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Medical illustration showing main parts of the liver: gallbladder, bile duct, hepatic hilum, hepatic artery, portal vein.

The liver (Greekἧπαρ Hepar, Latiniecur) is the central metabolic organ of the organism and forms the largest gland in the vertebrate body. It is the life organ par excellence and is characterised by its high regenerative capacity; the etheric body proves particularly effective here. The human liver weighs about 1500 to 2000 g and is located on the right side of the upper abdomen (epigastrium). It is fixed in the abdominal cavity by several ligaments. Anatomically, it is divided into two large and two small liver lobes. The right large liver lobe (lobus dexter) lies under the diaphragm, the left large liver lobe (lobus sinister) projects into the left upper abdomen. The two smaller lobes are the square lobe (lobus quadratus) and the "tailed" lobe (lobus caudatus). In the macrocosm, the liver corresponds to the planet Jupiter (Lit.:GA 128, p. 36) and the associated planetary metal tin.

The liver as an organ of will

The liver is the essential organ for turning ideas into action. If the liver's activity is disturbed, inhibitions of the will occur.

„For the crux of the matter is that the liver is not merely the organ in the human being which describes the physiology of today, it is in the most eminent sense the organ which gives the human being the courage to transform an imagined deed into a deed which is actually carried out. So when it happens that I am organised as a human being in such a way that a tram drives away, I know I am supposed to go to Basel - there are people like that - I am already there: at the last moment I can't get on, something wants to hold me back, I don't get to get on! - You see, something like that sometimes reveals itself in a strange way when a stagnation of the will occurs. But when such a thing occurs, there is always a fine liver defect. The liver always mediates the transposition of the ideas undertaken into the actions performed by the limbs.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 22)

The liver and the water element

The liver has a strong connection to the water element, which is the material carrier of the etheric body. When we feel thirst, this is also connected with the liver system.

„Now all that which is connected with the watery, which is connected with the liquid, for that we must seek the deeper reasons in the liver system. Just as respiratory distress and respiratory regulation, the need to breathe, is connected with the kidney system, so thirst is connected with the liver system. All thirst is related to the liver system. It would be an interesting task to study the interrelationships of the various human thirst qualities in the effects of the liver. And intimately connected with the inner constitution of the lungs, as it were with the inner metabolism of the lungs, are the phenomena of hunger and all that stands in this field.“ (Lit.:GA 312, p. 225)

The liver as a chemist

„Man has within him - if I may express myself thus - a chemist. He has something of the heavenly sphere in him, in which the origin of chemical actions lies. And this is quite strongly localised in the human being, what works there is localised in the liver. And study all this strange activity which the liver develops in the human organism, all the part which it plays on the one hand, in that it acts, I would like to say, like a sucker for the nature of the blood, and on the other hand, in that it has a regulating effect through the secretion of bile in the human organism, for the whole preparation of the blood fluid. Look at all this activity of the liver, and you will see in it that which, when studied to the end, gives chemistry, real chemistry, for our external chemistry is not to be found on earth in its reality. We must regard it as a reflection of the extra-human chemical sphere. But we can also study this extraterrestrial sphere by studying all the wonderful effects of the human liver [...]

Everything that is lye-like (alkaline) has an effect deeper within the organism, towards the liver processes, while everything that is connected with Carbo vegetabilis has an effect towards the kidney tract. And we shall be able to perceive a quite distinct interaction between all that is alkaline and that which are processes of the liver system.“ (Lit.:GA 312, p. 221)

Liver and musicality

„But the important thing is that there is an important difference between the liver of a musician and the liver of a non-musician, because the liver has very, very much to do with what resounds in the human being from musical ideas. Yes, it is of no use to regard the liver as a minor organ in ascetic knowledge. This liver, which is apparently such a small organ, is the seat of everything that lives in the beautiful sequence of melodies, and the liver has a great deal to do with listening to a symphony. Only, of course, one must be clear that this liver also has an ether organ and that this has primarily to do with it. But the outer physical liver is, so to speak, the exudate of the etheric liver and is shaped in such a way as this etheric liver is shaped.“ (Lit.:GA 201, p. 111)

Relationship of the liver with the members of man

„The astral body penetrates and works through the brain substance, and there is nothing within the brain substance, nothing within any nerve substance, in which the astral body does not co-operate alongside the etheric body. If, on the other hand, you take a large part of the liver, you would have to imagine it in such a way that, although the astral body also penetrates the liver, it does nothing in the liver, takes no part in the inner organisation of the liver, but that, on the other hand, the etheric body takes a quite essential part in the organisation, in the structure of the liver. The different organs are actually quite different things in man. A piece of liver is something we can only study if we know that the etheric body with its powers has the main share and that the astral body, like water through a sponge, permeates the liver, but has no special share in the formation of the liver, in its inner configuration. We cannot imagine a piece of brain substance in any other way than in such a way that the astral body has an essentially large share and the etheric body only a small one. Again, in the whole structure of the blood system, right down to the construction of the heart, the I has its essential share, while, for example, in the organisation of the nerve substance as such the I has no share at all, not to speak of the other organs.“ (Lit.:GA 136, p. 124)

The liver as a mirror organ for recalling emotionally coloured thoughts

The liver surface is a mirror organ through which emotionally coloured thoughts can be recalled in memory:

„Take the lung organisation, liver organisation, and so on, you come to look inward, as it were, to survey the surface of the individual organs, of course by looking inward mentally. What is this surface of the organs? This surface of the organs is nothing other than a reflecting apparatus for the soul life. What we perceive and also what we process mentally is reflected on the surface of all our inner organs, and this reflection means our memories, our memory during life. So what is reflected there, after we have perceived and processed it, on the outer surface of our heart, our lungs, our spleen and so on, what is reflected back there, that is what gives off the memories. And with a training that is not very far-reaching, you can already notice how certain thoughts radiate back to the whole organism in the memory. The most diverse organs are involved. If, for example, we are dealing with the recollection of, let us say, very abstract thoughts, the lungs, the surface of the lungs, are extremely strongly involved. When it is more a question of thoughts that are coloured by feeling, that is, thoughts that have a feeling nuance, then the liver surface is very strongly involved. So that we can really describe in detail how the individual organs of the human being are involved in this reflection, which then appears as memory, as the faculty of recollection. We must not, when we consider the soul, say: in the nervous system alone lies the parallel organism for the soul life; in the whole human organism lies this parallel organisation for the human soul life.“ (Lit.:GA 205, p. 100f)

Liver, warmth body and I-organisation

The liver is closely connected with the heat body and with the I-organisation of the human being, which in turn is especially connected with the hydrogen.

„... the kidney has an intimate relationship with the astral body, and the liver with the I.“ (Lit.:GA 218, p. 80)

„Everything is absorbed into the I-organisation first through the hepatic-biliary system. That which is present in the heat structure and in all that is present in the hepatobiliary system as a heat structure radiates out in such a way that the human being is permeated with that which is I-organisation, which is bound in general to the heat differentiations in the whole organism.

With regard to what I am about to say, you can really devise your experimental methods as precisely as possible. For first of all, look at lower animals in which there is not yet any approach to an I-organisation, considered from the point of view of the soul. There you will find no developed liver, even less bile acid in the process. These things develop phylogenetically only in the course of the animal series, when it goes towards the ego-organisation. The strength of the I-organisation that a being develops goes in parallel with the development of its liver and bile. And in the same way, of course, you can carry out physiological series of experiments, which you only have to extend over the different ages of human beings. Then you will see how the function of the liver is connected with what is present in the human being as an I-organisation. You have only to observe certain pathological conditions, let us say, certain children's diseases, which have a lethal outcome, and you will already find how certain mental organisations, which do not go towards the sensory side, but towards the I-side, are connected with the secretion of bile. Then you will find that an immensely fruitful series of experimental methods opens up, some of which can be selected from what is offered by sensory-empirical science, and which only have to be trained. You will see that just as the physical organisation is connected with carbon, the etheric organisation with oxygen, the astral organisation with nitrogen, so the ego-organisation is connected with hydrogen. You will be able to integrate all the differentiations of heat - I can only hint at this here - into that which hydrogen exercises as its special function, naturally always in connection with other substances, in the human organism. And thus, by ascending immediately from the sensuous into the supersensuous, but by grasping this supersensuous by envisaging its physical representatives, we come to be able to conceive of the whole human being, as it were, as a very complicated cell which is ensouled and spiritualised.“ (Lit.:GA 314, p. 114f)

Liver and anabolic build-up processes

Due to the strong ethereal activity, the anabolic processes predominate in the liver, which are predominantly endothermic, i.e. they consume heat. Contrary to a widespread opinion, which is sometimes still held in relevant reference works today[1], the liver temperature, i.e. the blood temperature in the liver is significantly lower than the average body temperature.

„Despite the interlocking of liver and bile function, one can nevertheless see the "pure" building up in the liver, which is connected with reductive processes, i.e. runs endothermically. In other words: the liver needs heat for its function, the bile produces it. This interconnection of reduction and formation has already been touched on several times and is connected with the nature of animal metabolism in an animate organism. (see Vol. II, p. 121).

Related to this is the finding that the liver temperature is 0.2-0.6 ° C lower than the body temperature[2] These findings could also be confirmed under other conditions (e.g. Grayson in Nigeria). The earlier studies, some of which indicated very high temperatures, were obtained under conditions that were by no means physiological. - In healthy humans, the curve of the liver temperature runs parallel to the body temperature, but clearly about 0.5 ° below it. However, if one considers the plant function of the liver, then it is understandable that the processes run endothermically, i.e. that heat is needed for the actual build-up function - as is the case with plants, whereas heat is only formed through oxidation, as happens with humans and animals - with the formation of a warmth organism“ (Lit.: Husemann, Wolff, Vol. III, p. 20)

Liver and Ahriman

„With regard to the head of man, Lucifer and Ahriman have thrown up quite the same works of attachment on the left and right. The left and right halves of the head are very similar, the forces are such that they can play little into each other, that they touch little the surface in the middle. In the middle is the surface, on the left Lucifer, on the right Ahriman; but because the left and right halves of the head are formed so similarly, they bounce off each other: Lucifer and Ahriman, and man can develop a calm activity in the middle here (see drawing page 121). His thinking is quite little disturbed by the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman, because there they bounce off each other.

If one goes further down, it is no longer so. On the one hand Lucifer succeeds in piling up the stomach, on the other hand Ahriman succeeds in piling up the liver. And the stomach is the means through which Lucifer fights from left to right, the liver is something through which Ahriman fights from right to left. The relation of stomach and liver is seen in the right way, if we consider that Lucifer succeeds in piling up the stomach on the left as a kind of means of struggle, and that Ahriman succeeds in piling up the liver on the right. This is in a perpetual struggle, and science would do well to really study this struggle between the stomach and the liver.

Drawing from GA 158, p. 121
Drawing from GA 158, p. 121

And if the position of the heart tends a little to the left side, then this position is an expression of the way in which on the one side Lucifer wants to catch something for himself, while on the other side Ahriman wants to catch something. The whole left-right relationship is an expression of that in which Lucifer and Ahriman fight each other in man, only that in man, as I have said, what lies on both sides of the plane is in a certain respect the same. But we see that it is really only equal up there; it ceases to be equal the further down we pursue man.“ (Lit.:GA 158, p. 120f)

The liver and the inner disposition of the brain of the following incarnation

While the lungs essentially determine the shape of the head of the following incarnation, the inner disposition of the brain for the next life on earth is formed through the liver. If these forces already become effective in the present incarnation, this leads to hallucinations or strong visions.

„If you now study the liver in the same way as I have now explained for the lungs, you will find that there is also concentrated in the interior of the liver all the forces which in the next incarnation will be transferred to the inner dispositions of the brain. So again, in the diversions of the metabolic organism of the present life, the inner forces of the liver pass over, but now not into the form of the head like the lungs, but into the inner disposition of the brain. Whether a person is a sharp thinker in the next incarnation depends on how he behaves in the present incarnation. So that, therefore, on the diversions through the metabolism in the liver, certain forces appear; but if these forces are squeezed out in the present incarnation, then they lead to hallucinations or strong visions.“ (Lit.:GA 205, p. 103)



  • Herbert Hensel: Die Lebertemperatur des Menschen. Zur Geschichte eines physiologischen Irrtums, in: Beiträge zu einer Erweiterung der Heilkunst nach geisteswissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen. 1977, 30(5), S. 157-159
  • Friedrich Husemann, Otto Wolff (ed.): Das Bild des Menschen als Grundlage der Heilkunst. Entwurf einer geisteswissenschaftlich orientierten Medizin, 3 Bände:
Band 1: Zur Anatomie und Physiologie. Weise, Dresden 1941; 11. durchges. A. 2003: Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-7725-0529-5
Band 2: Zur Pathologie und Therapie. Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 1956; 6. bearb. u. erw. A. 2000, ISBN 3-7725-0530-9
Band 3: Zur speziellen Pathologie und Therapie. Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 1978; 4. A. 1993, ISBN 3-7725-0531-7
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. cf. e.g.:
  2. Graf, et al, Gastroenterologia 83, 1955. 233.