Steiner and the Energy Body

Everything is about models in dealing with psychic energy. We have no way to detect psi with instruments and no methods for quantifying it. It can be qualified, but it has a pernicious habit of defying those qualifications. Even the word “energy” is ambiguous. We conceive of it as an energy and in many ways it behaves like one; but it doesn’t follow the laws of physics in all cases. It behaves as a particle or as a wave, and our mind’s imbue it with properties that sometimes resemble a solid, sometimes a liquid, sometimes a gas, and sometimes something else entirely. This last part is particularly important, I think; our minds imbue it with properties. Some models see energy as nothing other than consciousness, and I think that might well be right.

Rudolf Steiner, photo by

One of the models I’ve worked with a lot in the last year is Rudolf Steiner’s. Steiner is perhaps best known in academia, as the developer of the Waldorf system of education; named for the Waldorf family that funded the schools, rather than for Steiner. But Steiner was also a theosophist until a split with the main corpus, and particularly Leadbeater and Besant, led to him forming his own philosophy. Feeling that theosophy was leaning too hard on Indian sources of spirituality, Steiner wanted to work within a Western paradigm, but without throwing out the fruits of theosophy or the models it introduced. The result was Anthroposophy; by its name focused on people, rather than gods.

Anthroposophy makes a number of contributions to education, to medicine, and to spirituality. But I am not an anthroposophist nor am I an expert scholar. As a teacher and pedagogical theorist, Steiner contributed significantly to an understanding of how we can learn and develop psychic ability. Part of this is by using a model that is practical without becoming overly complicated.

Steiner’s model contains seven levels in the body of man, each correspondent to different aspects of our human experience. These are, from most dense to most subtle, the Physical body, Etheric or life body, Sentient soul body, Intellectual soul, Spirit-filled consciousness soul, Life spirit, and Spirit man. But this is a strictly spiritual model for spiritual progression, which is what Steiner was most interested in.

The Energy Body, excerpted from the revised Subtle Energy, releasing next week in ebook and print.

While psychic development benefits significantly from spiritual progress, it’s not strictly related. You can be psychically advanced and spiritually bereft. The model we use, then, for psi development focuses on the energy body that reflects these various levels. We have a physical body, the etheric body that reflects it, and the astral body. The astral body encompasses all the other levels Steiner speaks of, but we can focus on the “near” astral, or emotional astral, and on the “upper astral,” or mental astral.

Steiner also acknowledged the same chakras that the Theosophical society introduced, describing them as activating at different levels of spiritual progression. In teaching spirituality, Steiner looked at these chakras as the signs of a student’s progress. But these structures are abstract, not concrete. I diverge from Steiner in that I think we see chakras when we use chakras in our model; if we don’t use chakras, our mind finds other ways to organize the same information.

Undoubtedly, though, Steiner has provided a considerable amount to how I work with energy, and to the model that I use in the Learn PSI program I am developing. Learn PSI uses a step-by-step gradual presentation to help us hone and develop the psychic abilities we all already possess. I have borrowed both from Steiner’s pedagogical method and from his modifications to the theosophical model popular in the New Age today.

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