The Etheric Heart Organ

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There is an interesting aspect to spiritual development which can be met on the path given by Rudolf Steiner. This aspect is addressed in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds . It is arrived at by following the exercises and soul-spiritual practices which are needed in order to evolve the formation of astral organs for higher cognition. In this book these organs are called the lotus flowers. The exercises and practices are well depicted for the formation of the lotus flowers. The astral organs and the stages of consciousness related to the particular supersensible organ to be discussed can be discovered in other lectures and texts by Rudolf Steiner.

The astral organs which form the basis of the usual higher states of consciousness are: the two-petalled organ, related to the higher states of consciousness called Imagination; the sixteen-petalled organ related to Inspiration; and the twelve-petalled organ related to Intuitive consciousness, or the process of intuition. However, if inspiration is to take place the etheric makeup of the human being has to play a role in the process of cognition. In Knowledge of the Higher Worlds Inspiration is not addressed so directly, but what is spoken of is an organ that is etheric. The description of the use and working of this organ can lead one to think that inspiration is taking place. This is not said directly, however. In the section on the astral organs, Rudolf Steiner takes up the etheric, but in such a way that he notes an organ, called the “etheric heart organ.” It is this etheric heart organ which I would like to approach with the considerations that follow.

It is this etheric heart organ which I consider to be so interesting and so special that this little essay is written. This material was first shared on a Friday evening as a part of the large group gathering where Occult Science is the focus of the study and has been for the last three years. The sharing at that time was much more abbreviated.

Let us start not with the supersensible senses needed for spiritual cognition, the lotus flowers or the astral organs, but rather the usual senses, the physical senses. First let us look at the sense organs of the senses. The human physical senses have sense organs in the physical body as a basis for the sense process. As is suggested in what follows, the organs are only a part of the sense process; however, here I am identifying the organs used, possibly used. The specific sense organs were not specifically noted by Rudolf Steiner. He rather described the sense process and the supersensible members active in the formation and function of the senses.

As known by those busy with Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner has pointed to the existence of many more than the five to six senses . He has extended the usual six to twelve and then beyond. The physical senses serve as a basis for higher senses which are totally super-sensible senses. The twelve senses given by the wisdom of the human being, anthroposophy, are: 1 ) the sense of touch, 2) the sense of life, 3) the sense of movement, 4) the sense of balance, 5) the sense of taste, 6) the sense of smell, 7) the sense of sight, 8) the sense of warmth, 9) the sense of hearing, 10) the sense of word, 11 ) the sense of idea, and 12) the sense of ego.
These are the senses. What about the organs? Let me suggest the organs involved are as follows:

1) Sense of touch——- skin, and surface of all organs and structures.
2) Sense of life———– the movement of fluids, and the transformations of all substances in the body.
3) Sense of movement– all movements and all inner movements of the human organism.
4) Sense of balance—– semi-circular canals, cerebellum, spinal nerves.
5) Sense of taste——— tongue and intestinal canal.
6) Sense of smell——– nose, nerves and temporal lobes .
7) Sense of sight——— eyes, nerves and occipital brain.
8) Sense of warmth—– whole differentiated warmth of the body.
9) Sense of hearing—– ears, nerves and otic brain.
10) Sense of word——- larynx and respiration.
11) Sense of idea——– prefrontal brain.
12) Sense of ego——– circulation and heart.

It can be noted that the first senses listed above have no specific organs for their functioning. Then slowly specific organs can be pointed to. Not addressed here is the working of the various members in relation to the organs cited. The “members” are physical body, etheric body, astral body, sentient body, sentient-soul, intellectual- soul, consciousness-soul, spirit-self, life-spirit and spirit-man. Each sense has a different member which determines its makeup and functioning. How these members work into the human being to bring forth the senses has been addressed by Rudolf Steiner.

Rudolf Steiner says that these twelve senses belong to the ego of the human being, as a conscious individual, who lives in the physical world. These senses are formed, as it were, with relatively little effort on the part of the individual, except for the sense of word, idea and ego. The astral, supersensible organs, however, come into existence at this time in history by the active work and efforts of the individual. With the sense of the word, idea and ego, considerable effort has to be made by the individual, although few realize that this is the case. In fact most do not reckon with the sense of word, idea, and ego. Rudolf Steiner was perhaps the first to be able to take note of these senses for our sake, and to help us cultivate them more consciously. In fact, the Goethean method of observation asks for such cultivation.

A grouping of the physical senses could be as follows: 1 -4 more physical, 5-8 more etheric, and 9-1 2 more astral. The ego comes to use these senses all together to become a self-conscious being who lives in the physical world. At the same time, by use of these senses, particularly the astral related senses, the individual has a tendency to enter the elemental world, the astral plane of existence. The astral plane is the first plane of supersensible existence and is just the other side of the sense world. What has to be added to the physical senses are then the etheric senses, and then the astral senses where the physical drops away to a very large extent. There has to be some relation with the physical organism even with the highest of senses, or the human being in ordinary consciousness cannot access the different realms of spiritual reality. This relation is not so easy to find, and it is part of the effort here to share what has been researched on this subject. It is the process of sealing, and then transformation of the physical body that will form a part of the following considerations. For initiation means getting into the spiritual world, but as well, bringing content back for existence in the physical body, in the physical world.

In a lecture cycle given in Berlin in 1910 entitled “Anthroposophy,” Rudolf Steiner speaks about the physical senses, what forms them and what they reveal to the human being in their use. Such a detailed consideration is not taken up here. This short general view is deemed necessary as a point of departure.

Important with these twelve senses for our consideration here is that they give the human being a basis for perceiving in the physical world, and at the same time give a possibility for each to have the experience of “self”. The self with “object” consciousness is what is important in relation to the twelve senses. The higher senses, the etheric and astral senses have other purposes. The ether senses give the experience of “beingness” and the astral gives the revelation of other “beings.” Thus 1) object, 2) self, 3) beingness, and 4) other beings are very much a part of what has to follow.