“Just as the physical body falls into decay if the etheric body does not keep it together, and as the etheric body sinks into unconsciousness if not illuminated by the astral body, so the astral body would necessarily allow the past to be lost in oblivion unless the ego rescued the past by carrying it over into the present. What death is to the physical body and sleep to the etheric, the power of forgetting is to the astral. We may put this in another way, and say that life is the special characteristic of the etheric body, consciousness that of the astral body, and memory that of the ego.” ~Rudolf Steiner
Three Bodies of Man
Yes, man actually has three bodies. Steiner calls them the physical, etheric, and astral. In Cosolargy, we call them the physical, the psychic, and the spiritual. The names are not that important, it is the fact that we have three bodies and what each one represents that is.
The first thing we have to realize is that because we have three bodies, we function in three different worlds or dimensions. The physical body operates only on the physical level. The psychic body exists on the physical level, but is really only functional on the mental and psychic level of reality. Likewise, the spiritual body is mostly useful in the higher dimensions of spirit. While each body can effect the others, it is primarily a downward movement. A healthy spirit makes the psychic body stronger and healthier. But the health of the psychic body has little affect on the spirit. Similarly, the health of the psychic and spiritual bodies can affect the physical health, yet diseases of the physical body do not contaminate the psychic or spiritual, other than to block access to them.
The physical body is the one all of us are familiar with. Some would say it is the only body we have. Others say simply that it is the most important body and the other two are mere appendages of the physical. Neither of those opinions is correct.
Of the three bodies, the physical is the newest, not the oldest. The physical body descended from the psychic, which descended from the spiritual. The spiritual body is ageless and existed before the others. The Great fall resulted in the generation of the other two.
Nonetheless, the physical body is important. It came into existence to allow us to function in a realm of matter. It is the only body that lets us survive and operate on this level. Yet eventually it will end. This happens usually when it dies. It is also possible that as the world itself transform back into spirit, the physical body will do the same. In either case, the physical body will no longer exist as such once that transition has happened.
This body is often mistaken for the spirit. While it is more spirit than the physical body, it isn’t the true spirit body. It is this body that functions primarily on the mental plane. This body is the one that does astral travel or flies in dreams.
This body, which Steiner calls the etheric, does act as a kind of mold for the physical body. That is why how you think has a lot to do with how you look physically. It can also affect the health of the physical body. This body can even catch diseases which our medical professionals are jut starting to discover. And those mental-psychic illness can be contagious. This body also acts as a kind of glue that holds the physical together.
There is nothing wrong with a spiritual person developing this body. The problem is that many stop their and think they are becoming spiritual when they are actually trapped one level below the spiritual.
The spiritual body, often just called the spirit, is by far the most important of the three bodies. That is because the other two are derived from it. It is the oldest of the bodies because it is ageless. It was created outside the limiting realm of time and space. Ageing and death are unknown to it.
Because this is the most important body, it is the one we need to care for the most. But for most people, it is the one we care for the least. Hat is unfortunate, but understandable.
When we come into the physical realm, our spirit and soul are dormant. They are with us, but in a state similar to a coma. They are not aware of what we do on a daily basis.
So our most important job on this level is to awaken them from that coma. This is the true meaning of a spiritual awakening. It isn’t just a sudden realization that the spiritual is important. It is what Jesus meant when he said we all needed to be born again. He was not talking about reincarnation. He was talking about the awakening of the true Self, the spirit and soul.
An awakened and healthy spirit helps keep the other bodies strong and healthy by sending energy down to them. So an awakened spirit is important even on the physical plane. So care for all three of your bodies, especially the spiritual.