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Matter (from Latinmateria "substance"; etymologically related to Latin mater "mother" or matrix "womb"; Greekὕλη hylē) generally refers to everything that surrounds us in the sensory-physical world and builds up the material world as a whole, in the physically broadest sense everything that has rest mass and spatial expansion, i.e. volume. A material is a substance or mixture of substances that constitutes an physical object. Furthermore, in addition to the so-called baryonic matter, which is made up of atoms and which builds up the material world we know, different forms of exotic matter such as dark matter are now also being discussed, especially those with negative energy density or negative mass.

Rudolf Steiner, based on his spiritual experiences, also spoke of a kind of negative matter that is not characterised by filling space but by emptying space below the zero level. Instead of pressure forces, it is connected with suction forces which, as etheric universal forces (also called circumferential forces, peripheral forces or centrifugal forces), have a centrifugal formative effect on the living world from the cosmic circumference without potential. From a spiritual point of view, there are also higher forms of matter such as astral matter.

The sensual-physical matter

The characteristic property of physical matter is its mass, which makes it subject to inertia and gravity. Light, for example, is not matter in this sense, as it has no rest mass.

The necessary, phenomenologically comprehensible, common characteristic properties of sensual-physical substances are, in addition to their mass, their spatial expansion and thus their finite volume, their inner structure and their inner content of thermal energy. Seen in this way, substances are thing-like, corporeal. From a physical point of view, all physical substances are essentially made up of chemical elements and these in turn are made up of atoms, which can further combine to form more complex molecules and give matter its specific material identity.

According to quantum mechanics, the spatial expansion of matter, through which it can first appear as a substance, is a consequence of the Pauli exclusion principle that applies to all fermions. Matter in this sense includes all elementary particles with a half-integer spin. The quarks and leptons, which are approximately point-shaped[1] according to current knowledge, are material in this way, but not substances. Thomas Görnitz writes on this:

„By "substance" we want to designate - like the early philosophers - the corporeal, that which offers resistance to compression such as solids, liquids and gases - according to the motto: "where there is one body, there can be no second". Forces, on the other hand, can interpenetrate: Where there is gravity, there can also be magnetic forces, for example.

The distinction between matter with a rest mass as the counterpart to pure motion, i.e. to energy without a rest mass, and force as the counterpart to matter has a clear physical background. From the point of view of quantum theory, the differences between force and matter are based on the spin of the particles involved. The spin characterises how the quantum object behaves during a rotation.

"Substance" should be used to describe everything that is subject to the Pauli principle - that is, physically speaking, has a half-integer spin.“ (Lit.: Görnitz, p. 478)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. The maximum expansion is limited by the Planck length lP = 1.616 · 10-35 m