August 25, 2013 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine

The astral body is the soul’s vehicle. The soul is that intangible but real human part of us which we commonly identify as our personal feeling life.

The astral body is the organized system of forces which lets us be conscious at a certain level, and have instincts and feelings.  Out of these instincts and feelings arise movement.  The astral body is related to movement, like the ever-moving air around us, and like the changeableness of our feeling life.  It is also related to being conscious at a basic level.  Consciousness consumes substance, so we can see an over-alert person is often thin, and a non-reactive person carries more body substance.

Some people have a very calm nature and others are fiery. This basic soul tendency is part of the individual’s astral make-up. The soul provides the automatic, instinctive, reactive feeling life which is part of the person’s nature.

As a person matures, he or she intentionally develops self-control over his or her basic soul tendencies. This requires the action of the Ego or Self or I (or Spirit). The soul and spirit work together to make the conscious part of the human being.

The spirit provides the self-awareness and judgment and intention which lets us modify our automatic tendencies, and become better human beings.  See Ego, Self, I.

Our consciousness consists of both the instinctive automatic feeling life (astral or soul life) and the reasoned judgment and self-awareness from the higher Self.

At night when we sleep, the two finer bodies which allow us to have consciousness (the Astral body or Soul) and self awareness( the I or Self or Ego), leave the physical and etheric bodies alone to rebuild vitality and physical substance. The two upper bodies stay connected to the physical body during sleep. We awake when the astral body and ego fully return, and we become conscious. See Sleep.

The astral body is often related to the kidney-adrenal system, and can be a carrier of stress or anxiety, and can cause exhaustion.   As the bearer of consciousness and awareness, the astral body is associated with catabolism (tissue breakdown).  Consciousness consumes substance, as mentioned above. There is a complex relationship between the astral body, the nervous sytem and certain types of thinking, and the etheric body.  There are other functions of the astral body in physiology as well.

The myth of Prometheus is relevant here. Prometheus brought fire to humans giving them new independence from the gods. Zeus, in anger, condemned Prometheus to be tied to the top of Mount Olympus. During the day, an eagle ate Prometheus’ liver. At night, the eagle went to roost, and the liver regrew once more. This is a picture of the regeneration that sleep brings, and the wearing-down, the using up of our unconscious life forces (which the liver is in charge of in the physical body) when we are conscious.  See Etheric body, ethers.

Human beings share their astral make-up with the animal kingdom although the human astral is far more refined (usually). The astral body is so named because it relates to the moving stars, the planets, which each represent an internal major organ. (see 7 metals)

A plant, which has flat surfaces, in planes, does not have an interior space. An animal (and humans) have interior spaces, beginning from the time in embryology when the gastrula is formed, and onward. The physical fact of inner space allows for soul and astral features to develop in humans, and astral features in animals.

Instinct and desire are astral features in animals, that plants do not have. Interiority allows an evolving psychology. This is apparent when we look at animal families in the animal kingdom. For example, reptiles are cold-blooded, and lay their eggs outside their bodies. Birds are warm-blooded, and lay eggs outside their body, but incubate them. Birds have more social aspects (fly in flocks, parent their young), and expression (song) than reptiles. The astral evolves to finer expression through higher animal families, and the greatest interiority is reached in humans, who fully reproduce internally, control warmth, fluids, and originate movement from the center of their bodies. Humans have left behind animal traits, as the human race has developed.
The range of human soul expression is vast, going beyond instinct and desire, giving rise to enormous subtlety and refinement of feeling, and all the arts.

A disturbed astral or soul life promotes illness.
Dysfunction in families compromises children who are vulnerable to anxiety/stress, and do not have rhythmic days and years as children growing up. A culture with coarsened human values blunts the developing of refined soul features, and a teen or young adult is urged to give full court press toward materialism and heightened sexuality as primary goals in his/her life.

The arts and appreciation of beauty, truth, and goodness, feed the full humanity of a person, letting the soul develop its full capacity, and contributing to physical health.

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