Spirit self

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The spirit self (GermanGeistselbst), the higher self of the human being in the narrower sense, which inspires him as a genius, is that element of the human being which is formed by the conscious work of the individual "I" on the human astral body. It is also called manas (Sanskritमनस्) or karana sharira in the theosophical tradition. In order to develop the spirit self and consciously enter the spiritual world, absolute impartiality is necessary, which is especially trained by the fifth subsidiary exercise.

History of terms

The term "Manas" is first mentioned in the Katha Upanishad:

A charioteer is, know,
The Atman, chariot is the body,
Steering the chariot is Buddhi
Manas, know, the reins is.

Katha Upanishad: 3,3[1]

The Jewish Kabbalah knows it by the name Neshama (Hebrewנְשָׁמָה, also N'schama), but which is also used for the consciousness soul, especially in its connection and fusion with the spirit self. According to Rudolf Steiner, the spirit-self was also called Solomon (Hebrewשלמה, Shəlom:o), after the eponymous Israelite King, in whom all 7 members of the human being were already very perfectly predisposed:

„And at last they called Manas or spirit-self these ancestors - because they said that such a spirit-self must contain within itself the disposition to be inwardly closed to be in balance - with a word that means "inner balance", "salvation". "inner balance", "Solomon".“ (Lit.:GA 116, p. 83)

The transformation of the astral body into the spirit self

The formation of the manas, the spirit self, begins with pure thinking free of sensuality, as Rudolf Steiner has already described in detail in his "Philosophy of Freedom":

„Now I have tried to portray the gradual upbringing of the human being, the purification of the human being from the spiritual into the mental, in a book which I wrote some years ago as my "Philosophy of Freedom". What I have now presented, you will find there expressed in the terms of occidental philosophy. You will find there the development of the soul from the Kama to the Manas life. I have there called Ahamkara the "I", Manas the "higher thinking", pure thinking, and the Buddhi, not yet to refer to the origin, the "moral fantasy". These are only other expressions for one and the same thing.“ (Lit.:GA 53, p. 214f)

„Today few people actually comprehend the Manas. To grasp thinking with thinking, to catch thinking in thinking, to finish rounding the eternal snake, that is the task of the fifth subrace[2]. Thinking is the organ where the human being first grasps itself as if by a corner. To stimulate this in man is the purpose of my book, "The Philosophy of Freedom".“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 249)

The development of Manas was already stimulated in the last third of the Atlantean time by the Venus beings, whose leading Archangel is Anael (cf. also GA 102, p. 59f):

„And at that time, when the sentient soul, the intellectual soul and the consciousness soul were already stimulated, the impulse was given to bring Manas into flow. For this, too, a stimulus had first to be given. Once it was set in motion, man could, so to speak, take his development into his own hands. That was in the last third of the Atlantic period. The stimulators were the beings who were on Venus. So you can get an idea of the interaction of the various members of our planetary system. We must think of man as having brought with him his physical body, his etheric body and his astral body. Then three members develop: the sentient soul, the intellectual soul and the consciousness soul, and finally Manas. The consciousness soul has its power from Jupiter, the intellectual soul from Mercury, the sentient soul from Mars and the spirit self received its impulse from Venus. Thus, if you want to discover the forces that are in you, you must look up to the stars in question. Man is a complicated being; he has become so because the forces of the cosmos have flowed together in him.“ (Lit.:GA 98, p. 198)

Encounter with the spirit self during sleep

The encounter of the I with one's own spirit self is bound to the course of the day. As a rule, this encounter takes place around midnight during sleep. Due to the modern unrhythmic way of life, however, there can be shifts.

„When does this happen? It simply happens every time during normal sleep, in the middle between falling asleep and waking up. With people who are closer to nature, with the simple country people who go to sleep with the setting sun and get up with the rising sun, this middle of the sleeping time also more or less coincides with the middle of the night. This is less the case with people who tear themselves out of the natural context. But human freedom is based on the fact that this is possible. Man in modern culture can arrange his life as he likes, not without a certain influence on it, but within certain limits he can arrange it as he likes. Then, in the middle of a longer period of sleep, he can experience what is called a more intimate union with the spirit-self, that is, with the spiritual qualities from which the spirit-self will be taken, an encounter with the genius. This encounter with the genius therefore takes place in man, cum grano salis spoken, every night, that is, every sleeping time. And this is important for the human being. For whatever we may have in the way of a soul-satisfying feeling about man's connection with the spiritual world, it is based on the fact that this encounter with the genius continues to have an effect during the time of sleep. The feeling we can get in the waking state of our connection with the spiritual world is an after-effect of this encounter with the genius. This is the first encounter with the higher world, which most people today can speak of as something unconscious at first, but which will become more and more conscious and aware the more people become aware of the after-effect by refining their waking life of consciousness in the sensations by absorbing the ideas and conceptions of spiritual science in such a way that the soul is not too coarse to observe the after-effect attentively. For it depends only on this that the soul is fine enough, intimate enough in its inner life, to observe these after-effects. In some form or other this encounter with the genius often comes to the consciousness of every human being, but the present materialistic environment, the being filled with the concepts which come from the materialistic world-view, especially the life permeated by the materialistic attitude, is not suited to make the soul attentive to that which is produced by this encounter with the genius. It is simply through the fact that people deepen themselves with more spiritual concepts than materialism can supply them with, that the view of this encounter with the genius becomes something more and more self-evident for man every night [...]

You see, you can already see from the hint I have given that this first encounter with the genius is connected with the course of the day. If we were to adapt our outer life completely as more unfree human beings than we are during modern culture, it would coincide with the midnight hour. At every midnight hour man would have this encounter with the genius. But this is what man's freedom is based on, that this should shift. So that where the I meets with the genius, that shifts.“ (Lit.:GA 175, p. 57f)

Spirit Self and "I"

„The spirit that forms an "I" and lives as an "I" is called "spirit-self" because it appears as the "I" or "self" of the human being. The difference between the "spirit-self" and the "consciousness soul" can be made clear in the following way. The consciousness-soul touches the truth which is independent of all antipathy and sympathy and exists by itself; the spirit-self carries the same truth within itself, but absorbed and enclosed by the "I"; individualised by the latter and taken over into the independent being of man. In that the eternal truth is thus made independent and united with the "I" to form an entity, the "I" itself attains eternity.

The spiritual self is a revelation of the spiritual world within the "I", just as sensory perception is a revelation of the physical world within the "I". In what is red, green, light, dark, hard, soft, warm, cold, one recognises the revelations of the physical world; in what is true and good, the revelations of the spiritual world. In the same sense as the revelation of the physical is called sensation, the revelation of the spiritual is called intuition. The simplest thought already contains intuition, for one cannot touch it with hands, cannot see it with eyes: one must receive its revelation from the spirit through the "I".“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 52f)



References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
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
steinerbooks.org - 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. Paul Deussen, Upanishads, p. 353
  2. This refers to our present consciousness-soul age, which began in 1413 with the dawning of the modern age.