From AnthroWiki

Instinct (from Latininstinctae naturae, literally "natural instinct", from instinguere "to spur on, drive on, stab into") is an innate way of behaving that is connected with the wise shaping of the physical body, through which it fits into the laws of its environment in the right way. In instinct, the will directly shapes itself in the physical body. Instinct thus differs from the vital drive, which arises from the activity of the etheric body, and from desire, which has its origin in the astral body. Animals are very largely guided in their behaviour by instincts, in humans they only play a subordinate role.

„Now you know that the physical body, as we carry it about us, is also peculiar to the animal. Only when we compare this whole human being with the animal world according to these nine members, do we get a sensible idea of the relation of man to the animals which is useful for the conception of the will, when we know: just as man is clothed in his soul with the physical body, so is the animal clothed with a physical body, but the physical body of the animal is in many respects differently formed than that of man. The physical body of man is not actually more perfect than that of the animal. Think of those from among the higher animals, such as the beaver, when it forms its beaver's lodge. Man cannot do this unless he learns to do it, unless he undergoes a very complicated training for it, unless he learns architecture and the like. The beaver makes its burrow out of the organisation of its body. His outer, physical body is simply formed in such a way that it fits into the outer physical world in such a way that he can use what lives in the forms of his physical body to make his beaver structure. His physical body itself is his teacher in this respect. We can observe the wasps, the bees, we can also observe the so-called lower animals and will find in the form of their physical bodies that something is anchored in them which is not present in the physical body of man in this extension, in this strength. This is all that we include in the concept of instinct, so that in reality we can only study instinct when we consider it in connection with the form of the physical body. If we study the whole series of animals as it spreads out externally, we shall have the instruction to study the different kinds of instinct everywhere within in the forms of the physical bodies of the animals. If we wish to study the will, we must first seek it out in the region of instinct, and we must become aware that we find instinct in the forms of the physical bodies of the various animals. If we were to take a look at the main forms of the individual animals and record them, we would be able to draw the different areas of instinct. What instinct is as will, that is in the picture the form of the physical body of the various animals. You see, this is how sense enters the world, if we can apply this point of view. We survey the forms of the physical bodies of animals and see in them a drawing which nature itself creates of the instincts through which it wants to realise what lives in existence.“ (Lit.:GA 293, p. 65f)


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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