening tendency in man in yet another way. It is noteworthy that in the occult schools particular account was taken of this. When the ‘I’ of Man descended to the Earth from the bosom of the Godhead, it was necessary for this hardening tendency to be overcome. But even before that time there were other creatures in whom this development had already taken place, namely the birds. The birds have an ‘I’ but an ‘I’ that lives much more in the outer external world. Therefore there is something in which they have not shared, something that is important for all human occult development.

It is what comes to expression in the development of certain parts of the skeleton, in the development of the bone-marrow. The bones of the birds are hollower than the bones of a human being and the other animals; they have retained a much more ancient condition which Man, and the higher animals too, have left behind.

Man sends the forces of the ‘I’ right into the marrow of the bones and a considerable part of his occult development consists in changing the passive relationship in which he stands to his bone-marrow into a conscious one.

At the present time he can only work upon what is contained within the bones of the skull, upon his brain, but preparation is being made to enable him to work upon that semi-fluid element which permeates the bones.

The fact that the essential force in man penetrated into the very bones, made his present evolution possible; in future time he will acquire the forces to work upon the actual substance in his bones and so to transform his body down to the very bones.

First of all he gains dominion over his blood and the blood will then be the instrument whereby he can work right into the bone-substance. The bones are a mineralisation of Man’s being. When, down to the very bones, man has gained full mastery over what expresses itself, at the wrong time today, as rickets, then he himself will create his own form; he will transform himself into Atma. 2 He has then gained the victory over the hardening principle, the principle that leads to death, that which expresses its real physiognomy in the human skeleton. The skeleton is a true image of death.

Man will conquer the physiognomy of death when he controls through the power of the spirit the form he now controls from outside through the mechanical organs of the muscles. His thoughts today penetrate into his bones; later on it will be his feelings — and then he will have gained the victory over the physiognomy of death.


the skull is the only part of the skeleton that the I controls, not during incarnation but between death and a new birth, the skull is an expression of the previous incarnation

When we look at the skin, which finally shuts man off from the outside world, and when we observe the nutritive substances that bring about that external enclosure which in itself certainly provides man with his surface structure, but which could not of itself produce the human form, it then becomes clear that this sort of nutritive process which is active in the skin is the most recent one in the human organism. In the manner of providing nourishment to the bones we see a process which bears a similar relation to the process of nourishment in the skin to that which we attributed to the process of the formation of the brain, as compared with that of the formation of the spinal cord. Just as the brain appeared to us to be the older organ, and the spinal cord the younger, and the brain appeared to be a metamorphosed spinal cord, so here we have a right to say: if that same thing which we see as the latest, external process of skin-formation is imagined at a maturer stage metamorphosed, we can then recognise this in the firmer, self-solidifying process of nourishment which appears in the building up of the cartilage and the shaping of the bones.

This observation of the human organism might, therefore, point us to the following conception, namely, that what to-day appears before us as the bony system, in which the process of nourishment shows us a quality of inner stability, an earthy quality, so to speak, this bony system actually did, at an earlier stage, also develop in a softer substance; and only later did it become hard and take on the form of the firm bony system. This can be indicated even by external science, which teaches us that certain forms which in later life are quite clearly bones in the human organism are in the early years of childhood still soft, have the quality of cartilage. This means, therefore, that out of a softer, cartilaginous mass the bones are formed, as a result of the depositing of a different sort of nutritive matter from that which is deposited in the mass of cartilage. Here we have, indeed, a transition from a softer to a firmer form, as this process still goes on to-day in the individual human life. If we see, then, in the cartilage an earlier stage of the bone, we may say that the whole depositing of the bony system in the organism appears to us as something representing a last result, as it were, of those processes appearing in the nourishing of the skin. First, the substances must in the simplest way be metamorphosed to the softest possible substance and driven toward the organs of the body; and, when this preparation has taken place, the nutritive process then can go on, and certain parts can be hardened into bony matter, in order that the form of the human organism as a whole may be the final result.

The nature of the bones as we see them, on the other hand, gives us the right to conclude from direct evidence that really we can find no further progress in the nutritive process beyond that in the bony formation, in so far as the human being, up to the present stage of his evolution, is concerned. Whereas we have in the content of the blood the most determinable substance in man, we have in the bony substance, in that which appears before us in the form of the bones, something which is not determinable, which has arrived at a stage of maximum fixity of form. Indeed, if we continue our previous observations, that the blood is man's most easily controlled instrument whereas the nerves are less subject to his influence, we must then consider that in the bony system, which is the foundation of the entire human organization, we have something that has arrived at the ultimate stage in its evolution so far as man of today is concerned, something which represents the product of a final metamorphosis. For this reason, moreover, everything which has to do with forming the bony system, in spite of the fact that this must be wholly directed toward the I, must take place in such a way that the bones may be ultimately the carriers and supporters of an organism like this, in order that the courses of the blood may take such directions as they should, and this in turn in order that in these courses of the blood the human I may have a proper instrument.


You know that there is such a thing as “Phrenology,” an investigation of the skull. This bone-investigation, in spite of the fact that, from a certain materialistic point of view, it is looked upon as superstition, has gradually, even where loyally fostered, taken on a materialistic colouring in accordance with the general fashion of our time. If we were disposed to characterise it somewhat crudely we might say: Phrenology is carried on in general in such a way that the expression of the inner nature of the ego is sought for in the forms in which the skull is moulded. Thereby certain general principles are set up, that one prominence in the skull signifies this, another that, and so forth. The human qualities are sought for in the light of these prominences, so that phrenology seeks in the bony system of the skull for a kind of plastic expression of the ego. And yet, if it is carried on in this way, even though it seems to look for spiritual expressions in the structure pf the single bones, it is harmful. For anyone who is a truly keen observer knows that no single human skull is like another, and that no one could ever account for this or that by way of generic elevations or depressions. Every separate skull is so different from every other that in each we find different forms.

Now, we have stated that whereas the blood in its vital activity is the system that most of all follows the I, the bony structure withdraws from it, follows it least of any. And yet, although the bones in general appear to be designed according to type, the skull-bones and also the bones of the face seem in a certain way to correspond to the human I. Anyone who observes the structure of the skull knows, at the same time, that although man himself is an individual and his skull-structure is also individual, yet this wonderful configuration of the skull has been designed from the beginning in accordance with the particular human individuality and must develop just as the other bones do only in a different form for each man.

How does this come about? It comes about for the same reason that underlies the development of the individual qualities of man in general; for the entire life of the individual human being does not run its course only from a birth to a death, but continues throughout many incarnations. Whereas our I has no influence, therefore, over the skull-structure in our present incarnation, it has developed during the intervening period between the last death and the last birth in accordance with the experiences of the preceding incarnation, the forces which determine the skull-structure; and it is these forces which determine the form of the skull in this incarnation. What the I was in the preceding incarnation determines the form of the skull in this one; so that in the structure of our skull we have an external plastic expression of the way in which we, every single one of us, again however as individuals, have lived and acted in the preceding incarnation. Whereas all the other bones we have in us express something which is common to man, the skull in its external form expresses that which we were in an earlier incarnation.

Thus the element of the blood, which is the most vitally active of all, can be determined by the ego in this incarnation; our bones, on the other hand, have already entirely withdrawn during this incarnation from the influence of the ego, with the exception of the last remaining case of the skull-bone which also, however, no longer follows the ego in this incarnation, except only as the ego carries over its own evolution from the one incarnation into the next, and so develops the formative forces in the interval between the two that it can manifest in these very bones what was our nature and character in the preceding incarnation. There is no such thing as a general phrenology; but, to sum up, we must judge every man according to what he himself is; and the structure of our skull we must look upon as a work of art. Of course we are compelled to recognise something individual in the skull-structure; yet at the same time an individual something that is an expression of the ego of a preceding incarnation.

Thus we see that even this form of bone-structure, as it appears in the structure of the skull, is withdrawn from the blood to such an extent that the ego has no more influence over it excepting only during the passing between death and a new birth, when the ego receives, after death, still stronger forces with which to overcome and shape for itself those forces that have already completely withdrawn from the vital activity in the man. When, therefore, anyone speaks about the idea of reincarnation and says: “That is something which, speaking generally, is beyond our judgment or reason,” one may answer: “You can, if you will, convince yourself by tangible evidence that the human ego was present in a previous incarnation. When you take hold of a human head you have before you the tangible proof of reincarnation!” And anyone who does not admit this, who sees something paradoxical in the fact that, because of the way in which a thing is formed externally, the way a thing appears in its outward form, one is forced to infer something living that formed this exterior shape out of its own inner life, such a person has no right to deduce in any other case a living something when he comes across a plastic structure. He who cannot admit as strictly logical the conclusion that in the form of our individual skull is expressed the configuration of our ego of preceding incarnations has also no right, if he finds a shell, for example, to conclude from its form that at one time there was a living being in it! And anyone who does so conclude dare not dismiss the logical and absolutely equivalent conclusion that, in the individual plastic formation of a man's cranium, direct proof is given of the influence of an earlier life on the present one.


on polarity between blood system and bony system

Yesterday, moreover, we attempted to arrive at an approximate understanding of the fact that what has constructed itself into the firm bony scaffolding, withdraws itself most of all from this conscious life of man; yet at the same time we had to emphasise the fact that, even in this solid scaffolding, a quality of Being must be active such as enables man to evolve an organ for the life of his ego, namely, the circulation of the blood. We may, therefore, draw the conclusion that the significance of the depositing of the bony system in man, as related to his whole organisation, consists in the fact that he can maintain a human form at all; and that everything expressed in the processes which take place in this solid bony system is kept in the subconscious.


Now we have also pointed out that what we look upon as a conscious activity of the I is after all only one part of man's being; and that, below the threshold of what enters in this manner within the horizon of our consciousness there are processes which occur in the subconsciousness, and which are held back from our consciousness, by means of the sympathetic nervous system. We have been able to indicate from various points of view that these processes which take place below the level of consciousness have also a certain kind of connection with our I. We have said, with regard to the most unconscious part of us, our bony system, that it is organised throughout in such a way as to be able to give to the instrument of the conscious I the basis for an I. Thus, out of the unconscious, an I-organisation arises to meet the conscious I-organisation.

Man is thus divided, as it were, into two parts:

  • from one direction the conscious I-organisation works into the organism, and
  • from the other there flows into man the unconscious I-organisation.

We have seen that the blood-system and the bony system really form a certain antithesis; they act like opposite poles.

  • The blood in its inner activity responds to and follows, as an instrument, the activity of the I;
  • on the contrary, that part which is organised as the other pole of the I, so that the I is able to express itself in the blood, namely the bony system, withdraws itself from the quickened inner life of the I to such an extent, that the I has no consciousness of anything that goes on within this bony system, and the processes here take their course below the surface of what goes on in the actually conscious I-life.

These are processes, therefore, which correspond to our I-activity yet at the same time are as truly dead as our blood-processes are living; and they are, as a matter of fact, only one portion of those processes which remain unconscious to the I, and which only gradually rise more and more up into the conscious.

If we study this bony system thoughtfully with regard to its functioning as a whole in the human organism, we cannot but be struck by the fact that it really withdraws itself, as it were, from all conscious life, and that it does this to a greater degree than any of the other systems of organs. If at the same time we go on from this bony system to the other organic systems, for example, to that inner cosmic system of the liver and spleen, the heart and lungs, etc., we are compelled to affirm that the processes within these systems are also to a very high degree withdrawn from our conscious life, although not so completely as those in our bony system. We certainly need to give far less conscious thought and attention to our bony system than to these other organs just mentioned. Some of these latter make known very clearly in their functions, in the case of some people at any rate, that they do reach up into the plane of consciousness. Just as beings which dwell in the waters of the ocean push the waves up to the surface, so does much of what goes on in the heart or the other organs belonging to these systems push its way up into our conscious life. We know how hypochondriacs, to their own injury, naturally, are partly aware of these things even though in an entirely different way, to be sure, from that in which they actually take place below. I do not here refer at all to the fact that a certain degree of illness may be developed in these organs, for then it is, of course, something quite different which causes the person to become conscious of them. I mean that one need not come anywhere near that borderline which a healthy man may designate as “bordering on being ill.” This border-line, unfortunately, gets very much displaced nowadays, to the great injury of humanity. We know, at the same time, that we are protected from becoming conscious of what goes on below by means of the sympathetic nervous system opposing these inner processes.

If we recognise in the bony system something that so builds Man up, as regards his form and structure, that the blood-system can be a fitting instrument within it for the I, we must have a certain understanding, after what has just been stated, of the fact that the other organs, for example, those organs belonging to the inner cosmic system, are in their turn in a certain sense in the process of growing to meet the conscious life of Man which is destined to unfold itself as the flowering of man's organisation. We must see clearly that all of these organs, although they are not permeated with fully conscious life, do nevertheless contain that something which is growing toward our soul-life, just as we have seen that our bony system is growing toward the I-life.

Now we must ask ourselves at this point: to what extent then, does this inner system, which we may designate as an inner cosmic system, grow toward man's conscious soul-life? If, on the one hand, it is clear to us that in the bony system we have our surest support for what brings order into the blood-system, enabling this blood-system to evolve into an instrument of our I, and its separate parts to occupy the right places, we must admit, on the other hand, that the function of the bony system as the fundamental basis of our organisation is such that it also supports, at the same time, those organs constituting an inner cosmic system, and brings them into the right position. For the same thing in the bony system which is advantageous to the blood-system is also advantageous to these organs. And, if we make even a purely external study of these organs, we shall be especially struck by the fact that we can discover nothing in them, either in their disposition or even in their form, that is so intimately related to the outer limits of man's form as is the bony system.

We have something then, in man, which we may describe by saying that the bony system is the foundation, and whatever is disposed around it can be thus disposed only because it gives Man his basic form. If we recognise in man's skin his external boundary, we must affirm that to a great extent this external skin-boundary is already forecast by the whole structure of the bony system, a fact which led to Goethe saying in such impressive words, not merely aesthetically impressive but wonderfully fine also as a scientific expression: “There is nothing in the skin which is not also in the bones.”

That is to say, in the external skin-formation, by means of which man's being is expressed in form, is demonstrated what is already there as a model in the bony system. This we cannot say with regard to our inner cosmic system. Yet, on the other hand, the fact that the functioning of this inner cosmic system thrusts itself up into lower levels of consciousness shows us that it has something to do with our astral body; for the astral body is the bearer of consciousness. And the reason why the astral body as the bearer of consciousness does not consciously experience what goes on in this inner cosmic system is that the sympathetic nerve-system holds it back. This we have already mentioned.

We must affirm, therefore, that this inner cosmic system does not appear to be an expression of the subconscious self, that self which is to be found as a model deep down in the foundation of man's being but, rather, that it is so incorporated in us through the universal cosmic process, that its relation to our astral body is similar to that other relation which enables the human form as expressed in the bony system to offer a basis for the most comprehensive form of the I. We may say, therefore, that in the bony system, but deep down in the unconscious, we have an already highly developed pattern of the human I; and that in what we call our inner cosmic system we have the pattern of our so-called astral body. It is important to keep this disposition clearly in mind: the bony system serves as a basic model for all that we call our I — naturally, we mean this in the sense in which we are here discussing it — and the inner cosmic system for what we call our astral body.

Of course this inner cosmic system, in its entire organisation, since it still lies almost wholly below the level of consciousness, does not in any way derive from the conscious soul-life but is implanted in us, through our external organisation, out of the cosmos. This means that something we may call a cosmic astral element merges with us in such a way that it expresses itself in our inner cosmic system. In our bony system, there is merged into our whole organism, here again out of our whole environment, that which the cosmic process is able to bestow upon us. Since this is connected with the entire form of our physical organisation, we must say that this bony system is really, as a result, the basis of our physical body so far as this appears before us within the boundary of its physical form. A macrocosmic element or, to put it plainly, a cosmic system, which has given us the physical form we have as human beings, has been deposited in our bony system; a macrocosmic astral world-system is deposited in our inner cosmic system.

The I, in so far as it appears as a conscious I, has the blood-system for its instrument; ...

but, in so far as it is forecast as form, as structure, there lies at its foundation a cosmic force-system which presses into the I-organisation, into the firm I-formation, and which sets its deepest imprint in our bony system.

Let us grasp the matter clearly from still another point of view.

  • We know that everything which manifests itself in the I as a thought-element comes to expression through a kind of salt-deposit, if I may use such an expression as this; for you can well understand that ordinary expressions are scarcely to be found for things which are not in the least understood by the ordinary human consciousness, yet are known by clairvoyant consciousness to be a process of salt-deposit of the finest possible kind. [editor: see also Schema FMC00.513 and the reference 1922-08-09-GA347 which describes the process of continuous depositing and destruction of minerals ('brain-sand', more also in 1922-09-09/16-GA347)]
  • In our bony system, in which our I was modelled beforehand out of the cosmos, and where it has its firmest support so that the whole organism possesses this support, there also we may accordingly expect to find that a 'salt-deposit' must have been 'forecast' for us as thinking beings, and here again through the physical process of salt-depositing. In other words we may expect to find salt-deposits in the bony system. And, in actual fact, we do find that the bones consist of phosphate of lime and calcium carbonate, that is, of salt-deposits.


Thus we have, here again, two opposite poles. Man is a thinking being, and it is the thought-process that makes him inwardly a stable being (for, in a certain sense, our thought-system is our inner bony system; we have definite, sharply-outlined thoughts; and though our feelings are more or less indefinite, wavering, and different in each one of us, the thought-systems are inserted in stable form in the feeling system). Now

  • whereas these stable insertions of thought in the conscious life manifest themselves through a sort of animated, mobile process of salt-depositing,
  • that which prepares the way for these in the bony system, giving them the right support, expresses itself in the fact that the macrocosm out of its own formative processes so builds up our bony system that a part of its nature consists of deposited salts.

These deposited salts of the bony system are the quiescent element in us: they are the opposite pole to those inner vital activities which are at play in the process of salt-depositing corresponding to the principle of thought.

Thus we are made capable of thought through influences acting from two sides upon our organisation:

  • from one side unconsciously through the fact that our bony system is built up within us;
  • from the other side consciously in that we ourselves bring about, after the model of our bone-building process, conscious processes which manifest themselves as of like nature in our organism, and of which we may say that they are inwardly active processes. For the salt that is here formed must again at once be dissolved by sleep, must be got rid of, for otherwise it would induce destructive processes, causing dissolution.

Thus we have processes that begin with salt-depositings and then are followed by destructive processes, constituting a sort of reactionary process. In the re-dissolving of the deposits, beneficent sleep acts upon us in the way we need, to the end that we may ever anew develop conscious thought in our fully awake life of day.

If we proceed further, we can understand that all processes which occur within the human organism must take place between these two polar-extremes of salt-formation. It is with the process of salt-formation in the spiritual sense that we have here to do, but this must be conceived as I have today explained it. It will not do simply to say: “Thinking is a process of salt-formation”; for people will then imagine what is now popularly conceived by the untrained person as the process of salt-formation; and then it will be easy to say that spiritual science maintains absurdities and nonsense. Between these processes, which must be conceived only in the sense we have indicated, there lie all the other processes to which we have called attention. For, if we have salt-formation occurring in a vitally active thought-process, and the opposite pole of this in the salt-formation of our bony system which has to a certain extent come to rest, we can likewise affirm that we have all through our organs the opposite pole of what we may designate as the liquefying process, as inner coagulation, as a flocculent process, albumen-like insertions or something similar. In this case, again, it is not to be found only under the influence of our own feeling life, which takes its course more in the depths of the soul, but from the bone-building process also. In this connection we must say that all processes which are more inward in character (which belong more to the soul and to the central processes of our organism than does the bone-forming process) are involved in the unconscious liquefying processes and thickening of substances which are formed and deposited as we have described.

Now the first thing we come upon here is something in which the bone-building process is actually involved, namely, those liquefying processes to be found in what is mingled with the bone-salts as the so-called bone-glue. In these processes the other pole of our bony system participates and thereby meets that which forms the physical correlative of our feeling process. The process connected with the will impulse expresses itself in a warmth process, an inner warming process, so to speak. Processes of combustion, the formation of combinations which we call inner processes of oxidation, occur throughout our entire organisation; and, in so far as these go on below the threshold of consciousness and have nothing to do with the conscious life, will-impulses and the like, they belong to that other part of our organisation which is shut off by the corresponding organs and is susceptible to influence from the subconscious life.

The human being is thus protected inwardly on one side by a part of his organism in which these processes take their course much as they do outwardly in the macrocosm; and on the other side his protection is such that these processes are connected with his soul-processes, and are of a finer kind as has been explained. And so these physiological processes take place in our organism, salt-forming, liquefying, and warmth producing processes, which are the result of our conscious life; and others which take place outside our conscious life, in such a way that they furnish the basis for what prepares itself beforehand in the human organism in order that the processes adapted to the conscious life may take place. Our organism as a whole is thus a texture woven of those processes which we must describe as belonging in part to our conscious life and in part to the unconscious. It is an extraordinarily significant fact that our organism actually does represent a union formed out of two polaric extremes: that processes of coarser nature take place in such a way that they radiate into the organism, as it were, out of the macrocosm; and that, on the other hand, there are processes of a finer sort which arise out of our conscious life.

Now, since the organism is a single whole and all these parts interpenetrate and influence one another, the situation in this organism, as we have it today, is such that all these processes likewise play into one another and that we cannot so separate them one from another as to fix definite boundaries between them. One process plays into another. You need consider only the blood, the most vitally active and finest element. In this element you may perceive a stimulator of the salt-forming process, the process of condensation of a fluid, and the warming process. And likewise in all the systems of organs you may perceive how these processes take their course, and how they are stimulated. Let us therefore say, for example, that when we take nutritive substances from without into our digestive canal these nutritive substances have within themselves what I have called “external vital activity.” They pass through what we may call the first stage of filtering by being taken in and digested by the stomach and what pertains to it; and they are then worked up in more special details by the inner cosmic system, and conveyed to where they can also nourish the finest instrument of the organism, the blood. Thus it is the inner cosmic system which undertakes this first filtering of the nutritive substances, which then have to be conveyed to all the other systems. At the same time, since we have recognised a series of stages in the organic systems of man, we may readily conceive that the most delicate system of all, the blood, must take into itself the most completely filtered vital activities of the nutriment, and that, when anything whatever enters into the blood, it contains by that time only the very least possible amount of that inner vital activity that was in the substances when they were taken in by the stomach. When the substances enter into the stomach they still contain a considerable part of their own nature and essential character, their own vital activity. But when once they are in the blood they must have surrendered all this, in so far as they are nutritive substances that have been conducted into the blood, and must have become something new. The blood is thus something which shields inwardly, in the highest degree, all its processes, something that carries on its processes in the greatest measure independently of the outer world. Such is the blood from he one point of view.

But we have already indicated that this blood is like a tablet which is equally exposed on its two sides, exposed, that is, to impressions coming from both directions. It is turned on the one side to the subconscious processes in the deeper regions of the human organism, where the nutritive substances, after going through filtering processes, come up and force their way to the blood. The influence of everything occurring there is diminished by the sympathetic nervous system, so that it does not reach our consciousness. And the other side of the tablet must be turned by the blood to the experiences of the conscious life of the soul. Not only the unconscious activities of the I, which work up from the bony system, but also the conscious soul-activities, belonging to the other I, must penetrate into the blood. They must be able to metamorphose themselves by the time they reach the blood, in order that they then may become the expression of what we have about us in our environment as physical-sensible world; for of course that which is woven into the plant world as ether-body, for example, is not visible to normal consciousness. It is the physical world, first of all, that we have around us; and, for the normal consciousness, we ourselves belong only to the physical world. Thus we expose this other side of our “blood-tablet” to the physical-sensible world which then becomes the content of our consciousness. The entire soul-life, as it is stimulated into thought through the impressions of the physical-sensible world and as it flames into feelings and is stirred into impulses of will, must find its instrument in the blood-system in so far as it is conscious I-life.

And what does this signify? Nothing other than this: that ..

  • not only are we able to have in our blood that into which the nutritive substances have been changed, when they have been driven upward from the subconscious and filtered to the point where they may lead a life of their own in the blood, shielded from all macrocosmic laws;
  • but also that there must be inscribed on the other side of the tablet of the blood all that occurs in the physical-sensible realm, in the lifeless matter of the physical-sensible world, which is known to us through sense-impressions and appears to our consciousness, at first, in the form of everything that can make impressions. For whatever goes to make up life can become known to the normal consciousness only through combinations of physical sense-impressions. In reality it becomes known only through the next higher super-sensible member, the ether-body. Thus the blood must be capable of being also related to the physical-sensible world just as this immediately surrounds us.

We may, accordingly, expect to find that something is incorporated into the blood which, we might say, does not manifest itself there as if it were due to the influence of processes working up from the lower depths of our nature, but rather as if it were due to the influence of external macrocosmic laws and vital activities. We must have in our blood, therefore, something that is similar in character and action to direct external processes, which take their course outside of us in the same way in which they gradually come later to take their course within our organism. That is, there must be physical, chemical, inorganic processes which take their course within our blood, which are necessary to enable our I to take part in the physical world. Thus we shall have to seek in the blood for processes wherein substances can act through their physical-sensible character, in accordance with what they are in the macrocosm. And this we do find, as a matter of fact, in that something is presented to us in the red corpuscles which shows us that it is just beginning to live, and is at the point where it passes over to the state of lifelessness. And from the other side of the tablet something is incorporated into the blood which we may call a process easily comparable to an external process of combustion. In short we have in the blood, disposed on the other side, and recognisable even physically, everything that makes man a physical-sensible being through the fact that in the blood he has an instrument for his I which is living in this physical-sensible world.

Thus, even concerning the organisation of the blood, physical chemical research itself can show us how significant, how illuminating, occult premisses may be for what is presented to direct inquiry into the physiology of man.

From all the foregoing we may say that we have in the human organism, in the first place, processes which are stimulated by the blood-process in so far as this is related to the outside world, and which constitute physical-sensible processes of the outside world; but that we have also other processes which reach as far as the blood-system from the other direction, and are fitted into this system after they have been filtered to the last degree. Only when we clearly perceive this will the blood appear to us the truly important organ it is. We shall see that it has on the one hand turned its entire being, so to speak, toward life in the very lowest and most basic forms that we know round about us, so that it almost becomes a material substance which tends continually to evoke physical chemical processes in order to be able to serve as an instrument for the I; and on the other hand that it is the most completely shielded of substances, which carries on inner processes that could not be carried on anywhere else, because everything which is pre-requisite to those processes is dependent upon all the other processes that fit themselves into the processes of the blood. In other words the finest and highest processes which are stimulated out of the depths of our organism unite, within the circuit of our blood, with the other, the physical chemical processes, which obey the laws of the external world. In no other substance does the physical-sensible world come into such direct contact, as does the blood, with something of an entirely different character which, for its very existence, presupposes the activity of super-sensible systems of force. In fact, this blood is something in which the lowliest that man can see in processes around him is blended with the loftiest that can take on organic form within his nature.

It will be entirely clear to us, therefore, that in these blood-processes we have before us something which, if it becomes irregular, unrhythmical, must cause irregularities in the greatest measure in our entire organism. And since the blood is the expression of the whole collection of organic processes we shall have to consider carefully, in connection with irregularities of the blood, where abnormal phenomena are manifest, difficult to distinguish individually, to which particular course of processes we must attribute these irregularities. If, for instance, they are to be found in those processes in the blood-channels which follow the pattern of physical chemical processes in the outer world, we shall then have to be quite clear that these irregularities, which we must learn to recognise and not confuse them, must be dealt with from the side of consciousness, in so far as this consciousness is associated with the physical plane. And here a field is opened, a therapeutic field, which we may think of as one by way of which we shall learn to see whether certain irregularities in the circulation of the blood are connected with such processes as we may call in the true sense of the term physical chemical processes. We shall then be able to intervene by means of such external impressions and appropriate control of external sense-impressions as we can evoke in dealing with a human being, in this case such external impressions as can produce physical chemical processes, that is, through everything which we can convey to the physical organism from without. By this we mean not so much the soul and spiritual impressions we can employ, though these are also included, as all those especially which we can effect through a control of the breathing process, through watching over the breathing process and also over the reciprocal action of the human organism and the external world through the skin.

Then again we can also see in the blood-organism the most delicate organic processes working from the other direction. And we shall have to understand, with reference to this blood-organism, that it represents the third stage in the refinement of our nutritive substances. If the blood-organism, because it evokes those delicate processes of salt forming, liquefaction and warmth under the influence of external impressions, is thereby predetermined from without in its physical chemical course by the soul-processes themselves, we may ask how this process as a blood-process is determined from within. We must distinguish the function belonging to the blood by reason of the fact that it is blood; but we must also understand that it needs to be nourished just like any other organ: we must consider it in the same way as any other organ that needs to be nourished. And on the other hand we must also recognise it as the organ standing at the highest stage of organic activity. With regard to this activity we must consider especially what we call the inner support of human life. The blood, which is the opposite extreme, so to speak, from the bony system, must be most of all protected in order that in our thinking it may create, as the instrument of thought in so far as this thought has I-consciousness — that it may be able to create the process we have called salification. This protection must proceed from the blood itself; therefore the blood must above everything be capable of calling forth, spiritually as it were, a spiritual bony system, must be able itself to cause the process of salt-forming. This is a task to which the blood must so devote itself that it can be independent of the other organs, and need only receive from the other organs the least possible support for its own work. Least of all do the vital activities of the other organs play into this salifying process of the blood, so that in respect to this process of salification, in relation to thought, the blood is what most of all makes the organism an inner one.



On approaching the human form we at once perceive something of the utmost importance to it when we direct our attention — as we have doubtless all done more or less — to its centre of support, the skeleton. We have all seen a skeleton, and observed the difference between the head and the rest.

We have observed that the head, the chief part, is in a sense an enclosed and isolated whole, which is, as it were, mounted on a column above the limb system and the rest of the human organism. We can very easily contrast the head resting on the skeleton, with the rest of the human form. If we thus turn our attention to the most superficial difference, it may strike us that the formation of the head is more or less spherical, it is not a perfect sphere, but spherically constructed. Now the investigator into spiritual science must warn students not to expect external superficial analogies to underlie a search for knowledge; but the concept of the human head as approaching a spherical form is no superficial observation, for Man is really a kind of duality, and the spherical formation of his head is in no wise accidental. We must bear in mind what we actually have before us in the human head. The first indications of what is intended here is given in The Spiritual Guidance of Man, where I showed how the human head presents an image of the whole universe which surrounds us externally as a spatial globe, a hollow sphere.


In reviewing these things we must observe something which for the man of today lies far from the most essential kind of observation, something which he always employs, but not where it is of the utmost importance. It would not occur to anyone who takes a compass, a magnetic needle in hand, to seek in the needle itself the cause of its pointing with one end to the North and with the other to the South; the physicist feels himself compelled to regard the magnetic force proceeding from the needle, and the directing magnetic force coming from the North Pole of the earth, as a whole. The cause of what takes place in the small space of the needle is sought in the great universe. Yet this is not done in other cases where it should be done, and where it is of importance.

If anyone — especially a scientist — observes that one living being is formed within another living being, as, for instance, the egg is formed in the body of the hen, he sees there how something forms in the smallest space; but what does not usually strike him is to apply what he knows of the magnetic needle and say, that the reason why the germ of the egg develops in the body of the hen lies in the entire cosmos, not in the hen. Exactly as the great universe has a part in the magnetic needle, so too the whole cosmos has a share in the hen's body, — no matter what other processes also take part in it — the whole cosmos in its spherical form co-operate. The processes that can be traced back through the line of heredity to the fore-fathers, only co-operate when the germ of the egg is formed in the maternal organism. That of course is heresy in the eyes of official science, but it is a truth. The forces of the cosmos co-operate in the most varied ways.

Just as it is true that in the case of Man (empirical embryology proves this) the head, in its germinal rudiments is formed from the whole universe, — the human head forms first in the maternal organism — so too is it true that, on the other hand, the original causative forces for this formation work from the whole cosmos, and Man's head is an image of it.

[end parenthesis]

That to which the head is attached (the skeleton), if carefully observed, is seen in its configuration, its form, to be more connected with the line of heredity, with the father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, than with the cosmos outside.

Thus even in relation to his origin, his development, Man is primarily a dual being. The whole of Man's outer formation shows him to be of a hybrid nature, it shows that he has a twofold origin.

  • On the one side his form is fashioned from the cosmos, which comes to light in the spherical form of his head,
  • on the other, he is formed from the whole line of heredity, which can be seen in the rest of the organism attached to the head.
  • difference between skeleton of apes and the human skeleton - earthly resting gravitational and extraterrestrial raising formative forces
  • the non-earthly formative forces are working into the mechanics and dynamics of the skeleton

Toward the twelfth year a new condition arises. The muscles no longer remain connected as intimately with the respiration and blood circulation but incline more toward the bones and adapt to the dynamics of the skeleton. The growth forces are fully engaged in the movement of limbs while walking, jumping, and grasping — indeed, in every limb activity related to the skeleton. The muscles, previously related closely to the rhythmic system, now become oriented entirely toward the skeletal system. Thus, children adapt more strongly now to the external world than they did before the twelfth year. Formerly, the muscular system was connected more directly with a child’s inner being, and the rhythmic system, because of its relative independence, played a dominant role in muscle growth. A child moved in harmony with the muscular system, and the skeleton, embedded in the muscles, was simply carried along. Now, toward the twelfth year, the situation quickly changes; the muscles begin to serve the mechanics and dynamics of the skeletal organization.

You will have gained a deep understanding of how human nature develops once you can see and understand what happens within children before the twelfth year — how the muscles simply carry the bones along and later begin to relate directly to the skeleton and, in doing so, relate also to the external world.


Can you see now how an incarnating human being gradually adapts to the world?

  • In very young children, the formative forces are centered in the brain and radiate from there.
  • Then the center of activities shifts to the muscular system,
  • and after the age of twelve a child’s being pours itself into the skeleton, so to speak.

Only then are human beings ready to enter the world fully. Incarnating human beings must first penetrate the body before establishing a relationship with the external world. First, the head forces are active. Later, these forces are poured into the muscles, then into the skeletal system, and after sexual maturity is reached, adolescents are able to enter the world. Only then can they stand properly in the world.


Until approximately the twelfth year, the effects of what was just described are found in muscular activity, which is so intensely connected with a child’s breathing and blood circulation. From the age of twelve until puberty, these are linked more to the forces at work in the skeleton. This means that, before the twelfth year, children perceive with their so-called motor nerves more what lives in muscle activity, whereas after the twelfth year their perceptivity tends more toward the processes taking place between muscles and bones.

[process of thinking]

Now consider the fact that volition is also involved in every process of thinking. When connecting (or synthesizing) certain mental images, or when separating (or analyzing) them, we also use our will forces, and you have to look for this will element in the appropriate area of the organism, into which it works from the domain of the human soul and spirit. The will forces involved in the process of thinking are connected with the organism as just described. Consequently, when entering the twelfth year, children develop the kind of thinking that, in the will nature, takes place in the bones and the dynamics of the skeleton. At this point, an important transition is taking place from the soft muscular system to the hard bony system that, as I like to put it, places itself into the world like a system of levers.

And here is where the heresy lies, the paradox I have to place before you: When we think about something belonging to external, inorganic nature, we do so primarily with our skeleton. Anyone accustomed to the currently accepted ideas of physiology will most likely laugh when someone living in Dornach maintains that we think abstractly with our bones. But this is how it works. It would be more comfortable not to say this, but it must be said, since correct knowledge of the human being is needed so much today.

[function of the brain]

Thoughts in our brain are only pictures of what actually occurs during the process of thinking. The brain is only an instrument that produces passive mental images of the real processes going on during the activity of thinking. To become conscious of our thinking, we need these mental pictures. But the images that our brain reflects for us lack the inner force inherent in pure thinking; they lack the element of will. The real nature of thinking has no more to do with the brain’s mental images than a certain gentleman’s picture on a wall has to do with the man himself. We must distinguish a picture from the actual person. Similarly, the actual processes during thinking must be distinguished from the mental images derived from them.

When thinking is directed toward outer physical nature, the entire human organism is involved to a certain extent, but especially the skeleton. In the twelfth year, a child’s thinking enters the realm of the skeleton. This is the signal for us to move on to a new range of subjects, leaving behind the subjects described yesterday — the plant in relation to the Earth and the animal kingdom in relation to the human being.



The head is, therefore, a very special organ, for it excludes itself, exiles itself from what is happening on the earth; the earth only participates to a small extent in the activities of the head. The head is an image of the cosmos. In its essential nature, it has nothing to do with the forces of the earth. The inner structure of the brain is an image of the cosmic forces. Its form cannot be explained from anything of an earthly nature but only from the in-working cosmos. I must speak rather crudely here, but you will understand me.

The earth works only to this extent, that it breaks through the cosmic formation and inserts into the human being that which tends towards the earth. You can see this readily by looking at a skeleton.

  • Take away the skull and you have taken away the part of the skeleton that is an image of the cosmos. In the head, with its covering skull you have a form in which the cosmos deprives the earthly forces of the possibility of taking shape; this form of the skull is an image of the cosmos.
  • The arrangement of the ribs is only half cosmic for here the skeleton is already impressed by the earthly forces. The spinal vertebrae to which the ribs are connected have arisen from the condition of equilibrium between the cosmic and the earthly.
  • In the long bones of the legs and the long bones of the arms, you have a purely earthly formation.
  • In this way we must study the forms of the human body.


Understanding of what I have said is essential before we can have insight into the structure and make-up of the human being. For the fact that in his head the human being is subject entirely to the cosmos, and in the long bones of arms and legs entirely to the earthly forces, is an expression, right down into substance, of how the cosmic formative forces behave.

You know that human bone contains calcium carbonate. But it also contains calcium phosphate. Both substances are very important for the bones.

  • Through the calcium carbonate the bones become subject to the Earth. If the bone substance was not permeated by calcium carbonate, the earth could not approach the bones. The calcium carbonate constitutes the substantial point of contact for the Earth which is thereby able to shape the bones in accordance with its formative forces. The thigh bones could not have their extension from above downwards if this was not made possible by the calcium carbonate. But there would be no femoral head without CaPO3. This fact is not changed by the objection which anatomists will raise, that the quantities of CaCO3 and CaPO3 do not essentially differ in the shaft of a long bone and its neck or head. To begin with, this statement is not quite accurate, for minute research will reveal a difference, but something else comes into consideration here. The human organism must have within it both up-building processes and processes of demolition — processes out of which something is built up and processes by means of which what is not used in the up-building is separated off.

A very decided difference between these up-building forces and forces of demolition in substances themselves is shown, for example, by fluorine. The physiologist would say that fluorine plays a part in the up-building of the teeth and is also present in the urine. Fluorine, therefore, exists here and there in the human body. But that is not the point of importance. In the up-building of the teeth, the activity of the fluorine is a positive one. The teeth could not develop without fluorine. In urine, there is fluorine which has been broken down and is excreted. The essential thing is to distinguish between whether a substance is being eliminated at some place in the body or whether it is an absolute necessity in the up-building process.

  • If part of a bone is built in from the cosmos, as it were, CaPO3 has here an up-building activity. In another part of a bone the CaPO3 is being eliminated.
    • In the shafts of the long bones, CaCO3 builds up, but
    • it is being eliminated in that part of the bone which is built in from the cosmos (head of the bone).

The essential thing is not the actual presence, here or there, of a substance. The point of importance is what the substance is doing, what significance it has at some particular place in the organism.


When the bony system is building itself up from out of the human organism taken as a totality, when the human being is, as it were, crystallizing into the skeleton — this is not a good way of expressing it, but you will understand what I mean — cosmic thoughts are weaving in him.

The organs that have definite outlines have these outlines only because they are subject to the same forces to which the building of the bones is subject. It is only the bony structure in the physical sense that is of the nature of thought, and the other organs with definite outlines have been built up out of the etheric world by an activity of thought. Inasmuch as they have definite outlines and contours, an activity of the nature of thought has been working. The forms in the human organism of which physiology and pathology speak are the result of an activity that is of the nature of thought.

But this is only one member of the human organization, and it must fall out of the human organization if one does not rise to imagination. It is imagination that can lead us to the fluid man, to the way in which the muscles are formed out of the fluidity and how the being of Man pours into the muscles. Muscles appear to be solid, but this is mere semblance.

Imagination is indispensable if one wants to comprehend the uniting of the solid nature of the bony structure with the fluid nature of the blood into what has the semblance of another solid structure — muscle.

We must therefore realize: Thought, which is of course, supported by physical perception, can in reality, only grasp the bony system, and apart from the bony system everything else that thought may say about the human being is fantasy.


In the things that you do with your etheric body, you have nothing to do with weight but with what overcomes weight to a great extent. Even this will make you realize that quite a different form of knowledge must be applied to the muscular system. This form of knowledge is imagination. The muscular system is comprehended through imagination — though there are transitions everywhere.

It is not possible to understand the muscular system unless we conceive of it as a structure that has not arisen in the same way as the bony system. It has taken shape, as it were, through a coagulation of blood. This is just as inadequate an expression as when I say that the bony system crystallizes, but it is a comparatively correct picture. Suppose you take some bone — the radius or the ulna, or upper arm — and apply the laws of leverage to it. This is quite all right. But while you can understand by the laws of leverage and other laws of mechanics what goes on in the radius or upper arm, just think whether these laws help you to understand what is going on in a muscle. Your mental pictures here must all become mobile, must be transformed. The essential characteristic of imagination is that it can always yield and give way and so embrace the substance of things that have their being in the process of metamorphosis. And this is the characteristic of the muscle; the muscle has its life in its metamorphosis. In contrast to the bones to which the laws of mechanics can be applied, the muscle is just as mobile as the pictures of metamorphosis — say pictures, not thoughts — which we have in imagination.

In the bony system we have the solid, earthy man; in the muscular system we have the fluid man, the watery man.


You see, therefore, that the whole human organism stands really towards the background of the physical world. After reading my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, people always get the picture: Here is the physical world and behind it, the spiritual world, in stages or degrees. We reach the nearest spiritual world through imagination, a further spiritual world through inspiration and a further world through intuition. But people do not picture to themselves that of all that is within the human being,

  • the bony system alone is built up by the elementary spirits, whereas
  • the muscular system is built up by spiritual beings of a higher hierarchy. This must be known and understood. A Man must be able to reach these beings through imagination if he is to understand the muscles.
  • To understand the inner organs, still higher spiritual beings must be reached through inspiration.

The inner structure of a skeleton, too, can only be truly understood with inspiration.

Just think of the following. A modern scientist investigates a plant by analyzing its substance by the methods current today. But this is by no means the plant in its reality. The plant is built up from out of the cosmos, as I said yesterday. It is only the root that is built up from earthly forces. The whole form of the plant is a spiritual reality, a super-sensible reality; this super-sensible reality is then filled with matter. And a Man who merely examines this physical matter in the plant is like someone who has a document in front of him that is wet with ink, that he has covered with sand to dry and who then imagines that the sand is the essential thing of the document. The document is covered with this sand and then it is scratched away and the Man says: I am examining the sand and I read what the document contains out of the sand. This, more or less, is the way in which people explain the root of a plant, whereas in reality the root is spiritual, filled with physical substance in its framework. So too, the human organs merely receive physical substance.

The reality is that only the bony system is physical; the muscles are etheric, the organs are astral.


Take very small animals of the kind one may find.

1 - Some very small animals consist altogether only of a soft, slimy mass (Fig. 1). This soft, slimy mass can extend something like a threadlike feeler from its mass if there is a little grain somewhere near. An arm is produced out of the mass. It can be taken back again. But, you see, such creatures secrete shells of lime or silica, so that they are surrounded by shells of lime or silica. Well, you cannot see very much when you observe such small animals.

2 - But there are creatures that are more developed, and with them you can observe more. There are creatures that also consist of such a slimy mass, but inside is something that looks like small rays if you look a bit more closely; and they also have a shell around them, and the shell has spines (Fig. 2). Everything that later develops into coral looks like this.

Take such a creature, which has a shell with spines and inside in its soft mass such ray-like structures. What is it? If you really go into it, you find that those rays inside are not brought about by the earth but by the sphere around the earth, by the stars. This soft mass is brought about by something that comes from the heavens, and the hard mass, or the mass with spines, is brought about by something from the inner earth.

How does such a thing come into existence? Well, gentlemen, if you want to know how it comes into existence, you must see it like this. Here is a little bit — I am drawing it much larger—of such a small slimy animal. Through an influence that comes from a faraway star, a little bit of such a ray develops inside. As it develops, the influence from the star is causing quite a bit of pressure on the rest of the mass here. This then pushes even more strongly against the wall here. A bulge forms on the inside of the shell there, because of the increased pressure, and a spine is created in the surrounding mass of lime or silica. So that the spine is brought about from outside, from the earth, the ray, however, from inside, but due to the influence of the star. Can you understand this?

The structure that develops here inside is the beginning of a nerve mass; the structure that develops out there is the beginning of a bone mass. We thus see, looking at these lower animals, that

  • nerves develop under the influence of the outer world circumference, which is beyond the earth.
  • Everything that is bony or shell-like by nature — the lower animals only have bone on the outside — develops under the influence of the earth.

3 - As we go on to consider more highly developed animals, we see shell development come to an end and skeletal development evolving, reaching its most perfect form in man.

4 - But take a look at the human skeleton.

  • Looking at it you realize that the head can be compared to a lower animal, for it has a kind of shell. It is soft inside. That is a big difference from the rest of the human skeleton.
  • Your leg and thigh bones are inside, and the flesh covers them. There the human being has taken the bony skeleton inside. In the rest of the human being the external skeleton is not as it is around the head but is taken inside. This is connected with the fact that the blood develops in a particular way in these higher animals and also in human beings.

When you look at those lower animals, everything is a white mass. Even the substance that flows in them as blood is white. These lower animals thus really have white blood that is not at all warm. The higher the animals, and the closer we come to the human being, moving up the scale of animal organization, the more the human being, who remains light-coloured, has blood mass present in him.

And the more the nerve is penetrated by blood mass, the more does the skeleton, initially an outer shell, withdraw into the inner organism.

We are thus able to put it like this.

Why does the human being have bones developed as internal structures, the way they are in his arms and legs?

Because he has blood mass entering into his nerve mass.

We are therefore able to say that higher animals and man inwardly need the blood inside them and therefore outwardly take the shell inside. Is this clear to you?

We are then also able to say: such a lower animal knows nothing of itself; human beings, however, and the higher animals, know of themselves. How does one know of oneself? Because one has the skeleton inside oneself. It is because of this that one knows of oneself. So if we ask: 'Why does man have self-awareness, what makes him know of himself?' We should not point to the muscles, nor to the soft parts, but we must point exactly to the solid skeletal support. Man knows of himself because he has a solid skeletal support. And it is extraordinarily interesting to study the human skeleton.

Let us assume this is the human being, and I roughly put in the skeletal system (Fig. 3). Now this is extraordinarily interesting. Looking at a skeleton you have to realize it has been inside a human being. But this human skeleton is completely enclosed in a membrane. If I wanted to draw this membrane I'd have to draw it like this. When the human being is alive, the whole of his skeletal system is as would cover the outside of the whole skeleton. But you don't need to do this, for nature has already done it. The whole is in a sack, the periosteum. And the interesting thing is that the blood vessels only go as far as the periosteum—they are present in the whole of this membrane. This blood nourishes the bone in so far as nourishment is intended, but inside the sack the bone is all earth: calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, ash, salts, and so on. So you have the strange situation that you are muscle, liver, and so on, and have your blood vessels inside you, and the blood initially I creates a sack. This sack closes you off from the inside. Inside the sack is a hollow space, and the bony skeleton is inside this hollow space. So it really is as if your bones were inside you, and you had separated them off, using a sack, the periosteum. And those bones are entirely earthy, they are earth inside you. You cannot feel them inside you as though in a sack, inside a membrane called the periosteum, which fits it very closely. Imagine a joint (Fig. 4). Here one bone has a head and that fits into a cup, as it were. With the periosteum it is like this. There you have the membrane, with the whole bone enclosed in it, and the membrane continues like this, arriving there and covering the skeleton. So if you just think of the skeleton inside the human being, it is entirely separate in the human being. Between all other parts of the human being and the skeleton lies a sacklike skin. It is really as if you were to take the skeleton of a living human being and imagine you spread a sack over the whole skeleton, covering it closely everywhere, so that the sack something that is you. You are as little able to feel your bones, seeing what they are, to be part of you as you would feel a piece of chalk you pick up to be part of you. The chalk is outside yourself, and in the same way your bone is out¬side yourself, and you are separated from it by a sack. You all have something inside you, in your skeleton, that is not you. It is earth made in the shape of bones, calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate. You have this inside you, but it is enclosed in a sack, in the periosteum.

You see, gentlemen, that is not a place for something that is not of the spirit. For if you get some splinter of earth matter inside you, it must fester until it comes out. Your bone does not fester until it comes out. Why? Because there where you are dead inside yourself, where the bone appears dead inside its periosteum, spirit is present everywhere.

You see, that was the wonderful instinct that made ordinary people, who often knew more than the academics, to see death as a skeleton. For they knew that the spirit was present in the skeleton. And if they thought of a spirit walking about, then it, too, had to be a skeleton. That was exactly the right image. For as long as a human being lives, he makes room in himself for the spirit through his bones.

This is something we'll discuss further in the very near future. But you also see from this that man does a great deal to bring the spirit into his bones.

The elephant still leaves room for the spirit inside his thick skin. And because the elephant still leaves room for the spirit inside his thick skin, the spirit, which the elephant is then able to sense, is able to perceive when the outside world destroys it. Man does not know of his death because his skin is too thin. If he were thick-skinned also in physical terms, he, too, would with¬draw into a cave and die in a cave. And then we would also say: 'Where do human beings get to? They go to heaven when they die!' Yes, gentlemen, the same thing which has  been said about animals has also been said about indivi-duals who were greatly venerated by many people. Moses is an example. It was said that his dead body was never found. He vanished, and people thought this really hap-pened in his case. He had grown as wise, people thought, as I have been saying. If human beings were thick-skinned physically and had their brains, they would be so clever that words cannot tell how clever they would be. And people knew of such things. You see, it is amazing what people did know. They said of Moses that he was as clever as he would have been if he had had a thick skin. And because of this he withdrew, and his dead body was never found. This is a very interesting connection. Don't you think so? Ancient legends often have to do with a pure, most beautiful animal veneration.


Think of the form that is revealed to you in the bony skull. We can take this bony skull and draw it. Look at its form and contrast this form with what is revealed to you by a long bone — let us say the thigh bone. These bones are not quite on their own, for manifold physical forces play around the bony skull; equally manifold forces play around the long bones. But the reality of a long bone will only be revealed to you if you study it in connection with the whole universe.

Just think of a long bone. Its forces are such that they pass through its length, and when the human being assumes his true earthly posture, they actually go down to the central point of the earth. But that is not the essential. The essential thing about a long bone is that it introduces these forces into the connection that exists between the central point of the earth and the moon. Therefore whatever is placed in the body like the long bone of the thigh or the bone of the upper arm, or a muscle lying in a similar position, is really inserted into the forces which connect the earth with the moon. You can picture it like this. Here you have the earth. (See diagram below.)

Forces stream up to the moon from the earth and these forces include everything that is involved, let us say, in the position in which the thigh is when the human being is standing or walking.

On the other hand, everything that has a position like that of the skull-covering is membered into the Saturn movement. In the skull there are the rotatory forces which belong to Saturn.

So that we can say: The human being is formed from below upwards through the connection between earth and moon. He is rounded off, finished off, by the rotatory forces of Saturn.

But these two kinds of forces are counter to each other. In the forces which are contained in the connection between earth and moon there lies everything that gives the human being his plastic form, everything that builds him, plastically. One might say: There is a secret sculptor in these forces; whereas the other forces give rise to a perpetual process of demolition, in which the substances which build up the human being plastically are again disintegrated or dispersed. When you cut a nail, you with your scissors are in the Saturn forces; when you eat, this takes you into the realm of the forces working between earth and moon. All these latter forces are up-building forces. All the other forces pulverize the human being. In this interaction between pulverization and plastic up-building live the soul of man and the spirit of man. Therein they manifest themselves.


describes how lime gives the earthly formative power

.. precisely in order to enable what is living in the carbon to remain in perpetual movement, Man creates an underlying framework in his limestone-bony skeleton .. for in the limestone form of the skeleton he has the solid earth within him

1925-GA027 Ch. 6

quote A

.. The nerves of the middle area, influenced by the astral body, form the organs important for internal and external mobiliy (muscles) out of the blood substance (influenced by the astral and etheric bodies). In the upper area the nerves that depend on the I-organization are the starting point for the skeleton, together with the blood processes which tend strongly to the mineral.


The skeleton is the physical picture of the I-organization. The organizing power of the I forms the basis for the brain only in secret; it goes down in the life processes and physical processes following their inherent laws. For this reason, the brain can become the bearer of mental and spiritual I-activity. By contrast, the I-organization is completely exhausted in the bony system in its physical organizing activities, so that the processes in the bones are the most unaware.

quote B

The skeleton is the physical image of the I-organization.

In the bone creating process the human organic substance, as it tends toward the lifeless mineral, is entirely subject to the I-organization. In the brain, the I is active as a spiritual being. The capacity of the I to create form in the physical substance is here overwhelmed entirely by the organizing activity of the etheric, even by the forces proper to the physical. The brain is based only minimally on the I's organizing power, which here becomes submerged in the processes of life and in the workings of the physical. Yet this is the very reason why the brain is the bearer of the spiritual work of the I. For, inasmuch as the organic and physical activities in the brain do not involve the I-organization, the latter is able to devote itself freely to its own activities.

In the bony system of the skeleton, perfect though it is as a physical picture of the I-organization, the latter exhausts itself in the act of forming and organizing the physical, and as spiritual activity, there is nothing left. Therefore the processes in the bones are the most unconscious.

[carbonic acid process]

So long as it is in the organism, the carbonic acid which is pushed out in breathing is still a living substance; it is taken hold of and driven outward by the astral activity that has its seat in the middle or spinal region of the nervous system.

The portion of carbonic acid which the metabolism carries up into the head is there combined with calcium, and thus develops a tendency to come into the sphere of action of the I-organization.

Through this, calcium carbonate is driven under the influence of the head nerves, motivated inwardly by the I-organization, toward bone-formation.


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Werner Schüpbach: 'Über das Geometrische im menschlichen Skelett : die Beziehungen zur Pflanzengeometrie, zum Kosmischen und zur menschlichen Individualität' (1947, in three parts)
  • Leendert F. C. Mees:
    • 'Metamorfosen in het menselijk skelet' (article in NL 1968)
    • 'Secrets of the Skeleton: Form in Metamorphosis' (1995 in EN, original in NL1980 as 'Geheimen van het Skelet - Vorm en metamorfose' link to online book; in DE as 'Das menschliche Skelett. Form und Metamorphose' (1981 and 1990 in DE)