Some people consider the human to consist of a body with all other aspects to be derivative from this fundamental reality. Some people are more inclined to view the human as having a body and soul, with the soul being in some way primal.
I believe the human can be regarded as being composed of body, soul and spirit. But there are other ways of analysis other than seeing the threefold division.
Rudolf Steiner gave a lecture entitled “The Lord’s Prayer”, in Berlin in 1907. In it he gives his account of the message he gets from this very familiar prayer.
He compares Christian prayer to meditation. Prayer is more closely associated with feeling whereas meditation has more to do with thinking. He is very critical of so-called prayer which asks for gratification of personal wishes. This leads to contradictory requests which can’t all be granted. One example he gives is opposing sides in a war both praying for victory. A prayer should have the effect of raising a person to the Divine and this precludes any selfish desires and will-impulses in the plea. Anyone who prays to the Father, “thy will be done” precludes egotistical petitionary prayer.
For Steiner the aim of both meditation and prayer is to achieve unio mystica, a striving to become one with the Divine in body, soul and spirit.
Steiner recoginized the human being as consisting of a lower physical nature and a higher spiritual nature. Generally, the latter is in the early stages of its evolution with very little conscious individual participation in its development. The diagram below is an illustration of our lower fourfold nature and our suggested higher threefold nature, and how this relates to the Lord’s prayer.
This gives seven aspects
The lowest member of the sevenfold nature of the human is the physical body, and the material of which it is composed is no different from the matter of the physical world around us. Our etheric nature is the living principle in us, and our astral nature is that through which we have an inner feeling life. Through this we have inner experiences. And as our astral nature gives us an awareness of the world so through possessing egos, we demonstrate self-awareness.
He designates the higher triad as, Spirit Self (Manas), Life Spirit (Buddhi), and Spirit Man (Atma).
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (Spirit Self, Manas),
Thy kingdom come, (Life Spirit, Buddhi) Thy will be done (Spirit man, Atma) in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. (Physical)
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Etheric)
And lead us not into temptation, (Astral)
but deliver us from evil: (Ego)
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Repeat of the higher triad)
I believe the ego is the fulcrum between these higher and lower principles. Through it we have the opportunity to work consciously on the lower principles and in this way develop the higher principles. Alternatively, we can allow the lower principles to control us. We can be slaves to our desires and hedonistic pursuits.
Thus the proposed triple aspect of body, soul and spirt can also be seen as sevenfold, or we can break it down further and obtain a ninefold division of the unified human.
Thus we have:
Etheric or formative force ‘body’
But, by my understanding, no matter which way we would like to split a human being, into twofold, threefold, fourfold, sevenfold, ninefold, or twelvefold aspects, it still retains its overall unity.