Astral body

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The Ba of man in winged form, as depicted in the Egyptian Mysteries, corresponds to the astral body.

The astral body (from Greekἀστήρ ástēr = "star", literally "star body"; GermanAstralleib), also called Kama-Rupa in Indian theosophical terminology, is one of the 4 basic members of the earthly embodied human being. It is the basic carrier of consciousness, but not that of self-consciousness, which solely develops through the ego. The astral body of the human being "is the manifestation of his passions, his instincts, drives and desires, but also of all his thoughts and ideas. In this astral body the clairvoyant consciousness sees depicted all that is called mental experiences, from the lowest instinct up to the highest moral ideals."[1] (Lit.:GA 104, p. 52) It facilitates the experience of our senses, likes and dislikes, as well as sympathy and antipathy which are aroused by it and finally it allows for independent movement of the body and its sensory perception. Insofar as a more or less conscious inner world of the soul is already formed, the astral body forms the vessel in which the body of the soul unites or meshes with the soul of sensory perception (Lit.:GA 9, p. 58ff).

Fundamental properties of the astral body

„The third member of the human being is the so-called sentient or astral body. It is the bearer of pain and pleasure, of impulse, desire and passion, etc.. A being which consists only of physical body and etheric body does not experience this. All of the above can be summarized under the expression: sentience. The plants are not equipped with sentience. If some scholars of our time deduce that plants too have a certain capacity for sentience, purely from the fact that some plants respond to stimuli with movements or in some other way, then they indicate that they do not know the essence of sentience. It does not depend on the fact that the being in question gives an answer to an external stimulus, but rather on the fact that the stimulus is reflected by an inner process, such as pleasure, pain, instinct or desire, etc. If this were not established, then he would only be ignorant of the essence of sensation. Likewise, one would also be justified in saying that blue litmus paper possesses sentience, because it reddens in response to certain substances.“ (Lit.:GA 34, p. 315)

The astral body is male-female, thus hermaphroditic. Animals also possess their own astral body. The name comes from the fact that it is of cosmic origin and was originally a soul-like image of the cosmic conditions, which is why Paracelsus also called it the sidereal man or the evestrum (the eternal substance of heaven). In fact, the instincts and the sensations of pleasure and displeasure connected with them, namely in the animals, are connected to the originally cosmically conditioned, but later increasingly internalized - as it were "embodied" - diurnal and seasonal rhythms.

„Among the various reasons that justify this expression is this that the astral being of man as such is not subject to the conditions which are operative within the earth. Spiritual science recognizes that within the astral being of man it is not the natural laws of the earth which are mainly active, but those laws which come into consideration when observing the processes of the celestial world.“ (Lit.:GA 17, p. 39f)

In the Egyptian mysteries the Ba was regarded as the carrier of the unmistakable soul qualities of the human personality and corresponds in anthroposophical terminology to the astral body, closely connected with the sentient soul. It was symbolically represented very aptly in the form of a bird with a human head. After death it accompanies Schut, the shadow of man, into the hereafter.

Plato in the dialogue of Phaidros speaks in this contest of a soul vehicle, or soul carriage, which, pulled by two horses, one white and one black, carries the winged soul into the higher world of the planetary spheres, or synonymously of the "garment" or a "cover" of the soul. The Neoplatonist Proclus then for the first time called this soul vehicle "starlike" (Greek: astroeidés). The term "astral body," however, was not coined until modern times.[2]

Aristotle calls the astral body aesthetikon (Greekαἰσθητικόν "perceptiveness"), i.e. sense soul or sensitive soul. According to Rudolf Steiner, the Hebrew term is lamuel (Hebrewלמואל, consecrated to God) (Lit.:GA 116, p. 82). In sleep - metaphorically speaking - the upper parts of the astral body lift themselves out of the body together with the I and remain connected with it only by the so-called silver cord or string of pearls formed from kundalini fire, which breaks only at death (Lit.:GA 88, p. 237f). After death the largest part of the astral body dissolves in the Kamaloka and scatters in the astral world. Unresolved remnants of the astral body can appear as doppelgangers in a later incarnation (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 28f).

Awareness of the astral body is awakened especially by the third subsidiary exercise, which trains the equanimity of feeling. Rudolf Steiner shows a meditative way to experience the astral body in (Lit.:GA 16, p. 48ff).

The astral body and its relationship to the stellar world

„The third member or layer is the bearer of pleasure and suffering, joy and pain, feelings and affection, which we call the astral body. It is the interactive link of the human being, which man has in common with the animals just as he has the etheric body in common with the plant and animal world. The mineral body he shares with the entire outer world. The name astral body has been in use since the earliest times. There is no more suitable term for this interactive link of a human being than to call it astral body. And there is perhaps no more beautiful definition of the reason why this body is called astral body than that given by the great theosophist Paracelsus. Just as at death the etheric body departs the physical body, some time thereafter the astral body leaves the etheric body too. But the astral body also exits the physical and etheric body every night. Then it is separate from us. But where does it go?

Paracelsus rightly says: Where is it, and what does it do in the night? Does it rest, does it have a task? Yes, indeed it has a task. Those who do not have clairvoyant skills cannot gaze into the activity of the astral body during the night. But every human being feels the consequences of this activity. They all go to bed tired in the evening. Fatigue is the expression of a disharmony arising between our physical and etheric bodies. It must develop when the astral body has lost its strength to create harmony between the physical and the etheric bodies. And as man is composed today, such disharmony must inevitably arise during the day-waking period. If the physical and etheric bodies were solely under the influence of the astral body - as the forces are ultimately to be joined together - then our etheric and physical bodies would always be in harmony. But not only does the astral body live in the physical body, but on the level of consciousness which humanity has reached on the earth planet, the whole environment of physical, sensorially perceptible objects has an effect on man. The impressions of the eye and ear and the other senses flow into him from outside. During the day-waking activities some disharmony will occur in all those that have not yet reached a certain higher stage of spiritual development. If this astral body could never dwell in any other place than in our physical and etheric body, it would itself become disordered. Then its currents of force would not remain what they have to be in order to form a proper etheric and physical body. During the day the inner harmony of the astral body comes into some disorder, and its expression for this disorder manifests in fatigue. The moment you feel the fatigue, the inner disharmony is present. But then, where has the astral body gone during the night?

Paracelsus rightly says: When the lines of force that connect it with the physical body during the day begin to loosen, then it enters into connection with the whole harmonious system of forces that floods the starry sky. The moment man falls asleep, he rests in the harmony of the spheres, and from there he returns charged with the strength to rebalance what has been consumed during the day. Thus the astral body rests during the night in the world of the stars; there it has its real home. And when it returns, it brings with it the powers of the stars in order to remove the depleting substances. Therefore sleep is an excellent doctor, because order and harmony can only come about when the astral body again rests for some time in that world which contains the laws for the celestial heavens, and these are the laws for the spiritual world in general. If man has no sleep, health is undermined because the astral body has not rested for a time in the stellar world. That is why the astral body has been given this name. In former times names were not given as long as they did not correspond to the essence of a thing. And before we correct occult names and designations, we must first reflect on the name for what it was given. Today, when a comet or small planet is discovered, one opens an encyclopedia of mythology and from it gives the star a name. The principle of naming in spiritual times was to let the essence of the thing itself resonate tonally in a name: the connection with the world resonated within the name.“ (Lit.:GA 284, p. 53ff)

The evolution of the astral body

The first seminal stage of the astral body was created during the planetary phase of development of the Old Moon. In terms of development, it is thus younger than the etheric- and the physical body and therefore still in its infancy. However, the soul organs of the astral body, tha chakras or lotuses can consciously be further developed through an appropriate spiritual training.

How does one become aware of the astral body?

In order to become aware of the astral body, we have to restrain our desires and develop serenity towards pleasure and suffering, joy and pain. This is the third of the so-called subsidiary exercises that the disciple on the path of spiritual training has to do. The etheric body, on the other hand, becomes familiar through the second subsidiary exercise, the exercise of will, that is, through activity, through the initiative of action.

„In order to become conscious of our astral body, we must do exactly the opposite. We must hold back the desires surging in the astral body, we must develop composure and equanimity towards them. We must establish absolute calm, absolute tranquillity within ourselves. Only then do we feel the outer astral world push against our inner astral world. Just as we come up against the ethereal world by interfering with it in our will, we feel the outer astral world by remaining calm within ourselves, by putting all our desires and wishes to rest.

Before the astral body is ready, it numbs itself through screams. We know that pain arises when the physical body and the etheric body are not in proper contact. The astral body feels this as pain. The little child, when it feels pain, cries out. It tries to drown out the pain by crying. The adult may call out: "Ouch! If man were able to let his pain flow completely in the vibrations of sound, then such changes would occur in the formation of the etheric body through its vibrations that he would not feel the pain, but that it would sink down into the subconscious.

But the good gods have predisposed man to be weaker, and it is good that way, for otherwise there would be no suffering and also no articulate language. The esotericist must come to bear all pain, in general everything that is stimulated in him by the outer world, everything that goes on in him, calmly, serenely, equanimously. Then he will not make attacks (through his astral body) upon the outer world, but the attacks will turn upon him from without. But since he has developed complete composure, they only touch his physical and etheric body. The astral body remains untouched. It becomes free, so to speak, and can be observed. So through the exercise in serenity I come to know my astral body.“ (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 243)

The I is recognised through the fourth subsidiary exercise, the exercise of positivity.

The Astral Body as a Carrier of Consciousness

The astral body possesses an independent, very wise consciousness, which forms the basis of consciousness in animals and humans, but which is partly strongly corrupted by the Luciferian influence and distorted into desire. The astral body, from which the soul is also substantially taken, forms the actual carrier of consciousness. In waking consciousness, however, this astral consciousness is normally only accessible to us to a small degree, but as a subconsciousness which is tied to the ego it constantly weaves in the background of our waking consciousness activity. Only in dreams does the astral consciousness emerge more clearly, because then it is not overshadowed by the brighter daytime consciousness. Dream-filled sleep occurs when the astral body has already separated from the physical body, as is usual during sleep, but still it has a certain connection with the etheric body, which remains in bed. The human being then begins to perceive in pictorial form certain processes in his etheric body. In dreams in which one faces oneself, one perceives a part of one's own astral body. Our dream-consciousness today is a transformed rudiment of the picture-consciousness that man had on the Old Moon. It is closely related to our emotional life; in feeling we actually dream constantly even during the waking life of the day.

„From the etheric body the extrasensory observation ascends to a further interconnecting member of the human being. In order to form an idea of this member, it points to the appearance of sleep, just as it pointed to death in the case of the etheric body. - All human creativity is based on waking activity, as far as the manifested is considered. This activity, however, is only possible if man again and again obtains the strengthening of his exhausted powers from sleep. Action and thought fade away in sleep, all pain, all pleasure sink away from conscious life. As if from hidden, mysterious wells, conscious forces arise from the unconsciousness of sleep when the human being awakens. It is the same consciousness that sinks down into the dark depths when we fall asleep and that rises up again when we awake. That which life awakens again and again from the state of unconsciousness is, in the sense of extrasensory knowledge, the third interconnecting layer of the human being. It may be called the astral body. Just as the physical body cannot preserve its own form through the mineral substances and its forces within, it must, for the sake of this preservation, be interspersed with the etheric body, likewise the energies of the etheric body cannot, by themselves, illuminate themselves with the light of consciousness. An etheric body left to itself would have to remain in a state of sleep. One could also say that it could only maintain a plant-like existence in the physical body. An awake etheric body is illuminated by an astral body. For sensory observation the effect of this astral body disappears when the human being sinks into sleep. Extrasensory observation can still perceive but shows separately from the etheric body. The sensory perception does therefore not perceive the astral body itself, but only its effects in its manifested stage. And such effects are not directly present during sleep. In the same sense that man has his physical body in common with minerals and his etheric body with plants, his astral body is of the same kind with regard to animals . The plants are in a perpetual state of sleep. He who does not judge these things accurately can easily fall into the trap of ascribing a kind of consciousness to plants like that which animals and men have in the waking state. This can only happen, however, if one has an inaccurate idea of consciousness. One then says that when an external stimulus is exerted on the plant, it performs certain movements just like the animal. One speaks of the sensitivity of some plants which, for example, contract their leaves when certain external stimuli act upon them. But it is not the characteristic of consciousness that a being shows a certain counter-effect to an external stimulus, but that the being experiences something within itself which is added as a new quality rather than a mere reaction . Otherwise one could also speak of consciousness when a piece of iron expands under the influence of heat. Consciousness is only present when the being experiences the effect of heat as for instance, inwardly pain .“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 58ff)

The destructive forces of the astral body

The passions and desires of the astral body have a consuming effect on the etheric- and subsequently also on the physical body.

„... that which our astral body breaks down in our etheric body is essentially connected to our becoming weaker in the course of life and, when we have become utterly weakened, with our dying. The astral body in relation to the etheric body is essentially connected with death. We can die by way of our astral body gradually consuming the forces of the etheric body, and the etheric body in turn consuming the physical body.“ (Lit.:GA 169, p. 86)

Passion and Love

„How we gradually build up our astral body during the course of our life, from birth, or let's say from conception, is connected with our karma. Whether we are inclined to develop strong affects, strong passions in the astral body, is of course connected with our karma. But these passions can also be of human significance in a certain respect. Let us take a characteristic which plays a part in the whole of human life and yet is a passion, even if it is the noblest passion, the one which can develop in its noblest form in such a way that it is free from all selfishness, the passion of love. Love is a passion, but it can be freed from all selfishness. It is the only passion that can become free from egoism. But it sits in the astral body, so the astral body is its vehicle.

Let us now suppose that an artist who has a real feeling for realities - that is, not a naturalist, for he has no feeling for realities, he sees only abstract naturalistic matter, so-called realities - is confronted with the task of forming a human figure which is completely, suffused with the breath of the passion of love, with the noble passion of love, so to speak. Each time an artist was confronted by the task of creating a Venus or an Aphrodite, he had to feel that the human form must be completely permeated by this passion of love. Love must have something pre-eminent, it has to pour itself out. What could possibly be the case then? One cannot say that one can form an ordinary female figure as Aphrodite or as Venus. So the astral body of an Aphrodite or Venus cannot be like any female astral body, for otherwise every woman, every girl, would be an Aphrodite or Venus. That is not the case, is it? So it is a question of the astral body has to be formed in a very special way. The artist doesn't need to know spiritual science, he doesn't need to know that, but when he forms a Venus he must feel that the astral body must be more developed, more intensely developed, than in the case of the non-Aphrodite or non-Venus. But the astral body, we have said, has something consuming, something really consuming. I must express that. How then will the artist form a Venus who really feels this, who really has a feeling that there is a consuming astral body present? He will make visible that the physical body has something about it by which it is gradually consumed. Here the spiritual scientist is in a different situation from, let's say, a modern doctor.

Sando Botticelli: The Birth of Venus, 1483 - 85, Uffizi (Florence)

Let us suppose that an artist forms such a Venus, in the formation of which he has felt correctly: There is a more consuming astral body than in an ordinary woman. We will see it in the narrow neck, in the formation of the thorax, we will also see it in the other parts that there is something consuming in the astral body, we will perhaps see it in the figure that it cannot grow particularly old if the artist expresses this aspect physically. The spiritual scientist will say, when an artist does something like this, that this artist has felt what actually underlies reality. From this point of view we will say to ourselves: Often the artist, in creating, feels a real spiritual reality. - What will the doctor say, who is not a spiritual scientist, when he sees that an artist has formed such a figure? "That is a consumptive figure," he will say, for indeed: in someone who has consumption, the astral body is also a stronger burning astral body through the karma of a previous incarnation than in someone who does not have consumption. Botticelli has created a very beautiful, much admired Venus, most of you will know her. In this picture of Venus standing on the shell, we see a real physical body, so formed by Botticelli that we have to think: a real consuming astral body underpins this image. This is why a dispute has arisen among the scholars of art. Some admire the figure of this Venus, which differs from the so-called normal figures, with the narrow neck, the strange upper chest and so on; others say that it only comes from the fact that he had a consumptive model. - Certainly, everything can be explained materialistically. Probably even that Botticelli did use a consumptive model: this Simonetta, who died at the age of twenty-three. But it is not this that matters, but the fact that he felt he had to use precisely this model for a Venus, which offered him the possibility of making a human being with an astral body that consumes the physical body more quickly than in others. And indeed, in this very picture - I will let it go round slowly, it is a bad imitation, but I have no better at present - you will see how it is indeed noticeable that we are dealing with a different kind of astral body, with an astral body consuming the physical body through the etheric body. You see how spiritual science can guide us, how spiritual science can show us the way to understanding such things.“ (Lit.:GA 169, p. 87ff)

The Astral Body of Man and Woman

The astral body is more differentiated in women than in men:

„Throughout life the astral body has a greater significance in the female sex than in the male sex. The whole female structure is oriented more towards the cosmos through its astral body. The female nature reveals shows things which are actually secrets of the cosmos. The astral body of the female nature is in itself more differentiated, much more richly structured than the astral body of man, which in a certain way is more unstructured, undifferentiated, coarser.“ (Lit.:GA 302, p. 74)

More precisely, one must distinguish two halves in the astral body, namely a feminine and a masculine. The astral body is hermaphroditic:

„One must distinguish in the astral body itself a second half: like the other pole in a magnet.

In man the second astral body is feminine; in woman the second astral body is masculine, that is, the astral body is hermaphroditic. The Kundalini fire is now the activity excited in the second astral body, which is first of all warmth and light.

As long as the kundalini fire is not excited, one gropes between the objects and beings of the higher world; as during the night between physical objects. If the kundalini fire is there, one illuminates the objects oneself.“ (Lit.: Contributions 51, p. 21)

Astral body and retrograde time

Just as the etheric body sucks up space and thereby transports matter out of space, so the astral body sucks up time and thereby transforms the usual course of time into a retrograde one. In the astral, time rushes towards us from the future.

„In the astral body it is not only that it absorbs space, but curiously enough it absorbs time. For it has something that leads back. It is returning, the astral body. I can make this quite clear to you right now using the example of the human being. Imagine that you have become an elderly person of about 50 years. Forces are constantly at work in your astral body which take you back to the times of your spent earthly life, which take you back to the time before sexual maturity. In your astral body you do not experience this fifty-year-old. You experience the eleven-, twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-year-old in reality. This radiates into you through the astral body that is leading back. That is the secret of life. We only really grow old in relation to the physical body and the etheric body and its oscillations. The astral body is that which leads us back again and again to the earlier stages of life. There we are still more mature children.“ (Lit.:GA 306, p. 103f)

To the imaginative vision, the astral world often appears like a mirror image of the experiences in the physical world. This does not only apply to time. The number 563, for example, would have to be read as 365 in the astral world. A feeling of hatred that we emit appears to us there as if it came to us from the person to whom we sent it. Our own unrestrained animal instincts show themselves in the imagination as wild animals rushing at us. All colours appear in the astral world as complementary colours; the calm green of the plant world corresponds, for example, on the astral plan to the energetic purple colour (also called peach blossom by Goethe). What in the world of the soul lives is expreinced as a glowing warmth of the soul appears to us here as a peculiar feeling of coldness, and so on.

„Another phenomenon is that time and events go backwards. For example, in the physical we first see the hen and then the egg. In the astral, conversely, we first see the egg and then the hen which laid the egg. In the astral, time moves back; first you see the effect and then the cause. Hence the prophetic spirit; no one can foresee future events without this backwards movement of time events.

It is not pointless to learn these peculiarities of the astral world. Many myths and legends of all peoples have dealt with it with wonderful wisdom, for example, the legend of Hercules at the Crossroads. It is said that he once felt himself posed before two female figures, one beautiful and enticing; she promised him lust, happiness and bliss, the second simple and serious, speaking of toil, hard work and renunciation. The two figures are vice and virtue. This legend tells us correctly how Hercules' own two natures appear before him in the astral, the one that urges him to evil, the other nature that urges him to good. And these appear in the mirror image as two female figures with opposite qualities: vice beautiful, luxuriant, captivating, virtue ugly and repulsive. Each image appears reversed in the astral.“ (Lit.:GA 95, p. 22)

The astral body as a link between physical and spiritual phenomena

The astral body connects physical and mental phenomena with each other. Paracelsus had already pointed this out. From this connection of the psychic with the physical, it can also be understood how dream images arise due to physical causes, but also phenomena such as hypnotism and suggestion, which are based on natural effects that pass from person to person, but which are usually outshone by the bright daytime consciousness and are therefore not noticed. The astral body is in this sense a "sum of natural effects under whose influence we are, or we may be brought by special circumstances; which proceed from us without our soul coming into consideration; and which yet do not fall under the concept of purely physical phenomena." (see following quotation)

„The first constituent of human nature Paracelsus calls the elemental body; the second the ethereal-celestial or astral body; the third constituent he calls the soul, - In the "astral" phenomena Paracelsus thus sees an intermediate stage between the purely physical and the actual phenomena of the soul. They will therefore become visible when the spirit, which covers the natural basis of our being, ceases its activity. The simplest manifestation of this area we have before us is in the dream world. The images that surround us in dreams, with their strange, meaningful connection to processes in our surroundings and to states of our own inner being, are products of our natural basis, which are obscured by the brighter light of the soul. If a chair falls over beside my bed and I dream a whole drama ending in a shot caused by a duel, or if I have palpitations and I dream of a boiling oven, natural effects come to light, sensible and significant, revealing a life that lies between the purely organic functions and the imagination carried out in the bright consciousness of the spirit. All phenomena which belong to the field of hypnotism and suggestion follow on from this. In suggestion we can see an influence of man upon man, which points to a connection of beings in nature concealed by the higher activity of the spirit. From here the possibility opens up to understand what Paracelsus interprets as the "astral" body. It is the sum of natural effects under whose influence we are or can be through special circumstances; which proceed from us without our soul being taken into consideration; and which nevertheless do not fall under the concept of purely physical phenomena.“ (Lit.:GA 7, p. 110f)

The soul body

The astral body is the actual soul body of the human being, the substance, as it were, from which the human soul is woven. It is the carrier of consciousness, of the drives and sensations seized by desires - and of selfishness. Although desires originate in the etheric body, since the Fall they have been so strongly connected with the astral body that it can rightly be called the body of desires and sensations. Through the astral body, processes of degradation are carried into the etheric body and into the physical body, which at the same time form the basis for awake consciousness.

The expressions "body" and "substance" must not be misunderstood here in the physical-material sense, but are only meant to refer to the comparatively independent, self-contained existence of the human soul being. As such a relatively independent entity, the astral body is not born until sexual maturity around the age of 14, whereas until then it is still embedded in a much wider astral sphere. Just as man lives through his physical body in the physical environment, so he lives through his soul body in a soul environment. However, man today has no clear awareness of this, as he lacks the corresponding soul organs of perception for this. Through appropriate soul exercises, however, these can be developed, whereby the human being becomes a conscious co-dweller of the soul world.

„For the "seeing" person, the physical human being is only considered a part of the set that makes a whole human being. The body lies as the coarsest formation in the midst of others which interpenetrate it and each other. The etheric body fills the physical body as a form of life; the soul body (astral form) is recognised as projecting beyond it on all sides. And in turn projecting beyond this is the feeling soul, then the understanding soul, which expands and grows the more it absorbs of the true and the good.9“ (Lit.:GA 47)

„The sentient soul depends on the etheric body for its effect. For from the etheric body it brings forth that which it is to make shine forth as sentience. And since the etheric body is the life within the physical body, the sentient soul is also indirectly dependent on it. Only with a correctly functioning, well-built living eye are corresponding colour sensations possible. Thus the physical body has an effect on the sensitive soul. This is therefore determined and limited in its effectiveness by the body. It lives within the limits set by the body. - The body is thus built up from the mineral substances, animated by the etheric body, and it itself limits the sentient soul. He who has the above-mentioned organ for "seeing" the soul of feeling recognises it as limited by the body. - But the boundary of the sentient soul does not coincide with that of the physical body. This soul projects beyond the physical body. One sees from this that it proves to be much more powerful than it is. But the power that sets its limits emanates from the physical body. Thus, between the physical body and the etheric body on the one hand and the sentient soul on the other, there is another special component of the human being. It is the soul body or the sentient body. One can also say that one part of the etheric body is finer than the rest, and this finer part of the etheric body forms a unity with the sensitive soul, while the coarser part forms a kind of unity with the physical body. But, as I have said, the sentient soul projects beyond the soul body.

What is called sensation here is only a part of the soul's being. (The term sensation soul is chosen for the sake of simplicity.) The feelings of pleasure and displeasure, the desires, instincts and passions follow on from the sensations. All this bears the same character of independent life as the sensations and is, like them, dependent on corporeality.9“ (Lit.:GA 42f)

„Thus in every human being, apart from the physical body, there is also the astral body, which is so called because for the Clairvoyant it shines in a bright light, which is an expression of his whole life of pleasure and displeasure, of all that lives in him as feeling. Just as not only you yourself know that you consist of flesh and blood, but other people can also perceive this, so the feelings of pleasure and displeasure are only there for you alone as long as no one else perceives them. Somewhat larger than your physical body is your astral organism, somewhat protruding above the same. Think of a hall in which a meeting is being held and in which the various speakers are speaking. When a clairvoyant looks through the hall with his seeing eyes, he not only perceives the words that are spoken, not only the twinkling eyes and the speaking physiognomies, he sees something else as well: he sees how the passions pass over from the speaker to the other people, he sees how the sensations and feelings light up in the speaker, he sees whether a speaker speaks out of revenge or enthusiasm, for example. With the enthusiast he sees the fire of the astral body flowing out, and with the great multitude of people he sees an abundance of rays; these in turn evoke pleasure or displeasure in the speaker. There is an interaction of temperaments that takes place openly and clearly in front of the seer with special perception. This is just as real a world of which we are a part as the outer world in which we live. Not in vain, not pointlessly, did the theosophical movement draw people's attention to these invisible worlds, of which people are a part and into which we continuously send our effects. You cannot speak a word or have a thought without feelings affecting the room. As our actions work out into space, so do our feelings; they penetrate space and influence people and the whole astral world. Under normal circumstances man is not aware that a stream of effects emanates from him, that he is a cause, the effects of which can be perceived everywhere in the world. He is not aware that he can also cause harm by sending out currents of pleasure and displeasure, of passions and instincts into the world, which can have the most harmful effects on other people. He is not aware of what he is doing with his emotional life.“ (Lit.:GA 88, p. 26f)

The Astral Body connecting Soul Body and Sentient Soul

Strictly speaking, the astral body forms the connection between soul body and sentient soul:

„The expression astral body stands for the connection of soul body and sentient soul. This term is found in the older literature and is here freely applied to that in the human being which lies beyond the sensually perceptible. In spite of the fact that the sentient soul is, in a certain respect, also permeated by the I-ego, it is so closely connected to the soul body that a single expression justifies one term for both when considering its influence at work. When the I-ego interconnects with the spirit-self, this spirit-self appears in such a way that the astral body is reworked by the soul. In the astral body man's instincts, desires, passions, in so far as these are felt; and thus, sensual perceptions work within. The sensual perceptions arise through the soul-body as a link in man, entering into him from the outer world. The urges, desires, passions and so on arise in the sensory (sentient) soul, insofar as this is penetrated by the inner being-self before this inner being-self has transformed itself to merge with the spiritual self. When the 'I-ego' infuses itself with the spirit-self, the soul again penetrates the astral body with this spirit-self. This is expressed in such a way that the urges, desires and passions are then illuminated by what the 'I-ego' has received from the spirit. By virtue of its share in the spiritual world, the 'I-ego' has then become the master in the world of urges, desires and so on. To the extent that it has become so, the spirit self appears in the astral body. And the astral body itself is thereby transformed. The astral body itself then appears as a two-tiered entity, one partly untransformed and the other partly transformed. Hence the Spirit Self in its revelation in man can be called the transformed astral body.9“ (Lit.:GA 58ff)

Astral body and nitrogen

Nitrogen is strongly connected with the astral world and with the astral body:

„You will see that just as the physical organisation is related to carbon, the etheric organisation to oxygen, is the astral organisation related to nitrogen, so the I-organisation is related to hydrogen.312,“ (Lit.:GA 114)

Astral Substances

When the individual human spirit descends to an earthly embodiment, it first clads itself with the astral body before it even takes hold of the living physical body. Substantially it is taken from the different areas of the soul or astral world. Rudolf Steiner names these areas as such (Lit.:GA 9, p. 90ff):

Region of Burning Desire
Region of Mobile Sensitivity
Region of Wishes
Region of Liking and Disliking
Region of Soul Light
Region of Active Soul Force
Region of Soul Life[3]

In the astral body, the great supernatural cosmic laws are reflected on a smaller scale; it is therefore rightly called the celestial- or astral body. Paracelsus correspondingly called it the "sidereal" human being. These cosmic laws are very clearly expressed in life, in the instincts of animals, which, like humans, are gifted with an astral body. An immense cosmic wisdom reigns in the astral body - which man, however, cannot raise to the level of consciousness in his present state of development

The astral body during the state of sleep

In the waking state the astral body is more or less firmly connected with the body. In sleep it lifts itself, specifically its upper parts, out of the body:

„When man sinks into sleep, the connection within his bodily parts changes. That of sleeping man, which lies on the resting place contains the physical body and the etheric body, but not the astral body and not the I-ego. Because the etheric body remains connected with the physical body during sleep, the effects of life continue. For at the moment when the physical body would be left to itself, it would have to disintegrate. What is extinguished in sleep, however, are the ideas, namely, suffering, lust, joy and sorrow, that is, the ability to express a conscious will, and similar facts of our daytime existence. The astral body is the vehicle of all these impulses. It is, approaching this question with an unbiased judgement, never the case that during sleep the astral body, with all its pleasure and suffering, and the whole variety of imagination and will, would be annihilated, It simply exists in a different state. For the cultivation of a human I-ego and the astral body it is not sufficient to just be filled with pleasure and suffering and all the other things mentioned, but also to have a conscious perception of them. It is essential that the astral body stays connected to the physical- and etheric bodies. During waking it manifests as this, during sleep it transforms into another. The astral body has then withdrawn from it. It has assumed a different mode of existence from that which belongs to it during its union with the physical- and etheric body.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 82f)

During sleep, on the other hand, the lower parts of the astral body connect even more firmly with the living organism resting in bed and supply it with constructive forces derived from the cosmos, by which the damages caused by daytime consciousness are largely compensated for. The part of the astral body that has been lifted out remains connected to the body through the so-called silver cord in the spleen region, which appears to the clairvoyant eye as a fine silvery shining band that enters the body in the region near the navel . Around the time of death, this fine band tears apart after which the astral body can no longer reconnect with the body (Lit.:GA 88, p. 237f).

„I have often said that at night the astral body leaves the physical body. The astral body is then connected with the physical body during sleep only through an astral cord in the region of the spleen, which is perceptible to the clairvoyant. The spleen has not only a physical task, but its other function is to mediate the connection between the physical and the spiritual part of the human being. The spleen is the point of connection of the physical body with the astral body. That is why every textbook of anatomy tells us that really very little is known about the spleen. The spleen is one of those organs which in the scheme of things is located at the boundary of the physical organs. The astral body, which during sleep is only connected to the physical body through the spleen, works to remove the fatiguing substances from the physical body. To the clairvoyant the sleeping man appears as if enveloped in a strange cloud which is continually working on the physical body.“ (Lit.:GA 96, p. 238)

During the waking day-life, the oval shaped astral body is determined by the physical body. During sleep, the good and evil feelings that live in the soul already appear more clearly. Following death, this dynamic expresses itself quite clearly in the changing forms of the astral body. (Lit.:GA 108, p. 18f)

Astral Body and Karma

Through the Luciferian temptation, through the Fall, the human astral body was, however, corrupted by exuberant or misguided sensual urges and desires, and its cosmic wisdom was thereby partially disordered. But in our astral body there continues to live the tremendous longing to find back to this unbroken, wholesome cosmic wisdom. The astral body cannot succeed in this by its own power, but only through the conscious activity of the human I-ego. From the unconscious depths, however, the astral body repeatedly guides the I-ego into fateful situations during earthly life, which are, as it were, a clear invitation and at the same time an opportunity to drive this transformation of the astral body forward from the I-ego. The astral body thus leads us, often very sorrowfully, but nevertheless immensely wisely, towards our destiny; it is the actual bearer of karma.

„In this astral body we are indeed - as has often been described - connected with the outer effects of our life. This is also shown externally by the fact that after death man has to live through his world of deeds in reverse. He has to live through everything he has ever done or performed in relation to other beings on earth. In a time of which we have said that it amounts to about a third of his past life, he feels as if he were passing through his earthly deeds in his astral body, through all that he has done on earth. And just as - after we have laid aside our etheric body a few days after death - our personal memories are inscribed in the general life ether, so during the time in which we are still connected with the astral body, all our deeds are inscribed in the general world-astrality. There they stand, and we remain connected with them just as we remain connected with the memories of our personality, which are recorded as a permanent note in the ether of the world, only our deeds too are entered, as it were, in another record of the world. While we relive the deeds of our last life, all this is entered into the general world-astrality and we remain connected with it. Through our astral body, therefore, we permanently belong to our deeds, insofar as we are earthly people.

What I have just described, that which connects us with our deeds is karma. In reality, therefore, it is karma: that is registered from our life actions into the general astrality of the world. You can also see from what has been said that there is a strong moral impulse in such knowledge, and it would constitute a kind of denigration to say that spiritual science does not offer the most moral basis for life. To what extent is there a strong moral impulse in such foundations of knowledge as have just been expressed? You have seen that ultimately our deeds during life after death are recorded in the sphere of common world astrality. If we have done something wrong during our life, and we do not make up for it karmically, as far as we have the power to do so, in this life - for if we were to make an effort to compensate for something immoral in our earthly life, we would save ourselves the entry into karma - then everything that we cannot compensate for will be entered into karma after death, and it will remain connected to us. In so far as we as earthly human beings have the earthly astral body, we as human beings have our karma.“ (Lit.:GA 133, p. 141f)

In a clear way, our deeds are inscribed in the astral body only after sexual maturity. At about this time, the astral body is born as an independent organ and the astral heart is formed as the central organ of karma:

„If a human being dies before sexual maturity, then there is only the tendency for that what he has done here on earth to be karmically inherited. Individual things, even if children die before sexual maturity, can be incorporated into karma, but there is always something indeterminate and iridescent about it. The correct formation of karma only happens from the moment when the astral heart fully intervenes in the etheric heart, when they interconnect. But this is, if I may say so, the organism of karma formation too. For with death, that which is concentrated in the human being, that which has coalesced there, becomes more and more cosmic and is then, during the course of the next life on earth manifesting from the cosmos incorporated into the human being, so that all that we do does not concern us alone. Rather, it is something that is incorporated into us which comes from the cosmos and retains the tendency to hand over our deeds to the cosmos after death, and from which also the karmic laws for the shaping of our karma prove effective, so that we then carry that which the cosmos makes of our deeds in its effect again enter into earthly life at the beginning of a new earthly cycle“ (Lit.:GA 212, p. 127)

The astral body only becomes a human soul through the activity of the human I-ego, which gradually transforms the astral body in such a way that its own spiritual individuality is increasingly reflected in it and, to a certain extent, takes the place of the macrocosmic determinations. In this way, the soul faculties of thinking, feeling and willing become more and more differentiated from one another and subordinate themselves to the conscious rule of human individuality. Man thereby forms himself psychologically into an independent microcosm, which, unlike the animal, must bring itself into harmony with the great macrocosm by its own conscious power.

„Man is incarnated into a physical body which has been produced for him by other forces. The etheric body, too, is in a certain respect produced for him by other powers. The astral body, on the other hand, is partly formed by other powers, partly by the human being himself. As much of the astral body as is formed by man himself becomes man's karma. What he himself has worked into it must have a karmic effect. That too is the immortal, the non-perishing in him. The physical body has come into being through the karma of other beings; but that part of man's astral body into which he has worked since Lemurian times is his karma. Only when man has worked through the whole astral body has he reached the stage of freedom. Then the whole astral body is transformed from within. Man is then entirely the result of his activity, of his karma.“ (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 24f)

„Of the astral body we know that in a certain respect it is a companion of the I through the various incarnations. Even though much of the astral body has to be excreted during the Kamaloka period, this astral body remains with us throughout the incarnations as a kind of body of force which holds together what we have stored up in us in the way of moral, intellectual and aesthetic progress within an incarnation. What is real progress is held together by the power of the astral body, carried from one incarnation into the other and, as it were, joined together with the I-self, which as the basic eternal in us goes from incarnation to incarnation.“ (Lit.:GA 131, p. 117f)

Astral body and plant forms

Although plants have no astral body of their own, they are nevertheless intimately related to the astral world:

„When a clairvoyant looks at a plant as it takes root in the ground and puts on leaves and blossoms, he first has before him the plant, consisting of the physical body and the etheric body. The animal still has the astral body. Now you can raise the question: Do plants not have anything of an astral body? It would be wrong to assert this; it is only not within them as it is within the animal. When the clairvoyant consciousness looks at the plant, it sees the whole plant immersed in an astral cloud, a bright cloud that surrounds and envelops the plant, especially in those parts where it blossoms and bears fruit. So the astrality descends, as it were, upon the plant and envelops a part of it. The astral body of the plant is embedded in this astrality. And the peculiar thing about it is that if you think of the whole plant cover of the earth, you will find that the astral bodies of the plants adjoin one another and they form a whole by which the earth is enveloped as if by physical air, but it being the plant astrality. If plants only had an etheric body, they would grow in such a way that they would produce leaves only, without any blossoms, for the principle of the etheric body is repetition. If a repetition is to be completed and a conclusion formed, an astral body must be added.

Thus you can observe in the human body itself how the etheric and the astral work together. Think of the successive rings of the spine. It is linked ring by ring. As long as this happens, it is mainly the etheric principle that works in the organism. Above, where the bony capsule of the skull enters, there the astral predominates, namely, there the astral has a predominance. So the principle of repetition is the principle of the etheric, and the principle of completion is that of the astral. The plant would not be completed at the top in the blossom if the astral of the plant nature did not sink into the etheric.

If you follow a plant as it grows through the summer and then bears fruit in the autumn and then begins to wither, that is, when the blossom begins to die, then the astral draws itself back upwards out of the plant. This is particularly beautiful to observe. While the physical consciousness of man can take pleasure in the blossoming of the plants in spring, as field after field is covered with beautiful blossoms, there is another joy for the clairvoyant consciousness. When, towards autumn, the annual plants die, they shine and flit upwards like flitting figures that emerge as astral entities from the plants they have nourished throughout the summer. Here again is a fact that confronts us in the poetic image, which cannot be understood unless the clairvoyant consciousness can be discerned in it. There we are already in an intimate field of astral consciousness. But among the peoples of prehistoric times, where such intimate clairvoyants existed, this seeing was also already present in the autumn. In the art of the clairvoyant people of India you will find the wonderful phenomenon of a butterfly or a bird flying out of a calyx. Again, such an example of how something rises in art where the clairvoyant consciousness certainly lies at the basis from those distant times when either the clairvoyant consciousness worked in the artists or was observed as a tradition.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 22ff)

The human astral body is in a certain sense indeed a compendium of the forms of the plant kingdom, just as the etheric body contains within itself the crowded forms of the animal kingdom.

„If we were to consider our astral body, if we were able to separate it in the way I have now indicated for the separation of the etheric body, it would disintegrate, for it too is only held together by the elasticity of the physical and etheric body; it would disintegrate and represent something similar to the entire plant kingdom. In fact, because we have an astral body, we contain everything that spreads out in the forms of the plant kingdom in manifoldness outside in the world. If you study the whole world of plants in the way in which form is placed side by side with form, you have an external picture, a picture fanned out, of that which is concentrated in the human astral body. This too belongs to the lost word. The original wisdom had an awareness of these things. Therefore it was said: So there is something in man that expresses his deepest and innermost kinship with the nature of trees and plants. Read Germanic mythology; mythologies are only a later expression of the primal wisdom of man. There you see how the first human race was derived from ash and elm. In it you find something of a realisation of the relationship of man to the plant-nature, which has its basis in the fact that man himself stood on the level of the plant kingdom during the solar period and on the level of the animal kingdom during the lunar period.“ (Lit.:GA 167, p. 169)

It is therefore quite true that every stirring of the soul which we experience inwardly corresponds to a definite plant form of nature, which is by its form, by its gesture of growth, as it were, the real symbolic expression of this inner feeling.

„Plants also "speak" not only to the senses and the mind. They touch the human mind. A lily of the valley "seems" intimate, the blue monkshood austere. We speak of the powerful oak, the lovely birch and the humble violet. These are all experiences of grace in the realm of the aesthetic experience of nature. They are certainly subjective. But one thing is undeniable: the dimension of the enigmatic. Wherever people experience enigmas, they know that there is something in things that cannot be understood by what they have known up to now, or possibly by the methods of knowledge available to them.

If one succeeds in penetrating what one perceives as a riddle in such experiences of grace with the cognitive consciousness, then the gap between rational clarity and the indeterminate dimensions of aesthetic experience is overcome; for the clarity of cognition is extended into the realm of what has hitherto only been experienced. But how can one consciously grasp what one experiences as an impression when looking at plants? One must become precisely acquainted with that area which comes to life in one's own inner being during aesthetic contemplation. These are inner states of mind, above all feelings. You will also look at the plants in their forms and colours in detail. Then it can become apparent to what extent hitherto closed areas of the plant world express themselves in the human being.

One enters a new field of research by abandoning the postulate of objectivity of modern natural science, the demand to investigate nature objectively, i.e. to the exclusion of man. We do not want to discuss the extent to which this postulate has always been a fiction, but to point out that a methodical expansion of the knowledge of nature is only possible if one transcends the limits determined by this postulate. However, in order not to enter into the uncertain and unverifiable, one must proceed with great care and give an account of every step.“ (Lit.: Kranich, p 10)

The shape of the astral body - the aura

The astral body does not belong to the spatial world and as such is actually shapeless.

„... the astral body is actually without shape. And when one speaks of it, one speaks only of an image, of which one knows that the image serves only to represent it, for in truth it is shapeless. This astral body has changed quite a lot in the newer human being - this process has been going on for three to four centuries. People of the past had an astral body that was still relatively permeated by spirituality, by all kinds of spiritual forces; and whatever spiritual feelings and spiritual impulses people had in life came from this spirituality that was in the astral body. Now the astral bodies have actually become empty. They are strangely empty. And they are empty because at the time when, as it were, the spiritual world wants to reveal itself with power from outside, man is supposed to absorb this outer spiritual world. Therefore his astral body has gradually become empty. It is to fill itself again with that which reveals itself externally.“ (Lit.:GA 193, p. 96)

To the clairvoyant gaze, the astral body, i.e. the image of the astral body, shows itself as an egg-shaped, inwardly moving cloud, in the middle of which stands the physical body. In the visual arts, the astral aura has often been depicted as a mandorla. In different people the size of this aura varies and it does not form a clearly defined, sharply outlined shape. But one can imagine that the astral human being appears on average twice as long and four times as wide as the physical one.

„During a lifetime between birth and death, however, one can see that essentially the astral body looks like a kind of oval cloud in which the physical and etheric bodies are embedded. The body is a kind of egg-shape, on the outer borders of which there are constantly undulating movements in action, so that there can be no question of regularity. The astral body shows a comparatively firm, constant form as long as it is within the physical body. As long as this is the case, this shape remains. Already at night, when the astral body withdraws, it begins to adapt itself to the soul body. You can see how a person who lives in evil feelings during the day shows a different appearance at night than a person who has been living in good feelings during the day. In general, however, the form of the astral body nonetheless remains during the night, because the forces of the physical and etheric body work very strongly and continue to work during the night, preserving the astral body in its form essentially, but only essentially.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 18f)

Especially in that part of the astral body which rises out of the body during sleep, one can nevertheless observe very characteristic changes of shape:

„I have already said that this astral human body by no means shows absolutely definite inner and outer shapes, but only within certain limits is that the case. Even in physical life, especially in that part of the body which emerges after falling asleep, the astral body adapts itself in a certain way to what the soul experiences. And from certain formations and shapes which the astral body assumes, one can see what is going on within the human being and what he experiences.

I would like to give you some information about some of the things that the soul can experience, namely, how the astral body is seen. Suppose a person is garrulous, curious or inclined to irascibility or other similar, let us say, vices. These vices express themselves in a very definite way in his astral body. For example, when a person is plagued by anger, especially when he is irascible, then bulbous formations, condensations through the astral body appear in his astral body. He becomes impure. From these condensations come quite bad-looking snake-like extensions, which also differ in colouring from other substances. This can easily be observed especially in irascible people. When people are talkative, this is shown by the fact that the astral body shows all kinds of condensations, which one could characterise in such a way that one says that through the condensations a pressure is exerted on all sides throughout the astral body. When people are curious, this is shown in the astral body by its wrinkling; certain parts become wrinkled and limp, and certain parts hang, as it were, towards each other; a general slackening is shown. So you see that this astral human body shares in a certain way the general characteristics of the astral world, that it adapts its form to the inner soul experiences of the human being.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 19f)

Desires and impulses show themselves in floods of colour and form:

„In shades of red, thoughts that spring from sensual life pervade the world of the soul. In beautiful bright yellow appears a thought through which the thinker ascends to a higher knowledge. In glorious rose-red shines a thought which comes from devoted love.“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 159)

The temperament of the human being, which is actually rooted in the etheric body, shows itself as the basic mood of the aura. The astral body of an as of yet still undeveloped human being, being permeated by many lower drives, shows a reddish-grey to grey-brown basic colour, as it is similarly found in certain animals. The astral body of a spiritually highly developed human being shows radiations which radiate from the bluish to dark violet shimmering I-centre. The nature of a person's personality, i.e. how strongly or weakly his I-ego-self shines through the lower members of his being, especially through the astral body, is clearly seen in his aura:

Auric Egg, Drawing from GA 93a, p. 75

„For the clairvoyant this is quite recognisable. He sees the human being bathed in a coloured aura, in which his moods, passions, feelings, sensations are precisely expressed in colour currents and colour clouds. If we imagine ourselves during the time when the three components of the being were just about ready to receive the human I-ego, we would also notice an aura in this being, which had not yet become fully human. But it would lack the yellow currents in which the higher nature of the human being is expressed. Strong personalities have a strong yellow radiant aura. Now one can be a strong personality but without activity, one can react inwardly strongly without being a man of action. In that case, the aura still shows a lot of yellow. But if one is a doer and the personality has an effect in the outer world, the yellow gradually changes into a radiant red. A radiant red aura is that of a man of action; but it must radiate.

But there is an obstacle when the personality urges to action. This comes in the form of ambition and vanity. Strong natures can be particularly easily afflicted by this. The clairvoyant sees this in the aura. Without ambition, the yellow changes abruptly into red. But if a man is ambitious, he has much orange in the aura. One has to overcome this threshold in order to reach objective action.

Weak personalities are those who are more concerned that you give to them than that they give and do something. There you will see mainly blue colours, and when people are particularly comfortable, the indigo colour. This refers more to inner comfort than to outer comfort.

You see how the strong or weak personality is reflected in the aura of the person.“ (Lit.:GA 96, p. 322)

The astral pall - change of form and dissolution of the astral body after death

After death, most of the astral body dissolves into the surrounding astral world during the purification period in the Kamaloka of the lunar sphere. It also undergoes characteristic transformations of form in the process.

„But when a human being, after the end of his physical life, first repels the physical body and then also that part of the etheric body which is to be repelled, then the astral body already shows a changing form during the Kamaloka phase. This body is completely adapted in its form and image to the life of the soul, so that a person who has lost his body at death with ugly feelings exhibits a frightening appearance, while a person who has died with beautiful feelings shows beautiful, sympathetic shapes of the astral body. It can come to such a pass that people who are completely absorbed in sensual desires and who cannot rise to any noble feelings and impulses, really take on the form of all kinds of grotesque animals for a time after death, not such as those known on the physical plane, but such as are merely reminiscent of them. Now he who has clairvoyant experiences on the astral plane and can follow which figures present themselves there to the consciousness, knows which image corresponds to a soul with noble and one with ignoble contents; therefore, everything can be experienced and seen in these figures by him.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 19)

During this phase we experience our past earthly life in retrograde again and thereby recognise quite objectively the moral value of all our earthly deeds and so we become conscious of our karma.

„These forces of death, which are also the forces of birth, are the lunar forces. Mixed into these lunar forces is all that man has accumulated in strength of moral value from birth to death. If one has been good in one or other respect, then in this sphere of the death-moon-field there is, as it were, a being of one's own which contains within itself a force that has remained from our goodness. This being also has in it all that has remained of our being evil too. And while we live on earth, we form this being as well. Ordinary consciousness knows nothing of it, but we carry it within us. We carry it within us in such a way that we leave it every night when we sleep; when we leave our physical body, this being remains within the physical body. I have told you that the moral feelings and the religious feelings are left behind in the physical body and in the etheric body. And there is also left behind a real being which we form as our karma-bearer during our life on earth. But this being remains with us as long as we are in the sphere of the lunar forces. And because this Being keeps us in the lunar forces, that is, in the vicinity of the earth, we remain connected during the time phase after death both with these lunar forces and with our karma in such a way that we really have to relive all the actions we have done on earth between birth and death, that we have to relive them in a spiritual way, with triple speed - as I said in the public lecture - as we went through them on earth. But we have to live through them backwards and thus spend a time after death in which we no longer remain connected with the death moon forces through the physical body which we have laid aside, but in which we, as spiritual-soul beings, have to perform actions which are intimately connected with our earthly actions. So we go through our life once more in a backward order, and through this our karma comes to our consciousness all the more.“ (Lit.:GA 218, p. 163f)

„After one has gone through the actions in this way, has gone back with the actions to one's birth, it is in such a way that one judges these actions from the standpoint of the sphere of the stars. Now one does not receive the judgement from merely looking backwards alone, but one receives the judgement in a forward way too; one receives the judgement which may say : this you must do in order to balance this past action; this you must do in order to balance another action. - In that phase you stand for the next twenty or thirty years of your life after death, depending on how old you have become, amounting to a third of your earthly time. Children go through this for a very short time. It hardly comes into consideration for very young children, as you can imagine from what I have said. In this way, by still having a spiritual-emotional connection with one's earthly life, one actually experiences one's life backwards again . And when you arrive at birth, it turns out that the memory of all this remains with you. It is just as if one were to discard a body again. People say that they discard the astral body. But what actually happens is that the living activity in which one was before is transformed into a thought-image, only that now a quite different consciousness, a star-consciousness, thinks, whereas here an earthly consciousness has thought.“ (S. 166f)

The complete dissolution of the astral corpse takes about 20 to 40 years; during this time these astral corpses can also penetrate in a disturbing manner the astral body of men living on earth, when it has lifted out of the animated body in sleep.

„To the clairvoyant these astral corpses are visible, and it takes twenty, thirty or forty years for them to dissolve. As such, astral corpses are continually presernt, they occasionally pass through the bodies of living men, through our own bodies, especially during the night, when our astral bodies are separated from the physical bodies in sleep, and hence appear bearing certain harmful influences which man may receive.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 57)

This process is not fully completed until the dead person has ascended to the sphere of Saturn:

„As long as man undergoes this backward living through of his past life on earth, so long does he actually stand in the planetary sphere. One can say that as long as the human being progresses from the spiritual lunar field to the fields of Venus, Mercury, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, that is, as long as he is between the lunar and Saturn spheres, in other words, as long as he feels the planetary cosmos within himself, he is in this backward living mode through his past life on earth.“ (Lit.:GA 218, p. 167)


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  1. The instincts have their actual origin in the wise formation of the physical body and the drives spring from the etheric body, but only in the astral body do they find their more or less conscious or semi-conscious expression. Only the desires also have their direct origin in the astral body.
  2. Eric Robertson Dodds (Hrsg): Proclus: The Elements of Theology. A Revised Text, Oxford 1963, S. 313-321
  3. Rudolf Steiner: Theosophy, Chapter III: The Three Worlds, 1. The Soul World online