Man's higher triad

From Anthroposophy

Man's higher triad is the actual 'higher self' or true spiritual 'I', and consists of:

  • spirit-self (or manas) - causal body, lies in the higher spirit world. The causal body is like the book that contains all parts of the ennobled astral body that has been transformed by the I in each life.
  • life-spirit (or budhi) - it's essence lies in the budhi plane
  • spirit-man (or atma) - comes from the nirvana plane

Man's 'mental body' or body in the spirit world, appears clairvoyantly as a blueish oval (causal body) in which a gold-yellow central point sparkles (see Schema FMC00.164 below). That is the true Self of Man, originating from the budhi and nirvana regions, see also Monad.


  • positioning versus the Human 'I' and threefold soul
  • evolutionary aspect - establishing of monad structure on Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon, see eg Schema FMC00.055 and Schema FMC00.276 on Overview of solar system evolution
  • the mapping to the various region of the spirit world
  • .. and the region to which the spirit rises during death and a new birth, depending on the stage of spiritual development attained
  • where is the true 'I' to be found during incarnate life?
    • in the spiritual world, it waits (1908-05-31-GA103 below and more on Human 'I' page)
    • our real self or higher 'I', is widely extended over the world around us and the whole external world is our body when considering ourselves as a member of the spirit world
      • 1906-GA094, 1913-05-01-GA152
      • see also 1914-10-03-GA156 and 1914-12-19-GA156, (with reference to 1914-GA018))
      • this is also described in the 1921-08-206 lectures, see Waking consciousness,
    • see more on Note [2] in the 'Discussion' section below
  • "Though thou fightest thou art not the fighter" from Light on the Path, referring to the 'fight' the lower self has in becoming a servant of the higher self. (1906-03-05-GA094)
  • three revelations of the higher self: first through dreams, secondly through intuition, third through meditation (1909-08-30-GA266/1 and 1909-10-26-GA266/1)

Inspirational quote

from 1909-04-29-GA057

wherever knowledge of this mystery has existed has always been called the higher being of man, that inner being of which it has been said that it does not originate in anything the outer eyes can investigate, but in sources of a higher soul and spiritual nature; it has not an earthly but a heavenly home.


Schema FMC00.056 positions the Higher triad in the structure of Man as a Microcosmos with the different bodily principles, see:

Schema FMC00.164 sketches ('powerpoint artist impression') the appearance of Man's spiritual higher Self in the Spirit World.

Schema FMC00.128 positions the higher triad against the Human 'I' or threefold soul, along the planes or worlds of consciousness. One can see the life of Man rolling of in seven-year phases spent developing each bodily principle. The third hierarchy H3 in the first 21 years (physical, etheric, astral), the second H2 between 21 and 42 developing the threefold I, and the development of the higher self between 42 and 63 years.

See also:

Schema FMC00.140 draws from various theosophical sources, hence the different terminology of the planes and also the unfortunate and misleading (materialistic) term 'atom' used for the node at each plane. It shows the higher triad consisting of spirit-man or atma on the nirvana plane, the life-spirit on budhi on the buddhi plane, and spirit-self in the higher spirit world or arupa devachan. This is consistent with the descriptions in Rudolf Steiner's lectures. The drawing on the left (and many more schemas and descriptions in Powell's book) also illustrates how the monad streams down through the planes to the lowest physical level.

Schema FMC00.197 connects Schema FMC00.128 above (showing the planes or worlds of consciousness) with Schema FMC00.056 above (showing Man's bodily principles), with the focus on the fact that Man's divine Selfhood is the nucleus of atma and budhi elements that is sheathed in bodily sheath principles. Both the lower and the higher self can be regarded as sheaths, and the mission of Man is to develop through all these seven main elements. However ultimately the divine origin, and future, lies above the Spirit World. See discussion section below.

Lecture coverage and references

Rudolf Steiner (quote from oa 1912-05-23-GA155, but see 1904-02-18-GA090A below for more expanded description)

The I dwells in the single human individual as Divinity.


Man's higher principles are described in relation to Spirit World in 1904-02-18-GA090A (translation DL, edited SWCC)

When we consider the highly developed Men who have develop higher spiritual faculties and dedicated themselves to to a spiritual life, then also the astral body appears very different. Its shape does not appear cloudy, but rather shining from inside out on a blue background. The base of the causal body has a more or less clear dark blue colouring, and therein shines the eternal Man. The more pure and noble a soul develops in the spiritual, the more this is shown in the colour of the spiritual. We see, from inside out, a beautiful gold-yellow coloured shining that goes into blue-like violet radiation. The causal body is pervaded of these beams, and expands more and more, takes on larger dimensions. The Adept rests in the middle of this causal body, that goes from the yellow golden shining beams in its inner center to the violet shining beams around, so he is really surrounded and enclosed by this flood of light in such way that he can expand himself often ten, twenty or thirty times in length on top and below. Such are the causal bodies of the leader of mankind.

And when one looks at the imagination body of the lower Man, then we also still find shapes, but they are have become bright and shining from their inside out. ..

.. in the higher Spirit World is where Man truly develops himself and where he appears in his true being (that will then incarnate).

Here Man shines in a light blue oval, and in that blue oval shines that what we have to call the actual being of Man. Man's fine and pure blue body is woven from the finest substance of spirit world, hence the pure blue colour. I stress expressly, that one can only observe this pure blue colouring when one considers only the spiritual part and disregards all that Man still has besides. Man appears here in the highest regions of the spirit world, in his blueish oval, pervaded by his being. And this is what Platonic philosophy called the shining and glimmering light being, and what the initiate Paul called the spiritual body.

What shines and sparkles therein, in this blue oval, originates from still higher worlds (beyond all that we have covered so far).

the lecture then goes on to describe how Man incarnates into the three worlds mentioned by Paul, the spirit world, the soul (or astral) world, and the material world from which the physical body is woven.

Man lives in each world with the substance taken from that world. When we descend from the spirit world, we first clothe our actual Self with a body woven from the lower areas of the spirit world. Our being then descends to the astral world and builds the astral body there, and finally it attracts physical substance or matter before a new birth and incarnation.

However, what expands in the blue 'spirit body', in this sparkling shape or pattern, thàt does not originate from these worlds. This blueish oval storage for the Self is clothing made of the uppermost finest taken from the spirit world. Our Self, the part that incarnates, originates from still higher planes: it originates from the actual divine homeland of Man called the budhi and nirvana regions. From these two regions Man really originates.

... This is the actual eternal, heavenly, divine Being of Man. It is what Giordano Bruno called the eternal monad, the heavenly Self of Man that goes through all incarnations. It takes part in all further formation and clothes itself in lower bodily sheaths as previously described. First it shines in a wonderfully beautiful gold yellow colour, then it expands more and more, and in the other areas takes on a violet-reddish colour, depending on the different characteristics [of the individuality] ..

.. in people who developed pride and ambition in their incarnations to date, , this golden shining part of Man takes on an orange-reddish colouring. And similarly in other ways various character attributes show all the influences that need to be brought into balance again.

That is what comes rippling down from the higher worlds, to incarnate in our earthly world. That is what originates from budhi and nirvana planes, and what we denote as atma-budhi, what is made up from the highest essence or substance, what emerges from the divine being itself. ..

.. through many incarnations Man gradually ascends to the three highest regions of the spirit world, that is: each Man will spend some more or less time between two incarnations in these higher regions. An undeveloped savage will experience a short flashing up of his Self in the spirit world. Through development, the period spent in the spirit world becomes always longer. When higher spiritual properties such as compassion are developed, then Man rises between two incarnations upto the second region. [etc]

Then follow (p 101) the different profiles corresponding to the highest levels in the spirit world reached through the stages of development, this is also in GA088 and will be added under the topic of reincarnation.

And then one has attained the region in which the patterns from the budhi and nirvana world shine into. As Budhi shines into our spirit world, in this way the very highest shines into this region, the germs of Man's Self shine through. These germs come into the spirit world to clothe themselves there with substance (of the third region). The clairvoyant can see people in their germ form in this third region of the spirit world ..



.. we described the three members of the human physical body and the three members of the human soul. Since the third member of the physical body forms a unity with a member of the soul, we have first two parts plus one plus two, so five parts: physical body, etheric body, soul-body, intellectual soul, consciousness-soul in which the I lights up. This I is a quite interesting point in the aura. At a certain place this I becomes discernible. Within the outer oval you find a strange, blue shimmering or blue fluorescent place, also oval-shaped. It is real in such a way, as if you see a candle flame; but with the difference which the astral colours have compared with the physical colours it is in such a way, as if you see the blue in the middle of the candle flame. This is the I which is perceived within the aura.

If the human being develops ever so far, if he develops his clairvoyant capacities ever so far, at this point he sees this blue I-body at first, this blue light body. This is an overcast sanctuary, also for the clairvoyant. Nobody is able to behold into the real I of the fellow man. This remains a secret at first also for somebody who has developed his soul senses. Only within this blue shimmering place something new begins to gleam. There is a new flame which begins to gleam in the centre of the blue flame. This is the third member, the mind. This mind again consists of three members like the other components of the human being. [editor: the higher triad is meant here]

Eastern philosophy calls these members manas, buddhi and atma. These three components are developed with the present-day human beings so that, actually, only the lowest part, the spirit-self this is the correct translation of manas is developed as a rudiment. This manas is connected as firmly with the highest member of the soul as the sentient soul with the soul-body, so that again the highest part of the soul and the lowest part of the mind form a whole because one cannot distinguish them. One just beholds in the aura the highest member of the soul in the centre of the blue shimmering place where the I is, and one sees the mind lighting up within the I. Today the mind is developed with humanity up to the manas. The higher parts, buddhi and atma life-spirit and spirit-man are developed as rudiments, and we will see how they will develop speaking about reincarnation and karma in the next lecture.


uses the terminology 'higher self' throughout the lectures

unknown reference supposedly 1906-GA094 but could not be traced:

Only then do we gain knowledge of the true inner life, and we learn to recognize that our real self, our higher 'I', is widely extended over the world around us. The only “external world” is now our own body.


The third grade was that of the “Fighter”. These were initiates who felt their higher self to the extent that they understood sayings such as one finds in the second part of “Light on the Path”.

[“Stand aside in the coming battle, and though thou fightest, be not thou the warrior."]

Only an initiate of the third grade can understand such sayings. This does not mean that the ordinary person cannot reach a certain comprehension. Everyone has a higher self, and if one is able to abnegate one's lower self and make it a servant of the higher self then one can say in a certain sense:

“Though thou fightest thou art not the fighter”.

But it is not until one has reached a particular stage of initiation that one really knows what this sentence signifies. What one formerly considered as higher interests become mere subsidiary interests, mere servants of the fighter.


.. (SWCC)

One may ask: Where is this higher human self? Is it within the personal man? No, it is not there. On Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon, the higher self was diffused over the entire cosmos. At that time the Cosmic Universal I was spread out over all humankind, but now men have to permit it to work upon them individually.


The fourth member of man's constitution is the bearer of the I. Thus we have his physical body, which in external nature is comparable with the mineral, then his etheric body, which is comparable with the plant, and then his astral body, which is common to both animal and man. The astral body in man, however, is far more mobile than it is in the animal.

The I bearer, the fourth member of Man's nature, is seen as a kind of oval form, the source of which can be traced to the anterior part of the head. It is visible there to the clairvoyant as a bluish, luminous orb. A kind of bluish sheen streams out from this orb and passes into the human being. When, but not until the clairvoyant can also suggest away a man's astral body, he is able to perceive the I bearer.

Man has the other three bodies in common with the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms of nature. But the I bearer distinguishes him from these kingdoms and he becomes thereby the crown of creation.


The path to true knowledge of the human self is to be found in the kind of meditation just described, which leads to the liberation of inner thought-power. Only through such knowledge do we realise that this human self is not confined within the limits of the physical body; on the contrary, we come to recognise that this self is connected with the phenomena of the world around us. Whereas in ordinary life we see the sun here, the moon there, the mountains, hills, plants and animals, we now feel ourselves united with everything we see or hear; we are a part of it all, and for us there is now only one external world - our own body. In ordinary life we are here and the external world is around us, but after the development of the independent power of thinking, we are outside our body, one with all that we otherwise see; our body in which we live is now outside us; we look back upon it as the only world upon which we can now gaze.


[Waking consciousness and the human ‘I’]

What must happen in order that man can learn to be aware of this world in which he is really living all the time?

Here we have to consider something very important. Above all, we must keep the following in mind. I have tried to describe it more precisely, for the public as well, in the last chapter of the book 'Riddles of Philosophy' (1914-GA018). I want to see whether a few individuals who are not in the anthroposophical movement are capable of understanding it.

How does external perception come about?

.. people generally think .. that external perception arises because the objects are there and then Man, inside his skin, receives impressions from the objects; they suppose that his brain .. produces inner pictures of the external objects and forms. Now that is simply not the case; the facts are quite different.

The truth is that the human being is not by any means confined within his skin. If someone is looking at a bunch of flowers, then with his I and astral body he is actually within it, and his organism is a reflecting apparatus which reflects it back to him. In reality you extend over the horizon which you survey.

In waking consciousness, you are also rooted, with an essential part of your I and astral body, in your physical and etheric bodies. The process is as I have often described in lectures. Let us assume that here are a number of mirrors. As long as you walk through space and have no mirror, you do not see yourself, but as soon as you come to a mirror you do. The human organism is not the producer of what you experience in your soul, it is only the reflecting apparatus. The soul is united with the bunch of flowers outside. That the soul may be able to see the flowers consciously depends upon the eye, in unison with the brain-apparatus, reflecting back to the soul that with which the soul is living.

Man does not perceive in the night, because when he sleeps he draws out what is within him all day: his I and astral body. Therefore, the eyes and brain cease to reflect. Going to sleep is just as though you had a mirror in front of you: you look into the mirror and see your own face; take the mirror away, and all at once your face is no longer there.

And so Man, with his being of soul-and-spirit, is actually within that part of the world which he surveys; and he sees it consciously, because his own organism mirrors it back to him. In the night this reflecting apparatus is not there, and he sees nothing. We ourselves are the part of the world which we see; during the night that part of the world is withdrawn.

One of the worst forms of Maya is the belief that Man remains firmly within his skin. He does not; in reality he is within the things he sees. When I am confronting a human being, I am within him with my astral body and I. If I were not to confront him with my organism I should not see him. The fact that I can see him is due to my organism; but with my astral body and I, I am within him. The failure to realise this is one of the most dangerous results of Maya.

In this way we can form an idea of the nature of perception and experience on the physical plane.


This is the physical body. And outside of it, outside the physical person, the soul-spiritual nature of the human being lives, as it were, poured out into the endless universe.

[Waking consciousness]

But during the day, in daytime waking life, this same soul-spiritual being extends itself into the soul-physical entity. And thereby a reflection arises. And this reflection is actually what we sense as the content of our daytime wakeful life. Really, our body is like a mirror, and just as we do not see the mirror, but what is reflected in it, what we see when a person is awake is fundamentally not what is happening in the body, but rather what is reflected in the body of the outer physical world.

However, insofar as we are inside the body in waking daily consciousness, our ‘I’ - what we are as soul beings - is in fact basi­cally also present in this world of mirror images. For the world all around us is maya; it is a sum of mirror images. Our waking ‘I’ is inside this sum of mirror images, and, as beings on the physical plane, we are basically nothing other than a reflection among reflections.

Let me make this clear and ask: insofar as we are on the physical plane, what remains of our whole life of concepts if we extinguish daytime consciousness?

The ‘I’ goes out with it. And if the ‘I’ is not reflected, as in deep dreamless sleep, it too is extinguished. And if we awaken and have the world of reflections before us, our ‘I’ is inside this world of reflections, so that we, insofar as we are living on the physical plane, can have nothing of ourselves other than a reflection.

[Maya – our waking consciousness lives in a world of reflections]

We pass through the world as beings on the physical plane and have nothing of ourselves other than a reflection. We live in the world, but as far as we are conscious of ourselves, we do not have the living reality before us, but rather the reflection of this living reality. We live as a reflection among reflections; and what we learn to recog­nize through spiritual science—that we live as a reflection among reflections, as maya among the parts of the great maya—is sensed by people when they feel the powerlessness of all spiritual experience in the face of full-blooded reality. We do not say to ourselves in ordinary life that we are a reflection among reflections, but we feel it. We feel it above all when we feel, "How can I reach full-blooded being with this mere reflection?"

Let us be clear what is there. Imagine you have before you a reflective wall; it reflects back what is spread about the room—for example, a table. However, what you see is not the table, but rather the reflection of the table. Imagine you wanted to go into the reflec­tion, take the table out, and put something in its place. You would not be able to do that, because you cannot put a plate or soup bowl on the reflected table. It is just as impossible to put a plate or a soup bowl on the reflected table as it is to derive the essence of the soul's immortality from what human beings experience on the physical plane and have around themselves in a waking state between birth and death.

For the real soul is immortal. It is not its reflection, which we experience on the physical plane. Think about that.

Human beings yearn to know what is constantly hidden from them and which, while they are on the physical plane, shows them only a reflection. The philosophies of all ages have striven to draw reality out from the reflections; they have sought to prove immortality from reflections. They have taken on the duty, symbolically speaking, of fetching the table out of the reflection, putting it in the room, and placing plates and bowls upon it.

When we read philosophies that are fecundated by spiritual science, they appear to us as futile efforts of this sort. If you go through my book The Riddles of Philosophy, you will find the story of how, since the beginning of humanity's philosophical struggle, philosophy has made an effort to take the table out of the mirror and put plates and soup bowls on it.


[1] - Notes about schema FMC00.197

What is the difference between the current I, and the Christ-in-me?

Schema FMC00.197 was made to contemplate and connect to the topics of the Development of the I and the Human 'I', and compare the current I-consciousness of Man with the Schema FMC00.183. Take into account the Twelve conditions of consciousness.

See also what is offered in Christ Module 12 - The cosmic 'I', from which topic page the following extract:


Until that time, the innermost kernel of being, although indeed present in man, had not entered directly into human consciousness. This was what actually happened in the event described as the Mystery of Golgotha. .. God and the primordial Divine Being, not in the ‘soul-sheaths’ but in the true I — this was what Christianity, the Christ Impulse, brought into human evolution. ... the entrance of Divine consciousness that speaks through the I — that is the essence of the Christ Impulse

[2] - Connecting the worlds of our 'true spiritual I' with our 'physical I'


  1. In the title, with 'true spiritual I' we mean the spiritual I or higher triad, as described on this page. With our 'physical I' is meant, the mirror-image of ourselves, what we call 'me' with Waking consciousness in the world of reflections (also called maya). Our I and astral body do 'live' in and use the structures of the physical and etheric body, such as the blood and the nervous system, see more on 'I-organization'.
  2. This note goes into the question: "where is the true 'I' to be found during incarnate life"?
  3. This is related to:


Rudolf Steiner's explanations about the soul's current waking I-consciousness, and the true nature of our higher self being spiritual, point to the fact that we have to make a major distinction between who we really are as a spiritual being, and the I we call ourselves here in physical reality on Earth.

Indeed our soul is in the lower spirit world, or higher triad and true higher self in the higher spirit world (and beyond), where time and space and 'separatedness' do not exist. In the physical world, our body outlines the boundaries of who we call I in the mirror of our waking consciousness.

Pointers to this topic are eg 1913-05-01-GA152, 1906-GA094, this is also described in the 1921-08-206 lectures (12-13-14 August), see Waking consciousness. These state that our real self or higher 'I', is widely extended over the world around us, and the whole external world is our body when considering ourselves as a member of the spirit world. Man's spiritual I is really in the spirit world beyond astral and physical spacetime, hence we are 'everywhere'. And for example in 1908-05-31-GA103 (and more on Human 'I' page) is described where the true spiritual I of Man is .. it waits in the spirit world, connected, whilst incarnated Man has his spacetime life experience.

This is an intriguing topic because of course we do have an I-organization in our lower bodies, so there is a link to make between the physical and spirit worlds. This link we can make for ourselves imaginatively. Here an attempt can be made to describe this point explicitly in a comprehensive image painting.

  • Indeed, in our physiology, there is the place in our brain where we have a special connection with the spirit world, and that's a very localized spot physically, where the spiritual and the mineral-physical meet and flow into another. One can intuit this place plays a special role in Man's spiritualization. See Matter is destroyed in the brain, Etherization of Blood, Man's new organ
  • Another picture is the workings of the zodiacal and other spiritual influences to the chakras - re the right image on Schema FMC00.279

On the side, without going into that here: The mapping between these two worlds of consciousness: the Spirit world and the physical world, happens through the astral world, and this is where the intellectual mind can easily get confused because one has to let go and leave behind the references of our waking consciousness, see mathematics of the etheric and lemniscatory timespace.

Related pages


References and further reading