Nerve-sense subsystem

From Anthroposophy

Man's subsystem consisting of senses and nervous system is one of the three functional subsystems in Man as a threefold being.

It spreads across all Man's bodily principles, but has its center of gravity in a) the head of Man, where the senses and nervous system join with cerebral nerves and the human brain, and b) the human astral body which finds its expression in the nervous system


  • the oldest of the three subsystems
  • polarity with metabolic-limb subsystem - the head, dying off
  • matter is destroyed
  • interface between blood and nervous system
  • evolutionary aspect - the forming of senses and nerves
  • link to physiology of the 12 human senses (zodiac)
  • astral body and I-organization
  • nervous system:
    • in the Zarthustrian teachings in Persian cultural age, the Zodiac was seen as an external expression or image, of 'Zervana Akarana', the primal reality of Being living and weaving through eternity. Macrocosmic forces coming from twelve directions of the universe work into Man: six directed towards the light side of the Zodiac traversed by the sun by day; the other six towards the dark side turned towards Ahriman. In Man the microcosmic counterparts are to be found in the twelve main cerebral nerves or Amshaspands through which the archangels worked into the human head. In the Indian cultural age, the angels or 'Izads' formed the 28, 30 to 31 spinal nerves. Also Germanic mythology mentions twelve streams flowing from Niflheim to Muspelheim. These are now astral streams, but in the Lemurian and Atlantean epochs these were etheric streams. These streams also link to the canals observed on Mars in our age. (1910-12-31-GA126)


Schema FMC00.135 shows (left) the nervous system as the instrument of the human astral body, interfacing with the blood and I-organization (right).


Lecture coverage and references


.. what was produced in man through the influence of the various aspects of the moon. We have spoken of the twenty-eight nerves proceeding from the spinal cord, which stem from the positions of the moon during the twenty-eight days that the moon requires to return to its first form. We have probed the mystery of how, through the cosmic forces, these twenty-eight pairs of nerves were formed in man from outside.


makes the link with the concept of the Zodiac man

It should not be beyond the scope of modern physiology to know where the microcosmic counterparts of the twelve Amshaspands are to be found. They are the twelve main nerves proceeding from the head; these are nothing else than material densifications of what arose in the human belong through the instreaming of the twelve macrocosmic powers.

The ancient Persians pictured the twelve Archangel-Beings working from the twelve directions of the Zodiac, working into the human head in twelve rays, in order gradually to produce what is now our intelligence. Naturally they did not work into man for the first time in the ancient Persian epoch, but finally they worked in such a way that we can speak of twelve cosmic radiations, twelve Archangel-radiations, which then densified in the human head into twelve main cerebral nerves.

And just as knowledge in a later age includes what was already known in an earlier one, so could the Persians also know that Spirits of a lower rank than the Archangels had been at work previously, in the Indian epoch. The Persians called the Beings of the rank below the Amshaspands, “Izads,” and of these they enumerated 28 to 31. The Izads, therefore, are Beings who give rise to a less lofty activity; to soul-activity in man. They send in their rays, which correspond to the 28, 30 to 31 spinal nerves. And so in Zarathustrianism you have our modern physiology translated into terms of the spiritual, the macrocosmic, in the twelve Amshaspands and in the 28 to 31 Izads of the next lower Hierarchy.

A true fact of historical evolution is that what was originally seen spiritually is now presented to us through anatomical dissection; things that were formerly accessible to clairvoyant vision appear in later epochs in materialistic form. A wonderful bridge is disclosed here between Zarathustrianism, with its spirituality, and modern physiology, with its materialism. Of course, the destiny of the great majority of mankind makes it inevitable that such an idea as that of the connection between the Persian Amshaspands and Izads and our nerves is regarded as lunacy, especially by those who study the materialistic physiology of to-day. But after all, we have plenty of time, for the Persian epoch will be fully recapitulated only in the sixth cultural age which follows our own. Then, for the first time, the conditions prevailing will enable such things to be intelligible to a large part of humanity. Therefore we have to content ourselves with the fact that indications of them can be given today as part of the spiritual-scientific outlook. And such indications must be given if a spiritual-scientific conception of the world is to be spoken of in the true sense, and attention called, not merely in general phrases, to the fact that man is a microcosmic replica of the macrocosm.


Thus, profound and solemn attention was given in this school to the passage of the Moon through First Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter, New Moon; they learned to watch how the Moon in this way goes through twenty-eight to thirty phases. They watched out in the Cosmos the passage of the Moon through her phases. They watched the Moon as she moves within her orbit.

They saw how she describes her twenty-eight to thirty curves or turns and they understood

  • how Man has in his spinal column these twenty-eight to thirty vertebrae and
  • how the development of the spinal column in the embryo corresponds with the movements and forces of the Moon.

They saw in the form and shape of the human spinal column the copy of the monthly movement of the Moon. And in the twenty-eight to thirty nerves that go out from the spinal column into the whole organism, they saw a copy of the streams that the Moon sends down continually upon the Earth, sending them down at the various stages of her path in the heavens.

Actually and literally, in these continuations of the vertebrae they saw a reflection of the inpouring of the Moon-streams. In short, in what the human being bears within him in the nerves of the spinal marrow together with the spinal marrow itself, they saw something that unites him with the Cosmos, that brings him into living connection with the Cosmos.

All this that I have indicated to you was presented to the pupil. And he was then made to observe something else. It was said to him:

“Look at the optic nerve: watch how it goes from the brain across into the eye. You will see that in the course of its passage into the eye it is divided into very fine threads. How many threads? The threads that go from the optic nerve into the inside of the eye are exactly as many in number as the nerves that go out from the spinal marrow; there are twenty-eight to thirty of them. So that we may say, a spinal marrow system in miniature goes from the brain through the optic nerve into the eye.”

Thus has Man — so said the teacher to his pupils — thus has man received this thirty-membered system of nerves and spinal marrow from the Gods, who in primeval antiquity formed and shaped his existence; but Man himself has fashioned, in his eye, in his sense-world-beholding eye, a copy of the same; there, in the front of the head-organism he has fashioned for himself a copy of what the Gods have made of him.

After this, the pupil's attention was directed to the following. The organisation of the spinal marrow stands, as we have seen, in connection with the Moon. But on the other hand, through the special relationship that the Moon has to the Sun, we have a year of twelve months; and from the human brain twelve nerves go out to the various parts of the organism, the twelve chief nerves of the brain. In this respect, Man, in his head organisation, is a microcosm, in respect, namely, of the relationship between Sun and Moon. In the whole form and figure of Man is expressed an imitation of the processes out yonder in the Cosmos.


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References and further reading