Formative forces

From AnthroWiki

Formative forces ore formative life-forces are etheric universal forces in which and through which the higher Hierarchies up to the sublime zodiacal beings have a formative effect in nature. That this is not a speculative theoretical concept, but that these formative forces can first be concretely empirically researched on the etheric level, is proven by the increasing literature on the results of research on formative forces. It is not only based on sensual observations, which, however, usually form the starting point, but also requires specific spiritual training, through which corresponding supersensory organs of perception must first be trained, which, however, is in principle possible for every human being with a little patience and perseverance.

Shape forming forces

In his "Morphology" Goethe speaks of the "Bildung", which in German means the activity of building, shaping or forming something, but also stands for education, through which someone not only acquires knowledge, but primarily forms his own personality. This shape-giving activity is characteristic for these etheric forces. It remains constantly mobile, in contrast to the finished, fixed shape:

„The German has the word Gestalt for the complex of the existence of a real being. With this expression, he abstracts from the mobile, he assumes that something belonging together is established, completed and fixed in its character.

But if we look at all forms, especially the organic ones, we find that nowhere is there an existing, nowhere is there a resting, closed thing, but rather that everything fluctuates in a constant movement. Hence our language is accustomed to use the word formation appropriately enough both of what is produced and of what is produced.

If, therefore, we wish to introduce a morphology, we must not speak of form; but, if we use the word, we must at best think of it only as an idea, a concept, or something held in experience only for the moment.

That which is formed is immediately transformed again, and if we wish to attain to some extent to a vivid perception of nature, we must keep ourselves so mobile and pictorial, according to the example with which it presents itself to us.“

Goethe: Morphology: The Intention Introduced[1]

The etheric body or formative forces body

Main article: Etheric body

Every living being bears these formative forces in the form of the formative forces body or etheric body: plants, animals and also human beings. If man learns to feel himself also in his body of formative forces, as he otherwise feels himself only in his physical body, he also becomes aware of the supersensible activity of formative forces in nature; he then really perceives the supersensible in the sensuous.

„The plant is composed not only of that which physics and chemistry, or biology or physiology can investigate but it contains something else. If we have brought ourselves to the point where we feel the body of formative forces in ourselves as we feel usually in the physical body, we can perceive the supersensible in the remaining world with this body of formative forces. Then we behold the spiritual in any plant, in any animal and in the physical human that is then not anything visionary in trivial sense, but also is there before the strengthened soul like the contents of sensory perception before the not strengthened soul. However, we have to replace the spatial concepts with temporal ones everywhere. In what way do we perceive, actually, the supersensible in the plant? By perceiving our own supersensible in the body of formative forces as if a tone perceives the other in a melody.

The perception of the supersensible in the plant realm is completely based on the fact that the life of our body of formative forces proceeds much slower than the life of the plant body of formative forces. I have more exactly explained this in a small writing "The Human Life from the Viewpoint of Spiritual Science". There you will find how everything depends on these different speeds. Because our body of formative forces can interact like a higher, malleable organ with the much faster proceeding life of the plant, we really perceive the other kind of the life in the plants. Thereby something else will face our soul than the old, speculative vitality. We perceive, to put it another way, something supersensible in the sensory.“ (Lit.:GA 67, p. 60f)

Observation of the activity of the formative forces

„I have pointed out how one can strengthen the life of the imagination itself. Just as we strengthen a muscle when we use it continuously, so we can strengthen the life of the imagination when we bring this life of the imagination in a certain direction through inner mental work, when we move certain easily comprehensible ideas into the centre of consciousness and in this way again and again devote ourselves to imaginative work to which we do not otherwise devote ourselves. I can only hint at this here in principle, but you will find in the work just mentioned and also in the second part of my "Occult Science" clear indications that the imaginative life of man can become something quite different through such meditation and concentration exercises of thought. I would like to say that without any abnormal procedures, but through the mere further development of what is normal in man as a thought life, as a life of imagination, a stronger, more powerful life of imagination can be produced.

And by producing this stronger life of imagination, by raising oneself through meditation and concentration beyond what is actually merely pictorial in our ordinary life of imagination, one arrives at what I call in the books I have mentioned the imaginative conceiving full of content.

This imaginative conceiving lives with such inner vitality in the mere thought as otherwise man lives in his outer perceptions. In this way, however, one gradually comes to the point where the life of the imagination is no longer this merely abstract, this, I would like to say, merely pictorial life, but through purely inner research - which is, however, pursued with the same earnestness as only any scientific research - one makes the discovery that the soul, which otherwise could only fill its life of imagination with the results of outer impressions, is inwardly filled with forces which, as it were, shoot into the life of the soul. The ideas are no longer merely this light fluid when they are formed through meditation, through concentration, but they are infused, permeated by forces which I would like to call formative forces, by forces which constitute an inner spiritual-plastic element. And after a time one discovers that through this formation of the life of the imagination one grows together with that which are the formative forces of the human body itself; after a time one makes the discovery that the life of thought is, so to speak, nothing other than the diluted force-life of human growth. What forms us inwardly plastically in the physical body from birth to death is, I would say in a "diluted" state, our life of imagination in ordinary consciousness.

We look at the child that has just been born. We know that in this just-born child, starting from the brain, the formative, the plastic forces are working on the formation of the body. We follow the growth of the child as it radiates from the plastic activity of the brain, we follow it up to a certain point in human life on earth, up to the change of teeth, up to the seventh year of life. We will, by feeling this life of power pulsating in the human being, which is plastically active in him, at first as an indeterminate thing. On the other hand, by powerfully shaping our imaginative life through meditation, through concentration, we are unconsciously led to the same element that has been working plastically in us from our first childhood. And this is a significant discovery of the inner human life, that one can so develop the life of the imagination, that one can make it so intense inwardly that one then feels oneself in it, in what the human being's formative forces are, what formative forces are in his growth, in his metabolism. Strange as it may sound to present-day research, it is possible, by strengthening the life of the soul, to grow into that which, in a certain sense, takes us in as that which shapes our outer physical body as its formative forces. Through the life of the imagination one grows into reality, one grows into a formative element.

And in this way one learns to know what lies behind the mere thought process; one learns to recognise how a spiritual being, with which one has now connected oneself, works on the human organism from birth to death. The life of the imagination acquires its reality, the life of the imagination is no longer the mere pictorial life, the life of the imagination becomes a life of power which stands within being itself.“ (Lit.:GA 297a, p. 93ff)

Formative forces and memory

Main article: Memory

„Now what is the basis of remembering, of memory? Well, seen externally, we can say that when we go through experiences, we form ideas, we feel this or that about the experiences. Then we are left with an image which we have stored up in the soul, and when we have long gone beyond the experience, we know how to look back on the image in the inner experience; the experience itself is not there, but only the inner image is there, something is there which our soul only weaves. In order to be able to approach this image, in order to be able to approach the essence of memory in general, we can now consider the following - I can only mention it in broad strokes, as it were with charcoal strokes, which you can then follow in detail in the literature of spiritual science.

If we want to approach this memory, we find: in the first time that man lives through after his birth, after he has entered the world, this memory is not yet alive. This memory only appears in the tenderest infancy; up to a certain point of tender infancy we remember back later. What is before must be reported to us by our surroundings, but we do not remember back. What is the basis for our remembering back? It is based on certain forces that the soul can use to retain the images, on forces that make the soul capable of storing these images in itself. These forces were already there before the memory was there, they were already there immediately after birth, but they had a different task then. They had the task of still working on the delicate organs of the human being, on the nervous system and the brain of the human being; they had to work plastically on the nervous system and the brain. They were still the formative forces of the human organism, of that which is still soft, as it were - roughly speaking, but it signifies a reality - which must first be formed in such a way that the human being is this particular human being. This still runs as formative forces into the bodily organisation in the tenderest infancy. And when this organisation is hardened - again, this is figuratively speaking - hardened to such an extent that these formative forces no longer flow into it, then they are thrown back from the corporeal into the soul. The corporeal acts like a mirror. And what we then experience in the soul, especially what is stored up in our memories, are mirror images that are thrown back by our bodily life. In truth, we remember because our body is a mirroring apparatus. Natural science will fully realise this when it goes further along its path. Then it will also see through the contradictions that it still raises when such things are brought up. Just as if there were one mirror after another hanging on the wall and we passed by, we would only see ourselves as long as we stood before the mirrors. The mirror throws back our own image. This is how it is with our inner spiritual experience. The body is a mirroring apparatus; it reflects back what the soul experiences. In this way the soul itself experiences what used to be, in the most tender childhood, the powers of formation, what was used, as it were, to build up the mirror in the first place.“ (Lit.:GA 64, p. 336ff)

The formative forces as universal forces acting from the periphery

Rudolf Steiner criticised the hypothetical concept of the ether still in use in physics at the time, which had already been shaken by the Michelson-Morley experiment in 1887 and definitively refuted by Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. Steiner, however, was also of the opinion that not much had been gained by Einstein's abstract considerations based purely on thought experiments. Rather, the etheric formative forces were to be understood as universal forces (also circumferential forces, peripheral forces or centrifugal forces), which without potential had a centrifugal formative effect on the living world from the cosmic circumference. In their essence, they are to be understood as space-emptying suction forces that do not act through space, but through the negative counter-space that can only be grasped through inversion. Exactly opposite, the physical central forces act as space-filling pressure forces, which are always connected with a potential that makes it possible to gain physical work from the force field. In nature, both types of forces always work together; only the machines developed by man and currently in use, from the steam engine to the nuclear power plant, make practically exclusive use of the central forces.

„Spiritual science cannot follow such a path, which is actually only formed out of the rigidity of concepts. Spiritual science pursues the corresponding phenomena - I mention this so that you can see how spiritual science can shine into such areas - and comes to recognise, however, that one needs the concept of the ether.

But because it does not make unjustified hypotheses, but assumes realities, the ether is absorbed in the phenomena which are usually derived from the ether itself. On the other hand, you know that where one has to speak of the etheric region, in the corresponding mathematical formula, where in the case of ponderable matter one inserts the quantity with a plus sign for heat - but only for certain heat phenomena, that of radiating heat, of flowing heat - and that for light phenomena, for certain phenomena which then appear as chemical processes, also in the phenomena of life, since negative signs are to be inserted in the corresponding mathematical formulae for certain quantities, which are to be modified by not only inserting negative quantities, but even by assuming instead of the radiation from a point the radiation from a periphery.

In short, through spiritual science one arrives at a classification of the formulas in this exact scientific field, which expresses by all means that which takes place between ponderable matter and the ether. One comes to a realisation of the real relations of the so-called ether to ponderable matter. One comes to realise that if one simply uses the, let us say, confused concept of mass in such a way that one says that one has to use the effect of this mass or matter towards the outside with a positive sign, then one has to use that which corresponds to it in the ether with a negative sign. What is pressure in one is suction in the other. And if one regards the ponderability of ponderable matter as a pressure force, one must represent the imponderable of the ether in relation to this pressure force as a suction force. Then one comes to terms with the phenomena, then one does not have to abolish the ether and set a zero for it, but one can, as one also does in another area, pass from plus to minus.“ (Lit.:GA 73a, p. 345f)


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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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  1. Goethe-HA Bd. 13, S 55