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Vice (from Latinvitium "defect, offense, blemish, imperfection," in both physical and moral senses, in Medieval Latin also vicium[1]; GermanLaster, from Old High German: lastar "disgrace, blame, fault") is a permanent bad habit, which as such has its primary seat in the etheric body of man. Vice is contrasted with virtue, which is also rooted in the etheric body, as a positive counter-image. By indulging in vice, one not only falls prey to a momentary temptation, as in the case of sin, which has its cause in the astral body, but loads a much deeper guilt upon oneself, which also damages the social community in a much more lasting way. Vices are not sins in the narrower sense, but they form the root from which the most diverse sins repeatedly spring.

„Spiritual science has always termed as “guilt” (German, “Schuld”) those sins that are against the community, and that originate in a faulty etheric body. The more common English word “debts” (“Schulden”) has in German an origin similar to the word “guilt,” with its more moral connotation in English, signifying what one man owes another in a moral sense. Debt, or guilt, derives from defective qualities in the etheric body, whereas a defective element in the astral body leads to what spiritual science associates with the word “temptation.” The man yielding to temptation takes upon himself a personal fault, or failure.“ (Lit.:GA 96, p. 214f)

The Seven Capital Vices

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516): The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things

In the Christian occidental tradition, seven deadly vices or capital vices are commonly named, which are often erroneously called the seven deadly sins in the common parlance:

  • Superbia: Pride (arrogance, vanity, pride, glory-seeking).
  • Avaritia: Greed (avarice, covetousness)
  • Invidia: Envy (jealousy)
  • Ira: Wrath (anger, retaliation, vindictiveness) (rage, retaliation, vindictiveness)
  • Luxuria: Lust (unchastity)
  • Gula: Gluttony (gluttony, intemperance, intemperance, selfishness)
  • Acedia: Sloth of the heart / mind (laziness, weariness)

Towards the end of the 4th century, the Christian writer and monk Evagrius Ponticus, also called Evagrius the Solitary, had for the first time given a systematic account of the main vices that could affect the right way of life of monks. He lists eight main vices, which are essentially the same as those mentioned above, but he does not mention envy (invidia), but adds vana gloria (glory-seeking) and tristitia (melancholia). Pope Gregory I established the order still in use today by assigning gloom to sloth and glory-seeking to pride and adding envy.

The capital vices were also repeatedly assigned to certain demons. The most widespread assignment was that of Peter Binsfeld from the 16th century, who very actively promoted the persecution of witches and whose treatise on witches was considered the standard work on witchcraft and demonology for a good century. According to his classification, Lucifer corresponds to pride, Mammon to greed, Leviathan to envy, Satan to wrath, Asmodeus to lust, Beelzebub to gluttony and Belphegor to laziness.


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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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 - 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. "Vice". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-08-15.