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The I-bearer, I-carrier, I-body, I-shell or I-organisation, which is formed by the I, is the fourth member of man embodied on Earth. It is an expression of the immortal I, which intervenes in the body through incarnation in order to work on the transformation of its bodily shells (physical body, etheric body and astral body) and thereby develops itself further.

„It has emerged from the preceding considerations that the beingness of man is built up from the four members: Physical body, life body, astral body and I-bearer. The "I" works within the other three members and transforms them. Through such transformation, the following arise on a lower level: the sentient soul, the intellectual soul and the consciousness soul. On a higher level of human existence the following are formed: spirit self, life spirit and spirit man. These members of human nature now stand in the most manifold relations to the whole universe and their development is connected with the development of this universe.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 137)

Thought-body and real I

See also: Mental body

The I-carrier is not identical with the real I of man, but only its mirror image, which is woven from the thought-like memory conceptions, which is why Rudolf Steiner also calls it the thought-body. Following the theosophical terminology, he also called it "mental body" in his early writings and lectures, but later he hardly ever used this term.

„The comparison with the mirror image can naturally only be taken as a comparison. For the mirror image ceases when man changes his position in relation to the mirror accordingly. The fabric, which is woven as if from ideas of memory and represents what one regards as one's own being in the world of the senses, has a greater independence than a mirror image. In its own way it has an essence of its own. And yet it is like an image of its own being to the true being of the soul. The true soul-being feels that it needs this image for its self-revelation. It knows that it is something else, but that it would never have come to really know anything about itself if it had not first grasped itself as its own image in that world which, after its ascent into the spiritual world, has become an outer world for it.

The fabric of memory-imaginings, which one now sees as one's former "I", can be called the "I-body" or also the "thought-body". The word "body" in such a context must be taken in an extended sense in relation to what one is otherwise accustomed to calling a "body". Here "body" means everything that one experiences in oneself, and of which one does not say that one is it, but that one has it in oneself. Only when the clairvoyant consciousness has reached the point where it experiences what it has hitherto called itself as a sum of memory-imaginings, can it gain an experience in the true sense of what is concealed behind the appearance of death. For it has now reached the essence of a truly real world, in which it feels itself as a being that can hold fast, as in a memory, what is experienced in sense existence. In order to live on in its existence, what is experienced in the senses requires a being that can hold it in the same way as the memories of the senses are held by the ordinary self. Supersensible knowledge reveals that man has an existence within the world of spiritual beings, and that it is he himself who keeps his sense existence within him like a memory. The question, what can be all that I am now after death, is answered for clairvoyant research thus: you will be what you preserve of yourself by virtue of your existence as a spiritual being among other spiritual beings.“ (Lit.:GA 16, p. 57ff)

In the real I, which is reflected in the I-bearer in a bodily way, one then also learns to recognise that power which brings about one's own destiny:

„"One learns to recognise something in oneself which appears to the soul in its own interior as a second being. This reveals itself especially when one connects with it the thoughts which show how one brings about this or that in fate in ordinary life. One can perceive that this or that would not have happened to you if you yourself had not behaved in a certain way in an earlier time. What happens to a man today is often the result of what he did yesterday. With the aim of taking one's soul experience further than it is at a certain point in time, one can look back into one's past experience. In doing so, one can seek out everything that shows how one has previously prepared later incidents of fate. With such a retrospective view of life one can try to reach that point in time at which the child's consciousness awakens in such a way that in later life it remembers what it has experienced. If one arranges such a retrospect in such a way that one connects with it the mood of the soul which eliminates the usual selfish sympathies and antipathies with fateful incidents, then when one reaches the designated time of the child's life in terms of recollection, one faces oneself in such a way that one says to oneself: The possibility of your feeling yourself in yourself and working consciously on your soul-life has only just begun; but this "I" of yours was also there before, it did not work in you knowingly, but it even brought you to your capacity for knowledge as well as to everything else you know about. What no rational consideration can recognise is brought about by the position described above in relation to one's own fate in life. One learns to look at the incidents of fate with composure; one sees them approaching one without bias; but one sees oneself in the entity which brings these incidents. And when one sees oneself in this way, the conditions of one's own destiny, which are already given at birth, present themselves to the soul in connection with its own self. One struggles to say that just as you have worked on yourself in the time after your consciousness has awakened, so you have also worked on yourself before your present consciousness has awakened. Such working one's way through to a superior I-being in the ordinary I leads not only to being able to say to oneself, my thought leads me to theoretically conceive such a superior I, but it leads to feeling the living being of this "I" in its reality as a power within oneself, and to feeling the ordinary I as a creature of this other within oneself. This sensing is a true beginning of the seeing of the spiritual being of the soul. And if it leads to nothing, it is only because one leaves it at the beginning. This beginning can be a barely perceptible, dull sensation. It may remain so for a long time. But if one continues to pursue strongly and vigorously that which has led to this beginning, one finally brings it to the seeing of the soul as a spiritual being.“ (Lit.:GA 16, p. 62ff)


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.