“Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge aiming to guide the spiritual element in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.”
Re-embodiment of the spirit and destiny
As a fundamental work about anthroposophy Rudolf Steiner’s „Theosophy“ is a starting point for systematically studying anthroposophy. The following quote is an excerpt from chapter two (“Re-embodiment of the spirit and destiny”) which addresses the question of the temporal dimensions of body, soul and spirit.
“Thus far spirit and soul have been considered only within the period lying between birth and death. We cannot stop there. Anyone wishing to do so would be like the man who would observe the human body only within these same limits. Much can certainly be discovered within these limits, but the human form can never be explained by what lies between birth and death. It cannot build itself up directly out of mere physical substances and forces. It can only descend from a form like its own that arises as the result of what has handed itself on by heredity. The physical materials and forces build up the body during life. The forces of propagation enable another body, a body with a like form, to proceed from it — that is to say, one able to be the bearer of the same life body. Each life body is a repetition of its forebear. Only because it is such does it appear, not in any chance form, but in that passed on to it by heredity. The forces that make possible my human form lay in my forefathers.
The spirit of a man also appears in a definite form, and these forms of spiritual man are the most varied imaginable. In saying this, the word form is naturally used in a spiritual sense. No two human beings have the same spiritual form. Observations should be made in this region in a manner just as quietly and matter-of-factly as they would be made in the physical world. It cannot be said that the differences in man in spiritual respects arise only from the differences in their environment and their upbringing. No, this is by no means the case because two people under similar influences of environment and upbringing develop in quite different ways. We are, therefore, forced to admit that they have entered on their paths of life with quite different dispositions. Here we are brought face to face with an important fact that sheds light on the nature of man when its full bearing is recognized.
Anyone who is set upon directing his outlook exclusively towards the side of material happenings could, indeed, assert that the individual differences of human personalities arise from differences in the constitution of the material germs. In view of the laws of heredity discovered by Gregor Mendel and developed further by others, such a claim can offer much that gives it the appearance of justification even in scientific judgments. Such judgment only shows, however, that these people have no insight into the real relation of man to his experiences. Careful observation shows that external circumstances affect different people in different ways because of something that by no means enters immediately into mutual relations with material development. To the really accurate researcher in this domain it becomes apparent that what proceeds from the material basis can be distinguished from what arises through the mutual interaction between a man and his experiences, although these experiences can only take shape and form through the participation of the soul itself in this mutual interaction. The soul stands there clearly in relation to something within the external world that, by virtue of its very nature, cannot be connected with the material germinal basis.”
Rudolf Steiner: Theosophy. CW9. Chapter One: „Re-embodiment of the spirit and destiny”
English language edition:
Rudolf Steiner: Theosophy - An Introduction to the Super-Sensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man. Translated by Henry B. Monges
and revised by Gilbert Church. Anthroposophic Press, 1971.
Original title: Rudolf Steiner. Theosophie, "Wiederverkörperung des Geistes und Schicksal ". GA 9. Dornach 1961, S. 68f.