Eighteen year rhythm
Man as a microcosmos is one with the macrocosmos and relates to the latter in various ways through a series of rhythms: that of a human breath, a daily and yearly rhythm but also a seven-yearly and an eighteen year rhythm. See also: three meetings and 25920 as well as cosmic breathing.
The 18-year rhythm in the life of Man corresponds to the moon's rhythm (nutation) and the return to its position to the sun at birth. Hence the 'moon nodes' or 'lunar nodes' are the points in the life of Man at approx 18y and 7m, at approx 37y and 2 m, and at approx 55y and 9m. At these points there is an astral influx into Man of one's I and higher Self, a kind of 'repeat occurance' of what happened at birth when Man incarnated and started life on Earth with a certain plan and mission.
- the lunar nodes as pivotal points in the lives of Goethe and Steiner
Schema FMC00.235 depicts the lunar nodes in one's life, with a high level description of characteristics
Lecture coverage and references
Take the 18 respirations per minute, making 1,080 per hour and in 24 hours 25,920 respirations; that is, we must multiply: 18 X 60 X 24 in order to arrive at 25,920.Taking this as the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, and dividing it by 6o and again by 24, we would naturally get 18 years. And what do these 18 years really mean? Consider - these 25,920 respirations correspond to a human day of 24 hours; in other words, this 24 hour day is the day of the Microcosm. 18 respirations may serve as the unit of rhythm.
And now take the complete circle described by the precession of the equinoxes, and call it, not a Platonic year, but a great Day of the Heavens, a Macrocosmic day.
How long would one respiration on this scale have to occupy to correspond with the human respiration?
Its duration would have to be 18 years — a respiration made by the Being corresponding to the Macrocosm.
If we take the statements of modern astronomy, we shall find that it is a matter of indifference whether we assume that the motion of the Sun is apparent, or the motion of the Earth; that does not concern us — but let us now take that which the astronomer of today calls Nutation of the Earth's Axis. You are aware that the Earth's axis lies obliquely upon the Ecliptic, and that the Astronomers speak of an oscillation of the Earth's axis around this point and they call this ‘Nutation’. The axis completes one revolution around this point in just about 18 years (it is really 18 years, 7 months, but we need not consider the fraction, although it is quite possible to calculate this too with exactitude.)
But with these 18 years something else is intimately connected. For it is not merely on the fact of ‘Nutation’ — this ‘trembling’, this rotation of the Earth's axis in a double cone around the Earth's centre, and the period of 18 years for its completion — it is not only on this fact that we have to fix our minds, but we find that simultaneously with it another process takes place.
The Moon appears each year in a different position because, like the Sun, she ascends and descends from the ecliptic, proceeding in a kind of oscillating motion again and again towards the Equator ecliptic. And every 18 years she appears once more in the same position she occupied 18 years before.
You see there is a connection between this Nutation and the path of the Moon. Nutation in truth indicates nothing else than the Moon's path. It is the projection of the motion of the Moon.
So that we can in actual reality observe the “breathing” of the Macrocosm. We only need notice the path of the Moon in 18 years or, in other words, the Nutation of the Earth's axis. The Earth dances, and she dances in such a manner as to describe a cone, a double cone, in 18 years, and this dancing is a reflection of the macrocosmic breathing. This takes place just as many times in the macrocosmic year as the 18 human respirations during the microcosmic day of 24 hours.
So we really have one macrocosmic respiration per minute in this Nutation movement. In other words, we look into this breathing of the Macrocosm through this Nutation movement of the Moon, and we have before us what corresponds to respiration in man.
The meaning of all this is that as we pass from waking to sleep, or only from the wholly conscious to the dream state, we enter another world, and over against the ordinary laws of day, years, etc., and also the Platonic year, we find in this insertion of a Moon rhythm, something that has the same relationship in the Macrocosm, as breathing, the semiconscious process of respiration, has to our full consciousness.
We have therefore not only to consider a world which is spread out before us, but another world which projects into, and permeates our own.
Just as we have before us a second part of the human organism, when observing the breathing process, namely the rhythmic man, as opposed to the perceptive or head man, so we have in what appears as the yearly Moon motion, or rather the 18-year motion of the Moon, the identity between one year and one human respiration; we have this second world interpenetrating our own.
There can therefore be no question of having only one world in our environment.
We have that world that we can follow as the world of the senses; but then we have a world, whose foundations are laid within the laws of another, and which stands in exactly the same relationship to the world of the senses, as our breathing does to our consciousness; and this other world is revealed to us as soon as we interpret in the right way this Moon movement, this Nutation of the Earth's axis.
These considerations should enable you to realise the impossibility of investigating in a one-sided way the laws manifesting in the world. The modern materialistic thinker is in quest of a single system of natural laws. In this he deludes himself; what he should say is rather as follows. “The world of the senses is certainly a world in which I find myself embedded and to which I belong; it is that world which is explained by natural science in terms of Cause and Effect. But another world interpenetrates this one, and is regulated by different laws. Each world is subject to its own system of laws.” As long as we are of the opinion that one kind of system of laws could suffice for our world, and that all hangs upon the thread of Cause and Effect, so long shall we remain victims of complete illusions.
Only when we can perceive from facts such as the Moon's motion and nutation of the Earth's axis that another world extends into this one — only then are we upon the right path. And now, you see, these are the things in which the spiritual and material (so-called) touch each other, or let us say the psychical and material. He who can faithfully observe what is contained within his own self will find the following. These things must gradually be brought to the attention of humanity.
- There are many among you, who have already passed the 18 years and about 7 months period in age. That was an important period.
- Others will have passed twice that number of years - 37 years and 2 months - again an important time.
- After that we have a third very momentous period 18 years and seven months later, at the age of 55 years and 9 months.
Few can notice as yet, not having been trained to do so, the effects and important changes taking place within the individual soul at these times. The nights passed during these periods are the most important nights in the life of the individual. It is here where the Macrocosm completes its 18 respirations, completes one minute - and Man as it were, opens a window facing quite another world. But as I said, man cannot yet watch for these points in his life. Everyone, however, could try to let his mental eye look back over the years he has passed, and if he is over 55 years old to recognise three such important epochs; others two, and most of you at any rate one! In these epochs events take place, which rush up into this world of ours out of quite a different one. Our world opens at these moments to another world.
If we wish to describe this happening more clearly, we can say that our world is at these times penetrated anew by astral streams; they flow in and out. Of course this really happens every year, but we are here concerned with the 18 years, as they correspond to the 18 respirations per minute. In short, our attention is drawn through the cosmic clock to the breathing of the Macrocosm, in which we are embedded. This correspondence with another world, which is manifested through the motion of the Moon, is exceptionally important.
Because, you see, the world which at these times projects into our own, is the very world into which we pass during our sleep, when the Iand the astral body leave our physical and etheric bodies. It must not be thought that the world composing our every-day environment is merely permeated in an abstract way by the astral world; rather should we say, it breathes in the astral world, and we can observe the astral in this breathing process through the Moon's motion or nutation. You will realise that we have here come to something of great significance.
The moment when the gods entered into the Mysteries—this was something people were able to observe through the ancient astrology which enabled them to understand it in the right way. At the end of each year, or at the end of a moon cycle of 18 years, or at the end of other periods, there were always holy times that signified the non-conformity, the borderline between human intelligence and divine intelligence, holy times when the priests in the Mysteries were able to recognize that the gods could find their way to them and that human beings could find their way to the gods.
In 'Man on the Threshold', Bernard Lievegoed (see references below) comments:
At certain moments, the gate to the higher I reopens, and earthly man can reinforce his intentions for the present incarnation. These moments are determined by the cosmic constellation, namely by the relationship of sun, moon, and earth.
The higher I accompanies the incarnating soul during its descent through the planetary spheres, down to the moon sphere, from where physical birth takes place. We enter life on earth through the 'gate of the moon'. The I then withdraws to the sun sphere, where it belongs.
Just 18 years, 7 months and 9 days later, the birth constellation with respect to the 'aspect' of the sun, moon, and earth returns (the so-called first ‘lunar node’). At that moment, the gate of birth reopens momentarily, as it were, and the I can renew its impulses for the incarnation.
This process repeats itself with the second lunar node (another 18 years, 7 months, and 9 days hence), and so on.
Note: these moments should not be seen as limited to a certain day, but rather be regarded as a period in which the influence of the higher I increases and then decreases again over a period of some years centred on the moon node constellation.
The first repetition of the birth constellation occurs towards age 19. That is why the years between 17 and 20 are of the greatest importance for the future intentions of young people. They face important study or vocational choices, or it may be a case of confirmation or rejection of choices that were imposed on them too early. The young person then wonders: Who am I? What do I want? What am I able to do? To be actively involved with these existential questions between age 17 or 18 and 19 or 20 is an important task for post-secondary education.
The second 'lunar node constellation' is of great significance too; it comes at age 37, shortly after the mid-point of life, at a moment that many people experience as a dead point. Two of the greatest dramatic works of all time, the Divine Comedy of Dante and Faust of Goethe, start with this situation of desperation of age 35, in which it becomes apparent that if the thread of life can be picked up again, the actual fulfilment of the incarnation can take place in the second half of life.
The third and fourth moon node constellations also have a special place in many biographies.
The awareness of one's higher I, of ideal man, or second man in us, arises in the life of feeling first, and then in the other soul forces. New impulses enter the thinking, making it creative, opening up new ways of looking at things and opening up new interests. When the sleeping will becomes more conscious, this expresses itself on the moral plane. Old morality, taken for granted, becomes problematic. New norms, new values, new moral goals emerge from unconscious depths, and confront the developing human being with an existential life crisis.
Wolfgang Schad writes (2012):
Another, even wider, life rhythm is that of the moon nodes. Rudolf Steiner referred to them only a few times. It is the time when the same constellation of earth, moon and sun appears before the same fixed-star sky as at the time of birth: a rhythm of about 18 and two-third years (6793.39 days). According to Rudolf Steiner, a spiritual window opens for a few nights at those intervals, allowing for new orientation in a person’s biography. We experience four or five moon nodes in a lifetime.
In 1981 Georg Glöckler established that this rhythm is not identical with the Saros or Metonic cycles, but that it is a moon node cycle or nutation period. Florian Roder provided rich biographical evidence for this in 2005.
Rudolf Steiner advised upper school teachers to identify the relevant days or nights of the first moon nodes of their 18-year-old students (usually during class 12) and think more intensely of the student in question during that time. It would be beneficial, he said, if at least one person did this for the adolescent. The young person did not need to know about it because the event took place in deep sleep and not in waking consciousness.
It is therefore not a matter of identifying one’s own moon nodes and waiting for some spiritual impact during those nights since this might well lead to a lack of openness and even prevent the event, especially as it takes place in deep sleep. It is obviously important not to focus on oneself, but to think selflessly of others.
Florian Roder (see references below) did a biographical analysis of ao Goethe, Dante, Wagner, but also Peter Handke, Dag Hammarskjöld, and others. His work shows a number of patterns, too complex to oversimplify but still shown in the simple table of Schema FMC00.235 above. For a true appreciation and an indirect but clear sensing of these patterns, one needs to live oneself into the biographical stories in his work.
References and further reading
- Wilhelm Hoerner: 'Zeit und Rhythmus' (1978, fifth edition 2006)
- Bernard Lievegoed: 'Man on the Threshold' (1985, reprint 2013), original 'Mens op de Drempel' (1983)
- Florian Roder: 'Die Mondknoten im Lebenslauf' (2005)
- Susanne Donato: 'The Effect of Lunar Nodes on Human Biography: Our Hidden Plan'