“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus
There is no arguing that change is a constant in the world today. Close your eyes for but a moment, and you may find that the entire world has changed around you. It’s not only the world around us that is always shifting and evolving, as we, too, grow through our life experiences. It is this concept of change that fascinated the early twentieth-century philosopher Rudolf Steiner, inspiriting his best-known work – a theory of human development that was based on seven-year cycles, associated with astrology.
Believing that there is a clear link between science and spirituality, Steiner’s work, which he referred to as ‘Spiritual Science,’ effectively combined both schools of thought into one overall way of thinking. While some argued that his work could be classified as a form of ‘mysticism,’ Steiner argued that his approach was different as It was far more specific and defined.
Steiner’s theories in relation to development and human life stages provide an interesting insight for doctors, teachers, and psychiatrists to evaluate the way in which it evolved throughout our lives, and how this evolution impacts who we are at each stage of our lives. These changes may be brought on by internal struggle, outside stimuli or even energies that, in many cases, defy explanation for the average individual.
Interested in better understanding Steiner’s work? Here is a break down of the life stages in the seven-year cycle:
Arguably the most important and influential of the life stages, the first seven years of a child’s life builds the foundation upon which every other stage will build. Associated with the moon, this is the time in which a child establishes their beliefs, values, and morals that will carry them through life. This includes the large influential powers of culture and religion and continues through to the more individual influences of one’s parents or guardians. As children begin to learn the most basic of skills, including language, problem-solving, and rational thinking, they will also begin to determine their behavioral responses and individual thought processes. It is important to note that anything a child encounters during this time may work to influence their later life.
Building upon the foundation laid out in the first 7 years, a child now continues their growth and development through this stage, working towards adulthood. Associated with the planet Mercury, the second stage is the time in which a child truly begins to understand their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, including how to express them. With a better understanding of their own mind and inner personality, the child will now start to explore the outside world, and the way that they fit into the bigger picture. They begin to learn how to better interact with one another, as well as starting to realize that each of us has our own purpose and intention in life.
The third stage, spanning ages 14-21 is associated with Venus. It is during this time that an individual begins to develop a new self-awareness, exploring the emotional and sexual areas of their lives. They will begin to recognize new feelings and thoughts, opening the door to emotional responses that they have never before experienced. Furthermore, it is during this time that they begin to recognize their sexual desires, expanding their understanding of human relationships and the way in which we interact with one another. All of this, combined with the physical changes that occur moving from preteen to adult life, creates a highly emotional and challenging period of time. This often leads to questioning one’s beliefs, especially those relating to religion.
A time of re-evaluation and refinement, it is during this stage that the individual begins to truly understand who they are. As the individual starts to establish their career, finds lasting adult relationships and starts to experience life-changing events such as marriage and start their own family, their personality and identity slowly become more concrete. As they start to understand their own emotions, they also find their eyes are opened to the struggles of those around them, creating stronger feelings of compassion and empathy in those who are willing to listen to their own heart.
While the changes during this stage are subtle, they are an important step in the direction of truly understanding and embracing ourselves and all that we have to offer. It is during this stage of our life that we begin to tap into our inner creativity, providing us with improved problem-solving skills and a new outlook on the life that we are living. If one has held onto their religious convictions up to this stage, they will suddenly find themselves experiencing revelations, rediscovering truths and interpretations of their fundamental beliefs.
Having experienced incredible personal growth and discovery up to this stage in their life, the individual now finds themselves drawn to share this knowledge with anyone that they can assist around them. For some, this desire may run so deep that they suddenly undertake complete changes to their career choices, seeking one that is better suited for the teaching and sharing of knowledge. For others, taking on a volunteer position, or reaching out to a child or two that is already in their lives may allow them to fill this void.
Associated with the planet Mars, this is often the stage that we see people experiencing a ‘midlife crisis.’ This is due to the fact that this stage is characterized by self-reflection and assessment. Looking back on the life that they have lived up to this point the individual will often find themselves intrigued by a new direction or journey in life. This may result in career changes, new directions in life or even a change of life partner. They will develop a newfound respect for the importance of relationships in their life. Embracing who they fundamentally are, many will find themselves seeking new ways to express this personality ‘before it’s too late.’
As one starts to experience a decline in their physical abilities, their mental self is sharpened, reaching peak performance. The individual will take the time, at this stage, to look back at their life thus far, taking an inventory of all they have learned and achieved, and where this has taken them in life. This level of self-reflection can be incredibly challenging, leading to depression, anxiety, and moodiness, however, if they are able to work through these emotions, they will discover a new purpose in life.
Firmly settling into the second half of their life, it is at this stage that the individual will begin to accept and learn to love who they genuinely are. If, up to this point, the individual has been living with a barrier in place, hiding their vulnerable self from the rest of the world, it is during this time that they begin to explore the idea of allowing this to drop, exposing their true thoughts and emotions with the rest of the world in each situation. For those that are in a relationship, this stage of life will tighten that bond immensely.
As the individual learns to better understand themselves, and all the pieces of their personality that adds up to this incredible whole, they can apply this open mind and understanding to the other people in their lives. This will empower them to better accept any differences, seeking to understanding new ways of thinking and share in new experiences. As society begins to step back, lowering their expectations, the individual is now free to explore what they ‘want’ as opposed to what they ‘should’ do in this life. This is incredibly empowering, allowing them to discover new joys in this life.
Armed with a new appreciation for the subtleties in life, the individual has now almost stepped free entirely from society’s expectations. This frees them focus solely on their own priorities. For some, this will be a time to re-evaluate their relationships, loving deeper and more sincerely than ever before. For others, they will find themselves drawn to hobbies that have always intrigued them, or always held a place of importance in their lives. Their sense of self-acceptance will grow immensely during this time, gaining strength and traction. Never before have the felt as though they better ‘understood’ who they fundamentally are.
77-84 Years (and beyond)
Taking the lessons that they have learned throughout the course of their life, the individual will take steps to remove all negativity from their lives, focusing their eyes solely on the thing that bring them joy and happiness. They will find that life’s mysteries, which have plagued them throughout the course of their lives, are suddenly made clear. Desiring to leave a legacy behind for generations to come, they will begin to dedicate the time and energy required to make this a reality.