Man's bodily principles

From Anthroposophy

Man's structure as made up of bodily principles corresponding to the planetary evolutionary stages and spectrum of elements and ethers. These bodily principles are therefore of a different spiritual constitution, woven by spiritual beings at the different worlds or planes of consciousness.

Because on Earth we are on the fourth of seven planetary stages, we distinguish in Man's

  • the inherent and latent structure, including higher principles that can be further developed through initiation, and that some individuals have matured ahead of the development for mainstream humanity
  • the principles that all humanity already developed upto the current epoch and cultural age.

Therefore sometimes Man is called being with different 'multiplicity:

  • a threefold being consisting of body, soul and spirit. Note to avoid confusion: Man is also called a threefold being as Man is made up of three 'functional' subsystems
  • a fourfold being because mankind developed four principles
    • see also Pythagoras' Tetractis (eg 1907-01-28-GA96 and 1906-11-08-GA055)
  • a sevenfold if considering Man's full structure
  • a ninefold being if counting the threefold soul as three elements, see also the Human 'I'.

The schema below illustrates it sounds more complicated than it it, but one needs to be fully familiar with this schema in order to not get confused.

Man's transformation and spiritualization consists of the transformation of the lower triad (of astral, etheric and physical bodies) to the higher triad (of spirit self or manas, life spirit or budhi, and spirit-man or atma).

Note the Man's bodily structure is different during incarnation and life between birth and death, compared to Structure of Man between death and a new birth. During incarnation he lives in the four bodily principles that he developed during death and a new birth. After death, Man sheds his physical, then etheric and finally astral body, and continues with the cleansed part of the astral body and the I. Then Man works with the higher spiritual hierarchies in the Spirit world and develops the new bodies for the next life. See more on Man's cycle of reincarnation


  • Sevenfold harmony and inner experience
    • the sevenfold nature of Man was taught in the Atlantean Mystery schools (Turanian adept school in fourth sub-race), where the sevenfoldedness was taught through the use of seven sounds, seven colours, and seven aromas .. so the principle that lives in sevenfold harmony would become an inner experience (1907-02-18-GA096 and also 1907-01-28-GA096)
    • The seven bodily principles map to the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer, see Schema FMC00.095
  • The nine bodily principles can be linked to the Sermon on the Mount


Schema FMC00.086 shows the simplest overview of the constitution of Man's bodily principles, and how it can be referenced as 3,4,5,7 or 9 folded.

Schema FMC00.218 complements and expands on FMC00.086, showing the main planetary stage for the development of each bodily principle; and adding different terminology used in theosophy, jewish doctrine, and esoteric christianity.


FMC00.218A is a drawing from Rudolf Steiner in a letter to Marie Steiner, showing the development of Man's bodily principles in the seven main planetary stages of evolution. It illustrates FMC00.218.


FMC00.312 is a symbolic meta schema collating imagery on Man's bodily structure.


FMC00.312A is the version with the FMC schema references that are collated here, they can be followed and studied individually so as to merge the perspectives they offer and integrate them in your soul work.


Schema FMC00.130 provides a simple tabular overview of evolution and the developmental goal per planetary stage (and Condition of Consciousness) - and epoch (taking into account conditions of life and form). See more on Man's transformation and spiritualization


Schema FMC00.286 shows the evolutionary dimension, and illustrates that one can not always assume intellectual logic of induction and deduction to hold in reality, as spiritual research shows. The development of Man's subsystems did not develop along the sequence of Recapitulation as they were developed in the planetary stages, but actually in a more complex 'partial reverse recapitulation'.


Schema FMC00.245 illustrates how the soul and spirit live in Man's bodily principles and I-organization. How the threefold soul activity and thinking feeling willing relates to the bodily organisms, and our contemporary waking consciousness is just a part of this.

See also what contemporary mineral science calls 'the hard problem of consciousness', namely the fact that current human consciousness can not be explained by the purely materialistic mineral aspect of Man.

Lecture coverage and references

Starting quote is from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience

A good introduction in given in 1905-06-20-GA091 or 1922-04-30-GA212


The Pythagorean 'quadrature' [editor: Tetractis] is nothing else than the four-foldness, physical body, etheric body, astral body and 'I'. Those who have occupied themselves more deeply with spiritual science know that the I works out from itself what we call Spirit-Self (or Manas), Life-Spirit (or Budhi), and the actual Spirit-Man (or Atma).

1907-01-28-GA096 is on the Lord's Prayer which also has a sevenfold structure. At the end this lecture also makes reference to the sevenfold harmony, as in 1907-02-18-GA096


.. mentions that the sevenfold nature of Man was one of the things that was made known in the Turanian adept school (in the fourth and middle sub-race of the Atlantean epoch), where the sevenfoldedness was thought with the use of seven sounds, seven colours, and seven aromas all on a scale .. the principle that lives in sevenfold harmony would become an inner experience.

Reference to this is also made at the end of 1907-01-28-GA096 on the Lord's Prayer.


... describes how the various cultures in the current epoch 'discovered' the different bodily principles:

  • Indians - physical body
  • Egyptians - etheric body, hence there special link with water
  • Babylonians - astral body
  • Jews - I


Terminology - Wesensglieder

  • Steiner translator Anna Meuss has been using 'levels of existence' for Wesensglieder. However ‘levels of existence’ really doesn’t mean anything to the average reader, ànd the term is not appropriate: it’s not about levels of existence. This would rather apply to conditions of consciousness CoC, see table FMC00.048.
  • One alternative could be 'subtle bodies', maybe better than 'bodies' or 'sheaths'.
  • ‘Principles of being’ .. would imply that the state of being has multiple principles, which is also not correct – they are really sheaths that are woven by the hierarchies in evolution.
  • ‘bodily components’ would insinuate they are components of one body, which is also not what is meant here.
  • Technically probably the most correct would be ‘components of our structure or structural make-up’ .. but that doesn’t mean anything either as a readable label.

The rationale for ‘bodily principles’ is related to the structure of Man:

  • The word bodily referring to bodies is there because we speak of astral body, etheric body etc .. but actually these are extensions of the term ‘body’ we know .. higher up it’s not mental body anymore but threefold soul and I and spirit self etc. Just as we have a physical body that (we think) we know (re: phantom or resurrection body – the physical body is not material but spiritual too, the mineral aspect is due to the luciferic infection) .. we also have other less ‘visible’ components of our structure that we can call astral body for example
  • but actually these are all part of a multi-fold structure consisting of components blended onto one another, components that ‘come and go’ in evolution ..
  • hence the term 'bodily principles' implies we do not mean one body .. but the fact they are structural components in our make up, part of the blueprint so to speak.

The use of the word principles can be illustrated with an analogy. Also with the four elements one could say that, although behind these stand spiritual beings, for Man who does not know or see these, they are like philosophical principles. In fact many people, regard the four elements as philosophical principles, even an initiate used the term. So here too what is meant with a principle is broader than the tangible or definable that we think of when using the world 'body', the broader conceptual principle is meant, including the many different aspects .. a principle related to the bodily nature and make up, the principle being broader and less contained as in a material body.

Related pages

References and further reading