Thinking, Feeling, and Willing in Relation to the Soul, Spirit, and I


From one perspective, the human being is an organism consisting of three realms, each containing three “principles” or bodies:[1]

  1. The physical realm, consisting of physical, etheric, and astral bodies;
  2. The soul realm, consisting of Sentient, Intellectual, and Spiritual soul bodies;
  3. The spirit realm, consisting of the three spirit bodies Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, and Spirit-Man.

From another perspective (one of many), the human being is also four-fold in nature – consisting of physical, soul, spirit and I. There is an intricate relationship between the physical, soul, and spirit realms, not just in relationship with each other but also with the I.  The I works in the three bodies of the physical realm (physical body, etheric body, and astral body), transforming them such that at a lower stage, the three soul bodies arise and at a higher stage, the three spirit bodies evolve.[2]  So we can say that, interpenetrating both the soul realm and the spirit realm is the I.

The threefold form of soul, spirit, and I bring distinct and unique qualities to another threefold form: thinking, feeling, and willing.  However, a sufficiently penetrating framework of understanding of these relationships must first be built before we progress to the relationship of soul, spirit and I with regards to thinking, willing and feeling.

The Three Physical Bodies

In the physical realm, man (and all creatures) has three bodies:[3]

  1. Physical
  2. Etheric
  3. Astral


Figure 1: The Physical Realm

The physical body, being the atoms, molecules, minerals, and so forth of the physical world, is death—it is the substances that all living beings revert to upon death and is guided by the forces of decay and disintegration.[4]  During life, the etheric body is in constant battle with these forces of decay, maintaining the form and structure of the body.[5]  We see the activity of the physical and etheric whenever we take a walk in the woods and notice the teeming living plants growing around us and the decomposing dead leaves, branches, and entire trees lying dead on the ground.  We deeply experience the etheric body by observing the majestic uprightness of a living tree as well as in the tender glossy green shoots of newly formed leaves in the spring.[6]

The physical and etheric bodies are places of sleep—they do not exhibit consciousness, and indeed, even in the sleep of living, conscious, beings, the etheric body remains with the physical body during sleep.  It is the astral body in which consciousness arises.[7]  The astral body creates the ability to divide sleep from wakefulness, unconscious from conscious.  It is the force that “wakes us” to do creative work upon the earth.[8]  This is also reflected in that the astral body temporarily leaves the physical and etheric bodies when man (and animals) sleep, and returns upon waking.  Sleeping is necessary and rejuvenating as the astral body renews the forces that were used up in the physical and etheric bodies.[9]


Figure 2: Sleeping and Waking, Unconscious and Conscious

The Three Soul Bodies

Something else unique occurs with the astral body as well – it is conjoining with the first body of soul’s triune, the Sentient Soul.[10]  The astral body brings the external sense impressions to consciousness.  The Sentient Soul imbues the sense impressions with permanence.  Whereas the astral body gives us, as moments of present experiences, knowledge or awareness of an object, the Sentient Soul gives that knowledge permanence.[11]

Because of its connection with the astral body, we can associate the Feeling realm with the Sentient Soul.  However, it is important to realize that Feeling is not isolated to itself – it is in relationship with the other two soul bodies (discussed next) and therefore always in relationship with Thinking and Willing as well.[12]   We will come back to this later.


Figure 3: Sentient Soul brings permanence to the sense impressions


The Sentient Soul is also where we, as human beings, first encounter our experience of “I”.[13]  Without this ability to preserve past experiences, we would have not concept of past.  This is also the dawning of memory–not the animalistic “memory” of pleasure and pain events which are astral experiences in the animal of longing or aversion, but rather true memory in which the I experiences itself in relation to world.[14]  The difference, to put it succinctly, is that man can reflect on the experiences of the past (his memory) whereas animals cannot.


Figure 4: The I in relation To the Sentient Soul

We also encounter an important concept with regards to the I and memory.  Whereas the astral body creates a separation between sleeping (unconsciousness) and waking (consciousness), which all creatures cross between (usually daily), the I on the other hand creates a separation between memory and forgetting.  Forgetting extinguishes past experiences, which is necessary in order to “meet new experiences openly and freely.”[15] Who can claim to meet experiences “openly and freely” without the bias of our past experiences, our memories?  Furthermore, forgetting is closely related to acts of true forgiveness in which, while the objective “movie camera record” of an experience is retained, the emotional experience is forgotten.[16]  Here again we see how the astral body and I are inter-related in the Sentient Soul.  A poignant example of this “forgetting” is something most of us have experienced: the death of a beloved pet.  Often, we will not enter into a relationship with a new pet until the emotional memories of our bond and the death of our pet have been “forgotten.”  We still retain the objective memories of our experiences with our departed pet, and even of its death, but it is difficult to meet the experiences of a new pet “openly and freely” unless the emotional memories are for the most part forgotten–we may say “healed.”

In cognizance, the I elevates itself further.  Here we encounter the second soul body, the Intellectual Soul or Mind Soul.  The Intellectual-Soul (or Mind-Soul)[17] is associated with thinking.  When the I directs its activity to cognizing the sense impressions of the external world as received by the physical body, the I begins to free itself from these perceptions.  Cognizing (from the Old French conoissance “acquaintance, recognition; knowledge, wisdom” (Modern French connaissance), from past participle of conoistre “to know,” from Latin cognoscere “to get to know, recognize”),[18] is a liberating activity of the Intellectual Soul, beginning the transformation from sense reaction to sense-action through the act of knowing.  One could say that we are only awake when we know something or are contemplating (thinking about) something.[19]  Furthermore, thinking is something that streams from the past—we would not be able to think without our faculty of memory, our experiences, to guide us in our thinking.  Even thinking of the future (for example, contemplating an action) is guided by our experiences from the past.[20]


Figure 5: The Intellectual Soul in relation to the Sentient Soul

With the Sentient Soul, memory, and particularly “forgetting”, affects our ability to take on new concepts and ideas.  Similarly, there is a correlate to thinking, that being judgment.  Our thinking is not just occupied with the act of cognizing.  We are almost always judging what we cognize.  Here, our judgments are guided by our feelings, and, significantly, our ability to be convinced of the subjective correctness of our judgment is guided by feeling.[21]  Our judgment may be in alignment with objective reality or our judgment may be orthogonal to objective reality.  Development of a “right” feeling life is crucial therefore in guiding our thinking so that what we convince ourselves of subjectively matches well with objective reality.  When our feeling life is wounded (here we see how the Sentient Soul and the I, through memory, comes into play), our judgments are often inaccurate.  And necessarily, the development of a “right” feeling life requires the mastery of the I over the astral body’s / Sentient Soul’s desires – not so easily achieved.[22]


Figure 6: The Three Soul Bodies and their Thinking, Feeling, Willing Constellations

The Three Spirit Bodies

As with the astral body in the physical realm conjoining with the Sentient Soul, so the third member of the soul realm, the Spiritual Soul (or Consciousness Soul), is conjoined with Spirit-Self, the first member of the spirit realm.


Figure 7: The three soul bodies and their conjoining with physical and spirit realms

The Spiritual Soul provides a fundamentally different quality of perception to the I.  In the Sentient and Intellectual Soul, the I is experiencing external objects or is in contemplation of those external objects.  With the Spiritual Soul, the true nature of the I, where the very word “I” uniquely expresses the relationship between self and other, is brought to bear.  Here, the I becomes self-aware, it perceives itself.[23]

In will, thought is present (as is will present in thinking).[24]  Also, the very nature of “willing” can be intensified through the feeling life, for example when an activity is done with enthusiasm and love.[25]  One can contemplate the forces of feeling and thought that guide one towards “healthy” activity vs. destructive, or “unhealthy” activity, and how complex the situation becomes when feeling, thinking and judging (guided by feeling) then guide the human being into activity.  So while this may be considered a representation of “I-less” willing:


Figure 8: Feeling and Thinking Informing Will Activity

what we actually strive towards is mastery of the I, and therefore the soul bodies, such that the “…the soul in its entirety becomes at length a revelation of the I.”[26]


Figure 9: Mastery of the soul bodies

It is the self-reflective ability of the I to take control over the Sentient Soul’s feeling realm and the Intellectual Soul’s thinking realm such that what leads the will to activity can be viewed as “right feeling” and “right thinking.”  (Incidentally, I use these terms not as moral judgments of feeling, thinking and will, but rather as the ability to experience their correlates, Intuition, Inspiration, and Imagination, as streaming from the Spirit.)

Engaging the will also does not necessarily mean being active in movement or thought.  The ability to sit still, or the practice of mindful meditation, is often intense will “activity.”[27]  Engaging the will in “stillness” is a recognized technique for dealing with stress and anxiety, and has considerable healing benefits on both the body and the psyche.[28]  Will is a duality of sleep and wakefulness–we are both awake and asleep in the activity of will.[29]  For example, while we cognize our goal and move toward it, perhaps as simple an activity as walking, we are also completely unaware (asleep) as to how we move our legs and maintain our balance and posture when we walk.

Our three spirit bodies (Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, and Spirit-Man) are the least evolved.  Whereas the development of Spirit-Self has only just begun, Life-Spirit is only germinal and Spirit-Man will only be developed in the distant future.[30]  How are these spirit bodies evolved?  This is a complex picture in which the I must work to gain mastery over the three soul bodies.  Through this mastery of the sentient, intellectual, and spiritual soul, Spirit Self enters into the spiritual soul.  This has the effect of transforming the astral body into Spirit Self.  Spirit Self can then impress itself upon the etheric body, and through the influences of art, religion, and occult training, the I, in conjunction with Spirit Self can work upon the etheric body (temperament / traits of character.[31]), transforming it to Life-Spirit.[32]  Finally, the etheric body, fully transformed into Life-Spirit, can impress itself upon the physical body and transform it into Spirit-Man.[33]


Figure 10: The I and spirit bodies transforming Astral, Etheric, and Physical

I and Soul and the I-Self Relationship

Having completed a portrait of the nine-fold nature of man, we can now begin to work deeper with the concepts of soul and I in relation to thinking, feeling, and will.  The soul is not revealed “to the I” but is a revelation “of the I.”[34]  Soul and I cannot exist independent of each other, yet at the same time they are both dependent and independent.  For example, we can say:

“I am distinct but not separate from my sensations.
I am distinct but not separate from my feelings.
I am distinct but not separate from the thoughts.”[35]

In psychosynthesis, we see a similar relationship of dependence and independence between I and Self.[36] The I “flows from…Self”[37] which reminds us of Steiner’s words, that in the Spiritual Soul (also called the Consciousness Soul), the “I first becomes revealed” and “seizes hold of its own being.”[38]  Assagioli’s Self is not unconscious (nor “the unconscious”) but is actually the source of consciousness – awareness –both of the external world and our internal “selves.”[39]


Figure 11: The I-Self Relationship

The parallel between Assagioli’s I and Self and Steiner’s I and Soul affords us a foothold in deepening our understanding of the process of the spiritualization of physical, etheric and astral bodies that “every man is working [on], whether or no he be aware of it.”[40]  Mastery of the sentient, intellectual, and spiritual soul bodies is mastery of feeling, thinking, and will.  These three soul bodies are not just isolated islands: as stated earlier, each contains aspects of the other two forming a constellation, in each soul body, of thinking, feeling, and will.


Figure 12: Predominant and Subdominant Aspects

These three bodies, with their predominant characteristic (feeling, thinking or willing), are frequently informing the I with conflicting desires, thoughts, and impulses.  If self-observed closely, the I can hear these conversations – for example, in an adversarial situation (an annoyed boss or partner, for example) the Sentient Soul may be reacting with a flight or fight reaction, the Spiritual Soul with an empathic or connecting impulse, and the Intellectual Soul with “what can I do or say or do that is right” thinking.  While it may take some practice, we can literally experience these constellations: our feelings “with our heart”, hear these thoughts “in our heads”, and experience our muscle tension (or our gut, as the digestive processes are also linked with will) with the anticipation of activity.


Figure 13: Example of Our three Soul Bodies in a Negative Experience Conflict

Because what our three soul bodies are telling us is often in conflict, each constellation with its own agenda, the I, in all the noise, can detach itself from the soul experiences leaving the driver’s seat empty, to be filled by one or more soul bodies.  We all probably have experienced this, that we later describe as “having lost ourselves” or “I was not in control” (indeed, the I was not!)  In these experiences of detachment or in more severe experiences, dissociation, we can glimpse the momentary annihilation of the I.[41]

In each of the soul bodies, the thinking-feeling-will constellation could be considered (to use Assagioli’s term) a “unifying center”, where our sense experiences of both external (the world) and internal (the “I”) continually modulate the relationship between I and Soul, I and Self.[42]  As part of the soul, these are “internal unifying centers” in the sense that our soul’s responses to current events result from past experiences of the outer world.[43]  With this model in mind, we can glimpse how each of the constellations, as an internal unifying center, adversely affects the I when one or more soul bodies experiences a “primal wound of nonbeing.”[44]

The Disidentified I

When our soul bodies are working together, the I experiences Self (Soul) as a unified force of inner and outer sensing in true conversation with self and other.[45]


Figure 14: Example of The Soul Bodies Working in Unison

In the above diagram, the sentient soul has the feeling, expressed in words “I can help”—a “knowing” feeling.  The intellectual soul expresses the thought “I want to help”, and the spiritual soul is “willing to help.”  In conversation with another person, we experience a unity with the other person when our I empathically “listens” to both Self and the other person.  An empathic relationship sees and respects the individuality of another person[46] or oneself (one’s Self.)

One way that I have worked with Goethean Conversation (empathic listening) is to consciously invite the spiritual world into the conversation,[47]  moving my-self from “the center” to the periphery.  The immediate effect is that this engages me more as “observer”, both of my Self and others:


Figure 15: Empathic Listening

In this experience, we glimpse a future where the development of Life-Spirit (the second spirit body) creates a unity of thinking, feeling and will.  At the moment, the mastery of the etheric is influenced by religion and art.[48]   To stretch the metaphor, when we experience the “art” in conversation (with Self or other), this has an actual influence on the etheric and works toward spiritualizing the etheric body, having the effect of creating unity in our thinking, feeling, and willing.  The effect is enhanced by consciously imagining and inviting the spiritual world as the center of the conversation.

The I is uniquely capable of being distinct but not separate from the content of our feeling, thinking, and will.[49]  As Steiner put it “The perception of the I in the spiritual soul has a fundamental different significance for man from the observation of what comes to him through the three bodily members and the other two members of the soul.”[50]  The ability to disidentify “from any and all possible contents of experience”[51] (to be distinct but not separate) is what allows the I to enter into relationship with the experiences of the soul.[52]  Even the word “I” is necessary to express relationship.[53]  Once we are in relationship, we have the opportunity not just for conversation, but for empathic conversation.  The “art” that we bring to the conversation is a unifying influence on each of the soul body’s constellation of thinking, feeling, and will.

The image of the Eye of Providence[54], especially as depicted on the US $1 bill, is an excellent image of this disidentifying (observing) ability of the I (and of course, the homonym with the word “eye”):


Figure 16: The Eye of Providence

Or, to put this image in relationship with body, soul, spirit, and I:


Figure 17: The Disidentified I

This disidentification enables us to create a new internal unifying center of thinking, feeling and will within the I, that is informed by the constellations of thinking, feeling, and will in our soul bodies, but is not subverted by those constellations.  In other words, the I transcends its soul experience, but this is only possible when we enter into an empathic conversation (listening) with Self.  Ironically, when we achieve this, we actually become even more open to the experiences of Self, to the experiences of our soul bodies.[55]

Conversely, becoming identified with a feeling, thought, or will impulse is like putting on blinders where the I experiences only the content of that soul body’s constellation.[56]  This almost always results in empathic failure in our I-Self relationship or I-other relationship — in other words, we either create anew or perpetuate an existing wound, within ourselves and/or within the other.  When we experience this wounding, whether as a child or as an adult, our soul body begins to create a defensive sheath to protect itself.  As a result, instead of an experience of our true self, we begin to project a false self.[57] Our soul body (one or more) and its thinking, feeling and will constellation endeavors to protect itself from the experience of empathic failure, and our I, if unaware of this wounding, responds through identification rather than disidentification to the soul’s defensive sheath.  As these identifications build up, we enter into what Assagioli termed “the primary infirmity of man”—the unconscious shifting of identifications that prevent the I from express its true self.[58]

Taken to an extreme, these constellations of thinking, feeling and willing within each soul body can become autonomous sub-personalities of the human being.  We probably have experiences where we can, on reflection, say “I was not myself” or “that was someone else that had control.”  We can have many other selves inside us, manifesting depending on what soul constellation is being activated by the situation.[59]

In Conclusion

The challenge then is two-fold.  The skill of disidentification must be developed through various practices.  Our wounds, which adversely affect the health of our soul bodies, must be brought to light and through various healing processes, the neural pathways of our identification must be replaced with new pathways that remind us and promote the practice of disidentification.  How one goes about this is not only far beyond the scope of this essay, but there probably is no prescribed way of doing this—it is most likely an individual path and therefore the challenge for the counselor, the life coach, the friend, is to walk that unique path together with the person requesting help.  For some, the pictures and concepts presented in this essay will be helpful in either holding an image of the human being in its 9-foldness or by even bringing these ideas to the awareness of the other person.  At the end of the day though, these are merely tools, and not every nail requires a hammer.


Think of a time when you “lost control” from a negative experience.  Write or draw what you were experiencing in your three soul bodies.  Was your I present?  Write or draw about your “I” experience as it and how the I experienced itself afterwards.

Think of a time when you “lost control” because of a positive experience.  This may be harder, but it we also lose our I as result of excessive sympathy responses – as an example, think of how people react on game shows when they win a huge jackpot.  Write or draw about your “I” experience as it and how the I experienced itself afterwards.

Think of a time when you connected with another person.  What was your experience of Self?  What was your experience of the other?  Write down or draw the experience of connecting, and how much of the connecting experience was the result of listening and the resonance of Self with other.  What happened when that resonance decreased, or turned dissonant?  How did you recapture the resonance?

If you could rewrite history, what event in your past would you most want to change?  Write the event as you would have liked to have experienced it.  Is this an event which results in “identification responses”?  What might you do to become aware of when this identification is triggered, so that your response is one of disidentification and empathy to Self?


[1] The Study of Man, GA 293.  From the summary of Lecture IV: “The three Spiritual Principles: Spirit-Self — Manas — Manes; Life Spirit; Spirit Man. The three Soul Principles: Consciousness, Intellectual and Sentient Souls. The three Bodily Principles: Astral, Etheric and Physical.”  Online at

[2] Occult Science, pg 102

[3] Ibid., pgs 39-44

[4] Ibid., pg 39

[5] Ibid., pg 40

[6] Ibid., pg 43

[7] Ibid., pg 44 (“…conscious powers well up”)

[8] Ibid., pg 44 “What rouses life again and again from the unconscious state is…the astral body.”

[9] S-1364 Life of the Soul in Kamaloka, Lecture III “During the day the physical body gets tired and used up, and the task of the astral body is to make good this weariness and exhaustion. It renovates the physical body and renews the forces which have been used up during the day. Hence comes the need for sleep, and hence also its refreshing, healing effect.” Online at

[10] Occult Science., pg 48

[11] Ibid., pg 48

[12] GA 205, Thinking and Willing as Two Poles of the Human Soul-Life “Naturally, however, what actually takes place in the life of the soul during the waking state is never entirely one-sided; thinking is not present by itself, nor willing by itself, there is always a mutual relationship and interplay between them.” Online at

[13] Ibid., pg 46 “With the awareness of something permanent and lasting in the changing flow of inner experiences, the feeling of ‘I’, of inner selfhood begins to dawn.”

[14] Ibid, pg 46-48.

[15] Ibid., pg 48

[16] Prokofiev, Sergey. The Occult Significance of Forgiveness

[17] Occult Science, pg 49

[18] Online Etymology Dictionary,

[19] S-3811, The Study of Man, Lecture IV, online at

[20] GA 205, Thinking and Willing as Two Poles of the Human Soul-Life “Even if we limit our observation to the affairs of everyday life we shall find that thinking always bears reference to something that is already there; it takes certain presuppositions for granted. Thinking is for the mast part reflection. Even when we think ahead, as it were, when we decide to undertake something which we afterwards carry out by means of our will, even then experience lies at the back of such thinking, and we are guided by it.” Online at

[21] S-3814, The Study of Man, Lecture V, online at

[22] Occult Science, pg 53, “…no desires or enjoyments can gain access to the soul without the I itself being the power which makes possible their entry.”

[23] Ibid., pg 52 “With the perception of ‘I’ – with self-contemplation – an inner activity of the I itself begins.  By virtue of this activity, the perception of the I in the spiritual soul has a fundamentally different significance for man from the observation of what comes to him through the three bodily members and the other two members of the soul.”

[24] S-3814, The Study of Man, Lecture V, “Just as thought is present in every act of will, so will is to be found in all thinking.” Online at

[25] Ibid.

[26] Occult Science, pg 53

[27] Spock, Marjorie, Eurythmy, pg 6 “Stillness, no less than movement, is activity.”

[28] Mayo Clinic

[29] Study of Man, Lecture VI, “In so far as we as human beings are beings of will, we are ‘asleep’ even when we are awake. We are always carrying about with us a sleeping human being — that is, the willing man — and he is accompanied by the waking man, by the man of cognition and thought: in so far as we are beings of will we are asleep even from the time we wake up until we fall asleep.”

[30] Gospel of St. John (Basle), Lecture V: “The Spirit Man will only be developed in the distant future, and Life Spirit is also only germinal in most people of the present day. The development of the Spirit Self has only just begun; it is closely united with the spiritual soul (somewhat like a sword in its sheath).” Online at

[31] Occult Science., pg 54

[32] Gospel of St. John (Basle), Lecture V: “Through the work of the Ego upon the astral body the latter is transformed into Spirit Self. But this takes place step by step, through the sentient soul being developed first, then the intellectual soul, and finally the spiritual soul; then the Spirit Self pours into the purified and mature spiritual soul. In the same way the Ego works upon the etheric body, and the impulses which are most effective in this case are the influences of art, religion and occult training.”

[33] Ibid., “This Spirit Self then impresses itself into the etheric body, as a seal impresses itself into sealing-wax, and gives it its imprint. The etheric body is thereby changed into Life Spirit. When this has come about completely, the Life Spirit then imprints itself in the physical body and makes it into Spirit Man.”

[34] Occult Science, pg 53

[35] The Primal Wound, pgs 52-53

[36] Ibid, Pg 45, “It will be proposed that Self is not an oceanic oneness or undifferentiated unity at odds with individuality, but the paradoxical source of both individuality and unity, independence and dependence.”

[37] Ibid., Pg 43

[38] Occult Science, pg 52

[39] The Primal Wound, pg 43 “…Self can have an intimate awareness of, and informed activity within, the specific unfolding life experience of the individual.”

[40] Occult Science, pg 55

[41] The Primal Wound, pg 45 “This abiding dependence of ‘I’ upon Self amounts to an ontological union of ‘I’ and Self; they are so fundamentally related that a true break in that relationship would be personal annihilation, the non-being of ‘I.’

[42] Ibid., “…Self can be experienced both internally and externally; the relationship between ‘I’ and Self is moderated by different inner and outer facilitating contexts that Assagioli (1965) called unifying centers.”

[43][43] Ibid., pg 76-77, “…active interaction with that external unifying center conditions the formation of an inner representation or model of that center, which can be called internal unifying center…In object-relations parlance, the internal unifying center comprises internalized objects or object representations that develop an abiding inner presence through interaction with the outer environment. ”

[44] Ibid., pg 44, “…this flow of being from Self to personal self or ‘I’ can be disrupted by problematic unifying centers; in such disruptions of being we find the primal wound of nonbeing.”

[45] Spock, Marjorie, The Art of Goethian Conversation, 1983, online at:

[46] The Primal Wound, pgs 94-95 “…what makes a relationship empathic is recognizing and respecting the actual. Unique, individuality of the particular human being.”

[47] Marc Clifton, “When the group meets, the techniques described above (equanimity, non-attachment, etc.) are actively engaged.  The image of the group being the periphery (easily imagined when the group forms itself on the circumference of a circle) and the spiritual world being the center from which knowledge emanates is perhaps a good mental picture to hold.  Questions, which enliven the discussion, are not necessarily asked to other members of the group but are asked rather to “the center”, and members respond when thinking, formed out of listening, creates the necessity of speech.  In this way the spiritual world is both an active participant and, through the members of the group, provides the leadership for the conversation – ‘Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you.’ “ online at

[48] Occult Science, pg 55 “The impulse that works most strongly in this direction [etheric mastery] are those of religion…religious emotions impress a kind of unity on all his thinking, feeling, and willing…when man penetrates with thought and feeling to the spiritual sources that underly [art], the impulses of the Ego thus receives do in effect reach the etheric body.”

[49] The Primal Wound, pg 53 “…human I-amness…has a field of awareness through which different contents may pass.  Sensations, feelings, thoughts, images, impulses, or intuitions all come and go in this field at varying distance from ‘I’…’I’ is able to know itself as distinct but not separate from these contents.”

[50] Occult Science, pg 52

[51] The Primal Wound, pg 54

[52] Ibid., Pg 54 “In such disidentification (Assagioli), we realize we are distinct from—and thus in relationship to—any particular content of experience.”

[53] Occult Science, pg 51 “’I’ is a word needed to express what he experiences in relation to the other world.”


[55] The Primal Wound, pg 57 “Whatever the scale of change involved in the disidentification experience, disidentification allows a richer and more flexible experience of oneself.  The transcendent nature of ‘I’ allows the immanence of ‘I’—the inclusion of an ever-widening range of human experience.”

[56] Ibid., pg 54, “It is as if we see the world only through the lens of the particular identification, and so our actions become limited and controlled by that particular world view.”

[57] Ibid., pg 92 when speaking of meeting a child’s fundamental needs: “the threatened annihilation of the true self causes the formation of a defensive false self.”

[58] Ibid., pg 59 “Disidentification marks the liberation from this unconsciousness, a breaking of the trance, a waking up of ‘I.’ “

[59] Primal Wound, pg 63 “…one seems to become different people or different selves in response to different situations…these are what Ram Dass called the ‘many constellations of thought, each composing an identity,’ which take over as they are triggered by changing life circumstances…Kohut recognized this inner multiplicity as well: ‘We see these various selves fighting or ascendancy, one blocking out the other, forming compromises with each other, and acting inconsistently with each other at the same time’ (Kohut, 1985, 33)”


D-Tier Development

Coining a buzzword (if it hasn’t been coined already), n-tier development is in the past.  D-Tier development is where we’re moving to.  The “D” can mean either “distributed” or, more in line with what I’m thinking, the ‘d’ in the word “multidimensional”, or simply “Dimensional.”

Why?  Because in an n-tier system, we still think of it fairly linearly: back-end, middle tier, and client-side, as one example.  OK, each tier may be implemented on a physically separate system, but doesn’t need to be.

A D-Tier implementation consists of autonomous entities distributed across a variety of physical and virtual platforms and interconnected in multidimensional ways.

Another aspect of D-Tier development is the highly “dynamic” nature of a distributed, autonomous entity architecture.  Entities can come and go, providing a continually changing environment of behavior that is tailored to the user’s needs.

  • Distrubuted
  • Dimensional
  • Dynamic

Start rethinking your application development in the D-Tier paradigm.

Generosity Communities: Core Questions

I’ve been working with some folks on the concepts of and around generosity communities. When I explore this concept, I discover that there are some fundamental questions about the premise for a generosity community that I think need to be looked at.  This is the working list of questions that I’ve come up with so far that I believe are important for each participant of any community, not just a generosity community, to explore by themselves and in community groups:


  1. What do I value about the other person?  What do I value about myself?
  2. When do I “invest” in the other person?  When do I invest in myself?
  3. Does the other person feel valued?  Do I feel valued?
  4. What prevents me from valuing myself and others?


  1. What are the explicit relationships of authority between us?
  2. What are the implicit relationships of authority between us resulting from our life experiences (parenting, prior relationships, social mores, etc.)?
  3. How do these relationships of authority influence how we express our needs and hear the needs of others?


  1. In what ways do I feel wealthy?
  2. In what ways do I feel impoverished?


  1. When do I feel out of balance with each other people?
  2. How do I address that imbalance currently?
  3. How would I, in the future, like to address imbalance?


  1. Do I feel “in healthy movement” with the community?
  2. Do I feel “the illness of being stuck” with the community?
  3. Where am I, and what is needed?
  4. How do I get out of the way of myself?

Body / Soul / Spirit

  1. Body: What is the physical expression of my community?  For example, meeting places, places where people live, the neighborhood, etc.
  2. Soul: What are the qualities of my community?  For example, what are the members passionate about and how is this expressed in the “interests” of the community?  What does community value and what does it disdain?
  3. Spirit: How do I describe the identity of the community?  What is its mission statement, its “folk soul”?  (From the psychology dictionary: “a group’s perpetual and fundamental features, morals, norms and values that can’t be explained solely in terms of characteristics of each member.”)


How can I articulate a spiritually-based value system in such a way that it is capable of entering into a dialog with other conventional value-based systems?  This is an important question for “interfacing” something like a generosity community with, for example, monetary-valuation systems (banks, businesses, the stock market, Wall Street, etc.)

Other Thoughts

We can replace the words “person”, “people”, “community” with other concepts: “partner”, “business”, “co-worker”, “boss”, “child”, and so forth.  These questions are not limited to our relationship with a generosity community but are valuable whenever we are in relationship with something or someone else.

Also, we have many relationships with people and entities (work place, church, charity, grocery store, etc) based on the context of our needs.  What is still a question for me, when I look at the trends of generosity communities, Local Investment Opportunity Networks, income pooling, and crowdfunding, is that these all express the need to fill a void that people are experiencing.  I am still unclear on what exactly that void is that isn’t being filled by our current social structures and how to clearly articulate that void in an objective and concise way.  That will be the topic of further investigation and discussion.

Marjorie Spock’s The Art of Goethean Conversation

Marjorie Spock (1904-2008) wrote a short essay on The Art of Goethean Conversation which has been of interest to me since I first heard of the concept almost 20 years ago.  Subsequently, I have been noticing on the Internet various commentary on her essay, most of which, quite frankly, seems quite far off the mark from her original essay.  As I have been wanting to develop an understanding of this concept further in myself, it seemed appropriate to revisit the subject, and starting with her text, define and identify the characteristics of this “art.”

The Value of Conversation

The essay begins with a quote from Goethe’s The Green Snake and The Beautiful Lily, in which the serpent declares that light is more glorious than gold and conversation more quickening than light.


Here the stage is set for the value of conversation – it is more life giving than light, taking the word “quickening” to mean “enlivening,” as in the expression “the quick and the dead.”  Light is indisputably life giving, yet conversation is more quickening, leading to the idea that while light is life giving to the body, conversation goes deeper, giving life to the soul.  Thus we arrive at the very premise of the concept of Goethean conversation: conversation enlivens the soul.

The State of Conversation Today

Unfortunately, we do not often speak in soul enlivening ways – our “conversation” has devolved into, as Spock writes “casual exchange, to the most idle, inconsequential chit-chat.”  Spock contends that in the “salons of earlier centuries” conversation was much different.  It was:

  • disciplined
  • built around a common purpose
  • mutually enriching

whereas today our conversations are chaotic, irrelevant, and depleting.


What images come up when we imagine “salons of earlier centuries?”  A salon “is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”1  Invented in Italy in the 16th century and so called for the large reception hall of Italian mansions, salons flourished in France in the 17th and 18th centuries and was a place for exchanging ideas and integral to the process of Enlightenment.  Women played an important (though debated) role in salons, seen either as the creating salons or facilitating the ideas and debates generally associated with the Enlightenment.1

Regardless of the debate historians have, it is clearly connected to the Enlightenment, which was a “cultural movement of intellectuals…[whose] purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method.  It promoted science, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and some abuses by church and state.”4

We can imagine a disciplined discourse around specific themes, bringing new understanding to the participants.  However, being associated with the Enlightenment and its emphasis on scientific method and opposition to “superstition,” it would appear that the conversations occurring in salons were moving away from a spiritual world concept and towards a scientific world concept.

Intellectual vs. Spiritual Conversation

Still, Goethean conversations are not the same as the conversations in the salons of  previous times, which were “displays of intellectual fireworks.”  Rather, Goethean conversations “call forth a fullness of spiritual life.”  An important premise to the concept of Goethean conversation is:

  • one must have a belief in “the spiritual.”

If we have this belief, we can proceed with the basic tenets of Goethean conversation:

  • “A thinker uses all himself as a tool of knowledge, where … he takes part as a creative spirit in the ongoing creative process of the cosmos.”
  • “A true Goethean conversation takes place across the threshold, in the etheric world, where thoughts are intuitions.”

Spock contrasts this spiritually enlivened conversation with that of “lesser forms of exchange”, having the characteristics of:

  • mentalizing (intellectualizing)
  • speculation or opinions
  • arguing
  • recounting experiences or reporting

and while these conversations can be disciplined, they are also often simply “mindless associative rambling.”  While these are often necessary forms of conversation, they are none-the-less devoid of spiritual content.


This leads to the following observations:

  • Rather than knowledge being a tool for my thinking, I am instead a thinking tool for knowledge.
  • My thinking is part of an ongoing creative process.

These two observations change my relationship to the process of conversation – rather than conversation being an egoistic process of talking about myself or trying to convince someone else of my way of thinking, conversation instead becomes the process of receiving knowledge as part of a creative process.  This shifts my self-view from that of being the center and everyone else being the periphery to instead viewing myself and everyone else as the periphery and the “cosmos”, if you will, as being the center, from which conversation emanates.  This change in perception helps take me from (at best) an intellectual discourse to a spiritual discourse.

As Rudolf Steiner writes regarding intuition in the Philosophy of Freedom: “In contrast to the content of percept which is given to us from without, the content of thinking appears inwardly. The form in which this first makes its appearance we will call intuition. Intuition is for thinking what observation is for percept. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge. An observed object of the world remains unintelligible to us until we have within ourselves the corresponding intuition which adds that part of reality which is lacking in the percept.” (Chapter 5)

Goethean conversation is intimately connected with thinking – and as such is related to the process of associating percepts with concepts (intuition.)  “The moment a percept appears in my field of observation, thinking also becomes active through me. An element of my thought system, a definite intuition, a concept, connects itself with the percept.” (Chapter 6)  But this is a process that takes place, not in the “physical world” of things, but in the etheric world, the world of forces animating the things in the “physical world” with life.  Here we see again how Goethean conversation is
intimately connected with life itself–“more quickening than light.”

Conversation Requires Listening and Openness

Conversely, “living thought” is the concept of focusing on a theme and developing one’s “mood of supernaturally attentive listening” in order to develop the skills of intuitive perception – taking our percepts and developing concepts from them in such a way that our thoughts are a part of a universal process and we ourselves are “a tool of knowledge.”


This requires an inner poise of listening, not just to others but also to ourselves, our thinking process, and most importantly our impressions from the spiritual world.  It also requires a receptivity, an openness “to the life of thought.”  Thought,
being the precursor of Goethean conversation, is a process that has life (dinstinct from the physical processes of life), and as such is entwined with the spiritual.  It is at
this point that conversation is transformed into a communion or fellowship.

Techniques of Goethean Conversation

How do we go about having this spiritually enlivened form of conversation?  Here Spock provides some guidelines:

  1. We must be aware that the spiritual world wishes to be known and will respond to our reverent interest.
  2. Preparation is necessary – our initial thoughts, like children, must be nurtured and raised into maturity by further thinking.  The theme of a meeting is set in advance and the participants meditate on that theme.
  3. A willingness to sacrifice previous thinking to allow new thoughts to enter.  “Invite the spirit by becoming spiritually active, and then hold yourself open to its visitation.”
  4. Learn to live comfortably with outer quiet.
  5. Develop “inner quiet” to cultivate intuition.
  6. Treat silence equal with speaking:  learn to distinguish the formed thought from the unformed thought so that the necessity of speaking becomes evident and only then breaks the silence.
  7. Sacrifice the personal in order to allow the conversation to “find its way to necessity.”


The recurring themes in these techniques are:

  • equanimity
  • non-attachment
  • open
  • ego-less
  • inner quietness

all of which point to the necessity of meditation in one’s life.

Preparation however is also key – this is an opportunity to individually delve deeply into the theme of the meeting by exploring our individual thoughts on the matter.  Personally, I do not exclude research to develop a deeper understanding of a topic – especially when the issues are complex,  I find it helpful to understand the concepts, terminology, history, and thoughts of others.  However, one cannot become attached to a particular way of thinking – in fact, Spock recommends that we sacrifice our previous thinking in order to let new ideas come to life.


Spock describes several practices that we can work with to deepen the techniques of conversation:

  1. Meditation as described in Anthroposphy.
  2. The repeated study of the Philosophy of Freedom.
  3. Reading fairy tales and great poetry.


These all aim at developing our spiritual life, enliven our thinking and develop our skills of intuitive thinking.  These practices help to develop and refine the techniques described earlier.

The Group

Spock describes attributes of the members of the group when coming together for conversation:

  1. There is no leader – the leadership comes from the spiritual world
  2. Members are active and responsible (I would imagine this refers to the practices described above.)
  3. Bring the theme, yet suppress the thoughts one has had regarding the theme, and prepare to receive fresh insight.
  4. Listen to other members in the group as one listens to the spiritual world – “evocatively, with reverence, refraining from any trace of reaction, making one’s own soul a seedbed for others’ germinal ideas.”
  5. Be discriminating and objective rather than succumbing to sympathies and antipathies with regards to what is being said.
  6. Listen, as this generates interest and quickens (brings life) to the thoughts of the group.
  7. Ask questions – “burning questions that have been harbored in the souls of the participants”


When the group meets, the techniques described above (equanimity, non-attachment, etc.) are actively engaged.  The image of the group being the periphery (easily imagined when the group forms itself on the circumference of a circle) and the spiritual world being the center from which knowledge emanates is perhaps a good mental picture to hold.  Questions, which enliven the discussion, are not necessarily asked to other members of the group but are asked rather to “the center”, and members respond when thinking, formed out of listening, creates the necessity of speech.  In this way the spiritual world is both an active participant and, through the members of the group, provides the leadership for the conversation – “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you.”  Here we see the concept of the salon enlivened by integrating and including the spiritual world into the conversation.

The Framework of Meetings

Spock describes the framework in which to have meetings:

  1. Set an exact beginning and ending time for each meeting.
  2. Arrive ahead of time to prepare the proper mood.
  3. Begin the meeting by rising and speaking in unison a line (or several) with a spiritually oriented content.  Close the meeting the same way.
  4. There is a difference between discussion and conversation.  In conversation, side discussions do not occur.  Conversation occurs without side discussions or other interruptions and creates a sense of unity in the group.


Adhering to a strict form and respecting the meeting’s timeframe provides a physical structure that all members of the group can rely on and avoids the confusion and emotions that occur when people arrive late or talk amongst themselves.  Beginning and ending the meeting with a spiritually oriented reading is creates an in-breath at the beginning of the meeting, bringing focus, and an out-breath at the end of the meeting, a concluding release.

Concluding Thoughts

In The Speech of the Grail, Linda Sussman writes:

“…the initiate-speaker has to leap in two directions, and both leaps are a kind of listening.  The speaker, like language, stands at the intersection of the manifest and unmanifest worlds, whether ‘unmanifest’ refers to the unconscious, the spiritual domain or just to the unknown.  If preconceptions, assumptions and the tendency to be judgmental have been sufficiently released, the initiate-speaker stands mostly in ‘not-knowing.’   One can then listen into what wants to be said, for which one must leap toward the unmanifest, and into what can or must be said, for which one must leap
toward the manifest, the social context.  Both are difficult leaps, but if accomplished, the speaker allows those two worlds to touch in and through the words.”

This eloquently summarizes the gesture of Goethean conversation: there is a “leap toward the unmanifest” through the act of listening to the spiritual world for what “wants to be said,” followed by a “leap toward the manifest” in which one determines what “must be said” and bringing those words to the social context of the group.  This is the “art” of Goethian conversation, and Marjorie Spock has built a concise guide for the practice, technique, and framework in which to develop this art.

About Marjorie Spock

Marjorie Spock was born Sept. 8, 1904, in New Haven, Connecticut, the second child and first daughter of six children. The Spock family was prominent in New Haven; her father was a corporate lawyer, and her older brother, Dr. Benjamin Spock, became a renowned pediatrician. Marjorie became a student of Anthroposophy as a teenager in Dornach during the 1920s, and became a eurythmist, teacher, biodynamic gardener, and the author and translator of numerous books.  In the 100th year of her life, she produced, directed, and choreographed a video about eurythmy, followed by two short training films when she was 101 and 102 years of age. Marjorie Spock died at her home in Maine, Jan. 23, 2008, at the age of 103. 2

Marjorie Spock was also an environmentalist, author and poet.  In the 1950’s, she was a biodynamic gardener on Long Island, New York, and sued the U.S. government for spraying DDT to control the gypsy moth epidemic.  Her case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1960, which came to the attention of Rachel Carson and was the impetus for Carson’s book, Silent Spring.  While Spock lost the case, the government was required to perform an environmental review and Spock’s action helped lead to the rise of the
environmental movement. 3

1 – Salon:

2 – Marjorie Spock:

3 – Marjorie Spock:

4 – The Enlightenment:

The Three Faces of Anonymity

What lies behind the need for anonymity?  These are some of the ideas that formed out of some recent discussions with my friends.

  • Safety

Anonymity is a way of ensuring that safety of the person, whether from physical harm or emotional / psychological harm, such as embarrassment, judgement, and so forth.

  • Objectivity

Anonymity is a way of separating “the message” from “the messenger.”  We all too often judge the message by the person delivering it.  But the opposite is true as well, the person is judged by his/her message (which leads back to the first point, safety.)  Anonymity separates the two, allowing both message and messenger to remain in a more objective space.

  •  Non-ownership

In its higher-ego sense, anonymity is a way for an idea to not be associated to an individual, which would otherwise lead to perceiving an “ownership” relationship between the idea and the person that came up with the idea.  Instead, anonymity allows the idea to be “owned” by the group.

Anonymity as a Tool

The three concerns described above are entangled, as each of these can lead to violence:

  • A lack of safety leads to physical and psychological hurt
  • A lack of objectivity leads to judgmental thinking
  • A lack of non-ownership leads to egoistic comparisons of strengths and weaknesses among the people in the group

Whether it is flame wars in an online forum or physical violence over issues like abortion,    anonymity is a tool to ultimately avoid an act of violence, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual.

Anonymity as a Crutch

Conversely, anonymity can prevent us from doing the really deeper work of achieving:

  • clarity
  • responsibility
  • accountability
  • deeper understanding

for our thoughts and actions.

The circumstances will determine the necessity and measure of anonymity, as a crutch is, after all, an important tool.

The Question

Ask the question you really want to ask,
The question that leaves you completely vulnerable,
The question whose answer might be too terrifying to hear.
Ask the question that is truly in your heart
Rather than seeking answers that the mind thinks it needs to find,
And in that asking, you will discover your true self
And you will find the person who will answer you.

Rational and Intuitive Thinking

As human beings, we have two amazing gifts – the ability to think rationally and the ability to think intuitively.  When I reflect on these two forms of thought, I come to the conclusion that rational and intuitive thinking are often in a state of conflict and are often misapplied.  I use my rational mind to solve problems that in reality only intuitive thinking can solve, and vice-versa, when rational thinking is better suited for the problem at hand, I often deny what the rational brain is telling me and grope instead for an intuitive solution that, while incorrect, assuages my soul, with the stark result that all I accomplish is “non-thinking.”  What really is the right place for both of these modalities of thought?

I find that rational thinking is most appropriate when a life situation has presented all the facts and there is a clear understanding of the consequences of a word or deed – there is no ambiguity or unknown.  The rational mind can clearly say “if A, then B.”  Because the world has a certain order and predictability, the rational mind can make reasoned decisions founded on the trust of this external order and predictability.   However, when faced with the unknowable, the rational mind refuses to let go–it struggles to “rationalize” an action by seeking more and more information that might help in making a decision based on the facts that it gathers, denying that the consequences of our action is, by definition of the circumstance, truly unknowable.

Intuitive thinking is most appropriate when the consequences of our words and actions are unknown—there is nothing that the rational mind can grasp hold of because the result of our actions is unknowable.  When faced with the unknown consequences of a decision, intuitive thinking must rely on feeling, feelings which are often scary, muddled, and confusing.   While the rational mind can come to a sound conclusion by “gathering the facts”–an external process–the intuitive mind must make an inner journey into the soul, must become vulnerable and open to insights whose conclusions rest on the foundation of an inner sense of trust.

Rational and intuitive thinking are often in conflict—I experience this very clearly in the poker game, where the rational mind can easily calculate whether making a bet, based on my cards, the amount of money in the pot, and the amount of my bet, is statistically, if it were played out a thousand times, a winning bet.  My intuitive thinking often likes to scream “oh, but I know I will be lucky!”  The difference between a gambler and a skilled poker player becomes one where the rational mind prevails, allowing the intuitive mind to have its say only in the broader scope of the entire game, not just the hand.  It becomes a balance—when the rational mind realizes that in order to survive the game, I must “make a move”, it can give the reigns over to the intuitive mind to determine when, against rational odds, to make that move.

We live comfortably in the world of rational thinking because trust is easy – there’s a guaranteed predictability that we can rely on.  Intuitive thinking, so necessary when faced with the unknown consequences of our actions, requires an inner trust, which in my experience we are ill-prepared for.  It seems to me that teaching our children and ourselves how to develop a sense of inner trust has been eroded by a culture that has, over the last 100 years, promoted technological / scientific solutions to almost every problem.  Without that sense of inner trust, we lack faith in ourselves.  Even worse, we place that faith in someone/something else, someone that says “if A then B” and allows the rational mind to take charge when, in reality, that someone or something that says “if A then B” is no more knowing of the consequences than we are.  And so, rather than saying “I don’t know, let’s figure this out intuitively” we, out of our self-distrust, miss opportunities for a deeper understanding.

Inner trust is a hard road, requiring time for contemplation, requiring the development of skills to even know how to contemplate, how to listen to ourselves, our bodies, our feelings and thus becoming open to listening to “something else.”  Becoming trusting of oneself is a process of developing a healthy relationship that balances our inner world with the outer world, and in my belief system, creating a balance, in me, between the physical and spiritual worlds.  This is hard work, it is lifelong work, but in the end, it yields a powerful tool that can appropriately guide the intuitive mind when the rational mind is effectively useless.  The result then becomes balanced thinking – the correct application of rational and intuitive thinking.