Photo of Rudolf Steiner as a young manThe early twentieth century philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner conceived of a theory of human development based upon seven year cycles, and linked those cycles to astrology.  The first seven years of life (0-7 years old) were associated with the Moon. During this time, the psychic forces are working to transform the body of the child from one that was inherited from the parents, to one that represents the full personality of the child.  The second seven years (7-14 years old) is associated with Mercury. At this time, the child’s imagination and feeling life takes center stage.  The third seven years (14-21 years old) is associated with Venus, during which time the higher mind of the adolescent takes root, and the psychic development can be disturbed by the strong impulses of puberty.  The next three seven-year segments are associated with the Sun (21-42 years old), and the elements of sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul.  The next seven-year segment is associated with Mars (42-49 years old), when the soul works hard to impress the full forces of its personality upon the world.  At this time, the soul has the opportunity to a higher state of consciousness called Spirit Self. The following seven-year segment is associated with Jupiter (49-56 years old), when wisdom is dawning and the ego needs to unfold the Life Spirit. The final seven-year period is associated with Saturn (56-63 years old) when Saturn completes its second “return” (e.g. comes back to its position it had at one’s birth), and the soul can manifest an event higher element of Self called Spirit Man.  For more information, see Steiner’s Karmic Relationships Vol. VII, lecture two.

For more about the stages of life in different cultures and traditions, see my book The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life (Ixia Press, 2019)

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17 Responses
  1. Lucian Davis

    Could you elaborate on specific developments between years 21-28 and the significance of the Saturn return?

    Thank you,

  2. For a good look at a Steiner-inspired approach to the human life cycle, see the book Phases by Bernhard Lievegoed. For a look at the Saturn cycle, see Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil by Liz Greene. These books should be able to answer your questions.

  3. I’d been struggling for a while to make sense of the correspondences for Mercury and Venus. Robert Powell points out in his book, Cultivating Inner Radiance and the Body of Immortality(p155), that Rudolf Steiner sometimes spoke of Mercury and Venus in the way that they were referred to in the Egyptian mysteries, which also follows the stages outlined in Occult Science and from which our names for the days of the week are derived. In this way of thinking, Mercury is interchanged for Venus and Venus for Mercury. Venus is here the future stage that will come after Jupiter. Powell shares that Steiner spoke of these planets from this perspective, between 1908 and 1913 and again in the Karma lectures. Therefore, if we are thinking of the planets astrologically (and not anthroposophically), we need to associate the 7-14 year stage not with Mercury, but with Venus, and vice versa. This makes sense to me, because Venus is associated with beauty and art, compassion and love, which is the focus in the Waldorf curriculum during those years, whereas the mercurial and thinking nature of Mercury becomes obvious during the teenage years. Not saying that this is wrong, it is just important to keep in mind whether we are thinking astrologically (and in the physical order of planets in the solar system), which most people will do, or anthroposophically, which fewer people will do.

  4. Thanks, yes this does make sense – Mercury is associated with the mind and Venus with the heart, so the teen years (as the head) and Venus (as the heart) seem to be associated with the corresponding levels of the Waldorf classroom. Thanks for your contribution!

  5. […] Philosopher, Rudolf Steiner conceived what is now known as the “stages of life theory” which suggests that our cells and mind change every 7 years. While scientists are conflicted as to the validity of the 7-year claim, there is no denying that cells die off constantly, experiences change our view, and if we are living a life that is in any way interesting and productive, we will be growing and occasionally have the urge to move forward. […]

  6. […] mystic conceived of a theory of human development based upon seven year cycles. According to the American Institute for Learning and Human Development and Tom Monte, Steiner believed that the stage I am leaving was a type of pruning stage. (35-42). […]

  7. Donna

    How do you overlay Steiner’s 7 year cycle with the Chinese Daoist perspective where girls have a 7 year cycle and boys and 8 year cycle?

  8. We always run into difficulties when we try to correlate life span models with each other. I think it’s best to work within individual models to see their applicability to real life, rather than trying to abstract a meta-model of two or more.

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