by Rudolf Steiner
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HUMAN BEING
The following words of Goethe’s describe, in a beautiful manner, the starting point of one of the ways by which the constitution of man can be known: “When a person first becomes aware of the objects surrounding him, he observes them in relation to himself, and rightly so, for his whole fate depends on whether they please or displease him, attract or repel, help or harm him. This quite natural way of looking at and judging things appears to be as easy as it is necessary. Nevertheless, a person is exposed through it to a thousand errors which often cause him shame and embitter his life. A far more difficult task do those undertake whose keen desire for knowledge urges them to strive to observe the objects of nature in themselves and in their relations to each other, for they soon miss the gauge which helped them when they, as persons, regard the objects in reference to themselves personally. They lack the gauge of pleasure and displeasure, attraction and repulsion, usefulness and harmfulness; this gauge they have to renounce entirely. They should, as dispassionate and, so to speak, divine beings, seek and examine what is, and not what gratifies. Thus the true botanist should not be affected either by the beauty or by the usefulness of the plants. He has to study their structure and their relation to the rest of the vegetable kingdom; and just as they are one and all enticed forth and shone upon by the sun, so should he with an equable, quiet glance look at and survey them all and obtain the gauge for this knowledge, the data for his deductions, not out of himself, but from within the circle of things which he observes.”
The thought thus expressed by Goethe directs attention to three kinds of things. First, the objects concerning which information continually flows to man through the doors of his senses, those that he touches, smells, tastes, hears, and sees. Second, the impressions which these make on him, and which record themselves as his pleasure and displeasure, his desire or abhorrence, according as he finds one harmonious, another inharmonious, one useful, another harmful. Third, the knowledge and the experiences which he, as a so-to-speak “divine being,” gains concerning the objects—the secrets of their activities and their being which unveil themselves to him.
These three regions are distinctly separate in human life. And man thereby becomes aware that he is interwoven with the world in a threefold way. The first way is something that he finds present and accepts as a given fact. Through the second way he makes the world into his own affair, into something that has a significance for himself. The third way he regards as a goal toward which he has unceasingly to strive.
Why does the world appear to man in this threefold way? The simplest consideration will explain that. I cross a Meadow covered with flowers. The flowers make their colors known to me through my eyes. That is the fact which I accept as given. I rejoice in the splendor of the colors. Through this I turn the fact into an affair of my own. By means of my feelings I link the flowers with my own existence. A year after I go again over the same meadow. Other flowers are there. New joy arises in me through them. My joy of the former year will appear as a memory. It is in me; the object which aroused it in me is gone. But the flowers which I. now see are of the same species as those I saw the year before; they have grown in accordance with the same laws as did the others. If I have enlightened myself regarding this species and these laws, I find them again in the flowers of this year as I recognized them in those of the former year. And I shall perhaps muse as follows: “The flowers of last year are gone; my joy in them remains only in my remembrance. It is bound up with my existence alone. That, however, which I recognized in the flowers of the former year and recognize again this year, will remain as long as such flowers grow. That is something that revealed itself to me, but which is not dependent on my existence in the same way as my joy is. My feelings of joy remain in me; the laws, the being of the flowers, remain outside of me in the world.”
Man continually links himself in this threefold way with the things of the world. One should not for the time being read anything into this fact, but merely take it as it presents itself. It makes it evident that man has three sides to his nature. This and nothing else will for the present be indicated here by the three words body, soul, and spirit. He who connects any preconceived meanings, or even hypotheses, with these three words will necessarily misunderstand the following explanations. By body is here meant that by which the things in the environment of a man reveal themselves to him, as in the example just cited, the flowers of the meadow. By the word soul is signified that by which he links the things to his own being, through which he experiences pleasure and displeasure, desire and aversion, joy and sorrow. By spirit is meant that which becomes manifest in him when, as Goethe expressed it, he looks at things as “a so-to-speak divine being.” In this sense the human being consists of body, soul, and spirit.
Through his body man is able to place himself for the time being in connection with the things; through his soul he retains in himself the impressions which they make on him; through his spirit there reveals itself to him what the things retain in themselves. Only when one observes man in these three aspects can one hope to gain light on his whole being. For these three aspects show him to be related in a threefold way to the rest of the world.
Through his body he is related to the objects which present themselves to his senses from without. The materials from the outer world compose this body of his; and the forces of the outer world work also in it. And just as he observes the things of the outer world with his senses, he can also observe his own bodily existence. But it is impossible to observe the soul existence in the same way. All occurrences connected with my body can be perceived with my bodily senses. My likes and dislikes, my joy and pain, neither I nor anyone else can perceive with bodily senses. The region of the soul is one which is inaccessible to bodily perception. The bodily existence of a man is manifest to all eyes; the soul existence he carries within himself as HIS world. Through the spirit, however, the outer world is revealed to him in a higher way. The mysteries of the outer world, indeed, unveil themselves in his inner being; but he steps in spirit out of himself and lets the things speak about themselves, about that which has significance not for him but for them. Man looks up at the starry heavens; the delight his soul experiences belongs to him; the eternal laws of the stars which he comprehends in thought, in spirit, belong not to him but to the stars themselves.
Thus man is citizen of three worlds. Through his body he belongs to the world which he perceives through his body; through his soul he constructs for himself his own world; through his spirit a world reveals itself to him which is exalted above both the others.
It is evident that because of the essential differences of these three worlds, one can obtain a clear understanding of them and of man’s share in them only by means of three different modes of observation.
1. THE CORPOREAL BEING OF MAN
One learns to know the body of man through the bodily senses. And the way of observing it can differ in no way from that by which one learns to know other objects perceived by the senses. As one observes minerals, plants, animals, so can one observe man also. He is related to these three forms of existence. Like the minerals he builds his body out of the materials in nature; like the plants he grows and propagates his species; he perceives the objects around him and, like the animals, forms on the basis of the impressions they make his inner experiences. One may therefore ascribe to man a mineral, a plant, and an animal existence.
The difference in the structure of minerals, plants, and animals corresponds with these three forms of existence. And it is this structure, this shape which one perceives through the senses, and which alone one can call body. But the human body is different from that of the animal. This difference everybody must recognize whatever may be his opinion in other respects regarding the relationship of man to animals. Even the most radical materialist who denies all soul will not be able to avoid agreeing with the following sentence which Carus utters in his “Organon der Natur and des Geistes“. “The finer, inner construction of the nervous system, and especially of the brain, remains as yet an unsolved problem to the physiologist and the anatomist; but that this concentration of the structure increases more and more in the animal, and in man reaches a stage unequaled in any other being, is a fully established fact, a fact which is of the deepest significance in regard to the spiritual evolution of man, of which, indeed, we may frankly say it is a sufficient explanation. Where, therefore, the structure of the brain has not developed properly, where its smallness and poverty show themselves, as in the case of microcephali and idiots, it goes without saying that one can as little expect the appearance of original ideas and of knowledge, as one can expect propagation of species in persons with completely stunted organs of generation. On the other hand, a strong and beautiful construction of the whole person, especially of the brain, will certainly not in itself take the place of genius, but it will at any rate supply the first and indispensable requirement for higher knowledge.” Just as one ascribes to the human body the three forms of existence, mineral, plant, animal, one must now ascribe to it yet a fourth, the distinctively human form. Through his mineral form of existence man is related to everything visible, through his plant-like form of existence to all beings that grow and propagate their species, through his animal existence to all those that perceive their surroundings, and by means of external impressions have inner experiences. Through his human form of existence he constitutes, even in regard to his body alone, a kingdom by himself.
2. THE SOUL BEING OF MAN
The soul being of man differs from his corporality through being his own inner world. This inner world peculiar to each person faces one the moment one directs one’s attention to the simplest sensation. One finds, in the first place, that no one can know if another person perceives even the simplest sensation in exactly the same way as one does oneself. It is known that there are people who are colorblind. They see things only in different shades of gray. Others are partially colorblind. They are unable, because of this, to perceive certain shades of colors. The picture of the world which their eyes give them is different from that of so-called normal persons. And the same holds good in regard to the other senses. It will be seen, therefore, without further elaboration, that even simple sensations belong to the inner world. I can perceive with my bodily senses the red table which another person also perceives; but I cannot perceive his sensation of red. One must therefore describe sensation as belonging to the soul. If one grasps this fact alone quite clearly, he will soon cease to regard inner experiences as mere brain processes or something similar. The first result of sensation is feeling. One sensation causes man pleasure, another displeasure. These are stirrings of his inner, his soul life. Man creates in his feelings a second world in addition to that which works on him from without. And a third is added to this—the will. Through it man reacts on the outer world. And he thereby stamps the impress of his inner being on the outer world. The soul of man, as it were, flows outward in the activities of his will. The actions of the human being differ from the occurrences of outer nature in that they bear the impress of his inner life. In this way the soul represents what is man’s own in contradistinction to the outer world. He receives from the outer world the incitements; but he creates, in responding to these incitements, a world of his own. The corporality becomes the foundation of the soul being of man.
3. THE SPIRITUAL BEING OF MAN
The soul being of man is not determined by the body alone. Man does not wander aimlessly and without a goal from one sensation to another; neither does he act under the influence of every casual incitement directed on him either from without or through the processes of his body. He thinks about his perceptions and his acts. By thinking about his perceptions he gains knowledge of things; by thinking about his acts he introduces a reasonable coherence into his life. He knows also that he will fulfill his duty as a human being only when he lets himself be guided by correct thinking in knowledge as well as in acts. The soul of man, therefore, faces a twofold necessity. The laws of the body govern it in accordance with the necessities of nature, but it allows itself to be governed by the laws which guide it to exact thinking because it voluntarily acknowledges their necessity. Nature subjects man to the laws of the change of matter, but he subjects himself to the laws of thought. By this means he makes himself a member of a higher order than that to which he belongs through his body. And this order is the spiritual. The soul is as different from the body as the body is different from the soul. So long as one speaks only of the particles of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen which stir in the body, one has not the soul in view. The soul life begins only when within the motion of these particles sensation arises, and one can say: “I taste sweetness” or “I feel pleasure.” Just as little has one the spiritual in view when one considers merely the soul experiences which course through a man who gives himself over entirely to the outer world and his bodily life. Rather is this soul life merely the basis for the spiritual, just as the body is the basis of the soul life. The naturalist, or investigator of nature, has to do with the body, the investigator of the soul (the psychologist) with the soul, and the investigator of the spirit with the spirit. To realize what one is in oneself, and thus become clear as to the difference between body, soul, and spirit, is a requirement which must be demanded from those who wish by thinking to enlighten themselves regarding the constitution of man.
4. BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT
Man can enlighten himself in a correct way concerning himself only when he grasps the significance of thinking within his being. The brain is the bodily instrument for thinking. Just as man can only see colors with a properly constructed eye, so the suitably constructed brain serves him for thought. The whole body of man is so formed that it receives its crown in the organ of the spirit, the brain. One can understand the construction of the human brain only by observing it in relation to its task, which consists in being the instrument or tool for the thinking spirit. This is borne out by a comparative survey of the animal world. Among amphibians we find the brain small in comparison with the spinal cord, in mammals it is proportionately larger, in man it is largest in comparison with the rest of the body. There are many prejudices prevalent regarding such statements about thinking as are brought forward here. Many persons are inclined to undervalue thinking, and to place higher the “warm life of feeling” or “emotion.” Some, indeed, say it is not by “dry thinking” but by warmth of feeling, by the immediate power of “the emotions,” that one raises oneself to higher knowledge. Persons who speak thus fear to blunt the feelings by clear thinking. This certainly results from the ordinary thinking that refers only to matters of utility. But in the case of thoughts that lead to higher regions of existence, the opposite is the result. There is no feeling and no enthusiasm to be compared with the sentiments of warmth, beauty, and exaltation which are enkindled through the pure, crystal-clear thoughts which refer to the higher worlds. For the highest feelings are, as a matter of fact, not those which come “of themselves,” but those which are gained by energetic and persevering thinking.
The human body has a construction adapted to thinking. The same materials and forces which are present in the mineral kingdom are so combined in the human body that by means of these combinations thought can manifest itself. This mineral construction, formed as a suitable instrument for its work, will be called in the following pages the physical body of man. (In theosophical literature it is called “Sthula sharira.”)
This organized mineral construction with the brain as its center comes into existence by propagation, and reaches its developed form through growth. Propagation and growth man has in common with plants and animals. Propagation and growth distinguish what is living from the lifeless mineral. What lives comes forth from the living by means of the germ. The descendant follows the forefathers in the succession of the living. The forces through which a mineral originates we must look for in the materials themselves which compose it. A quartz crystal is formed by the forces united in it, and inherent in the silicon and oxygen. The forces which shape an oak tree we must look for in a roundabout way in the germ in the mother and father plants. The form of the oak is preserved through propagation from forefathers to descendants. There are inner determining forces innate in all that is living. It was a crude view of nature which held that lower animals, even fishes, could evolve out of mud. The form of the living passes itself on by means of heredity. The manner in which a living being develops depends on what father and mother beings it has sprung from or, in other words, on the species to which it belongs. The materials of which it is composed change continually; the species remains during life, and is transmitted to the descendants. Thus the species is that which conditions the organizing and molding of the materials. This species-forming force will here be called life-force (in theosophical literature it is called “Prana”). Just as the mineral forces express themselves in crystals, so the life-force expresses itself in the species or form of plant and animal life.
The mineral forces are perceived by man by means of the bodily senses. And he can only perceive that for which he has such senses. Without the eye there is no perception of light, without the ear no perception of sound. The lowest order of organic beings has only a kind of sense of touch. For these there exist only those mineral forces of which the sense of touch enables them to become aware. In proportion as the other senses are developed in the higher animals is the surrounding world richer and more varied for them. It depends, therefore, on the organs of a being whether that which exists in the outer world exists also for the being itself, as perception, as sensation. What is present in the air as a certain motion becomes in man the sensation of hearing. Man does not perceive the manifestations of the life-force through the ordinary senses. He sees the colors of the plants; he smells their perfume; the life-force remains hidden from this form of observation. But the ordinary senses have just as little right to deny the existence of the life-force as has the man born blind to deny that colors exist. Colors are there for the person born blind just as soon as he has been operated upon; in the same way, the life-force, as creating the various species of plants and animals created by it, is present to man as an object of perception as soon as the necessary organ unfolds within him. An entirely new world opens out to man through the unfolding of this organ. He now perceives, not merely the colors, the odors, etc., of the beings, but these beings themselves. In each plant, in each animal, he perceives, besides the physical form, the life-filled spirit-form. In order to have a name for this spirit-form let it be called the ether-body, or life-body.
To the investigator of spiritual life this matter presents itself in the following manner: The ether-body is for him not merely a product of the materials and forces of the physical body, but a real independent entity which first calls forth these physical materials and forces into life. One speaks in harmony with spiritual science when one says: a mere physical body, a crystal for example, has its form by means of the physical formative forces dwelling within it. A living body does not have its form by means of these forces, for in the moment in which life is extinct in it, and it is given over to the physical forces only, it falls to pieces. The ether-body is an organism which preserves the physical body every moment during life from dissolution. In order to see this body, to perceive it in another being, one requires the awakened “spiritual eye.” Without this, one can accept its existence as a fact on logical grounds; but one can see it with the spiritual eye as one sees a color with the physical eye. One should not take offense at the expression “ether-body.” “Ether” here designates something different from the hypothetical ether of the physicist. One should regard the thing simply as a name for what is described here. And just as the physical body of man is constructed in conformity with its set task, so is it also in conformity with the ether-body of man. One can understand it also only when one observes it in relation to the thinking spirit. The ether-body of man differs from that of plants and animals through being organized so as to serve the requirements of the thinking spirit. Just as man belongs to the mineral world through his physical body, he belongs through his ether-body to the life-world. After death the physical body dissolves into the mineral world, the ether-body into the life-world. (In theosophical literature the human ether-body is called “Linga sharira.”) By the word “body” is designated what in any way gives a being “shape” or “form.” The word used in this sense must not be confused with the word body when used to designate physically sensible bodies. Used in this sense the term body can also be applied to forms which soul and spirit may assume.
In the life-body we still have something external to man. With the first stirrings of sensation the inner self responds to the excitations of the outer world. You may trace what one is justified in calling the outer world ever so far, but you will not be able to find the sensation. Rays of light stream into the eye, penetrating till they reach the retina. There they call forth chemical processes (in the so-called visual-purple); the effect of this stimulus is passed on through the optic nerve to the brain; there further physical processes arise. Could one observe these one would see more physical processes, just as elsewhere in the physical world. If I am able to observe the ether-body, I will see how the physical-brain process is at the same time a life-process. But the sensation of blue color which the recipient of the rays of light has, I can find nowhere in this manner. It arises only within the soul of the recipient. If, therefore, the being of the recipient consisted only of the physical body and the ether-body, sensation could not exist. The activity by which sensation becomes a fact differs essentially from the operations of the life-force. By that activity an inner experience is called forth from these operations. Without this activity there would be a mere life-process, such as one observes in plants. If one tries to picture how a human being receives impacts from all sides, one must think of him at the same time as the source of the above-mentioned activity which streams out toward every point from which he received these impacts. Sensations respond in all directions to the impacts. This fountain of activity is to be called the sentient-soul. (It is the same as that which in theosophical literature is called “Kama.”) This sentient-soul is just as real as the physical body. If a man stand before me and I disregard his sentient-soul by thinking of him as merely a physical body, it is exactly as if I were to call up in my mind, instead of a painting—merely the canvas.
A similar statement has to be made in regard to perceiving the sentient-soul as was previously made in reference to the ether-body. The bodily organs are “blind” to it. And blind to it is also the organ by which life as life can be perceived. But just as the ether-body is seen by means of this organ, the inner world of sensation itself can be seen through a still higher organ. A man then not only senses the impressions of the physical and life worlds, but he beholds the sensations themselves. Before a man with such an organ the world of the sensations of another being is spread out like an open and, for him, a legible book. One must distinguish between experiencing one’s own sensation world and looking at the sensation world of another. Every man of course can see into his own sensation world; only the seer with the opened “spiritual eye” can see the sensation world of another. Unless a man be a seer he knows the sensation world only as an “inner” one, only as the peculiar hidden experiences of his own soul; with the opened “spiritual eye” there shines out before the external spiritual gaze what otherwise lives only in the “inner” being of another. The sentient-soul depends, as regards its activity, on the ether-body because it draws from it that which it will cause to gleam forth as sensation. And since the ether-body is the life within the physical body, the sentient-soul is indirectly dependent on the latter. Only with correctly-functioning and well-constructed eyes are correct color sensations possible. It is in this way that the corporality affects the sentient-soul. The latter is thus determined and limited in its efficaciousness by the body. It lives therefore within the limitations fixed for it by the corporality. The body accordingly is built up of mineral materials, is vitalized by the ether-body, and itself limits the sentient-soul. He, therefore, who has the above-mentioned organ for “seeing” the sentient-soul, sees it limited by the body. But the limits of the sentient-soul do not coincide with those of the physical body. The soul extends somewhat beyond it. By this one sees that it proves itself more powerful than the physical body. But the force through which its limits are set proceeds from the physical body. So that between the physical body and the ether-body on the one hand, and the sentient-soul on the other, there inserts itself another distinct member of the human constitution. This is the soul-body, or sentient body. (It is called in theosophical literature “astral shape,” or “Kama Rupa;” “Rupa” signifies form or shape.) One can also say: a part of the ether-body is finer than the rest, and this finer part of the ether-body forms a unity with the sentient-soul, whereas the coarser part forms a kind of unity with the physical body. Nevertheless, the sentient-soul extends, as has been said, beyond the soul-body.
What is here called sensation is only a part of the soul being. (The expression sentient-soul is chosen for the sake of simplicity.) Connected with sensations are the feelings of desire and aversion, impulses, instincts, passions. All this bears the same character of individualized life as do the sensations, and is, like them, dependent on the corporality.
Just as the sentient-soul enters into mutual action and reaction with the body, so does it also with thinking, with the spirit. Thought, among other things, is of immediate service to it. Man forms thoughts about his sensations. In this way he enlightens himself regarding the outside world. The child that has burnt itself thinks it over, and reaches the thought “fire burns.” Also man does not follow blindly his impulses, instincts, passions; his thought over them brings about the opportunity by which he can gratify them. What one calls material civilization moves entirely in this direction. It consists in the services which thinking renders to the sentient-soul. Immeasureable quantities of thought-power are directed to this end. It is thought-power that has built ships, railways, telegraphs, telephones; and by far the greatest proportion of all this serves only to satisfy the needs of the sentient-soul. Thought-force permeates the sentient-soul in a similar way to that in which the life-force permeates the physical body. Life-force connects the physical body with forefathers and descendants, and thus brings it under a system of laws with which the purely mineral body is in no way concerned. In the same way thought-force brings the soul under a system of laws to which it does not belong as mere sentient-soul. Through the sentient-soul man is related to the animals. In animals, also, we observe the presence of sensations, impulses, instincts, and passions. But the animal obeys these immediately. They do not, in its case, become interwoven with independent thoughts, transcending the immediate experiences. This is also the case to a certain extent with undeveloped human beings. The mere sentient-soul is therefore different from the evolved higher member of the soul which brings thinking into its service. This soul that is served by thought will be designated the intellectual-soul. One could call it also the emotional thought-soul. (Theosophical literature calls it “Kama manas.”)
The intellectual-soul permeates the sentient-soul. He who has the organ for “seeing” the soul sees, therefore, the intellectual-soul as a separate entity, distinct from the mere sentient-soul.
By thinking man is raised above and beyond his own personal life. He acquires something that extends beyond his soul. He comes to take for granted his conviction that the laws of thought are in conformity with the laws of the world. And he feels at home in the world because this conformity exists. This conformity is one of the important facts through which man learns to know his own nature. Man searches in his soul for truth; and through this truth it is not only the soul that speaks, but the things of the world. That which is recognized as truth by means of thought has an independent significance, which refers to the things of the world, and not merely to one’s own soul. My delight in the starry heavens is part of my own inner being; the thoughts which I form for myself about the courses of the heavenly bodies have the same significance for the thinking of every other person as they have for mine. It would be absurd to speak of my delight were I not in existence; but it is not in the same way absurd to speak of my thoughts, even without reference to myself. For the truth which I think to-day was true yesterday also, and will be true to-morrow, although I concern myself with it only to-day. If a piece of knowledge gives me joy, the joy has significance just so long as it lives in me. The truth of the knowledge has its significance quite independently of the joy. By grasping the truth the soul connects itself with something that carries its worth in itself. And this worth does not vanish with the feeling in the soul any more than it arose with it. What is really truth neither arises nor passes away; it has a significance which cannot be destroyed. This is not contradicted by the fact that certain human “truths” have a value which is transitory, inasmuch as they are recognized after a certain period as partial or complete errors. For man must say to himself that truth after all exists in itself, although his conceptions are only transient forms of manifestation of the eternal truth. Even he who says, like Lessing, that he contents himself with the eternal striving toward truth because the full pure truth can, after all, only exist for a God, does not deny the eternity of truth, but establishes it by such an utterance. For only that which has an eternal significance in itself can call forth an eternal striving after it. Were truth not in itself independent, if it acquired its worth and significance through the feelings of the human soul, then it could not be the one common goal for all mankind. One concedes its independent being by the very fact that one wishes to strive after it.
And as it is with the truth, so it is with the truly good. The moral good is independent of inclinations and passions, inasmuch as it does not allow itself to be commanded by them, but commands them. Likes and dislikes, desire and loathing belong to the personal soul of man. Duty stands higher than likes and dislikes. Duty may stand so high in the eyes of a man that he will sacrifice his life for its sake. And a man stands the higher the more he has ennobled his inclinations, his likes and dislikes, so that, without compulsion or subjection, they themselves obey the recognized duty. The moral good has, like truth, its eternal value in itself, and does not receive it from the sentient-soul.
In causing the self-existent true and good to come to life in his inner being, man raises himself above the mere sentient-soul. The eternal spirit shines into this soul. A light is kindled in it which is imperishable. In so far as the soul lives in this light, it is a participant of the eternal. It unites its own existence with an eternal existence. What the soul carries within itself of the true and the good is immortal in it. That which shines forth in the soul as eternal is to be called here consciousness-soul. consciousness can be spoken of even in connection with the lower soul stirrings. The most ordinary everyday sensation is a matter of consciousness. To this extent animals also have consciousness. The kernel of human consciousness, that is, the soul within the soul, is here meant by consciousness-soul. The consciousness-soul is accordingly differentiated from the intellectual-soul as yet another distinct member of the human soul. The intellectual-soul is still entangled in the sensations, the impulses, the passions, etc. Everyone knows how at first a man holds that to be true which he, owing to his feelings, prefers. Only that truth, however, is permanent which has freed itself from all taint of such feelings as sympathy and antipathy. The truth is true, even if all personal feelings revolt against it. The part of the soul in which this truth lives will be called consciousness-soul.
So that even as one had to distinguish three members in the body, one has also to distinguish three in the soul; sentient-soul, intellectual-soul, consciousness-soul. And just as the corporality works from below upward with a limiting effect on the soul, so the spiritual works from above downward into it, expanding it. For the more the soul fills itself with the True and the Good, the wider and the more comprehensive becomes the eternal in it. To him who is able to “see” the soul, the splendor which goes out from a human being, because his eternal is expanding, is just as much a reality as the light which streams out from a flame is real to the physical eye. For the “seer” the corporeal man is only a part of the whole man. The body as the coarsest structure lies within others, which interpenetrate both it and each other. The ether-body fills the physical body as a double form; extending beyond this on all sides is to be seen the soul-body (astral shape). And beyond this, again, extends the sentient-soul, then the intellectual-soul, which grows the larger the more it receives into itself of the True and the Good. For this True and Good cause the expansion of the intellectual-soul. A man living only and entirely according to his inclinations, his likes and dislikes, would have an intellectual-soul whose limits coincide with those of his sentient-soul. These organizations, in the midst of which the physical body appears as if in a cloud, are called the human aura.
In the course of the childhood of a human being, there comes a moment in which, for the first time, he feels himself to be an independent being distinct from the whole of the rest of the world. For persons with finely-strung natures it is a significant experience. The poet Jean Paul says in his autobiography, “I shall never forget the event which took place within me, hitherto narrated to no one, and of which I can give place and time, when I stood present at the birth of my self-consciousness. As a very small child I stood at the door of the house one morning, looking toward the wood pile on my left, when suddenly the inner revelation ‘I am an I’ came to me like a flash of lightning from heaven and has remained shining ever since. In that moment my ego had seen itself for the first time and forever. Any deception of memory is hardly to be conceived as possible here, for no narrations by outsiders could have introduced additions to an occurrence which took place in the holy of holies of a human being, and of which the novelty alone gave permanence to such everyday surroundings.” It is known that little children say to themselves, “Charles is good,” “Mary wishes to have this.” They speak of themselves as if of others because they have not yet become conscious of their independent existence, because the consciousness of the self is not yet born in them. Through self-consciousness man describes himself as an independent being, separate from all others, as “I.” In his “I” man brings together all that he experiences as a being in body and soul. Body and soul are the carriers of the ego or “I;” in them it acts. Just as the physical body has its center in the brain, so has the soul its center in the ego. Man is aroused to sensations by impacts from without; feelings manifest themselves as the effects of the outer world; the will relates itself to the outside world in that it realizes itself in external actions. The ego as the peculiar and essential being of man remains quite invisible. Excellently, therefore, does Jean Paul call a man’s recognition of his ego an “occurrence taking place only in the veiled holy of holies of a man,” for with his “I” man is quite alone. And this “I” is the man himself. That justifies him in regarding his ego as his true being. He may, therefore, describe his body and his soul as the “sheaths” or “veils” within which he lives; and he may describe them as his tools through which he acts. In the course of his evolution he learns to regard these tools ever more and more as the servants of his ego. The little word “I” (German ich) as it is used, for example, in the English and German languages, is a name which differs from all other names. Anyone who reflects in an appropriate manner on the nature of this name will find that it forms an avenue to the understanding of the human being in the deeper sense. Any other name can be applied to its corresponding object by all men in the same way. Anybody can call a table “table” or a chair “chair,” but this is not so with the name I. No one can use it in referring to another person; each one can call only himself “I.” Never can the name “I” reach my ears from outside when it refers to me. Only from within, only through itself, can the soul refer to itself as “I.” When the human being therefore says “I” to himself, something begins to speak in him that has nothing to do with anyone of the worlds from which the “sheaths” so far mentioned are taken.
The I becomes ever more and more ruler of body and soul. This also comes to visible expression in the aura. The more the I is lord over body and soul, the more numerous and complex are its members, and the more varied and rich are the colors of the aura. This effect of the I on the aura can be seen by the “seeing” person. The I itself is invisible, even to him. This remains truly within the “veiled holy of holies of a man.” But the I absorbs into itself the rays of the light which flames forth in a man as eternal light. As he gathers together the experiences of body and soul in the I, he also causes the thoughts of truth and goodness to stream into the I. The phenomena of the senses reveal themselves to the I from the one side, the spirit reveals itself from the other. Body and soul yield themselves up to the I in order to serve it; but the I yields itself up to the spirit in order that it may be filled by it. The I lives in body and soul; but the spirit lives in the I. And what there is of spirit in the I is eternal. For the I receives its nature and significance from that with which it is bound up. Inasmuch as it lives in the physical body, it is subject to the laws of the mineral world; through its ether-body to the laws of propagation and growth; by virtue of the sentient and intellectual souls to the laws of the soul world; in so far as it receives the spiritual into itself it is subject to the laws of the spirit. That which the mineral laws and the life laws construct comes into being and vanishes; but the spirit has nothing to do with becoming and perishing.
The I lives in the soul. Although the highest manifestation of the I belongs to the consciousness-soul, one must nevertheless say that this I, raying out from it, fills the whole of the soul, and through the soul affects the body. And in the I the spirit is alive. It rays into it and lives in it as in a “sheath” or veil, just as the I lives in its sheaths, the body and the soul. The spirit develops the I from within, outward; the mineral world develops it from without, inward. The spirit forming an I and living as I will be called spirit-self, because it manifests as the I, or ego, or “self” of man. (“Spirit-self” signifies the same as that which in theosophical literature is called “Higher manas.” The Sanscrit word “manas” is related to the English word “man,” and the German word “Mensch,” and signifies the human being in so far as he is a spiritual being.) The difference between the “spirit-self” and the “consciousness-soul” can be made clear in the following way. The consciousness-soul is the bearer of the self-existent truth which is independent of all antipathy and sympathy, the spirit-self bears within it the same truth, but taken up into and enclosed by the I, individualized by the latter and absorbed into the independent being of the man. It is through the eternal truth becoming thus individualized and bound up into one being with the I, that the I itself attains to eternity.
The spirit-self is a revelation of the spiritual world within the I, just as from the other side sensations are a revelation of the physical world within the I. In that which is red, green, light, dark, hard, soft, warm, cold, one recognizes the revelations of the corporal world; in what is true and good, the revelations of the spiritual world. In the same sense in which the revelation of the corporal world is called sensation, let the revelation of the spiritual be called intuition. Even the most simple thought contains intuition, for one cannot touch it with the hands or see it with the eyes; one must receive its revelation from the spirit through the I. If an undeveloped and a developed man look at a plant, there lives in the I of the one something quite different from that which is in the ego of the other. And yet the sensations of both are called forth by the same object. The difference lies in this, that the one can make far more perfect thoughts about the object than the other can. If objects revealed themselves through sensation alone, there could be no progress in spiritual development. Even the savage is affected by nature, but the laws of nature reveal themselves only to the thoughts, fructified by intuition, of the more highly developed man. The excitations from the outer world are felt even by the child as incentives to the will; but the commandments of the morally good disclose themselves to him in the course of his development only as he learns to live in the spirit and understand its revelations.
Just as there could be no color sensations without physical eyes, there could be no intuitions without the higher thinking of the spirit-self. And as little as sensation creates the plant on which the color appears, does intuition create the spiritual realities about which it is merely giving information.
The I of man, which comes to life in the soul, draws in messages from above, from the spirit world through intuitions, just as through sensations it draws in messages from the physical world. By doing this it makes the spirit world the individualized life of its own soul, even as it does the physical world by means of the senses. The soul, or the I flaming forth in it, opens its portals on two sides, toward the corporal and toward the spiritual. Now as just the physical world can only give information about itself to the ego, because it builds out of physical materials and forces a body in which the conscious soul can live and possess organs for perceiving the corporal world outside itself, so the spiritual world builds, with its spiritual materials and spiritual forces, a spirit-body in which the I can live and through intuitions perceive the spiritual. (It is evident that the expression spirit-body contains a contradiction, according to the literal meaning of the word. It is only to be used in order to direct attention to what, in the spiritual regions, corresponds to the body of man in the physical.)
Just as within the physical world each human body is built up as a separate being, so is the spirit-body within the spirit world. In the spirit world there is for man an inner and an outer, just as there is in the physical world. As man takes in the materials of the physical world around him and assimilates them within his physical body, so does he take the spiritual from the spiritual environment and make it into his own. The spiritual is the eternal nourishment of man. And as man is born of the physical world, he is also born of the spirit through the eternal laws of the True and the Good. He is separated from the spirit world outside of him, as he is separated from the whole physical world, as an independent being. This independent spiritual being will be called spirit-man. (It is the same as that which is called Atma in theosophical literature.)
If we examine the human physical body, we find the same materials and forces in it as we find outside it in the rest of the physical world. It is the same with the spirit-man. In it pulsate the elements of the external spirit world. In it the forces of the rest of the spirit world are active. As a being within the physical skin becomes a self-contained entity, living and feeling, so also in the spirit world. The spiritual skin which separates the spirit man from the uniform spirit world makes him an independent being within it, living a life within himself and perceiving intuitively the spiritual content of the world. This “spiritual skin” will be called spirit-sheath. (In theosophical literature it is called auric sheath.) It must be kept clearly in mind that the spiritual skin expands continually with the advancing human evolution, so that the spiritual individuality of man (his auric sheath) is capable of enlargement to an unlimited extent.
The spirit-man lives within this spirit-sheath. It is built up by the spiritual life-force in the same way as is the physical body by the physical life-force. In a similar way to that in which one speaks of an ether-body one must therefore speak of an ether-spirit in reference to the spirit-man. Let this ether-spirit be called life-spirit. The spiritual being of man therefore is composed of three parts, spirit-man, life-spirit, and spirit-self. (Atma, budhi, manas are the corresponding expressions in theosophical literature. For Budhi is the separated special life-spirit which is formed by the spiritual life-force, or Budhi.)
For him who is a “seer” in the spiritual regions, this spiritual being of man is a perceptible reality as the higher, truly spiritual part of the aura. He “sees” the spirit-man as life-spirit within the spirit-sheath, and he “sees” how this “life-spirit” grows continually larger by taking in spiritual nourishment from the spiritual external world. Further, he sees how the spirit-sheath continually increases, widens out through what is brought into it, and how the spirit-man becomes ever larger and larger. For the difference between the spiritual and the physical being of man is that the latter has a limited size while the former can grow to an unlimited extent. Whatever of spiritual nourishment is absorbed has an eternal worth. The human aura is accordingly composed of two interpenetrating parts. Color and form are given to the one by the physical existence of man, and to the other by his spiritual existence. The ego forms the separation between them in this way that, while the physical after its own manner gives itself to building up a body which allows a soul to live and expand in it, and the ego gives itself to allowing to live and develop in it the spirit which now for its part permeates the soul and gives it the goal in the spirit world. Through the body the soul is enclosed in the physical; through the spirit-man there grow wings for its moving in the spiritual world.
In order to comprehend the whole man, one must think of him as formed of the components above mentioned. The body builds itself up out of the world of physical matter in such a way that the construction is adapted to the requirements of the thinking ego. It is penetrated with life-force, and thereby becomes the ether or life-body. As such it opens itself through the sense organs toward the outer world and becomes the soul-body. This the sentient-soul permeates and becomes one with. The sentient-soul does not merely receive the impacts of the outer world as sensations. It has its own inner life which it fructifies through thinking on the one hand, as it does through sensations on the other. In this way it becomes the intellectual-soul. It is able to do this by opening itself up to intuitions from above, as it does to sensations from below. Thus it becomes the consciousness-soul. This is possible to it because the spirit world builds into it the organ of intuition, just as the physical body builds in it the sense organs. As the senses transmit sensations by means of the soul-body, the spirit transmits to it intuitions through the organ of intuition. The spirit-man is therefore linked into a unity with the consciousness-soul, just as the physical body is with the sentient-soul in the soul-body. Consciousness-soul and spirit-self form a unity. In this unity the spirit-man lives as life-spirit, just as the ether body forms the bodily life-basis for the soul-body. And as the physical body is enclosed in the physical skin, so is the spirit-man in the spirit-sheath. The members of the whole man are as follows:
Soul-body (C) and sentient-soul (D) are a unity in the earthly man; in the same way are consciousness-soul (F) and spirit-self (G) a unity. Thus there come to be seven parts in the earthly man. The expressions used in theosophical literature are as follows:
- Physical-body (Sthula sharira).
- Ether or life-body (Linga sharira).
- Sentient-soul-body (Astral body, Kama rupa).
- Intellectual-soul (Lower manas, Kama manas).
- Spirit-filled Consciousness-soul (Higher manas).
- Life-spirit (Spiritual-body, Budhi).
- Spirit-man (Atma).
The “I” flashes forth in the soul, receives the infusion from out the spirit and thereby becomes the bearer of the spirit-man. Through this, man participates in the “three worlds,” the physical, the soul, and the spiritual. He takes root in the physical world through his physical body, ether-body, and soul-body and flowers through the spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man up into the spiritual world. The stalk, however, which takes root in the one and flowers in the other, is the soul itself.
One can express this arrangement of the members of man in a simplified way, but one entirely consistent with the above. Although the human I flashes forth in the consciousness-soul, it nevertheless penetrates the whole soul-being. The parts of this soul-being are not as distinctly separate as are the limbs of the body; they penetrate each other, in a higher sense. If then, one hold clearly in view the intellectual-soul and the consciousness-soul as the two members united to form the bearer of the I, and this I as their kernel, one can divide man into physical body, life-body, astral-body, and I. The expression astral-body designates here what is formed by soul-body and sentient-soul together, although the sentient-soul is in a certain respect energized by the I. When now the I penetrates itself with spirit-self, this spirit-self comes into evidence in the transmutation of the astral-body by a force within the soul. In the astral-body there are primarily active the impulses, desires, and passions of man, in so far as they are felt by him; the physical perceptions also take effect in it. Physical perceptions arise through the soul-body as a member in man which comes to him from the external world. Impulses, desires, and passions, etc., arise in the sentient-soul, in so far as it is energized by the soul before the latter has yielded itself to the spirit. If the I penetrates itself with spirit-self, the soul proceeds to energize the astral-body with this spirit-self. This expresses itself in the illumination of the impulses, desires, and passions by what the I has received from the spirit. The I has then, through the power it gains as partaker of the spiritual world, become ruler in the world of impulses, desires, etc. In proportion to the extent to which it has become this the spirit-self appears in the astral-body. And the astral-body becomes thereby transmuted. The astral-body itself then becomes visible as a two-membered body, an untransmuted and a transmuted. One can therefore designate the spirit-self, as manifested in man, as transmuted astral-body.
A similar process takes place in a person when he receives the life spirit into his I. The Life-body then becomes transmuted. It becomes penetrated with the life-spirit. And the Life-spirit reveals itself in that the life-body becomes quite other than it was. For this reason one can also say that life-spirit is transmuted life-body. And if the I receives the spirit-man, it thereby receives the strong force with which to penetrate the physical body. Naturally, that part of the physical body thus transmuted is not perceptible to the physical senses. It is, in fact, just that part of the physical body which has been spiritualized that has become the spirit-man. The physical body is then present to the physical senses as physical, and in so far as this physical is spiritualized, it has to be perceived by spiritual faculties of perception. To the external senses the physical, even when penetrated by the spiritual, appears to be merely sensible.
Taking all this as a basis, one can have also the following arrangement of the members of man:
- I, as soul kernel.
- Spirit-self as transmuted astral-body.
- Life-spirit ” ” life-body.
- Spirit-man ” ” physical-body.
Theosophy by Rudolf Steiner