From the Physical Body to the Functional Body –
from the Functional Body to the I
By Orna Ben Dor
This essay examines the establishment of a body, which I name “Functional Body” that is actually an “expanded physical-etheric body”. I will discuss the justification for its existence, its ethics, the procedures it enables to promote, its relationship with the individual biography and, finally, the reasons for its dissolution.
If we observe the individual physical body of a human being we shall see that it is an organism in itself. The human physical body is composed of limbs and various components, that act as a single entity for the benefit of the whole, in that each part and limb carries out its designated and specialized role.
The physical body is mainly created during the first seven-year cycle, after which it grows and reaches its peak (age 33), and then starts to decline and decay until it finally dies.
During the course of a person’s lifetime, additional, non-physical bodies are created, that serve as “organisms” in their own right.
Similar Functional Bodies can be found in nature, in beehives and ants communities. A beehive serves as a good example of a “body” comprised of living beings (the bees) that repeatedly fulfill their specific roles in order to serve the larger organism (super-organism). Much like white blood cells in the human body. The single bee does not possess an instinct for self-preservation. Each individual bee will ‘sacrifice’ itself should it be required to do so, in order to save the beehive.
Man-made examples of Functional Bodies are – family, autonomous and autarkic bodies such as a Kibbutz, a community, a state, an army or a workplace – and any closed structure that is self-sustained and defines itself as a “Body”. In all these groups, the individual is part of a bigger structure and often might be required to sacrifice himself, symbolically or physically (e.g. army service) for the benefit of the larger organism. When the ‘body limbs’ (humans) deviate dramatically from the needs and norms of that body, it might reject, banish, or even exterminate them. For example, some families deny their children, in cases of religious disputes, homosexuality, religion conversion and others. In extreme cases, these excommunicated members are even killed, as in cases of ‘family-honor killings’.
The characteristics of a Functional Body are:
The functional body, like the physical body, has specific features:
- Hierarchical division of tasks (often composed of a ‘head’ and ‘laborers’).
- Repetitive pre-determined system, that operates unconsciously
- Lack of interest in individual needs
- Insensitivity to the individuality of the different “parts”, unless they serve the collective interest.
- Mechanical body that strives to repeat eternally.
The Importance and Necessity of Functional Bodies
In his book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (2), Jared Diamond presents a broad and comprehensive picture of human cultures’ development through 15 thousand years of history. The fundamental question he raised was: what is the reason for the vast gaps between the development of different human cultures?
The answer he puts forward is that the gap was originally created at the transition from a society of nomadic hunters-gatherers to rooted agrarian societies, in specific societies (mainly due to geographical conditions) that forced them to create a sort of social body (functional body) that enabled survival and a higher standard of living.
Heading such social bodies were the political elite, ruling class (kings) and supporting bureaucracies (that collected tax), who employed craftsmen that specialized in different skills – eventually leading to the formation of entire cities, nations, and empires.
The surplus food accumulated by tax could in turn support professional soldiers. The ability of such complex political units to embark on military operations from the stationary community was by far greater than the ability of a hunters group to do so. Hence, eventually the societies that formed functional bodies overcame the hunters-gatherers societies.
“That was the decisive factor in the British Empire’s eventual defeat of New Zealand’s well-armed indigenous Maori population. While the Maori achieved some stunning temporary victories, they could not maintain an army constantly in the field and were in the end worn down by 18,000 full-time British troops. Stored food can also feed priests, who provide religious justification for wars of conquest; artisans such as metalworkers, who develop swords, guns and other technologies; and scribes, who preserve far more information than can be remembered accurately.” (2)
This example describes the manner in which a Functional Body enables the execution of tasks, promotion of processes and goal achievements. History provides many additional examples of processes in which various social forms (socialism, communism, kibbutz) act as a Functional Body in order to promote different ideas.
The Destruction of the Functional Body
In the life cycle of a Functional Body two contradictory processes should be pointed out:
- Entrance into increasing unawareness, fixation and somatization (soma=body) in which the Functional Body becomes more and more fixated, rigid and stagnant, with decreasing consciousness.
- Destruction of the Functional Body.
A Functional Body uses individual people as if they were limbs of a larger organic body and in that sense, it is an immoral body, even though its existence is obligatory! The destruction of the functional body is brought about by people who served for a while as limbs in that body and as time went by, in what appeared to have been sudden, begun to oppose and resist it.
The process of destroying the physical-etheric body could also be found in the individual body of a person. The role of the destructive process always concerns the emergence of consciousness.
In his book “Leading Thoughts” (Thought #11), as well as in other instances, Steiner indicates the fact that the astral body (body-soul) and the I, and even the etheric body itself, destroy the physical-etheric bodies, in order to allow consciousness to emerge.
“The Self-consciousness which is summed up in the ‘ I ’ or ‘Ego’ emerges out of the sea of consciousness. Consciousness arises when the forces of the physical and etheric bodies disintegrate these bodies, and thus make way for the Spiritual to enter into man. For through this disintegration is provided the ground on which the life of consciousness can develop”.(1)
Consciousness and self-awareness are always gained at the cost of life (the etheric basis). A baby is full of life but completely lacks consciousness, while an adult gradually becomes more and more conscious, as his life forces dwindle.
There are two kinds of consciousness:
- Astral consciousness (pain)
- The I consciousness (the awakening of conscience)
A functional body falls apart due to two possible reasons:
- The body fulfilled its mission
- The ‘body’s limbs’ awaken, refuse to continue serving the body and start acting as individuals
Unlike ants and bees that carry out their role in the functional body instinctively, human beings are free entities, with a freedom of choice. At a certain stage, a person may revolt against the functional body and his enslavement to it.
This awakening serves as a threat to the functional body and its leaders and they experience it as evil and ungratefulness. A conflict is then created between the head of the body, that strives to preserve it and the ‘limbs’ that wish to take it apart or change it.
All social revolutions involve a struggle between the existing regime that wishes to preserve and maintain the current political status and its subordinates who strive for change. Any change involves a crisis.
It should be noted that not always a functional body reaches its end. There are cases in which the ‘limbs’, in spite of being unsatisfied from their status and even though they are aware of the enslavement, choose to preserve the functional body – either due to fear, or comfort. Under such circumstances, no crisis will occur. However, neither will any development be possible.
When a functional body falls apart, its head will fall too. Heads of functional bodies enjoy status, money, rule, honor and other benefits. Following the fall, the head of the Functional Body will experience suffering and pain.
An example for a Functional Body in which the ruling king refused to take it apart is ancient Egypt, at the time when the Israelites were slaves there.
Even though the glorious days of Egypt were over, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, refused to release the Israelites who for many years served the Functional Body under his rule.
His downfall was painful and resulted in a great defeat and drowning of his army in the waters of the Red Sea.
The disintegration of the Functional Body is necessary for the development of the I of the body’s ‘limbs’, but also of the people heading the body, as a Functional Body by definition is immoral! Hence, the ones heading it must be held accountable and pay for having used people as selfless tools.
Each time a Functional Body falls apart, negative energies are released that infiltrate into the soul and the vital and sensitive organs of the physical body of the person heading it, thus causing him great pain.
Karma-wise that is justified. The characteristic immorality of the Functional Body requires rectification. The willingness of a person to take upon himself the mental suffering that was caused by him is the actual rectification.
When a person refuses to do so and prefers to blame others for their suffering, the suffering will be manifested as physical suffering, in the form of an accident or disease. Since the person heading the Functional Body does not want to serve it, now, once the disease has erupted, he will have to serve another sort of body – this time, his own. That is actually the ‘last stop’ before death in which he may still rectify. All the etheric energies and the bliss that is linked to them, that served the functional body and its head, will now be of service to his physical body.
Biographical Example – ‘the Head of the Tribe’:
Alon was the oldest and ‘accomplished’ son in a family of 5 brothers. Alon’s father was a dominant and tough person, with patriarchal concepts. The whole family operated as a united tribe; with the father leading as the ‘head’ and the mother and brothers as the ‘limbs’. Among the siblings, Alon was considered the ‘good, moral and wise’ brother, looked upon in admiration by all, while another sibling was regarded as the ‘bad, rebellious’ boy. The latter was banished from the family for many years. Even when Alon and his siblings grew up and raised families of their own, the tribal formation was maintained. As years went by, the father grew old, got ill and then passed away. Naturally, when that happened, Alon took over as the new head of the tribe and so the ‘functional body’ continued to exist for a few more years, with Alon as the unshaken authority for his mother and siblings. Unconsciously, he continued to maintain the unity of the body at all costs and managed to avoid its disintegration. After the age of 49, as part of his brave spiritual development, Alon gradually discovered the immoral aspects of his behavior. He recognized the fact that for many years he enjoyed the unique position of the ‘all-knowing’, ‘the good’, having the authority to make decisions for all the other family members. He especially became aware of the injustice inflicted on his younger brother, the only one who was courageous enough to oppose the rules of the Functional-Body, even though he had to bear dire consequences, among which – being physically beaten up by his father, humiliation and isolation. Alon realized how the fact that he took on the role as the ‘head of the functional body’ limited and delayed not only the development of other family members, but also his own. He was ‘captivated’ by the role he took upon himself.
In the process of freeing himself from old patterns, Alon agreed to suffer – he deliberately released his control over family events, allowing family members not to attend, unlike what he had done before. Furthermore, he refrained from taking decisions for his mother and brothers, and enabled other family members to take on a more active role, even when not everything was carried out according to his expectations. This was not an easy process for him, but it enabled him and his family to establish a new relationship based on individuals with a separate I.
In Conclusion –
In order to achieve goals and drive history forward, Functional Bodies must first be established and then perish. However, unlike a bee-hive or ant-mount in nature, they are innately immoral. Their immorality stems from their functional regard to people, instead of as free beings with an I.
Following the conclusion of their role, Functional Bodies must fall apart. At that stage astral awareness (pain) appears, as well as the I-Awareness (the realization of the pain inflicted onto others).
The consciousness stage enables further development, and is karmically correct, even if it involves pain and suffering.
- * This essay was inspired by a workshop presented by my spiritual teacher, Tzvi Briger, a spiritual science researcher. The material provided in the workshop was edited and written by me.
 Rudolf Steiner, Leading Thoughts – Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007, Page 18.
 Jared Diamond , “Guns, Germs, and Steel “– the fates of human societies. pp 91. (1998) WW Norton & Co. Edition.