Spiritual Science

The Three Fold Human Being

(1.1) Rudolf Steiner first spoke about the ideas of a three-fold human being at the beginning of the 19th century. By holding a threefold perspective, it can help us to more conscious of the different parts that make us who we are. Steiner refers to the Physical Body, The Soul, and The Spirit Self. All of these are also interconnected and work in harmony. We have to nurture each of these.

For me personally, it is useful to refer to the three fold perspective to find balance. For example, I may dedicating time for my soul and spirit, but if I neglect the health of my body, then my whole being is unbalanced. By being aware, I can how I spend my time to nurture my whole being. This however is easier said than done, I haven’t got there yet, but striving.

The Physical Body: This refers to the tangible, physical form of a person, including the organs, bodily systems, and senses used to interact with the material world.

The Soul: This includes our capacity for emotions, desires, and sensory experiences, as well as our intellectual faculties and self-awareness. Steiner viewed the soul as dynamic and capable of growth, emphasising its connection to spiritual development and the broader spiritual realities of the universe.

The Spiritual Self: Also known as the “I” or individuality, this is the deepest core of a person, their essential identity and spiritual potential. It has a connection to higher spiritual realms and allows for self-transformation and self-realisation.

These three aspects—the physical body, soul, and spiritual self—are interconnected and work together to form the complete human being.

The Fourfold Human Being

(2.1) Building upon the threefold model of the human being, Steiner added the idea of an Etheric Body which is the energetic force that sustains the body.

  • The Physical Body: This aspect represents the physical form and material nature of the human being, including the physical organs, bodily systems, and sensory apparatus.
  • The Etheric Body: Also referred to as the life body or vital body, the etheric body is an energetic, life-sustaining force that permeates the physical body. It is associated with growth, regeneration, and the overall vitality of an individual.
  • The Astral Body: The astral body is the realm of human emotions, desires, and passions. It is responsible for our capacity to experience and express a wide range of feelings, including joy, love, anger, and sadness.
  • The Ego or “I”: The ego, also known as the “I” or individuality, is the highest and most essential part of the human being. It represents our self-awareness, consciousness, and capacity for free will and moral decision-making. It is the core identity that distinguishes each person as a unique individual.

These four aspects—the physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego—form a comprehensive understanding of human nature in Steiner’s fourfold model. They are seen as interconnected and interdependent, working together to shape our experiences, consciousness, and personal development.

At Ruskin Mill the the word Life is used to represent the Etheric Body, and Soul to represent the Astral Body. I also find it useful to look at the kingdoms of nature that as correspond to a fourfold perspective, The Mineral Kingdom, The Plant Kingdom, The Animal Kingdom, and The Human Kingdom.

When we conduct a student study, there are object from the three kingdoms, and a candle is lit to represent the ‘I’ of the student.

The Seven Fold Human Being


  • Physical Body: The physical body represents the tangible, material aspect of the human being, including the physical organs, bodily systems, and sensory apparatus.
  • Etheric Body: The etheric body, also known as the life body, is an energetic force that permeates and organizes the physical body. It sustains vital life processes, growth, and healing.
  • Astral Body: The astral body encompasses the realm of emotions, desires, and passions. It is responsible for our capacity to experience and express feelings, desires, and the full range of emotional experiences.
  • Ego: The ego represents the core individuality, self-awareness, and consciousness that give each person a sense of identity, moral agency, and free will.
  • Sentient Soul: The sentient soul is associated with sensory perception, sensory experiences, and the capacity for sensations, feelings, and empathy.
  • Intellectual Soul: The intellectual soul encompasses thinking, cognition, and intellectual faculties such as logic, memory, and imagination. It includes the capacity for conceptual thinking and the pursuit of knowledge.
  • Consciousness Soul: The consciousness soul represents the higher, spiritual aspect of the human being. It involves self-awareness, moral intuition, and the development of individual consciousness. It is associated with the capacity for self-reflection and the pursuit of spiritual growth.

Understanding the sevenfold human being is valuable as it offers a holistic framework for personal growth, education, relationships, and well-being. By nurturing our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects, we achieve balance and integration, leading to a more fulfilled life. This model guides personal development, informs holistic education, fosters empathy in relationships, and promotes overall well-being.

The Twelve Fold Human Being


  • The Senses of the Physical Body:
    • Touch: The sense of physical contact and pressure.
    • Life: The sense of experiencing one’s own vitality and well-being.
    • Movement: The sense of bodily movement and spatial orientation.
    • Balance: The sense of equilibrium and body balance.
  • The Senses of Life or Etheric Body:
    • Smell: The sense of perceiving odors and subtle qualities in the environment.
    • Taste: The sense of perceiving flavors and qualities of substances.
    • Sight: The sense of visual perception, including color, light, and form.
    • Warmth: The sense of perceiving temperature variations.
  • The Senses of the Soul or Astral Body:
    • Hearing: The sense of perceiving auditory stimuli and sound.
    • Speech: The sense of perceiving spoken language and its meaning.
    • Thought: The sense of inner thinking and cognitive processes.
    • Ego: The sense of self-awareness and individuality.

According to Steiner, these 12 senses allow us to perceive and engage with the world on multiple levels, encompassing not only physical stimuli but also subtler qualities and experiences. The recognition and cultivation of these senses can deepen our connection with the environment, enhance our understanding of ourselves and others, and support our overall well-being and development.

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