Body, Soul, and Spirit

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:
BODY:
Physical body
Etheric or formative force ‘body’
Astral ‘body’
SOUL:
sentient soul
intellectual soul
consciousness soul
SPIRIT:
spirit self
life spirit
spirit man

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.

141 thoughts on “Body, Soul, and Spirit

  1. Another correlation with body, soul, and spirit is willing, feeling, and thinking.

    Imposing ones will on the world always involves bodily movement. Feeling relates to the way the world affects the individual, and thinking is a mental activity.

    There is bodily activity on one hand with mental activity on the other hand, and feeling sitting between the two. The domains of religion, art and science are also associated with willing, feeling and thinking respectively.

  2. Corneel, to CharlieM:

    You are preaching, but to whom?

    Here’s my guess:

    Charlie’s intended audience is anyone at all who reads his OP. Steinerism and Steiner himself are a HUGE factor in CharlieM’s life, judging by the time and effort he has put into writing about them over the years here at TSZ. Since they have affected him so profoundly and (as he sees it) positively, he wants to share them with others, who he thinks would greatly benefit if they could just see what he sees in Steiner and in Steiner’s thought.

    Is that a fair characterization, Charlie?

    My concern is that Charlie’s interest in Steiner seems to have crossed over into cultish devotion. I used to tease Charlie about that by referring to Steiner as “the Dear Leader.” Some time ago I came across a couple of Steiner quotes, a racist one about black people and a bizarre one which, if I remember correctly, was about the desires of tomatoes. I mentioned them to Charlie, asking if he agreed with me that Steiner was wrong on both counts. He couldn’t bring himself to say that Steiner was wrong, even with regards to those two ridiculous assertions. It reminds me of how Scientologists view L. Ron Hubbard, whom they refer to as “Source” and whose words are gospel truth and not to be disputed. I hasten to add that Charlie, unlike the Scientologists, is willing to listen to those who disagree with him.

    I’ll dig up those two quotes to see if Charlie still feels the same way about them.

  3. CharlieM,

    You’ve said much about Steiner’s ideas, but I don’t recall you ever describing how you came to be a Steiner devotee. I don’t wish to pry, so don’t feel pressured to respond, but if you’re willing, could you tell us how you first encountered Steiner and how you came to regard him so highly and adopt his ideas? Did you attend a Waldorf school, or did you discover Steiner later in life?

  4. Here’s the first of the Steiner quotes I mentioned above:

    In the Negro the posterior brain is specially developed. That goes through the spinal cord and can work over all the light and warmth that is in him.

    Hence all that is connected with the body and metabolism is strongly developed in the Negro. He has, as one says, a strong desire-life, instinctive life. And since he actually has the sun-like, light and warmth, on the surface of his skin, his whole metabolism proceeds as if there were a cooking by the sun itself in his interior. Hence comes his desire-life. There is really a continuous cooking going on within him, and what stokes the fire is the posterior brain.

    Sometimes man’s organization throws off further byproducts. That is to be seen just in the Negro. The Negro not only has this cooking in his organism, it not only boils there, but he also has a frightfully crafty and observant eye. He peers craftily and very observantly. You can easily take this as a contradiction. But it is like this: If there in front is the nerve of the eye [see drawing], the nerves go just into the posterior brain; they cross there [see drawing]. The nerve goes into the posterior brain, and since that is specially developed in the Negro therefore he peeps out so craftily, is such a sly observer of the world. If one begins to understand the matter, it all becomes clear. But modern science does not make such studies as we do and so it knows nothing about these things.

  5. Poor, benighted modern scientists. If they only knew what Rudolf knows about black people.

  6. And the tomato passage:

    Tomatoes have no desire to step outside of themselves, no desire to step outside the realm of strong vitality. That’s where they want to stay. They are the least social beings in the entire plant kingdom. They do not want anything from strangers, and above all, they do not want any fertilizer that has gone through a composting process; they reject all that. This is the reason that they can influence what works independently within the human or animal organism.

  7. CharlieM,

    Those two passages are steaming bullshit. Can you bring yourself to admit that Steiner is wrong?

  8. Corneel:
    You are preaching, but to whom?

    I’m not here to preach. I’ve been here long enough to know that no critic is going to be converted by what I say.

    I enjoy getting feedback and constructive criticism. I find that dialog with people like you who I know disagree with most of what I write is a great way to stimulate my thinking. My wife often suggests that I should go and do a degree, but I think I would find that too restrictive.

  9. keiths:
    Corneel, to CharlieM:
    You are preaching, but to whom?

    keiths: Here’s my guess:

    Charlie’s intended audience is anyone at all who reads his OP. Steinerism and Steiner himself are a HUGE factor in CharlieM’s life, judging by the time and effort he has put into writing about them over the years here at TSZ. Since they have affected him so profoundly and (as he sees it) positively, he wants to share them with others, who he thinks would greatly benefit if they could just see what he sees in Steiner and in Steiner’s thought.

    Is that a fair characterization, Charlie?

    My concern is that Charlie’s interest in Steiner seems to have crossed over into cultish devotion. I used to tease Charlie about that by referring to Steiner as “the Dear Leader.” Some time ago I came across a couple of Steiner quotes, a racist one about black people and a bizarre one which, if I remember correctly, was about the desires of tomatoes. I mentioned them to Charlie, asking if he agreed with me that Steiner was wrong on both counts. He couldn’t bring himself to say that Steiner was wrong, even with regards to those two ridiculous assertions. It reminds me of how Scientologists view L. Ron Hubbard, whom they refer to as “Source” and whose words are gospel truth and not to be disputed. I hasten to add that Charlie, unlike the Scientologists, is willing to listen to those who disagree with him.

    I’ll dig up those two quotes to see if Charlie still feels the same way about them

    Your characterization does have some truth to it, but I’m not so devoted to Steiner that I have joined the Anthroposophical Society I did attend a few meetings arranged by the local Camphill community but that was decades ago.

  10. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    You’ve said much about Steiner’s ideas, but I don’t recall you ever describing how you came to be a Steiner devotee. I don’t wish to pry, so don’t feel pressured to respond, but if you’re willing, could you tell us how you first encountered Steiner and how you came to regard him so highly and adopt his ideas? Did you attend a Waldorf school, or did you discover Steiner later in life?

    I discovered Steiner in my early twenties.

    I was working my way through the philosophy section of my local library and came across a couple of Steiner’s basic books. These are intended for public consumption as opposed to his lectures which are mostly transcripts of talks he gave to specific audiences.

    This was the closest public library to the Findhorn Foundation (FF) so I suspect the books were there at the request of someone at the FF. I have visited the shop at the FF but that is my only connection with it. The FF is not anthroposophical but they are anthroposophical friendly.

    Over the years I’ve read a lot of anthroposophical related stuff, but there are no anthroposophists among my family and friends and I’m not affiliated with any anthro. groups or projects.

  11. Since it fits better with the topic of this thread, I will respond here to this comment of Charlie’s from the ‘What is a woman?’ thread.

    CharlieM:

    As physical matter can exist in various states, solid, liquid, etc., so the physical, the etheric, and the astral can be thought of the same ‘substance’ at differing states of densification.

    What is regarded as physical is simply the lowest, most gross manifestation of what constitutes reality.

    Do the physical, etheric, and astral interact with each other? I infer that your answer is yes, based on what you’ve written elsewhere, but I just want to confirm that with you.

    (earth, water, air – matter; fire – energy; ether – the fifth element)

    Does that mean you regard earth, water, and air as fundamental elements and reject the modern scientific view that they are compounds (or mixtures of compounds) of the elements listed in the periodic table? If yes, that’s pretty wild. If no, then why refer to them as elements?

    keiths:

    Where we differ is that you seem to regard life as a component of the body that acts on the matter, whereas I consider life to be just a name for the physical processes that unfold in the body when matter and energy are organized in particular ways. There is no separate élan vital, and the only difference between a dead body and a live one is in how their matter and energy are organized. Both evolve strictly according to the laws of physics, without a nonphysical soul to steer the process.

    CharlieM:

    I do not believe that life ‘acts on the matter’. I understand my body to be composed of solids, liquids, gasses, energy and life. The separation is not between any proposed élan vital and matter. The separation is evident when dead matter exists without its living aspect.

    So if I were to assemble a physical clone of you, it would be dead and show no signs of life since it would lack the ‘life principle’? Or to put it differently, if you were somehow able to remove the life principle from a healthy, living body without altering it physically, it would instantly become a dead body and the process of decay would begin? If so, then it must be true that life alters the behavior of matter and therefore does act on it, contrary to your assertion. Also, if matter’s behavior differs between living and dead bodies, then why have we never observed this? Matter shows no sign of ‘caring’ whether it is part of a living body, a dead body, or no body at all. The same laws of physics apply regardless. Your concept of a ‘life principle’ is no more viable than that of an élan vital.

  12. CharlieM:

    Your characterization does have some truth to it, but I’m not so devoted to Steiner that I have joined the Anthroposophical Society I did attend a few meetings arranged by the local Camphill community but that was decades ago.

    You don’t need to join the Anthroposophical Society in order to qualify as an extreme Steiner devotee. To my knowledge, you’ve never conceded here at TSZ that Steiner is wrong about anything, not even the two ridiculous passages I quoted above (and which I have shown to you on other occasions as well). That alone indicates that you’ve crossed the line from admiration to a worrisome cultish devotion. Those passages are obviously bullshit, and you are savvy enough to recognize that. I can only conclude that you find it so painful to acknowledge Steiner’s errors that you simply can’t do it. I hope I”m wrong, but the evidence to date suggests that I’m right.

  13. CharlieM: I enjoy getting feedback and constructive criticism. I find that dialog with people like you who I know disagree with most of what I write is a great way to stimulate my thinking.

    Is that so? And how has that feedback and constructive criticism affected your thinking since the last few times this same topic was discussed? I see no mention at all of any of the points that were previously raised by your various interlocutors. Did you truly ponder those? All I see in your OP is a lot of the familiar Steiner idolatry, only this time adorned with a jolly drawing of a house.

    It is obvious that you find the writings of Rudolf Steiner comforting and that you enjoy every opportunity to discuss them … and that’s fine. But let’s be fair here: you will never ever allow yourself to doubt the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

  14. keiths:
    keiths:Here’s the first of the Steiner quotes I mentioned above:

    Steiner: “In the Negro the posterior brain is specially developed. That goes through the spinal cord and can work over all the light and warmth that is in him.

    “Hence all that is connected with the body and metabolism is strongly developed in the Negro. He has, as one says, a strong desire-life, instinctive life. And since he actually has the sun-like, light and warmth, on the surface of his skin, his whole metabolism proceeds as if there were a cooking by the sun itself in his interior. Hence comes his desire-life. There is really a continuous cooking going on within him, and what stokes the fire is the posterior brain.

    “Sometimes man’s organization throws off further byproducts. That is to be seen just in the Negro. The Negro not only has this cooking in his organism, it not only boils there, but he also has a frightfully crafty and observant eye. He peers craftily and very observantly. You can easily take this as a contradiction. But it is like this: If there in front is the nerve of the eye [see drawing], the nerves go just into the posterior brain; they cross there [see drawing]. The nerve goes into the posterior brain, and since that is specially developed in the Negro therefore he peeps out so craftily, is such a sly observer of the world. If one begins to understand the matter, it all becomes clear. But modern science does not make such studies as we do and so it knows nothing about these things.”

    In ancient times humanity separated into the different races which were associated with particular locations on earth. Each race developed in a one-sided way but these racial differences are being overcome. Today national characteristics are breaking down the old racial divisions which are being eradicated. Races are destined to be a thing of the past.
    Steiner

    In the remote past man descended to Earth under the guidance of the abnormal Spirits of Form and was associated with his particular geographical region. Thus the foundations were laid for the development of the races. Then a progressive intermingling of the races takes place. The evolution of races is interrupted to make way for the evolution of nations; i.e. nations develop out of races. And the development of nations enters even into the evolution of the individual human being.

    Since the division of humanity into races, Steiner recognized a succession of cultural ages. There appeared dominant cultures which have been designated as:
    the Indian 7227 BC – 5067 BC, Persian 5067 BC – 2970 BC, Egypto Chaldean 2,907 BC – 747 BC, Greco Roman 747 BC – 1413 AD, Anglo German 1413 AD – 3573 AD, Russian 3573 AD – 5733 AD, and American 5733 AD – 7893 AD.

    Although the various races were in existence as these periods progressed, they gradually lose any relevance and are superceded by, folk and nations. This leads on to a future of a common humanity of individuals. The Christ event was the point at which the ideal of individuality became something to aim for. The story of the three wise men visiting the child Jesus is relevant here. Caspar (African), Melchior (European), and Balthazar (Asian) represent the three major races all of which have a one-sided nature and are to give way to the representative of individuality, the universal human, the Christ.

    Steiner:

    At the outset the fact that in the Christ Jesus lives the ideal man Who is not touched by the conditions of separation was only comprehended in thought, and Christianity became the ideal of an all-encompassing brotherhood. Disregarding all separate interests and separate relationships, the feeling arose that the inmost ego of every human being has the same origin. (Alongside all earthly forefathers the common father of all human beings appears. “I and the Father are One.”)

    Steiner: “…in our own epoch the idea of race will gradually disappear along with all the differences that are a relic of earlier times.”

    Steiner: “…understand clearly that the concept of race has ceased to have any meaning in our time”

    Steiner regards race as a vestigial leftover from ancient times. The differences he distinguishes between the races have to do with the lower bodily constitution and has nothing to do with their spiritual natures. Today, some of his words come across as highly insensitive and perhaps if he was around today, he would have been a bit more tactful.

  15. That was a pretty elaborate dance to avoid acknowledging that Steiner was wrong. Come on, Charlie, you can do it. Repeat after me: “Steiner…was…wrong…about…black people.”

    We’re here to support you in the aftermath of your apostasy.

  16. Seriously, Charlie, how can you not admit that it’s racist to characterize a black man by saying that “his whole metabolism proceeds as if there were a cooking by the sun itself in his interior”? Or that “he also has a frightfully crafty and observant eye. He peers craftily and very observantly…The nerve goes into the posterior brain, and since that is specially developed in the Negro therefore he peeps out so craftily, is such a sly observer of the world”?

    Even putting aside the obvious racism, do you, CharlieM, think that it’s scientifically correct to say that black people possess a distinct metabolism in which they are “continuously cooking” themselves? That their posterior brains are “specially developed”, thus rendering them “frightfully crafty and observant”?

    If you can’t bring yourself to reject claims as obviously bogus as this, then I’m afraid there is no hope for you, cognitively speaking. You are locked in what Alex Gibney calls “the prison of belief”.

    And we haven’t even gotten to the tomatoes yet.

  17. keiths: And the tomato passage:

    Steiner transcript translation: “Tomatoes have no desire to step outside of themselves, no desire to step outside the realm of strong vitality. That’s where they want to stay. They are the least social beings in the entire plant kingdom. They do not want anything from strangers, and above all, they do not want any fertilizer that has gone through a composting process; they reject all that. This is the reason that they can influence what works independently within the human or animal organism.”

    Read any book or magazine on gardening and you will most likely find phrases such as, “these plants love acidic soil”, “they don’t like being in the shade”, or “they enjoy damp conditions”. Are these passages worth criticizing for the use of such language?

    If we compare tomato plants with yellow rattle and dodder, we find that there is a range of dependence on other plants. Yellow rattle is semi-parasitic, and dodder is a parasitic plant which takes what it can get from ‘strangers’.

    It was not a teaching of Steiner to attribute passions and desires to individual plants. Unlike the higher animals and humans, the astral principle, which anthroposophists consider to be the seat of desires and feelings, is not a quality held within individual plants.

  18. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    Those two passages are steaming bullshit. Can you bring yourself to admit that Steiner is wrong?

    I’m sure Steiner was mistaken on many things.

  19. keiths:
    keiths: Since it fits better with the topic of this thread, I will respond here to this comment of Charlie’s from the ‘What is a woman?’ thread.

    CharlieM: As physical matter can exist in various states, solid, liquid, etc., so the physical, the etheric, and the astral can be thought of the same ‘substance’ at differing states of densification.

    What is regarded as physical is simply the lowest, most gross manifestation of what constitutes reality.

    keiths: Do the physical, etheric, and astral interact with each other? I infer that your answer is yes, based on what you’ve written elsewhere, but I just want to confirm that with you.

    Yes.

    CharlieM: (earth, water, air – matter; fire – energy; ether – the fifth element)

    keiths: Does that mean you regard earth, water, and air as fundamental elements and reject the modern scientific view that they are compounds (or mixtures of compounds) of the elements listed in the periodic table? If yes, that’s pretty wild. If no, then why refer to them as elements?

    No, I don’t reject the modern view of elements and compounds. I refer to the classical elements as elements because that is what they were referred to since they were first introduced into human thought before modern humans began to use the term for the chemical elements. I think a more apt term for the classical elements would be elemental states.

    keiths: “Where we differ is that you seem to regard life as a component of the body that acts on the matter, whereas I consider life to be just a name for the physical processes that unfold in the body when matter and energy are organized in particular ways. There is no separate élan vital, and the only difference between a dead body and a live one is in how their matter and energy are organized. Both evolve strictly according to the laws of physics, without a nonphysical soul to steer the process.”

    CharlieM: “I do not believe that life ‘acts on the matter’. I understand my body to be composed of solids, liquids, gasses, energy and life. The separation is not between any proposed élan vital and matter. The separation is evident when dead matter exists without its living aspect.”

    keiths: So if I were to assemble a physical clone of you, it would be dead and show no signs of life since it would lack the ‘life principle’? Or to put it differently, if you were somehow able to remove the life principle from a healthy, living body without altering it physically, it would instantly become a dead body and the process of decay would begin? If so, then it must be true that life alters the behavior of matter and therefore does act on it, contrary to your assertion. Also, if matter’s behavior differs between living and dead bodies, then why have we never observed this? Matter shows no sign of ‘caring’ whether it is part of a living body, a dead body, or no body at all. The same laws of physics apply regardless. Your concept of a ‘life principle’ is no more viable than that of an élan vital.

    The process of decay is a constant feature I have carried with me throughout my life.

    Rather than a sack of physical matter, Physically I am a flowing process and so a clone would need to incorporate living rather than dead matter. Otherwise, it would be a corpse. It is beyond the ability of humans at the moment to produce living matter from dead matter without the help of living systems.

    Living systems do not break or contradict the laws of physics. They make use of these laws to self-organize holistically. A finger or toe is meaningless without the body to which it belongs. I regard the earth as a living system and as a finger is meaningless without the living body, so organisms are meaningless without the living earth.

  20. CharlieM: keiths: Do the physical, etheric, and astral interact with each other? I infer that your answer is yes, based on what you’ve written elsewhere, but I just want to confirm that with you.

    CharlieM: Yes.

    And here am I thinking they do not interact because they are “aspects of a unity”. I guess the field of Goethean science advances rapidly.

  21. keiths:
    CharlieM: Your characterization does have some truth to it, but I’m not so devoted to Steiner that I have joined the Anthroposophical Society I did attend a few meetings arranged by the local Camphill community but that was decades ago.

    keiths:You don’t need to join the Anthroposophical Society in order to qualify as an extreme Steiner devotee. To my knowledge, you’ve never conceded here at TSZ that Steiner is wrong about anything, not even the two ridiculous passages I quoted above (and which I have shown to you on other occasions as well). That alone indicates that you’ve crossed the line from admiration to a worrisome cultish devotion. Those passages are obviously bullshit, and you are savvy enough to recognize that. I can only conclude that you find it so painful to acknowledge Steiner’s errors that you simply can’t do it. I hope I”m wrong, but the evidence to date suggests that I’m right.

    I remember mentioning somewhere that Steiner said the moon was moving towards the earth whereas in actual fact it has been measured to be receding.

    I’m sure Steiner has said that the pineal gland is now an atrophied structure with no current purpose. that isn’t true because it is hormone secreting endocrine gland.

  22. CharlieM:

    Read any book or magazine on gardening and you will most likely find phrases such as, “these plants love acidic soil”, “they don’t like being in the shade”, or “they enjoy damp conditions”. Are these passages worth criticizing for the use of such language?

    Metaphors are one thing, Charlie. That Steiner passage is in another category altogether. Just read it.

  23. keiths:

    Those two passages are steaming bullshit. Can you bring yourself to admit that Steiner is wrong?

    CharlieM:

    I’m sure Steiner was mistaken on many things.

    Excellent! You have just acknowledged, out loud and in public, to yourself and to others, that Steiner is mistaken “on many things.” That’s a big deal, because it means you can’t take something for granted merely because Steiner said it. He is fallible.

    I remember mentioning somewhere that Steiner said the moon was moving towards the earth whereas in actual fact it has been measured to be receding.

    I’m sure Steiner has said that the pineal gland is now an atrophied structure with no current purpose. that isn’t true because it is hormone secreting endocrine gland.

    Very good.

    Though you’re acknowledging Steiner’s fallibility, I feel obliged to note that you haven’t yet denied either of the passages I quoted. Let’s grant that the tomato passage is purely metaphorical, though I think that’s questionable. That still leaves Steiner’s passage about “the Negro”.

    My impression is that you’re a good guy, fundamentally decent, not inclined toward bigotry. I therefore don’t take your refusal to disavow Steiner’s statement as a sign of racial animus. You haven’t explicitly affirmed it, either. That leaves a couple of possibilities: 1) that you believe that Steiner’s passage is factually correct, but are reluctant to say so, or 2) that you think he’s wrong, but are hesitant to admit that for some reason.

    For the record, do you think that Steiner is scientifically correct in saying that black people possess a distinct metabolism in which they are “continuously cooking” themselves? That their posterior brains are “specially developed”, thus rendering them “frightfully crafty and observant”?

  24. The bible is clear. We are a soul andf spirit. This is the immaterial stuff. then we have a mind. this is material or the stuff in the skull. the miond is just a memory machine. all thinking problems like retardation of when we are babys is just from interference with the triggering mechanism for the memory/mind.
    If the bible was accepted on this I say healing of many things good be done or better done or progressively aided to get things done.

  25. Corneel:
    CharlieM: I enjoy getting feedback and constructive criticism. I find that dialog with people like you who I know disagree with most of what I write is a great way to stimulate my thinking.

    Corneel: Is that so? And how has that feedback and constructive criticism affected your thinking since the last few times this same topic was discussed? I see no mention at all of any of the points that were previously raised by your various interlocutors. Did you truly ponder those? All I see in your OP is a lot of the familiar Steiner idolatry, only this time adorned with a jolly drawing of a house.

    It is obvious that you find the writings of Rudolf Steiner comforting and that you enjoy every opportunity to discuss them … and that’s fine. But let’s be fair here: you will never ever allow yourself to doubt the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

    Look at the main observable differences between minerals, plants, animals and humans. What do we see in general? A rock does not have the inner vitality of plants. The difference we can call the etheric principle, formative force, life ‘body’ or some such descriptive term. The higher animals show an inner awareness that plants do not have. This can be named the astral ‘body’, sentience, feeling principle or something like that. Humans have rationality and a self-awareness not seen in animals, plants or minerals.

    I do not need to ask why the differences I observe are given these names, so long as i am satisfied that observable differences are apparent. Why the differences are given such names need not concern me to begin with. Steiner did give a few explanations as to why he used the terms he did. But as long as I am clear about my thinking on the general differences between minerals, plants, animals and humans, where I can confidently state I am correct and where I rely more on belief than knowledge, I don’t see anything objectionable in this.

    It is the same with body, soul and spirit. My understanding of these terms ranges from what I can say with confidence and what I class as a belief. My body is that which I can perceive with my normal senses. My soul i experience through the way my perceived world interacts with me in an emotional, feeling way. My spirit is my thinking life minus the attached emotions. Mathematical truths which are independent of time and space are apprehended by my thinking spirit.

    These things I am confident about. Other things such as my existence in some form outside of my life between birth and death, I hold as a belief.

    I’m not sure what previous arguments that have been made that you’d take to be strong enough to shake my beliefs. From what I have read, all that I see is some people arguing that I should accept their beliefs rather than my own.

  26. CharlieM, to Corneel:

    Look at the main observable differences between minerals, plants, animals and humans. What do we see in general? A rock does not have the inner vitality of plants. The difference we can call the etheric principle, formative force, life ‘body’ or some such descriptive term. The higher animals show an inner awareness that plants do not have. This can be named the astral ‘body’, sentience, feeling principle or something like that. Humans have rationality and a self-awareness not seen in animals, plants or minerals.
    I do not need to ask why the differences I observe are given these names, so long as i am satisfied that observable differences are apparent. Why the differences are given such names need not concern me to begin with. Steiner did give a few explanations as to why he used the terms he did. But as long as I am clear about my thinking on the general differences between minerals, plants, animals and humans, where I can confidently state I am correct and where I rely more on belief than knowledge, I don’t see anything objectionable in this.

    Here’s what’s objectionable about it;.

    1. You impede communication by using terms like “astral body”, for instance, if all you really mean is “sentience”. “Astral body” has all sorts of implications. It implies (well, states, really) that you are talking about a body, and that this body exists in or comes from an astral realm, or at the very least that it has astral properties, whatever those are. When someone construes the phrase in that way, and not as simply meaning “sentience”, the problem is in your failure to communicate, not in their failure to read for comprehension.

    2. You fool yourself, consciously or otherwise, into thinking about “astral bodies” in a similar way. I’ve seen you bandy many esoteric terms about, and it’s clear that you take the names seriously as descriptors of their referents. There’s no evidence that you take “astral body” to be merely a synonym of “sentience”. Your might regard it as the seat of sentience, but that’s a different animal altogether. It implies that “astral body” is distinct from “sentience”, not a synonym for it.

    3. You buy into these esoteric concepts uncritically and adopt them despite their superfluity. Yes, there is a clear difference between rocks and living plants, and we refer to the latter as “alive”. But that give us no reason to conclude that an “etheric principle”, “formative force”, or “life body” is somehow involved. Indeed, science shows that particles don’t “care” whether they are part of a living body, a dead body, or an object such as a rock. They follow the same physical laws regardless. Matter and energy arranged one way can be alive; that same matter and energy arranged in a different way can be dead or nonliving. Your “etheric principle” serves no genuine explanatory purpose.

    4. You don’t just adopt the wooish names. Along with the names, you uncritically adopt the Steinerian/Theosophical horseshit that accompanies them. My impression is that you are enthralled with the horseshit, see it as having great explanatory power, feel in your gut that it must be true, and fool yourself into thinking that it must therefore actually be true. In fact it is just one of a zillion possible just-so stories with equal “explanatory power” but little or no basis in the evidence.

  27. CharlieM, to Corneel:

    I’m not sure what previous arguments that have been made that you’d take to be strong enough to shake my beliefs. From what I have read, all that I see is some people arguing that I should accept their beliefs rather than my own.

    That statement is massively unfair to your interlocutors, including Corneel and me. What we do is criticize your assertions (or agree with them, where appropriate), provide our reasons for disagreeing with them (often in considerable detail), lay out our own positions, and provide our reasons (often in considerable detail). I’m not saying that we do all of this every single time we disagree with you, of course, but I am saying this: I’ve never seen any of the more thoughtful commenters here tell you that you should believe what they believe simply because they believe it. I know I haven’t.

  28. Let me quote some beautiful examples of Steinerian horseshit that employ some of the esoteric terms Charlie is talking about. These quotes come from a five-year-old thread. I’m quoting Steiner in full because his claims are so ridiculous as to be entertaining. Steiner can be a fun read, at least in small doses.

    From http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/the-cross-an-embarrassment-at-the-heart-of-christianity/comment-page-10/#comment-198972:
    ——————————————————————————-

    Here are some Steiner gems, taken from The Mystery of Golgotha:

    For the occultist this question is a double one: For we must distinguish between the personality who lived at that time in Palestine and reached the age of thirty, and what became of him afterwards. In the 30th year of his life Jesus became Christ.

    In the case of ordinary people, only insignificant portions of the astral body, the etheric body and the physical body are transformed into Manas, Buddhi and Atma, or into Spirit Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. Jesus of Nazareth was a Chela of the third degree, and his bodies were therefore in a state of high purification.

    When a Chela has absolved the purification of his three bodies, then he acquires at a certain moment of his life the capacity to sacrifice himself. In his 30th year, the Ego of Jesus left his three bodies and passed over into the astral world, so that the three sanctified bodies remained behind on earth, emptied as it were of their Ego, so that room was made for a higher individuality. In the 30th year of his life, the Ego of Jesus of Nazareth made the great sacrifice of placing his purified bodies at the disposal of the individuality of Christ. Christ filled out these bodies. And from that time onwards we speak of Christ-Jesus who lived upon the earth for three years and fulfilled all his great deeds within the body of Jesus.

    In order to understand the true being of Christ, we must go far back into the history of the development of the earth and of mankind. Before the earth became Earth, it was the old Moon, and the present moon is only a fragment of the old Moon. Before the Earth was Moon, it was Sun, and at a still earlier stage it was Saturn. We should bear in mind that milliards of years ago there existed in the cosmic spaces a heavenly body, Saturn. Also planets develop through different incarnations: Before the Earth was EARTH, it existed as Saturn, Sun and Moon.

    And:

    Christ’s deeds on earth gave man the capacity to absorb into his Manas what we designate as Buddhi.

    And:

    All initiations into the Mystery of the Spirit pointed to the coming of Christ Jesus. This initiation was attained in the Yoga sleep, in the Orphic sleep, in the Hermes sleep. When the initiate woke up again and returned into his body, so that he could again hear and speak with his physical senses, he uttered the words which are rendered as follows in the Hebrew language: “Eli, Eli, lama sabathani.” The pupil of the Mysteries woke up with the words: “My God, My God, how thou hast raised me!”

    Pure horseshit. “Clairvoyant investigation” my ass.

    ——————————————————————————–

  29. I don’t know if you believe that stuff, Charlie. You didn’t reject it at the time I quoted it, but of course that doesn’t mean that you actually believe it. Let me ask now: Do you think Steiner is right? Does his usage of the various esoteric terms match your own? And if you do believe him, why? How confident are you about his correctness? Do you think that besides being true, his claims are justified inferences from the available evidence? And do you assert that nothing he says here goes beyond what the evidence supports?

    I give Steiner credit for his imagination, but boy oh boy does he need to work on the ‘justified by evidence’ part.

  30. CharlieM,

    I asked:

    And how has that feedback and constructive criticism affected your thinking since the last few times this same topic was discussed? I see no mention at all of any of the points that were previously raised by your various interlocutors. Did you truly ponder those?

    Your answer appears to be completely unresponsive. You have just repeated all your golden oldies at me. Many TSZ participants have invested valuable time in addressing those points already and I have nothing new to add so I have no interest in discussing those old chestnuts again. Please, visit the previous exchanges I linked to and try to identify and address the criticisms raised there so we can move this discussion on.

    CharlieM: From what I have read, all that I see is some people arguing that I should accept their beliefs rather than my own.

    It is a symptom of your closed-mindedness that you mistake counterarguments for demands to renounce your beliefs and I agree with keiths that it is also grossly unfair to your interlocutors. Never have I argued that other people should accept my beliefs. In fact, I always take great care to remain respectful of other people’s beliefs. But I will stomp down hard on arguments that purport to be scientific in nature yet are not. Hence, Rudolf Steiner’s “spiritual science” is fair game as far as I am concerned. But science is not religious or spiritual belief.

  31. And to prevent this from disappearing out of sight:

    CharlieM: keiths: Do the physical, etheric, and astral interact with each other? I infer that your answer is yes, based on what you’ve written elsewhere, but I just want to confirm that with you.

    CharlieM: Yes.

    How do the physical, etheric, and astral interact?

  32. keiths: That was a pretty elaborate dance to avoid acknowledging that Steiner was wrong. Come on, Charlie, you can do it. Repeat after me: “Steiner…was…wrong…about…black people.”

    We’re here to support you in the aftermath of your apostasy.

    If I looked at three photos, one of an average native sub-Saharan African, one of an average Chinese person, and one of an average Northern European, I would have no problem in distinguishing between the three. But I would have a much harder job gauging their personalities. And Steiner was well aware that individuals cannot be judged on generalities.

    It should be noted that Steiner was making generalizations about the particularities of the African (Negro) ‘race’, the Asian (Mongoloid) ‘race’, and the European (Caucasian) ‘race’, as he saw it. He related this to properties of the colours black, yellow/brown. and white. Black absorbs the sun’s energy compared to white which reflects it.

    I can forgive Steiner for his racist sounding remarks, and I Don’t know how it would have come across to a German speaking audience at the turn of the twentieth century. If I called someone a sly old fox who is very observant, would they take that as an insult. It is often remarked that the Latin temperament is hot blooded and passionate. What is the difference between cooking in the organism and being hot blooded? Both are descriptions of a passionate nature. Is it wrong to say that Caucasians generally show a more cold, abstract thinking which has resulted in advancement in technology?

    Should our modern sensibilities stop us thinking about these things?

  33. Corneel: CharlieM:

    keiths: Do the physical, etheric, and astral interact with each other? I infer that your answer is yes, based on what you’ve written elsewhere, but I just want to confirm that with you.

    CharlieM: Yes.

    Corneel: And here am I thinking they do not interact because they are “aspects of a unity”. I guess the field of Goethean science advances rapidly.

    I am a unity, an individual. My bones and muscles are aspects of this unity. This does not mean that they don’t interact with each other.

  34. keiths:
    CharlieM: Read any book or magazine on gardening and you will most likely find phrases such as, “these plants love acidic soil”, “they don’t like being in the shade”, or “they enjoy damp conditions”. Are these passages worth criticizing for the use of such language?

    keiths: Metaphors are one thing, Charlie. That Steiner passage is in another category altogether. Just read it.

    I have read it. What I cannot do is to be there to listen and understand what he was saying during the lecture.

  35. keiths:
    keiths: Those two passages are steaming bullshit. Can you bring yourself to admit that Steiner is wrong?

    CharlieM: I’m sure Steiner was mistaken on many things.

    keiths:
    Excellent! You have just acknowledged, out loud and in public, to yourself and to others, that Steiner is mistaken “on many things.” That’s a big deal, because it means you can’t take something for granted merely because Steiner said it. He is fallible.

    Aren’e we all. 🙂

    CharlieM: I remember mentioning somewhere that Steiner said the moon was moving towards the earth whereas in actual fact it has been measured to be receding.

    I’m sure Steiner has said that the pineal gland is now an atrophied structure with no current purpose. that isn’t true because it is hormone secreting endocrine gland.

    keiths: Very good.

    Though you’re acknowledging Steiner’s fallibility, I feel obliged to note that you haven’t yet denied either of the passages I quoted. Let’s grant that the tomato passage is purely metaphorical, though I think that’s questionable. That still leaves Steiner’s passage about “the Negro”.

    My impression is that you’re a good guy, fundamentally decent, not inclined toward bigotry. I therefore don’t take your refusal to disavow Steiner’s statement as a sign of racial animus. You haven’t explicitly affirmed it, either. That leaves a couple of possibilities: 1) that you believe that Steiner’s passage is factually correct, but are reluctant to say so, or 2) that you think he’s wrong, but are hesitant to admit that for some reason.

    Or 3} that Steiner was using flowery language and a lot of exaggeration

    keiths: For the record, do you think that Steiner is scientifically correct in saying that black people possess a distinct metabolism in which they are “continuously cooking” themselves? That their posterior brains are “specially developed”, thus rendering them “frightfully crafty and observant”?

    For “continuously cooking” themselves, I read hotly passionate. I don’t know what would cause them to be crafty and observant, but isn’t this a compliment rather than a criticism?

  36. CharlieM: …Steiner was using flowery language…

    Steiner grew up in Austria, presumably speaking German as a first language. Did he later write or lecture in English or are the quoted texts translations?

  37. CharlieM,

    You are tying yourself in knots defending Steiner’s racist and patently idiotic statement regarding black people. If that passage had been written not by Steiner but by L. Ron Hubbard, would you be falling all over yourself trying to defend it (and Hubbard)? It’s pretty clear that you would not. That’s a sign that what you are engaged in is not a search for truth, but rather a blind defense of the dogma bequeathed to you by your Dear Leader, St. Rudolf the “Clairvoyant Investigator”.

    It isn’t too late to make your escape from Steiner’s prison of belief. If you care enough about the truth to do so, that is.

  38. CharlieM, to Corneel:

    I am a unity, an individual. My bones and muscles are aspects of this unity. This does not mean that they don’t interact with each other.

    Charlie, you seem unable to reach a consistent position on whether “aspects of a unity” interact with each other. From the 2021 comment of yours to which Corneel linked:

    “Midgematter” and “Midgessence” do not interact with each other because they are just two aspects of a unity.

    Which is it? Can “aspects of a unity” interact, or not?

    There’s a similar inconsistency between what you are saying now — about how the physical, ‘etheric’, and ‘astral’ interact with each other — and what you said a couple of weeks ago:

    keiths, to Steve:

    That doesn’t fit the evidence. If an immaterial soul were calling the shots, then our decision-making wouldn’t be affected by physical factors such as intoxicants or brain damage. Yet we know that human decisions can be profoundly affected by those things. This makes perfect sense if decision-making is a physical process, but it clashes with the notion that an immaterial soul is in charge. Your position isn’t tenable.

    CharlieM:

    It doesn’t fit the evidence only if you regard the immaterial soul and body as separate entities working on each other in an external way and not as two aspects of a unified whole.

    You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. If you affirm the ability of the immaterial soul to interact with the physical body, then your position is vulnerable to the same criticism I leveled at Steve’s. If on the other hand you deny the soul’s ability to interact with the body, then you’ve rendered the soul superfluous. It has no function and therefore serves no explanatory purpose.

    There is a simple solution, however. Drop the idea of a soul. It makes no sense, and it serves no useful purpose.

  39. Charlie,

    You’ve suggested that Steiner’s appalling description of black people is really just an instance of flowery and exaggerated language. That’s laughable.

    I tracked down the figure that Steiner used to accompany his lecture. Here it is in its full racist glory:

  40. For folks whose German is rusty, here’s what’s going on in that drawing. The man on the right is “Weiß” — white — with a specially developed “Vorderhirn”, or forebrain. This allows him to lead a “Denkleben”, or “thinking life”. The Asian man in the center — “Gelb” means “yellow” — lacks the well-developed forebrain of the white man, but does have a prominent “Mittelhirn” — middle brain — and thus leads a “Gefühlsleben”, or “emotional life”. The poor black guy on the left — “Schwarz” means “black” — has a specially developed “Hinterhirn”, or posterior brain, but he lacks the white man’s forebrain and the Asian man’s middle brain. He is thus consigned to a “Triebsleben”, or “instinctual life”.

    As if that weren’t bad enough, the arrows sweeping down from “Gelb” to “Braun” (brown) and from “Schwarz” to “Kupferrot” (“copper red”) are a nice racist flourish. You see, when the yellow Asians strayed outside their proper geographic boundaries, they became the brown Malays, and when blacks strayed outside of theirs, they became the “copper red” American Indians. Why are these depicted on the diagram as downward sweeps? Because Malays and American Indians are enfeebled races that cannot survive in their new environments. They are dying breeds.

  41. CharlieM: Corneel: And here am I thinking they do not interact because they are “aspects of a unity”. I guess the field of Goethean science advances rapidly.

    CharlieM: I am a unity, an individual. My bones and muscles are aspects of this unity. This does not mean that they don’t interact with each other.

    Quite so. I would go even further and maintain that without some interaction going on there is preciously little uniting them. But you are not arguing against me, but against yourself: I was calling attention to the fact that you are currently contradicting one of your previous claims, to wit that the physical body of a creature cannot be said to interact with its non-tangible “etheric and astral bodies”. Since you appear to have missed what I was getting at, let me quote some of the relevant comments from an exchange with Allan Miller, on the behaviour of midges:

    Here you can be seen circumnavigating a straightforward question from Allan. Note that “midgessence” is the mocking term Allan introduced to describe what you call the “etheric, life body” and “astral body” of a midge:

    Allan: How could Midgematter interact with a nonphysical Midgessence, even in principle? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Charlie: It makes no sense to you because you are looking for interactions instead of intra-actions. The separation is a concept of your own making. You might as well ask how lightning interacts with the thunderstorm.

    And in the follow-up you explicitly deny interactions occur, because physical, etheric and astral bodies are all aspects of a unity:

    My comparison of your “Midgematter” and “Midgessence” with thunder and lightning was my attempt to demonstrate our habit of retaining a separation caused by our senses. “Midgematter” and “Midgessence” do not interact with each other because they are just two aspects of a unity.

    That directly contradicts your current position.

    ETA: Ninja’d by keiths. Well, at least that should drive the point home 😀

  42. Lest Charlie attempt to argue that the figure isn’t really insulting to non-whites, here are some Steiner quotes that really seal the racist deal. You’ve already seen what he says about black people. Here are his thoughts on the other races:

    Asians are incapable of invention:

    Some inventions have been made in Asia, but in general inventions, arising through the experience of the outside world — Asians cannot make these. For example, consider the propeller steamship. The Japanese copied the Europeans, and then Japan wanted to go alone. Previously the Europeans were always in charge. Now Japan for once wanted to go alone. English engineers had remained on the coast. Suddenly, the Japanese came out [i.e., they launched a ship], who then brought things to a desperate state, for the whole ship turned constantly in a circle. They did not know how they could control the rotation, how to produce the right locomotion. The Europeans knew this, of course, and they stood grinning broadly on the shore. So this kind independent thinking, which Europeans developed to deal with the outer world, Asians do not have it. The Japanese will therefore work with all European inventions, but the Japanese cannot create something new on their own.

    Malays are “useless people”, a “dying breed”:

    The yellow migrate eastward across this region. But if the yellow wander too far to the east, then they turn brown. This is what gave rise to the Malays, who are brown. Why? Yes, why are the Malaysians brown? What does that mean: They are brown? They no longer reflect as much of the light as they did when they were yellow. Having turned brown, through their migration, they are now living in the Sun, and because they are so embedded in their new location, they throw off less light. They take more light into themselves. These brown Malays are expatriate Mongolians, but because the Sun acts differently on them now, they become accustomed to absorbing more light and more heat. But remember that they do not have the nature to do so. They have skeletons that can only absorb a certain degree of heat. They do not have the nature to absorb as much heat as they now take in as Malays. The result is that they start to become useless people, their human bodies begin to die. This is indeed the case in the Malay population. They are dying due to the Sun, they are dying from being too far to the east. So we can say that while the yellow, the Mongols, are people who have full life forces, the Malays are already a dying breed. They die.

    American Indians are also a dying breed, and “they die from their own nature”:

    So, if the blacks emigrate to the west, they cannot absorb as much light and heat as they could in their Africa. They come to areas having less light and heat. What is the consequence? Yes, their nature is set up to absorb as much light and heat as possible. Their nature is actually established, thereby making them black. But now, after emigrating, they do not get as much light and heat as they need to be black. Therefore, they become copper [i.e., copper-colored], in other words [they become] American Indians. That comes from the fact that they are forced to throw back some of the light and heat they receive. Hence the shiny copper-Sun coloration. The copper-colored body must send back a bit of light and heat. Copper-colored American Indians cannot endure so much light and heat. Therefore, they die. As Indians in the west, they are a dying breed. They die from their own nature, which gets too little light and heat, which kills the alien [i.e., the immigrant, the outsider]. Their earthly nature gives them an instinctual life. They cannot develop properly in the west, although they still grow strong bones. A lot of ash goes into their bones, but their bones cannot endure these Indian ashes. The bones are terribly strong, but so strong that the whole man is destroyed down to his bones.

    But thank God for white people:

    The white race is the future, it is the most spirit-building race.

  43. Robert Byers: The bible is clear. We are a soul andf spirit. This is the immaterial stuff. then we have a mind. this is material or the stuff in the skull. the miond is just a memory machine. all thinking problems like retardation of when we are babys is just from interference with the triggering mechanism for the memory/mind.
    If the bible was accepted on this I say healing of many things good be done or better done or progressively aided to get things done.

    I don’t agree that the mind is ‘material or the stuff in the skull’.

    The mind is not bounded by space and time in the same way that the brain is. I do not believe that I perceive the external world through some sort of copy inside my head. In my opinion direct perception involves my mind being in the world rather than the world imprinting itself in my brain.

    Thinking and willing affects neuroplasticity. The learning processes of a child will be a determinant of neural connections. Many years ago, after several attempts, I gave up smoking. My brain did not decide to quit smoking, I made that decision, and it took some effort. This process will have resulted in a change in neural connections in my brain.

  44. CharlieM:

    The mind is not bounded by space and time in the same way that the brain is. I do not believe that I perceive the external world through some sort of copy inside my head. In my opinion direct perception involves my mind being in the world rather than the world imprinting itself in my brain.

    This spectacular illusion shows why the “direct perception” idea cannot be correct. We perceive motion, but we can’t be “directly perceiving” it since it doesn’t actually exist.

    The eyes and brain construct an imperfect neural representation of the figure, and it is this imperfect representation that determines what we see. We perceive indirectly via the faulty representation. We don’t perceive the figure directly.

  45. CharlieM:

    Thinking and willing affects neuroplasticity. The learning processes of a child will be a determinant of neural connections. Many years ago, after several attempts, I gave up smoking. My brain did not decide to quit smoking, I made that decision, and it took some effort. This process will have resulted in a change in neural connections in my brain.

    That your brain changed during the process is obvious, but the idea that a nonphysical soul or mind was required in order to bring about the changes is incorrect. The brain constantly modifies itself as it operates. No external agent is needed.

    Any notion of a nonphysical mind/soul runs into the interaction problem: namely, how does something nonphysical affect something that’s physical, and vice-versa? What is the mechanism?That’s why Corneel and I keep pressing you on whether you believe the physical, the ‘etheric’, and the ‘astral’ can interact with each other.

    The concept of the nonphysical mind/soul is superfluous, and trying to force it into the picture actually creates problems. It’s a non-starter.

  46. CharlieM: Is it wrong to say that Caucasians generally show a more cold, abstract thinking which has resulted in advancement in technology?

    It’s factually wrong but more importantly it’s racist bullshit.

  47. Charlie in the OP, paraphrasing Steiner:

    Anyone who prays to the Father, “thy will be done” precludes egotistical petitionary prayer.

    Jesus didn’t think so, if you buy the Gospel accounts. Here’s Luke:

    He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

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