LEVEL 4 - The Etheric Body - 4 fold

The Astrological basis of this level is outlined in 'Astrological Science'

RS uses this level in several ways. Being primarily the level of the Etheric body, its inner workings describe many aspects of living systems. Life only begins once the etheric body has been internalised. We saw in 'Astrological Science' how a star really only becomes self sustaining once the horizontal plane forms and a 'pulse' develops. (see Astronomical Pictures) So once the etheric is active a vast diversity of life forms and processes take place. This four fold model offers us two important insights into how these life processes are organised.

The 'Macro' Polarity was identified as the relationship between the two primary poles - The Cosmic elements of Fire and Air form a polarity to the Earthly elements of Water and Earth. This polarity relationship is based upon the essential relationship between Heaven and Earth, and as such we see it manifesting more in the external processes of nature

The 'Micro' Polarities are formed when activity comes into play and manifestation begins to take place. Manifestation can only stay active through the interaction of opposites. We saw how the elements of Fire and Earth polarise against each other in the beginning of the great cosmic drama. Once their polarisation and spinning have become intense enough the they suck substance and force into their centre and squirt it out along the horizontal plane. This horizontal plane then polarises to provide us with the polarity of Water and Air. These are the relationships we see RS describing within living organisms.

This same process of creation was described by RS in the 3rd lecture of the Agriculture course. In that lecture he describes how the elements of protein H,C,N,O,S work together to form the basis of organic chemistry. (My interpretation of his lecture is not that commonly met, however a further explanation will be posted to this site in the future. Discussions with leading members of the BDNOW list have confirmed the correctness of my interpretation.)

Hydrogen the carrier of the primary formative force (fire) combines with the basis of physical matter - Carbon (Earth). Together they attract the Astrals carrier - nitrogen (air) which in turn draws in the etheric bodies carrier - oxygen (water) into the organic substances. Sulphur acts as the 'oil' to this process allowing all the other elements to bond and flow around each other.

It has been shown earlier how the four bodies can be associated to the various levels of the spiral and their corresponding 'world' homes. This reference gives the specific outline for the inner workings of each body. If one wishes to consider the physical body there will be three components to consider. Similarly if one is working with the Astral body there will be seven components to work with and so on. With the Etheric there are four components to consider.





















Before we go into these inner workings though it is useful to explore how the four bodies are described by the two polarity structures mentioned above. It is important to clarify the difference between the four bodies working with these two sets of polarities. The Macro polarity has been stated to function on the external manifestations of life, while the Micro polarity indicates the internal workings.

When we look into nature we can see that the Physical and Etheric bodies work from the Earth and push outwards into space, while the Astral and Spirit bodies move downwards towards the Earth. RS describes this in his medical lectures. (6) This basic process can be seen in plants as well as in Humans. The expression 'feeling low' or 'feeling down' usually used as an expression of physical and psychological tiredness is an expression of this. The etheric body provides us with a 'watery' cushion between the physical body and the inward moving Astral and Spirit. When the etheric body is strong its uplifting anti gravity effect allows us to have plenty of energy and spark to take on life. Psychological and emotional issues do not weigh so heavily upon us and are mostly able to be dealt with a thought or seen in the light of some rational context. As the etheric body becomes drained - lack of food, sleep or water or poisoning by drugs or chemicals etc - the Astral body and the Spirit enter more deeply into the physical body. The etheric cushion does not give us the energy to feed these bodies and so a range of symptoms occur. We can feel tired run down and look very 'grey', however the Astrality and ego can act as a stimulant for a time and we start rushing around, like of a coffee high, and start using up our bodies reserves of fat as fuel. This will lead to a massive lose of weight and nervous stress ultimately. Once the Astrality and Ego enter too deeply into the physical organism, psychological and emotional difficulties are not easily move aside. Obsessions and paranoia sets in. This is also the basis of plant pest attacks as we will see later. What is missing is a strong a buoyant etheric body moving upwards pushing these bodies off the physical. If they enter too deeply illness will occur.

This functioning of the spiritual bodies should not be confused with the way RS describes their activity often within the living organism. (18) In those lectures he describes associations which are best summarised by the following diagram. It is this diagram we need to refer to, to understand many aspects of RS 'Agriculture'

We need to keep these two separate understandings of the bodies functioning side by side at all times. It is best to not try and mix them up. Be clear when you are using one or the other. Using both simultaneously is a specialised activity.

More 4 fold levels

We have seen in "The Spiritual Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature" how these four levels of creation and bodies work together to form the four kingdoms of nature and how they can be related to the elements.

With each new stage of evolution 'Evolution on a Pinhead' RS outlines that when each of the spirit bodies came into manifestation - during the Eras - so an ether and its corresponding element also developed. The significance of this is that we are provided with a hierarchy of activity and a set of channels by which any particular spiritual bodies activity is carried through into different levels of creation. In 'Creations Layer Cake' we can see the picture of the 12 layers of creation. The outer layers work through the layers below them. RS outlined how Saturns influences will be stronger when it is warm or that the Moon will be stronger when it is wet. (Agriculture) From this we can determine that the condition of the lower levels, influence the functioning of the higher ones. Similarly the higher bodies, especially when they do not incarnate, as in the plant kingdom, must use the corresponding parts of the lower levels as their transport into that level of life. Thus when we come to plant growth the spirit must use Saturns path through the warmth ether, the fire element, cosmic silica, cosmic forces and hydrogen (and the G gene) to make its impact.

So the association of the kingdoms of nature to the elements and ethers, based on the spiritual body that separates each level of life, looks like this:





























 Cos. Si

 Ter Si

 Cos Ca

 Ter Ca






















Nerve Sense









There is one association which becomes important with plant growth. In the two fold workings we were discussing the way Calcium and Silica predominated there activities in plant growth through the vertical and horizontal planes. We can see from the Macro polarity that Calcium has a natural association with the Physical and Etheric bodies activity while the Silica has a natural affinity to the Astral and Spirit workings.

Within the micro polarity however we see that Calciums working with the horizontal plane brings it into intimate relationship with the Etheric and Astral activities, while the Silicas relationship to the vertical pole brings it into intimate relationship with the Ego and Physical polarity of activity. This provides us with an indication of another Steiner 'contradiction' which needs to be allowed for when working with life processes.

The fourfold level shows itself in Biodynamic very often. The differentiation between the Macro and Micro workings of this level is a significant difference to maintain an awareness of. Doing so helps clear up many confusions and 'contradictions'. See the 'Biodynamic Essays' for more detailed descriptions of how these 4 fold elements work in life process.