"The same as the ArchÃ¦us. A universal and living ethereal element, still more ethereal and highly organized then the A'kasa. The former is universal, the latter only cosmic â€“ viz., pertaining to our solar system. It is at the same time an element and a power, containng the character of all things. It is the storehouse of memory for the great world (the Macrocosm), whose contents may become reimbodied and reincarnated in objective forms; it is the storehouse of memory of the little world (Maya), the microcosm of man, from which he may recollect past events. It exists uniformly throughout the interplanetary spaces, yet it is more dense and more active around certain objects on account of their molecular activity, especially around the brain and spinal cord of human beings, which are surrounded by it as by an aura of light. It is this aura around the nerve cells and nerve tubes by which a man is enabled to catch impressions made upon the astral aura of the cosmos, and thereby to "read in the Astral Light." It forms the medium for the transmission of Thought, and without such a medium no Thought could be transferred to a distance. It may be seen by the Clairvoyant, and as each person has an astral aura of his own, a person's character may be read in his Astral Light by those who are able to see it. In the case of a child who has not yet generated any special characteristics that emanating aura is milk white; but in the adult there is always upon this fundamental color another one, such as blue, green, yellow, red, dark-red, and even black. Every living nerve has its astral aura, every mineral, every plant or animal, and everything of life, and the glorified body of the spirit is made to shine by its light." Franz Hartmann, "The Life of Philippus Theophrastus, Bombast of Hohenheim, Known by the name of Paracelsus and The Substance of His Teachings"
"The Etheric Body or `Life Body' completely permeates the Physical Body and is a kind of architect to the Physical Body, maintaining the form and structure of all the organs by the currents and movements of the Etheric Body, which is, in effect, a differentiated body and like the Physical Body but more complicated, all in living interflow and movement.
All Living things have an Etheric Body.
Sleep â€“ consciousness enables man to be active and creative and strengthens exhausted forces. The Astral Body rouses consciousness from sleep for man to experience pleasure and pain, joy and suffering. The Etheric Body cannot be illumined without consciousness being restored (by the Astral Body) and plants are in a state of perpetual sleep because they are without consciousness. It is through the Astral Body that man gains Knowledge and Awareness.
Ego â€“ the 4th member of man's nature differentiates him from animals. Man has wishes and desires the origins of which need no external cause â€“ he can have/develop wishes and cravings that transcend all experience of the external world which animals cannot have. Animal response is merely cause and effect; they have no memory.
The Astral Body without Ego (or 'I') can never have conscious experience of anything that is of permanence. Without the 'I' preserving the past, the Astral Body could retain no recollection of the past. It is the Awareness of something permanent and lasting in the changing flow of inner experience that the feeling of 'I', of inner self-hood begins to dawn. Forgetting is to the Astral Body what death is to the Physical Body and what sleep is to the Etheric Body.
But memory cannot be derived by mere introspection although introspection does give Awareness of memory. Memory is derived from ones relation/experiences in the external world and forgetting is to the Ego what waking and sleeping is to the Astral Bodyâ€¦. Para.2, pg. 48.
Ex. The Astral Body, through consciousness, allows a man to perceive an object. The Awareness of an object would last no longer than it was actually before one â€“ but for the Ego that receives this Awareness into itself and makes it its own. Here is where the distinction is made between 'Body' and 'Soul'.
Astral Body + Ego gives permanence to Knowledge and together maybe called a single Body â€“ the Astral Body. But more exactly, the Astral Body of man is the 'Soul Body' and the soul of man (in so far as it is united with the Astral Body) is the 'Sentient Soul'.
This activity of the Ego raises itself to a higher stage of being, increasingly liberating itself from external objects of perception to work within its own sphere and property. This activity or part of the soul may be described as, the 'Intellectual Soul or `Mind Soul'. The Sentient and Intellectual Souls work with impressions of sense perceived objects and the memory retained of these impressions thus giving significance to the name 'I'. Pg. 49
The process by which man is able to perceive his own 'I' may be applied to the manifest world for a fuller perception of that world; just as a man of sensual pleasure becomes a high-minded idealist. The first step is to conquer the lower members of the soul using the innermost resources of his Ego. The Ego then becomes master of the soul until no desires or enjoyments can reach the soul without the soul making it possible. In this way the soul may become a revelation of the 'I' - the Spiritual Soul + 'I' become one.
Using the Ego man can gain mastery over his Astral Body (the bearer of pleasure and pain, joy and suffering) which, when mastered, becomes the Spirit-self, at which time the Ego enters into union with its hidden nature.
The forces that effect changes in character or temperament belong to the hidden domain of the Etheric body, which are alike in kind to the forces that govern the Kingdom of life. Pg.55
We experience dreams when the Astral Body is separated from the Physical Body but is still connected to some extent to the Etheric Body. When even this connection is severed, we experience dreamless sleep, in which state senses cease form their activity and the creative faculty begins to stir. "Sleep and Death" Pg. 60
The Etheric Body can only form the Physical Body aright if the Etheric Body receives from the Astral Body the necessary guidance and stimulation. The Astral Body contains the pattern forms or archetypes according to which the Etheric Body gives the physical its appointed shape. In waking life the astral body is only imbued to a limited extent with those archetypes, at which time the soul puts forth its own pictures and images in place (to which the ego may or may not be attracted) The Astral Body fulfils its waking function within the physical body; in sleep it works on the physical body from without. The physical and Etheric Bodies contain the organs whereby the astral body perceives the external world, the perception of which is only possible when the astral body is detached from its own world. Yet from its own world alone can it derive the archetypal patterns that it needs for the Etheric Body. (underline added)
Man, in his true being belongs to the great universe, which the astral body returns to in harmony during sleep. As physical food is to the physical body, so do pictures of the Astral Body's environment come to it during sleep.
The Astral Body belongs to worlds wherein other heavenly bodies are contained besides the Earth.
The following is an extract (Occult Science - An Outline) (chapter VII page 323 â€“ 325), Rudolf Steiner
The Observation of Particular Events and Beings
"It may be asked whether by meditation, contemplation and kindred methods of attaining supersensible cognition described in this book, we arrive only at the general realities â€“ say, of the life between death and rebirth, and other spiritual facts â€“ or whether we are also able to perceive particular events and beings, for example an individual human soul after death. The answer is that one who has acquired the ability to see into the spiritual world also becomes able to perceive in detail what is going on there. He does indeed become capable of communication with individuals living in the spiritual world between death and new birth. But in accordance with true spiritual science it can only be done after a regular and proper training has been undergone for this alone makes it possible to distinguish truth from illusion as to the several beings and events. Those who would claim to recognise the spiritual details without having undergone a proper training are liable to countless illusions. Even the most elementary requirement, namely the true interpretation of the impressions one receives, presupposes spiritual training â€“ training the more advanced where the impressions relate to detailed facts.
Thus the same training, which enables one to see the facts of higher worlds described in this work on Occult Science, also enables one to perceive an individual human soul during his life after death or severally to observe and understand the diverse spiritual beings who influence the manifest from hidden worlds. Yet the reliable observation of the particular is only possible against the background of a more universal Knowledge â€“ namely a spiritual Knowledge of the Universe and Man, facts which relate to all mankind in common. Craving the former without the latter, one will go astray. In observation of the spiritual world it is an unavoidable experience. Into the very regions for which a man is most apt to long, entry is only granted when he has gone along the stern and exacting path of Knowledge, where interest is focused upon universal questions and he gains insight into the deeper meanings of life.
When he has walked along these paths in the sincere and unselfish quest of Knowledge, then and only then is a man fit to observe the details the premature exploration of which would but have satisfied in him a hidden egoism. For in the longing to see into the spiritual world it is only too easy to persuade oneself that one is actuated by pure love â€“ such as the love of an individual friend who has died. Unalloyed insight into the single facts and beings is only possible for those whose sincere interest in the universal truths of spiritual science enables them to receive the detailed revelations too in a scientific spirit and without selfish longing." Rudolf Steiner