Etheric body

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In Anthroposophic medicine, the Etheric body or Life body is the body of formative forces responsible for life. In nature there are etheric forces that are not part of a specific organism (though the idea that the earth itself possesses an etheric body has been also extrapolated in more contemporary science such as in Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis[1]). In living organisms such as plants, animals and humans, these etheric forces are organized into an independent body, though not a body in the physical meaning of the word[2]. The etheric body is responsible for vitality, reproduction, regeneration and also the faculty of memory.

Attributes of the Etheric Body

A leaf such as this fig leaf[3] has a form created by varying degrees of growth (signatures of the etheric body of the fig tree) at the three prominences of its leaf. Apoptosis (a signature of the astral body) is absent as a sculpting force in plant development.[4]

In lower organisms there are no other embodied spiritual bodies (such as the astral body or I) though these forces relate from the outside- in plants growth rhythms are regulated by planetary influences. One remarkable difference between plants and animal form development is the lack of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in plant forms. In animals and humans apoptosis is essential for development and improper coordination of this results in birth defects[5].

A human hand is developed by a delicate balance between the processes of growth (brought about by the etheric body) and the processes of apoptosis (brought about by the influence of the astral body). A webbed hand or a ray deformity will result when these processes do not occur harmoniously.

Rudolf Steiner described the etheric body throughout his books and lectures. He described it as visible to clarivoyant sight though its effects are apparent in the physical world. One of the twelve senses described in Anthroposophy is the sense of life. Feelings of fatigue or overflowing energy are characterized as a distinct sensory impression type that allows an experience of one's own etheric body[6]. Steiner used the term "time body" interchangeably with etheric body. In Waldorf pedagogy he emphasized the need to avoid abstract thinking and memorization in the first seven year period of life. The etheric body is tied to physical growth in the first seven years of life and memory and thinking are dependant on transformed forces of the etheric body[7]. Studies have found a decrease in the frequency of several chronic diseases in students who attended Waldorf schools[8][9]. Significant associations were found with atopy, asthma, osteoarthritis though trends in reduced rates of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and multiple sclerosis were present but did not reach statistical significance.

Results of a multi-center cross sectional study showing the trends in reduction of disease burden in adults who attended a Waldorf school as compared to controls.