Model for hereditary physical body

From Anthroposophy

The Human physical body develops from two influences:

  • those of the heridity (and a heriditary model of the physical body for Earth)
  • and the growth forces developed by 'pre-earthly Man' in the spiritual journey between last death and the new birth.

The first body (V1) develops from the Embryo in the womb mainly based on the 'model', whereby the pre-earthly influences of the spirit seed work on the head from the surrounding girdle of chorion (outer) and amnion (inner) membranes, but 'pre-earthly' Man's individual etheric, astral and I work and influence the process.

During the first seven years, both growth forces continue to work on the body which develops on the basis of the 'model', but is individualized by Man's individual influences. This fight between both forces gives rises to child diseases in the first years of life, eg scarlet fever (when the individual has a stronger I, astral body and thus etheric body), or measles (when the individual's influences are less strong).

In the second seven years, the influence of the hereditary stream disappears, as Man continuously renews and re-builds his physical body. After the first seven years the then adapted model is further individualized by Man's individual influences of I, astral body and etheric body. See also Seven year rhythm.

This is why no two physical bodies are ever the same.

The hereditary stream is also the carrier of illness as a result of the Fall and the luciferic infection or corruption of the human astral body in the Lemurian epoch, the start of physical incarnation and gender, as coined by the term 'original sin' (see Fall and redemption - original sin and grace).

One reason for the cause of the deterioration of the generation succession (and the decline of families, tribes, peoples and nations), is the existence of criminal demon parasites during Man's embryonic period. (see 1915-01-03-GA275 on Embryo in the womb, see also The double.


  • the ever increasing impact of the feeling of inherited characteristics (in the contemporary materialistic worldview), as it is coupled to the meaning of life and worth of an individual's life experience and contribution (1920-10-31-GA200)


Schema FMC00.333 depicts the development of Man's physical model based on the two influences: those of the heriditary model (dark blue below) and the growth forces developed by pre-earthly Man (green below). Man's individuation in an incarnation comes not only from the work of the soul between death and a new life, but also the hereditary basis and the related concept of the 'original sin' (see Fall and redemption - original sin and grace).


Lecture coverage and references

Inheritance in general

1903-10-02-GA069C - see quote on Illness

1909-01-26-GA107 after an introduction

.. Yet there can still be an obstacle. The compensating deed could be one to which our own organism is not equal. Our organism is also dependent on the forces of heredity. This makes for disharmony in any life. Man is born on the one side into these forces of heredity. His physical and etheric body inherit the qualities that can be passed down through the generations. This hereditary stream is, of course, bound to have some measure of external connection with the karma our soul has set itself. For as it comes down from the spiritual world our soul is attracted to the kind of parents through whom it can inherit those qualities that come closest to our requirements. They never, however, entirely correspond, for in the body this cannot be so. There is always a certain discrepancy between the forces of heredity and what the soul brings with it from the past. Now it all depends on whether the soul is strong enough to overcome all the obstacles in the line of heredity, and is capable of re-forming the organism during the course of a lifetime, so that it overcomes what does not suit it. People vary a great deal in this respect. Some souls have acquired great strength in the course of previous incarnations. A soul of this nature has to incarnate in the most suitable body possible, though it will not be absolutely suitable. Yet this soul might be strong enough more or less to overcome everything not suited to it, though this is not necessarily always the case. Let us follow this up in detail by looking at the brain.

the main point is brought home:

This instrument of our life of concepts and ideas is inherited externally through our line of heredity. Its delicate convolutions are formed in one way or another according to this line of heredity. The soul will always to some extent have the inner strength to overcome what does not suit it and bring its instrument into harmony with its own forces, but only to a certain extent. The stronger the soul is the better it can do this.

And if circumstances are such that it becomes impossible for the soul forces to overcome the resistance in the composition of the brain, the brain cannot be used properly. And then there occurs what we call mental defectiveness, mental illness.

A melancholic temperament arises too, because the soul forces are not strong enough to overcome certain things in the organism.

In the middle of life — it is different at the beginning and at the end — the forces of our soul always encounter a certain unsuitability in their instrument. This is the secret that always lies hidden behind the inner conflict and disharmony in human nature. What men often imagine to be the reason for their discontent is usually just a mask. In reality the reasons for it are as we have described. Thus we see the relationship between what the soul takes with it from incarnation to incarnation and what it receives from the line of heredity.

1917-10-26-GA177 expands on the blood bonds inheritance, and the reversal at the end of the 19th century, in the context of the 'fall of the spirits of darkness'

Let us try to use the different insights we have gained and determine the task those spirits of darkness had to perform through millennia, through the whole Atlantean age and on into Graeco-Latin times. It has to be kept in mind that the great scheme of things will only work if higher spiritual entities who have the task of guiding human evolution make use of such spirits, putting them in the right place, as it were, to enable them to do what is necessary. As you will remember, the ‘luciferic temptation’ of old held major significance for human evolution. It did, of course, arise from Lucifer's specific aims — and from Atlantean times onwards Lucifer was in league with Ahriman. These aims gave rise to counter-aims of, let us call them ‘good spirits’, the spirits of light. Fundamentally speaking, the spirits of darkness also wanted the best for humanity in those early times, they wanted human beings to have the capacity for absolute freedom; but humanity was not ready for this at the time. They wanted to provide humanity with impulses which would make every human being an independent individual. It was not to be, however, for humanity was not yet ready.

[Stream of heredity]

A counter-force had to be set up by the spirits of light; this was done by taking human beings from the heights of the Spirit and putting them on to the earth, which is symbolically described in the expulsion from Paradise. In reality, human beings were being placed in the stream of hereditary traits. Lucifer and the ahrimanic powers wanted every human being to be an independent individual. This would have meant that people would have become spiritual very rapidly while still immature, but it was not to happen. Human beings were to be educated on earth, brought to full development through the forces of the earth. This was achieved by placing them in the stream of heredity, where they would physically descend from others. In this way they were not independent, but inherited certain traits from their forebears. They were weighed down with earthly qualities which Lucifer did not want them to have. Anything to do with physical heredity was given to humanity by the spirits of light to counterbalance the luciferic stream. A weight was attached to human beings, as it were, and this connected them with the earth. In everything connected with heredity, with the begetting of children, procreation, with love in the earthly sense, we must therefore see ourselves connected with the entities which are under the leadership of Yahveh or Jehovah.

This is the reason why we find so many symbols of procreation and earthly heredity in the ancient religions. The laws of Judaism — which was to prepare the way for Christianity — as well as those of pagan religions, clearly show the importance attached to regulating everything to do with the laws of heredity here on earth. People had to learn to live together in tribes, nations and races, with blood relationship as the signature for the way affairs were ordered on earth.

This had been in preparation during the Atlantean age and was to be repeated in the fourth epoch of civilization, the Graeco-Latin epoch, mainly on account of the measures taken in the third, Egypto-Chaldean epoch. We can see that specifically during epochs which were to recapitulate the Lemurian and Atlantean ages, account was taken of race, nation and tribal connections in all the ways in which human affairs were ordered; in short, account was taken of hereditary traits arising from blood bonds. The priests of the ancient Mysteries were mainly responsible for the ordering of affairs — today we would say for affairs of state — and they took care to observe the way in which customs, inclinations and habits had to develop in various places to take account of blood relationships, of people belonging to a particular nation or tribe. Their laws were based on this. We shall not be able to understand what issued from the Mysteries of the third and fourth post-Atlantean ages unless we consider the careful study of racial, national and tribal relationships on which the priests based the laws they made for different regions of the earth. What really counted in each individual region was to establish order in the blood relationships.

In those times, when the spirits of light made it their concern to order human affairs on the basis of blood relationships, the spirits of darkness which had been cast down from heaven to earth with humanity, made it their concern to work against anything connected with heredity through blood relationship. They were the source of all rebellion against ordinances based on blood relationship in those ages, and of all teachings of rebellion against heredity and against tribal and racial relationships, insisting on the independence of the individual and seeking to establish laws based on this, laws which did, of course, come from human beings but were inspired by the spirits of darkness. Those ages extended as far as the fifteenth century. Echoes still persist, of course, for systems do not come to an abrupt end when there is a major break in evolution. Up to the fifteenth century in particular, we see teachings come up which rebel against purely natural bonds, against the bonds of relationship, family, nationality, and so on.

Thus we have two streams:

  • the ‘protector’ of everything to do with blood relationship, which is the stream of light; it is opposed by
  • the stream of darkness as the ‘protector’ of everything which wants to abandon the bonds of blood relationship and help people to be free of the bonds of family and heredity.

All this does not, of course, come to an abrupt halt any more than it does in the natural world, and in 1413, the year when the break occurred which marks the boundary between the fourth and fifth post-Atlantean ages, the old ways did not stop immediately. We can see the influence of the two streams continuing right into our own time. For from the nineteenth century onwards, from the time of the significant events I have described to you, we see something entirely different emerge — I have already made some mention of this. Angelic spirits, members of the hierarchy of the Angels have been active among us since 1879. They follow on after the old spirits of darkness, are related to these and are of a similar kind, but have only been cast down from heaven to earth because of the event which occurred in 1879. Until then they had their function up above, whilst their relatives, who acted in the way I have just described, have been among human beings from Lemurian and Atlantean times.

Thus there was a break in evolution in about 747 before the Mystery of Golgotha; another one came in 1413 after the Mystery of Golgotha, and the break which is particularly important to us, in 1879.

Throughout the whole of this time spirits of darkness were active on earth, whilst certain other spirits of darkness, which are related to those down on earth, were still in the spiritual world. 1841 saw the beginning of the mighty battle of which I have spoken. Then the spirits which are related to those others descended to join them below. The power of the old rebels, of the continuing stream of spirits of darkness who had their tasks to perform from Lemurian and Atlantean times, is gradually dying down as the powers of their brothers begin to take effect. This means that from the last third of the nineteenth century the situation has been completely reversed.

  • The spirits of light who have been continuing in their activities have done enough where the establishment of blood, tribal, racial and similar bonds is concerned, for everything has its time in evolution. In the general and rightful scheme of things, enough has been done to establish what needed to be established through blood bonds in humanity.
  • In more recent times, therefore, the spirits of light have changed their function. They now inspire human beings to develop independent ideas, feelings and impulses for freedom; they now make it their concern to establish the basis on which people can be independent individuals.
  • And it is gradually becoming the task of the spirits who are related to the old spirits of darkness to work within the blood bonds.

The function which was right in the past or, better said, belonged to the sphere of the good spirits of light, was handed over to the spirits of darkness during the last third of the nineteenth century. From this time onwards, the old impulses based on racial, tribal and national relationships, on the blood, became the domain of the spirits of darkness, who had previously been rebels in the cause of independence. They then began to instil ideas in human minds that affairs should be ordered on the basis of tribal relationships, of blood bonds.

You can see that definition is impossible. If you define the spirits of darkness on the basis of the function they had in the past, you get exactly the opposite of their function in more recent times, that is from the last third of the nineteenth century. In the past, it was the function of the spirits of darkness to work against hereditary traits in humanity; from the last third of the nineteenth century they have been lagging behind, wanting to lag behind, wanting over and over again to make people aware of their tribal, blood and hereditary bonds and to insist on these.

1920-10-31-GA200 talks about the ever increasing impact of the feeling of inherited characteristics, as it is coupled to the meaning of life and worth of an individual's life experience and contribution, see Worldview, Man's most important questions, the question of teleology on Meaning of life, Meaning of Free Man Creator

If we turn once more to the ancient oriental outlook we must say, from what we have been able to indicate of this, that the human being knew then that he descended from spiritual heights; that he lived, before he entered into physical existence through conception and birth, in a spiritual world. He knew that he brought with him from the spiritual world something that was still in him, something that came out in childhood as disposition, as aspiration, and remained with him through the whole of his life on earth. In ancient times every oriental knew that what worked its way out of his soul during childhood, in youth, was a dowry from the spiritual worlds which he had experienced before entering into physical existence. To be aware theoretically that one has passed through a spiritual life of this kind before one's life on earth has no very great value, but a lively feeling for it is worth a great deal; it is something of the greatest value to feel that what has been growing and developing in one's soul since childhood comes from the spiritual world.

Today, however, this feeling has given way to another. It has given way, both in the individual and more especially in the social life, to another feeling entirely. And there is something important here which must be looked at. More and more there weighs down upon the human being, half unconsciously, the feeling of his inherited characteristics. Anyone who is able to view this impartially sees how the human being today actually feels that he is what he is through his parents, his grandparents and so on. Unlike the human being in ancient times he no longer feels that what flames up in him from childhood onwards, comes from those depths in which is rooted that which he received from his spiritual experiences before his life on earth. On the contrary he feels in himself the characteristics inherited from parents, grandparents and so on. The first thing people ask about a child nowadays is from whom it has got this or that characteristic. And the reply, however, is seldom that the child has it as a result of this or that particular experience in the spiritual world. People look instead to see whether it comes from the grandmother or grandfather, and so on.

The more this emerges in individual people — not merely as a theory but as a feeling, a feeling of dependence on purely earthly inherited characteristics — the more oppressive and dreadful will it gradually become.

And this feeling will increase in strength very rapidly. In the decades ahead it will intensify to the point of becoming unbearable, for it is connected with another feeling, a certain feeling of the worthlessness of human existence. This will arise more and more: that the human being will feel his existence to be worthless if he cannot feel it to be anything other than the sum total of what has been implanted in his blood and in his other organs by physically-inherited characteristics. Today what is emerging here is still, to a certain extent, mere theory, although there are poets who have already expressed it as experience. But it will emerge as a feeling, as a sense, and it will then become an oppressive characteristic in the feeling-life of civilized humanity. This experiencing of oneself in the purely inherited characteristics will lie like a weight on the soul.

It is here that the inability of natural science to give man an understanding of himself shows itself in all its poverty; the human being no longer feels himself to be a child of the spiritual world but merely a child of characteristics inherited in the course of earthly physical existence.

The 'model' for hereditary physical body





1924-04-21-GA316 (SWCC)

Just think about the following: With the change of teeth the human being really renews his whole physical body. This must be taken as a fundamental fact. That the human being gets second teeth is really only the most external symptom of all, merely, a fragment of what is going on. Just as the so-called milk teeth are replaced, so is the whole human organism replaced. After the change of teeth, so far as his physical substance is concerned, the human being is entirely new in comparison to what he was when he was born. ...

The truth is that when the human being comes physically into the world he has, as well as the so-called milk teeth, a body that is a product of hereditary development. He has received a body that is the product of what is contained in the whole line of ancestry. The physical body of the first seven years comes from here. From the seventh to the fourteenth year the human being has a body, too, but this body has not been produced from the first by transformation. What the human being has brought with him to the earth has intervened here.

Picture it as follows: the human being has had his body. This body which has come to him from the line of heredity is a model; he has it as a model. Into this body he takes earthly substance. If he were to work only with the forces he brings with him from pre-earthly existence he would elaborate this earthly substance which he takes into his body in the first seven years into quite a different form. He would call forth quite a different form. He does not come at birth with the tendency to give form to a being with eyes, ears, nose, like the being who stands on the earth. He enters with the tendency to structure the human being in such a way that very little is structured by way of the head through his pre-earthly being; it is especially upon everything else that the greatest care is expended.

What is stunted in the embryonic life is developed in the astral, in the I organization. Of the physical embryo, therefore, we must say: physical nature in the embryo is developed in a wonderful way but the pre-earthly human being has very little indeed to do with it.

On the other hand the pre-earthly human being plays the very greatest part in all that lies around the embryo. It lives in what is demolished in the physical world, amnion, chorion, and so on. Within this lives the pre-earthly man.

You can picture it rather like this. To begin with, the cosmos is copied. This is what the human being wants, in reality, to do when he has come down from the pre-earthly into earthly existence. Why does he not do it? Because a model is already provided. And in accordance with this model, with the substances received, he transforms the pre-earthly during the first seven years of life. His inherent tendency would be to form a more spherical being, a being organized into a sphere.

This is transformed in accordance with the model and so the pre-earthly forces work out this second physical man who is there from the seventh to the fourteenth years, but to begin with, by adhering to the model which comes from the forces of heredity.

There, you see, you have two, actually distinguishable entities of forces in the human being. How can you understand these force entities?

[background parenthesis]Take, with the outlook and feeling of the physician, the book Occult Science and read where the earth's evolution is spoken of. At first there is Old Saturn evolution, then Old Sun evolution. If you follow the description of the Earth evolution you will find that until the separation of the sun, sun, moon and earth were one, combined together in one. Afterwards there is a separation of earth and sun, earth and moon. Up to the middle of this evolution, therefore, the human being lives in the cosmos. He lives in sun and moon just as he lives in the earth. After the separation of the sun he lives outside the sun; after the separation of the moon, outside the moon. Until the separation of the sun, therefore, the cosmic forces were working upon man's nature; those forces, too, which are today outside the earth in the moon and in the sun were working in the human being because he belonged to the world in which the sun and moon were still present. There followed for the human being an evolution during which sun and moon were outside.

There was a phase of evolution which contained within it all that today is both earthly and of the nature of sun and moon; later on, the extra-earthly emancipated itself from the earthly. The earthly went on along its own path, it dried up, hardened, became physical — and you find this today in the stream of heredity; it has densified within the stream of heredity. What the human being has received since the separation of the moon and sun lies in the forces working in from the cosmos. That is the point.

So that in the model that is received in order that the second man may be elaborated, you have a model that really represents a primeval, artistic principle given by father and mother, originating when sun and moon were still united with the earth. It was then that the forces which really give the human being his earthly configuration were developed. For you will readily understand that the configuration of the human being is an earthly one. Try to think of the being of man entirely removed from the earth. What could be done with it? You would be extremely unhappy if after death you were to make use of anything like legs. Legs have purpose only when the earth's forces of attraction pass through them, when the legs are within the sphere of the earth's forces of attraction. Legs — and arms and hands, too — have meaning and purpose only on the earth. So that a whole section of the human organism, in the way it is developed, has purpose only when we are earthly man. What we are as Earthly man has no meaning so far as the cosmos is concerned. Therefore when we come to the earth as beings of spirit and soul, our wish, to begin with, is to form quite a different organization. We want to build a sphere and to generate all kinds of configurations within this sphere, but we have no wish for this being with whom the cosmos itself can do nothing. This being is given us as a model and we build up the second man in accordance with this model.

In the first life-period, therefore, there is a perpetual struggle between what comes from us out of the previous incarnation and what comes from hereditary development; the two elements fight with each other. The illnesses of childhood are the expression of this fight. Just think how intimately the whole inner being of soul and spirit is bound up with the physical organization during early childhood. When the second teeth appear you can see how they push up against the first, how they still have tussles with each other, and in this same way the whole second man has tussles with the first. But within the second man there is the super-earthly being; in the first a foreign, earthly model.

These two work into one another and if you observe this inter-working truly you can see how,

  • if the inner man, who as a being of soul and spirit was present in pre-earthly existence, has too much the upper hand for a time, working into the physical very strongly and having, willy nilly, to adjust itself by dint of effort to the model, that it damages the model by striking up against it everywhere, saying: I want to get this particular form out of you — then the fight expresses itself as scarlet fever.
  • If the inner man is tender, so that there is a continual shrinking back, a wish to mold the in-taken substances more in accordance with their own nature, and resistance is put up to the model, the struggle comes out as measles.

What is, in reality, a mutual struggle expresses itself in the illnesses of childhood. Moreover, it is only possible to understand truly what comes later if these things can be properly reckoned with.

It is, of course, very easy for the materialists to say that all this is stupid, because children still retain a likeness to their parents after the change of teeth and not only up till that time. Such talk is nonsense. The fact is that one being is weaker, directs himself more in accordance with the forces of heredity, builds up the second man with a greater resemblance to the model. This naturally comes out in the appearance, but the same thing has been going on when the being has adjusted itself more in accordance with the model. On the other hand, there are human beings who after the change of teeth become very unlike what they were before. In such cases what comes from the pre-earthly life of soul and spirit is strong and they adhere less to the model. We have therefore simply to see these things in their right connection.



What is really inherited by a human being? What is not inherited and must come to the human being in some other way?

In evaluating healthy and sick individuals, a great deal depends upon whether one can differentiate between these two ingredients. Human beings come out of the spiritual, super-sensible worlds into the sense world: that means, they combine what is given them by heredity with what they bring from earlier earth lives and from life between death and the new birth. Then we see how they develop as a children, from day to day, from week to week. But if one does not perceive that they are four-membered beings, with physical body, etheric body, astral body, and I organization, one is not in a position to understand their development, for one does not see what part each member is playing in this development. They have different origins; they come from different worlds.

First, human beings have their physical organism. The most striking phenomenon in the physical organism is that in the first period of life they have what we call “first teeth,” which last until the time we call “change of teeth.” The teeth are only the most obvious thing that is changed at this time. For the fact is that human beings only keep the physical substance they received at birth until the change of teeth. They are constantly stripping that physical material from their form.

The process is, of course, more complicated than is implied in the brief statement that in the course of every seven or eight years a person pushes off all physical substance and replaces it. The truth is near to that, but one need only look at the change of teeth itself to realize that this picture must be modified somewhat. For if this abstract assertion were correct, we would have new teeth every seven years. We get new teeth only once. The teeth are changed once and do not undergo any other renewal. They belong in this category in the most extreme sense. As a matter of fact, the course of human life is such that the older one becomes, the more one retains of old physical substance.

A replacement of by far the greatest part of the substance does indeed take place in seven- to eight-year periods; but we must distinguish what remains behind. At the seventh year it is only the adult teeth that remain. After each subsequent period there remain also certain parts of the substance that are not replaced, although the greater part is indeed replaced in the course of seven or eight years. Thus a basic statement can be made for the first seven years. Human beings strip away all the physical substance they had when they were born, keeping none of it, keeping only the forces that have lived and worked in it during those years. These forces have so appropriated the fresh new substance that was constantly being aquired that at seven the physical body has been completely renewed, even to the teeth. And from that statement the understanding must follow that the principle of heredity as our current natural science conceives of it really holds good only for the first seven years of life. Only for those first seven years is it true that a person's characteristics come from parents and grandparents. The physical body of those first seven years provides, in a certain sense, a kind of model from which the artist working in the human being (who consists now in these years of etheric body, astral body, and I) fashions a new physical body. We see how what we bring down from spiritual worlds — our individuality, our own being — and what we receive from heredity work together in artistic reciprocal activity.

If a human being is an inwardly strong individual and brings an intensely strong inner astrality and I nature, which in turn makes the etheric body strong, then we will see a young person shooting up who from inner strength keeps very little to the model, only copies it for the general form. Naturally, the universal human model must be preserved, and therefore an affinity is already there for the inherited human form; features of it definitely remain beyond the change of teeth. Still, to thoughtful observation it will be apparent that in the case of inwardly strong individuals important changes come after the change of teeth because such individuals follow only slightly the model they inherited.

If we investigate such an individual as St. Teresa, we find that these particularly strong individualities resemble their parents very closely in the first seven years, but then in the ninth and tenth years they develop in surprising ways. Then the real individual is emerging. In the strongest sense of the word, heredity only holds good for the first life period. What seems to appear later as heredity is not really heredity but must be recognized as a copy of the inherited model. The copy may be more or less exact; even so, it is not heredity; it is a copy of the inherited characteristics. The ordinary natural scientist considers this to be simply the principle of heredity carried further. But someone who really studies the nature of humanity will perceive that there is a complete qualitative difference between the resemblance to parents before the change of teeth and the resemblance after the change of teeth. Before, the forces of heredity are active. After, the forces that copy the model are active. To be exact, one can no more say that a human being has inherited what is carried between change of teeth and puberty than one can say of an artist copying the Sistine Madonna in the Dresden Gallery that the painting has caught the qualities of the Madonna through heredity!

You can see the particular kind of work the etheric body has to do. For in the years up to the change of teeth, the astral body and ego organization participate very little. The etheric body forms a new physical human body in accordance with the model. Why? Because, like the child during the first seven years, it is not yet able to receive other than a very special kind of impression from the outer world. Here we come upon an important secret of human evolution, a secret that answers the question: What does a child really perceive? The answer lies far away from present-day ideas.


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References and further reading