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Virtue (from Latinvirtus, Greekἀρετή arete) generally denotes the ability and inner attitude to do the good that has become one's innermost nature with inclination, that is, easily and joyfully. In so far as the virtues represent such permanent and self-evident good habits, they have their roots in the etheric body of man just as much as the vices which counteract them as permanent bad habits.

The Seven Christian Virtues

Raphael: The Cardinal and Divine Virtues and the Law, 1511, Stanza della Segnatura (south wall), Vatican

The Seven Christian Virtues or Heavenly Virtues, which were developed in the Christian occidental cultural sphere, have repeatedly been contrasted with the corresponding 7 principal vices. The most widespread compilation is that which results from the combination of the four Platonic cardinal virtues with the three Pauline virtues. This compilation corresponds to a spiritual truth, because the 7 virtues correspond to the 7 regions of the astral world. In a very early lecture given in Berlin on 2 December 1903, Rudolf Steiner makes the following attribution.

Plato named the following four main virtues, which correspond to the lower four regions of the soul world:

The three Pauline virtues correspond with the 3 highest regions of the soul world:

„There are very specific tasks which the human self has to take on and carry out within its earthly pilgrimage. Man has to train certain virtues which he cannot train outside his earthly pilgrimage. There are seven such virtues. Man came to earth with the dispositions for these virtues, and at the end of his earthly pilgrimage he shall have fully developed these seven virtues....

The endowments for seven such virtues lie in man at his first embodiment. After millions of years he will go out again from his earthly pilgrimage, and these dispositions will then be developed into virtues. He will then be able to use these abilities in a future planetary development. These seven virtues are:

  • Justice
  • Judgment
  • Fortitude
  • Prudence

These are the four lower virtues. Prudence summarises everything that enables us to pass judgement on our earthly circumstances and thus to intervene in the course of earthly circumstances. By acquiring these abilities, man gains the power to intervene in the world with strength and leadership. The three higher virtues are:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love.

Goethe expressed it with the words: "Everything transient is only a parable". If man sees in everything he can see and hear only a symbol for an eternal thing that expresses it, then he has "faith". This is the first of the three higher virtues. The second is to develop a feeling for the fact that man should never stop at the point on which he stands, a feeling for the fact that today we are human beings of the fifth race, but later we shall develop higher. That is the hope. So we have faith in the eternal, and then trust, hope in higher development. The last virtue is the one that is to be formed as the last goal of our cosmos, it is love. That is why we call our earth the "cosmos of love". What we must develop in ourselves by belonging to the earth is love, and when we have completed our earthly pilgrimage, then the earth will be a cosmos of love. Love will then be a self-evident power of all human beings. It will be as self-evident as the magnetic force of attraction and repulsion is self-evident in a magnet.“ (Lit.:GA 88, p. 81ff)


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: URL:
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.