August 26, 2013 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine
The human being identifies closely with his/her physical body. We commonly say the body is ‘me’ rather than the body is ‘mine’ or ‘belongs to me.’
But the physical body by itself is simply matter, subject to physical laws, and without life, movement, intrinsic warmth, awareness, or feelings.
That certainly is not ‘me’ now, as I read these words. I have awareness, and have warmth and circulation and I can move.
The physical body requires its other parts, or members, in order to be the physical body I call ‘me’ or ‘mine.’ Without them, the physical body alone is like a corpse.
Even the sleeping physical body, which doesn’t really move much, has warmth and circulation. Within it, a multitude of metabolic functions go on like magic, digesting and detoxifying, growing new tissues, etc.
The part of the human being that accounts for the vast difference between a corpse (dead body) and a sleeping, living body is the presence of the etheric body, or body of life forces . This etheric ‘body’ cannot be touched like the physical body can be touched. But it is organized and systematic, just as we expect of any body, whether it is our physical body or a body of concepts, body of water, or group of people organized for a purpose.
The sleeping physical body is alive, but it has no consciousness. The physical body is brought to a magnificent state when the two members which provide consciousness join the sleeping body: we wake up. We sing, or groan. We stretch and feel joyful, or we pull the covers back over us and experience worry and dread for the day. We are conscious. We feel positively or negatively, and we decide what to do about the fact that we are awake, and have feelings.
The two bodies that carry consciousness are named the astral body, and the I (or Self or Ego or Spirit). Our astral body brings movement, consciousness, feelings, and instincts to motivate us. The I (or Self or Ego or Spirit) is ‘the Decider’ who is self-aware, and takes responsibility, guides the myriad of activities occurring within us, and makes judgments.
This is the ‘me’ I recognize, the physical body with its full complement of life and awareness.
Rudolf Steiner’s insight as to the complete nature of human make-up provides a framework for understanding health and illness. He pointed out four basic aspects to human makeup: the physical body, the etheric body of life forces, the astral body of consciousness, feelings and movement, and the essential self aware individuality of “Ego” (or I or Self or Spirit). See Picture of the human being, Ego (Self, I), Astral body, Etheric body, ethers.