Etheric body

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The etheric body (from GreekΑἰθήρ Aither "ether"; GermanÄtherleib) is the lowest supersensible member of the human being and forms the basis of all life. It is also referred to by Rudolf Steiner as ether body, etheric double, life body, time body or time organism and body of formative forces or formative forces body (GermanBildekräfteleib, Lit.: GA 73, p. 31) or elementary body[1][2] and as Linga-Sharira according to Indian theosophical terminology. All living beings, including animals and plants as well as humans, have their own etheric body, which is manifested by the characteristic time shape of their development, which results from the interaction of a multitude of biological, terrestrial and cosmic rhythms, which are scientifically investigated today especially by chronobiology. In its essence, the etheric body is "nothing other than a compressed image of cosmic lawfulness, reflecting the world's lawfulness in itself". (Lit.:GA 35, p. 127) The etheric organisation was already predisposed on the planetary stage of evolution of the Old Sun and has already reached a high degree of maturity due to this high age in the history of development.

Aristotle calls the etheric body threptikon (Greekθρεπτικόν "nourishing capacity" or θρεπτική ψυχή threptiké psyché "nourishing soul"; Latin: anima vegetativa). Paracelsus calls it Archaeus or also Spiritus Vitae or Liquor Vitae. A Hebrew term for it is Ben Jake (Hebrewבן-יקה, son of Jake); it is mentioned in the Bible in the Proverbs of Solomon 30:1 and refers in particular to the etheric body of Solomon, who, according to Rudolf Steiner, already had all 7 members of his being predisposed in high perfection (Lit.:GA 116, p. 82).

Awareness of the etheric body is awakened in particular through the second subsidiary exercise, which trains the initiative of action (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 245). Rudolf Steiner shows a meditative way to experience the etheric body in (Lit.:GA 16, p. 20ff).


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. In contrast to Steiner, Paracelsus uses the term elementary body for the physical body built up from the four elements; he calls the etheric body archaeus.
  2. In particular, then, it is useful for the human being who is on the first steps towards initiation to become acquainted with the special difference or, one might say, the relation between feeling oneself, experiencing oneself in the elementary or etheric body and in the physical body. (Lit.:GA 138, p. 32ff)