From Anthroposophy

Moral impulses in Man are described through the seven virtues, whereby can be distinguished the four great platonic virtues, and the three highest values of Faith, Love and Hope.

The forces of morality or moral impulses that enter the body through the head encounter and meet the forces of the I in the blood (see 1916-08-05-GA170 on Human 'I', FMC00.261 below, and see also I-organization).


  • the four platonic virtues
  • the three highest virtues of Faith, Love and Hope


FMC00.261A (double click to enlarge) shows the 'layers' of the Astral world, as mapped to more lower egotistic or higher sympathic, and also to the seven virtues. On the left is a summary of the four platonic values and the three highest values of Faith Love Hope, with corresponding lecture references.


FMC00.261 shows the 'regions' of the astral world.

FMC00.262 shows how morality streams into the human being (right)

Lecture coverage and references

The four platonic virtues

1912-05-30-GA155 describes how different virtues can be mapped as characteristic of certain cultural ages, as each age has a certain virtue to be developed. The lecture describes the platonic virtues and threefold soul against the cultural ages (with justice for sixth sixth epoch as balance).

Extract (SWCC)

The second part of the soul is what we usually call the intellectual-soul, or the soul of cultivated feeling. You know that it developed especially in the fourth Postatlantean or Greco-Latin age. The virtue which is the particular emblem for this part of the soul is bravery, valour and courage; we have already dwelt on this many times, and also on the fact that foolhardiness and cowardice are its extremes. Courage, bravery and valour is the mean between foolhardiness and cowardice. The German word gemut expresses in the sound of the word that it is related to this. The word gemut indicates the mid-part of the human soul, the part that is mutvoll, full of mut, Courage, strength and force.

This was the second, the middle virtue of Plato and Aristotle. It is that virtue which in the fourth Postatlantean age still existed in man as a divine gift, while “wisdom” was really only instinctive in the third. Instinctive valour and bravery existed as a gift of the gods (you may gather this from the first lecture) among the people who, in the fourth age, met the expansion of Christianity to the north. They show that among them valour was still a gift of the gods. Among the Chaldean's wisdom, the wise penetration into the secrets of the starry world, existed as a divine gift, as something inspired. Among the people of the fourth Postatlantean age, there existed valour and bravery, especially among the Greeks and Romans, but it existed also among the peoples whose work it became to spread Christianity. This instinctive valour was lost later than instinctive wisdom. Now in the fifth Postatlantean age, as regards valour and bravery, we are in the same position in respect of the Greeks as the Greeks were to the Chaldeans and Egyptians in regard to wisdom. ...

We now consider the virtue of the Consciousness Soul. When we consider the fourth Postatlantean cultural age, we find that "Temperance or Moderation" was still instinctive. Plato and Aristotle called it the chief virtue of the consciousness soul. Again they comprehended it as a state of balance, as the mean of what exists in the consciousness soul. The consciousness soulconsists in man's becoming conscious of the external world through his body. The sense body is primarily the instrument of the consciousness soul, and it is also the sense body through which man arrives at self-consciousness.


The ideal of practical wisdom which is to be taken into consideration for the next, the sixth postatlantean age, will be the ideal virtue which Plato calls “justice,” and that is the harmonious accord of these virtues.

1915-01-31-GA159 is titled 'The Four Platonic Virtues and Their Relation with the Human Members The Working of Spiritual Forces in the Physical World'

Faith Love Hope

Rudolf Steiner describes Faith Love Hope in five lectures, see below. Note the three lectures below without link, also the NOGA, are available in german transcript from steinerdatenbank.

In 1911-12-03-GA130 he explains

For those who have heard lectures I am giving in various places just now, I would note that these gradual happenings have been described from a different point of view both in Munich and in Stuttgart; the theme, however, is always the same. What is now being portrayed in connection with the three great human forces, Faith, Love, Hope, was there represented in direct relation to the elements in a man's life of soul; but it is all the same thing. I have done this intentionally, so that anthroposophists may grew accustomed to get the gist of a matter without strict adherence to special words. When we realise that things can be described from many different sides, we shall no longer pin so much faith on words but focus our efforts on the matter itself, knowing that any description amounts only to an approximation of the whole truth. This adherence to the original words is the last thing that can help us to get to the heart of a matter. The one helpful means is to harmonise what has been said in successive epochs, just as we learn about a tree by studying it not from one direction only but from many different aspects.

St. Paul (1 Cor. 13:13 [New English Bible]):

In a word, there are three things that last for ever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.





Does faith, as such, mean anything for mankind? May it not be part of a man's very nature to believe?

Naturally, it might be quite possible that people should want, for some reason, to dispense with faith, to throw it over. But just as a man is allowed for a time to play fast and loose with his health without any obvious harm, it might very well be — and is actually so — that people come to look upon faith merely as a cherished gift to their fathers in the past, which is just as if for a time they were recklessly to abuse their health, thereby using up the forces they once possessed. When a man looks upon faith in that way, however, he is still — where the life-forces of his soul are concerned — living on the old gift of faith handed down to him through tradition. It is not for man to decide whether to lay aside faith or not; faith is a question of life-giving forces in his soul. The important point is not whether we believe or not, but that the forces expressed in the word ‘faith’ are necessary to the soul. For the soul incapable of faith become withered, dried-up as the desert.

There were once men who, without any knowledge of natural science, were much cleverer than those to-day with a scientific world-conception. They did not say what people imagine they would have said: “I believe what I do not know.” They said: “I believe what I know for certain.” Knowledge is the only foundation of faith. We should know in order to take increasing possession of those forces which are forces of faith in the human soul. In our soul we must have what enables us to look towards a super-sensible world, makes it possible for us to turn all our thoughts and conceptions in that direction.

If we do not possess forces such as are expressed in the word ‘faith’, something in us goes to waste; we wither as do the leaves in autumn. For a while this may not seem to matter — then things begin to go wrong. Were men in reality to lose all faith, they would soon see what it means for evolution. By losing the forces of faith they would be incapacitated for finding their way about in life; their very existence would be undermined by fear, care, and anxiety. To put it briefly, it is through the forces of faith alone that we can receive the life which should well up to invigorate the soul. This is because, imperceptible at first for ordinary consciousness, there lies in the hidden depths of our being something in which our true ego is embedded. This something, which immediately makes itself felt if we fail to bring it fresh life, is the human sheath where the forces of faith are active. We may term it the faith-soul, or — as I prefer — the faith-body. It has hitherto been given the more abstract name of astral body. The most important forces of the astral body are those of faith, so the term astral body and the term faith-body are equally justified.


A second force that is also to be found in the hidden depths of a man's being is the force expressed by the word ‘love’. Love is not only something linking men together; it is also needed by them as individuals. When a man is incapable of developing the force of love he, too, becomes dried-up and withered in his inner being. We have merely to picture to ourselves someone who is actually so great an egoist that he is unable to love. Even where the case is less extreme, it is sad to see people who find it difficult to love, who pass through an incarnation without the living warmth that love alone can generate — love for, at any rate, something on earth.

Such persons are a distressing sight, as in their dull, prosaic way, they go through the world. For love is a living force that stimulates something deep in our being, keeping it awake and alive — an even deeper force than faith. And just as we are cradled in a body of faith, which from another aspect can be called the astral body, so are we cradled also in a body of love, or, as in Spiritual Science we called it, the etheric body, the body of life-forces. For the chief forces working in us from the etheric body, out of the depths of our being, are those expressed in a man's capacity for loving at every stage of his existence. If a man could completely empty his being of the force of love — but that indeed is impossible for the greatest egoist, thanks be to God, for even in egoistical striving there is still some element of love. Take this case, for example: whoever is unable to love anything else can often begin, if he is sufficiently avaricious, by loving money, at least substituting for charitable love another love — albeit one arising from egoism. For were there no love at all in a man, the sheath which should be sustained by love-forces would shrivel, and the man, empty of love, would actually perish; he would really meet with physical death.

This shriveling of the forces of love can also be called a shriveling of the forces belonging to the etheric body; for the etheric body is the same as the body of love. Thus at the very centre of a man's being we have his essential kernel, the ego, surrounded by its sheaths; first the body of faith, and then round it the body of love.


If we go further, we come to another set of forces we all need in life, and if we do not, or cannot, have them at all — well, that is very distinctly to be seen in a man's external nature. For the forces we need emphatically as life-giving forces are those of hope, of confidence in the future. As far as the physical world is concerned, people cannot take a single step in life without hope. They certainly make strange excuses, sometimes, if they are unwilling to acknowledge that human beings need to know something of what happens between death and rebirth.

They say:

“Why do we need to know that, when we don't know what will happen to us here from one day to another? So why are we supposed to know what takes place between death and a new birth?”

But do we actually know nothing about the following day?

We may have no knowledge of what is important for the details of our super-sensible life, or, to speak more bluntly, whether or not we shall be physically alive. We do, however, know one thing — that if we are physically alive the next day there will be morning, midday, evening, just as there are to-day. If to-day as a carpenter I have made a table, it will still be there tomorrow; if I am a shoemaker, someone will be able to put on to-morrow what I have made to-day; and if I have sown seeds I know that next year they will come up. We know about the future just as much as we need to know. Life would be impossible in the physical world were not future events to be preceded by hope in this rhythmical way. Would anyone make a table to-day without being sure it would not be destroyed in the night; would anyone sow seeds if he had no idea what would become of them?

It is precisely in physical life that we need hope, for everything is upheld by hope and without it nothing can be done. The forces of hope, therefore, are connected with our last sheath as human beings, with our physical body. What the forces of faith are for our astral body, and the love-forces for the etheric, the forces of hope are for the physical body. Thus a man who is unable to hope, a man always despondent about what he supposes the future may bring, will go through the world with this clearly visible in his physical appearance. Nothing makes for deep wrinkles, those deadening forces in the physical body, sooner than lack of hope.

The inmost kernel of our being may be said to be sheathed

  • in our faith-body or astral body, in our body of love or etheric body, and
  • in our hope-body or physical body; and we comprehend the true significance of our physical body only when we bear in mind that, in reality, it is not sustained by external physical forces of attraction and repulsion — that is a materialistic idea — but has in it what, according to our concepts, we know as forces of hope. Our physical body is built up by hope, not by forces of attraction and repulsion. This very point can show that the new spiritual-scientific revelation gives us the truth.

What then does Spiritual Science give us?

By revealing the all-embracing laws of karma and reincarnation, it gives us something which permeates us with spiritual hope, just as does our awareness on the physical plane that the sun will rise to-morrow and that seeds will eventually grow into plants. It shows, if we understand karma, that our physical body, which will perish into dust when we have gone through the gate of death, can through the forces permeating us with hope be re-built for a new life. Spiritual Science fills men with the strongest forces of hope. Were this Spiritual Science, this new revelation for the present time, to be rejected, men naturally would return to earth in future all the same, for life on earth would not cease on account of people's ignorance of its laws. Human beings would incarnate again; but there would be something very strange about these incarnations. Men would gradually become a race with bodies wrinkled and shriveled all over, earthly bodies which would finally be so crippled that people would be entirely incapacitated. To put it briefly, in future incarnations a condition of dying away, of withering up, would assail mankind if their consciousness, and from there the hidden depths of their being right down into the physical body, were not given fresh life through the power of hope.

This power of hope arises through the certainty of knowledge gained from the laws of karma and reincarnation. Already there is a tendency in human beings to produce withering bodies, which in future would become increasingly rickety even in the very bones. Marrow will be brought to the bones, forces of life to the nerves, by this new revelation, whose value will not reside merely in theories but in its life-giving forces — above all in those of hope.

[Faith Love Hope]

Faith, love, hope, constitute three stages in the essential being of man; they are necessary for health and for life as a whole, for without them we cannot exist. Just as work cannot be done in a dark room until light is obtained, it is equally impossible for a human being to carry on in his fourfold nature if his three sheaths are not permeated, warmed through, and strengthened by faith, love, and hope. For faith, love, hope are the basic forces in our astral body, our etheric body, and our physical body. And from this one instance you can judge how the new revelation makes its entry into the world, permeating the old language with thought-content. Are not these three wonderful words urged upon us in the Gospel revelation, these words of wisdom that ring through the ages — faith, love, hope? But little has been understood of their whole connection with human life, so little that only in certain places has their right sequence been observed.

It is true that faith, love, hope, are sometimes put in this correct order; but the significance of the words is so little appreciated that we often hear faith, hope, love, which is incorrect; for you cannot say astral body, physical body, etheric body, if you would give them their right sequence. That would be putting things higgledy-piggledy, as a child will sometimes do before it understands the thought-content of what is said. It is the same with everything relating to the second revelation. It is permeated throughout with thought; and we have striven to permeate with thought our explanation of the Gospels. For what have they meant for people up to now? They have been something with which to fortify mankind and to fill them with great and powerful perceptions, something to inspire men to enter into the depth of heart and feeling in the Mystery of Golgotha. But now consider the simple fact that people have only just begun to reflect upon the Gospels, and in doing so they have straightway found contradictions upon which Spiritual Science alone can help to throw light. Thus it is only now that they are beginning to let their souls be worked on by the thought-content of what the Gospels give them in language of the super-sensible worlds. In this connection we have pointed out what is so essential and of such consequence for our age: the new appearance of the Christ in an etheric body, for his appearance in a physical body is ruled out by the whole character of our times.

1911-12-03-GA130 has the title: 'Faith, Love, and Hope: towards the sixth cultural age'

What then is our present experience?

It is not just of the entering-in of the I; we now experience how one of our sheaths casts a kind of reflection upon the soul.

  • The sheath to which yesterday we gave the name of “faith-body” throws its reflection on to the human soul, in this fifth epoch. Thus it is a feature of present-day man that he has something in his soul which is, as it were, a reflection of the nature of faith of the astral body.
  • In the sixth post-Atlantean epoch there will be a reflection within man of the love-nature of the etheric body,
  • and in the seventh, before the great catastrophe, the reflection of the nature of hope of the physical body.

Thus at present it is essentially the force of faith of the astral body which, shining into the soul, is characteristic of our time. Someone might say: “That is rather strange. You are telling us now that the ruling force of the age is faith. We might admit this in the case of those who hold to old beliefs, but to-day so many people are too mature for that, and they look down on such old beliefs as belonging to the childish stage of human evolution.” It may well be that people who say they are monists believe they do not believe, but actually they are more ready to do so than those calling themselves believers. For, though monists are not conscious of it, all that we see in the various forms of monism is belief of the blindest kind, believed by the monists to be knowledge. We cannot describe their doings at all without mentioning belief. And, apart from the belief of those who believe they do not believe, we find that, strictly speaking, an endless amount of what is most important to-day is connected with the reflection the astral body throws into the soul, giving it thereby the character of ardent faith. We have only to call to mind lives of the great men of our age, Richard Wagner's for example, and how even as an artist he was rising all his life to a definite faith; it is fascinating to watch this in the development of his personality. Everywhere we look to-day, the lights and shadows can be interpreted as the reflection of faith in what we may call the ego-soul of man.



Notes from M.I. Gardner in booklet on Franciscus Assisi:

  • Here Steiner does not give different names to love that is active in outer life (socially) and love that is active inwardly (spiritually). Compare, however, the distinction he makes elsewhere between "love"—the experience of the other in one's own soul—and "devotion" or "self-surrender"—the experience of oneself in the other (A Road to Self-Knowledge; The Threshold of the Spiritual World, part 2, chap. 9).
  • Earlier in May 1912, Steiner also listed compassion (brotherly love) as a characteristic that first appeared during the fourth post-Atlantean cultural epoch (May 14, 1912, Earthly and Cosmic Man, lec. 6). On the other hand, devotion (cf. previous note) was already present among the ancient Indians of the first post-Atlantean cul­tural epoch (see Lecture One).
  • Although Steiner does not speak here of faith, love, and hope, he did do so at the end of Lecture Two. The forces of hope may be sustained by outwardly acquired knowledge of the teaching of karma and reincarnation (see Steiner's lecture of Dec. 2, 1911, Faith, Love, Hope, lec. 1), but the ultimate source of this knowl­edge is true conscience and its future clairvoyant development (cf. notes 47 & 52).
  • Compare also Steiner's description of hope as the mean between doubt or despair and impatience (Nov. 3, 1910, The Wis­dom of Man, of the Soul, and of the Spirit, lec. 7).
  •  Compare Steiner's indication that the forces of faith, love, and hope bring about the transformation of the astral body, etheric body, and physical body respectively into the spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-human (cf. note 35) ( June 14, 1911, "Faith, Love and Hope").

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Robert Sardello: 'The power of soul: living the twelve virtues' (2002)
  • 'Die Monatstugenden: Zwölf Meditationen' (DE version of 2015 by various authors incl. Lin, Kranich, Dumke, Roder, Göbel and others)