Humanity is getting younger

From Anthroposophy

The mainstream contemporary materialistic worldview assumes that in former times and ancient cultures, Man's soul configuration was more or less as it is now. This assumption is quite wrong.

There is a law of development governing both the individual person and the evolution of humanity as a whole, and these two are related. See schema FMC00.232 below.

A human being after birth develops his physical body and bodily organs and upto a certain age his spirit and soul is bound up and happens in parallel with the development of the physical body. From a certain point in his life Man is physically fully developed, at which point his spirit and soul being ceases to be dependent on his bodily organs whose growth and development have come to an end: from then on his spirit and soul become free of the body and develop independently. This moment (when Man is 'fully developed', and the soul becomes free of the body) occurs at a certain age, and has not been the same in the various preceeding cultural ages.

From a spiritual scientific perspective, Man's bodily principles evolve differently .. in maya the human physical body appears to age, but the human etheric body gets younger. The implication of Man's development in the physical body 'getting younger' has implications for worldview and culture, and it depends on Man's conscious free will to further his higher spiritual bodily principles - see Man's higher triad - through initiation.


  • impact: men are condemned to carry right through life the development they acquired in early youth through natural forces, if they do nothing of their own freewill to take their further development in hand. The future of mankind will consist in their receding more and more, so that I, if no spiritual impulse grips mankind, times can come in which only the views and opinions of youth prevail. (1918-01-11-GA180)
  • illustrations of impact on worldview
    • The soul experience as coupled to the certain developmental age is fundamental for the underlying worldview in a certain age. As an example is given the views of Aristotle on life after death, see 1917-05-29-GA176 (link below) but also 1917-05-15-GA174B before (both with reference to Franz Brentano's correct interpretation of Aristotle's views in that context).
    • example of Friedrich Schlegel, see 1918-01-11-GA180
  • counterforces: Besides the normal spiritual hierarchies, there are also luciferic, ahrimanic and asuric counterforces who play into Man's soul and can make use of this opportunity. This influence relates to Man's blood and nervous system, and the impact is clearly visible in the development of humanity.
  • Connection between mankind's earthly evolution and the age and death of Christ Jesus
    • At the start of the fourth Greco-Latin cultural age the above was at an age of about 35: just at the time when the body's decline set in, the soul became free from the body. The Mystery of Golgotha took place just at this point in time that Christ Jesus reached the age of 33 which at that time was also the 'age of mankind', and through the MoG the possibility arose for knowledge of immortality to be obtained directly without any physical intermediary (1917-05-29-GA176). To place this in context, see: Three years of Christ Jesus


FMC00.232 shows the law of development relating the individual Man to the evolution of humanity as a whole. In the various cultural ages man felt the dependence of his spirit-soul being on his physical-bodily nature and bodily development up to a certain age, in other words the soul becomes independant at this certain age. This shows how humanity should not count on developing further in the physical body, as that door closes (see discussion section below) upto the point physical reproduction will cease to be a possibility. See also: Gender and sexuality.


Lecture coverage and references

Overview coverage

Three key lectures dedicated to this topic and the basis for further reading are 1917-05-29-GA176, 1918-01-11-GA180, and 1918-04-26-GA174B.

This topic is a nice example to show that Steiner's coverage of this topic can be timed to 1917-05 to 1918-04 but lectures are in four different GA volumes.

Reference extracts

1917-05-13-GA174B and 1917-05-19-GA174A

cover humanity getting younger, with examples of Rudolf Eucken and Woodrow Wilson.


synopsis reads:

The general age of mankind as a whole is receding. This means that the development of man's soul and spirit ceases to be dependent on the physical body at an ever earlier age. At the time of the ancient Indian cultural epoch this dependence lasted up to the age of 56, receding during that epoch to 49. During the Persian epoch it receded to the age of 42, during the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch to the age of 35, during the Graeco-Latin epoch to the age of 28, so that at the beginning of the present fifth post-Atlantean epoch man's soul and spirit were dependent on the physical body only up to the age of 28 and it has by now receded to the age of 27. This has far-reaching consequences for mankind's evolution. At the time the Mystery of Golgotha took place mankind's age had receded to 33 and therefore coincided exactly with the age of Christ Jesus. This event bestowed upon man the power to take his inner development in hand which will otherwise cease at the age of 27.

This lecture is central to this topic to be read entirely, no extract is given here.


synopsis reads

Man no longer experiences the Rubicon he crosses when in his thirties the bodily forces begin to decline. This is because his soul and spirit become independent from the body at the age of 27. When the dependence lasted into mature age, he grew naturally wise. The elders in ancient India were super-geniuses. Now man does not grow wise beyond the age of 27 unless he develops through his own inner initiative. He remains at age 27 even if he lives to be a hundred years old. This means he produces nothing that can carry evolution forward into the future. A perfect example of a brilliant personality who remained at a soul age of 27 although he accomplished much is Lloyd George. Just because he had no affinity with impulses stemming from another age group, he became, as did others, a puppet manipulated by individuals who possessed occult powers through ancient impulses and traditions, powers which brought about the 1914 world war.


Please note, the element of decline is natural. Human beings cannot remain children as they get older, and their bodies then follow a downward curve of development. In the same way the whole of humanity has entered into a downward trend of development. We have passed the fourth cultural age and are now in the fifth; this, together with the sixth and seventh, will be old age in the present stage of world evolution. To think that old ideals can live on is no more intelligent than to think people should continue to learn their letters throughout the whole of their lives just because it is good for children to learn their letters.


In future, human beings, the older they get, will need to take in spiritual impulses if they want to be able to grow younger and younger and really develop their inner life. If they do so, they may have grey hair and wrinkles and all kinds of infirmities, but they will get younger and younger, for their souls are taking in impulses which they will take with them through the gate of death. People who relate only to the body cannot grow younger, for their souls will share in everything the body experiences. Of course, it will not be possible to change the habit of going grey, but it is possible for a grey head to gain a young soul from the wellsprings of spiritual life.

This is how human evolution will proceed in the fifth, sixth and seventh cultural ages in terms of Darwin's grey-haired theory, if you will forgive the expression. But in order to go through the catastrophe which is comparable to the Earth's death — the catastrophe lying ahead — people must gain the power of youth which lies in Goetheanism, in the theory of metamorphosis and of spiritual evolution. This has to be taken through the future catastrophe, just as in the case of the individual the rejuvenated soul is taken through the gate of death.


Physical reproduction to cease in the sixth or seventh millennium. Aims of spirits of darkness in relation to humanity growing younger. (SWCC)

This lecture first sketches the frame of context of the evolution of the work of angels and archangels in the blood and nervous system of Man.

An evolution of profound significance has thus been initiated. ... not later than the seventh millennium in earth evolution women will grow infertile, and reproduction will no longer be possible. If matters went entirely according to the normal Angelic spirits in the blood, human reproduction would not even continue for as long as this; it would only continue until the sixth millennium, or the sixth postatlantean cultural age; according to the wisdom of light, the impulse for reproduction would not continue beyond this time in the seven cultural ages in this Postatlantean epoch. However, it will go on beyond this, into the seventh millennium and possibly a little beyond. The reason will be that those cast-down Angels will be in charge and will give the impulses for reproduction.

This is highly significant. In the sixth Postatlantean cultural age, the human fertility which depends on the powers of light for its impulses will gradually come to an end. The powers of darkness will have to intervene so that the affair may continue for a time. We know the seeds for the sixth postAtlantean period of civilization lie in the East of Europe. The East of Europe will develop powerful tendencies which do not allow physical human reproduction to continue beyond the sixth period of civilization but, instead, let the earth enter into a form of existence in soul and spirit. The other impulses for the seventh post-Atlantean period of civilization, in which procreation will be guided by impulses from the cast-down Angels, will come from America.

Consider the complex nature of these things, which can only be discovered by direct observation of the spiritual worlds. Mere theorizing will generally lead to error, for with this we tend to follow a single line of thought which will finally led to the statement that human procreative life will be extinguished in the sixth postAtlantean cultural age. It needs actual spiritual observation to enable us to observe the different currents which interact to produce the whole. You have to put a great deal into it if you are to arrive at significant insights and their interactions, such as those of which I have been speaking.

The enormous complexity of human beings becomes apparent when you consider that now, in the fifth postAtlantean age, Archangels and Angels are active in them via the nervous system and the blood, but so are the abnormal spirits which oppose them. This is where the forces are anchored which act with each other, against each other and so on; there we see what is happening in reality. Looking at events in outer life, one only sees the surface wave and not the forces which cast it to the surface.

We can give another instance of the way in which the spirits of darkness, who were cast down in 1879, seek to exert an influence — before 1879 from the spiritual world and since then from the human realm.

You will recall something of which I spoke in an earlier lecture: that humanity as a whole is getting younger and younger. If we go back to ancient India, we find that people remained young and capable of physical development well into ripe old age; during the Persian epoch less so, in Egypto-Chaldean times even less, until into Graeco-Latin times people were only capable of development until they reached the span extending from their twenty-eighth to their thirty-fifth year. Today they have grown even younger and are only capable of development up to their twenty-seventh year, as I told you. Later a time will come when this only goes to the twenty-sixth year, and so on. You will recall that I referred to someone who is at the hub of things at the present time and who can only be really understood if we realize that the age of 27 plays such a special role in life today — and this is Lloyd George. For it is always significant when the life of the soul coincides with the outer life of the body.

The fact that in our fifth post-Atlantean age people are naturally capable of further development only until they reach their 20s, is important as a basis for the concerted action of Archangels and Angels.

  • The normal spirits, the spirits of light, want to direct human evolution in a certain way. This is as follows: human beings are naturally capable of further development until they are in their 20s; the spirits of light want to keep this an intimate affair, letting it proceed without much ado in human beings; then, in the twenty-eighth year, between the twenty-eighth and thirty-fifth years, the development which has gone on quietly is to emerge. Mark well, therefore. Something which evolves in the human blood until people reach their twenty-eighth year is to enter more into people's self-awareness, it is to be handed over to the blood in self-awareness. It is therefore the intention of the normal spirits, the spirits of light, that the inner life should develop quietly, unambitiously and selflessly and only come into action when individuals have reached the age of 28, when the years of apprenticeship are behind them, as it were, and they become journeymen, and finally masters.
  • The spirits of darkness which had been cast down from the spiritual world rebelled against this. They wanted people to take an active role in life and be masters at using the external intellect in their twenties, rather than go through quiet inner development.

Here you have a social phenomenon traced back to its spiritual foundations, and a significant battle is taking place among us:

  • The spirits of light only want us to reach maturity and be ready to take on an active role in public life after the twenty-eighth year.
  • The spirits of darkness want the time put forward, so that it comes before the twenty-eighth year; they want to push people out into public life at an earlier time. All the impulses in our social life which reflect these elements have their origin in this — when in some place or other, for instance, the request is made to bring the age of majority down even further, into the 20s or even earlier than the 20s. There you have the origins of these elements.

People find it uncomfortable to know such things today. For they make it evident to what extent the spirits of darkness are causing havoc in public affairs. Much of what I have been saying has so far been known instinctively and atavistically by people. This has come to an end, however, and people will have to be prepared to gain conscious knowledge of things that used to be known instinctively and were also instilled into human minds by the ancient Mysteries. Spiritual principles must be included in shaping the social structure; they have to be thought of, rather than people wanting to shape the world blindly on the basis of mere emotions. The spirits of darkness find it easiest to achieve their aims if people are asleep to what goes on in the spirit. They can then easily gain power over what that they cannot achieve if people enter consciously into the spiritual impulses that are active in evolution.

Much of the mendacity which exists in the world today serves the purpose of rocking people to sleep so that they do not see the reality, are deflected from reality, and the spirits of darkness have it all their own way with the human race. All kinds of things are falsely presented to people to deflect them from truths they could experience if they were awake and, indeed, ought to experience, if human evolution is to proceed in a fruitful way. This is the age when human beings must take affairs into their own hands.


is called 'The getting younger of humanity while advancing in time' (SWCC)

.. at our present time we are capable of development up to a certain age independently of our own action; we are capable of development through our nature, our physical forces.

  • If today we wish to have a development of the soul and spirit nature after our twenties, we must seek for this development by our power of will. We become physically different in our twenties and in this becoming different physically there lives at the same time something that determines our progress of soul and spirit. Then the physical ceases to let us be dependent on it; then, so to speak, our physical nature hands over nothing more, and through our own willpower we must make any further advance. This is how it seems, externally considered — we shall see immediately how matters stand inwardly.
  • .. in the first cultural age after the great Atlantean catastrophe Man remained capable of development for a much longer time. He remained so into the fifth decade of his life, and he always knew that the process of growing older was connected with a transformation of the soul and spirit nature. There was in fact a great difference in the first 2,160 years after the great Atlantean catastrophe. Then indeed man was still dependent on his physical element far into old age, but he had also the joy of this dependence. He had the joy of not only progressing during his growth, and increasing, but of experiencing, even in the decline of life-forces, the fruit of these declining life-forces as a kind of blooming of soul qualities, which Man can feel no longer. Yes, external physical cosmic conditions of human existence alter in relatively not such a very long time.
  • Then again came a time in which Man no more remained capable of development to such a great age, into the fifties. In the second cultural age after the great Atlantean catastrophe, which again lasted for approximately 2,160 years, and which we call the Old Persian, Man remained still capable of development up to the end of his forties.
  • Then in the next age, the Egypto-Chaldean, he could develop up to the time of his forty-second year.
  • We are now living since the 15th century in the period where man carries his development only into his twenties.

This is all something of which external history tells us nothing, which moreover is not believed by external historical science, but with which infinitely many secrets of mankind's evolution are connected. So that one can say: Mankind as a whole drew in, became younger and younger — if we call this change in development a 'becoming-younger'.


And we have seen what consequence must be drawn from it. This consequence was not so pressing in the Greco-Latin age; a Man then remained capable of development up to his thirty-fifth year through his natural forces. It becomes more and more pressing, and from our time onward quite specially significant. For as regards humanity as a whole we are living, so to say, in the twenty-seventh year, are entering the twenty-sixth and so on.

So that men are condemned to carry right through life the development they acquired in early youth through natural forces, if they do nothing of their own freewill to take their further development in hand. And the future of mankind will consist in their receding more and more, receding further, so that I, if no spiritual impulse grips mankind, times can come in which only the views and opinions of youth prevail.


This becoming younger of humanity is shown in external symptoms — and one who regards historical development with more sharpened senses can see it — it is shown by the fact that in Greece, let us say, a Man had still to be of a definite age before he could take any part in public affairs.

Today we see the claim made by great circles of mankind to reduce this age as much as possible, since people think that they already know in the twenties everything that is to be attained. More and more demands will be made in this direction, and unless an insight arises to paralyse them there will be demands that not only in the beginning of his twenties a man is clever enough to take part in any kind of parliamentary business in the world, but the nineteen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds will believe that they contain in themselves all that a Man can compass.

This kind of growing younger is at the same time a challenge to mankind to draw for themselves from the spirit what is no longer given by nature. I called your attention last time to the immense incision in the evolutionary history of mankind which lies in the 15th Century.

This is again something of which external history gives no tidings, for external history, as I have often said, is a fable convenue. There must come an entirely new knowledge of the being of Man. For only when an entirely new knowledge of man's being is reached, will the impulse really be found which mankind needs if it is to take in hand of its own freewill what nature no longer provides. We dare not believe that, the future of humanity will come through with the thoughts and ideas which the modern age has brought and of which it is so proud. One cannot do enough to make oneself clear how necessary it is to seek for fresh and different impulses for the evolution of humanity. It is of course a triviality to say, as I have often remarked, that our time is a transition age — for in reality each age is a transition. But it is a different thing to know what is changing in a definite age. Every age is assuredly an age of transition, but in each age one should also look about and see what is passing over.

I will link this to a fact — I could take a hundred others — but I will link on to a definite fact and let it serve as an example — one could draw on hundreds from every part of Europe.

and after the example of Friedrich Schlegel

One only needs to transpose oneself in feeling into those ancient times of which I have spoken to you earlier and today. Think of a young man after the Atlantean catastrophe in his connection with other people. He was, let us say — twenty, twenty-five years old; near him he saw someone of forty, fifty, sixty years. He said to himself: What happiness someday to be as old as that, for as one lives one goes on gaining more and more. There was a perfectly obvious, immense veneration for one who had grown old; a looking up to the aged, linked with the consciousness that they had something else to say about life than the young men. Merely to know this theoretically is of no consequence, what matters is to have it in one's whole feeling, and to grow up under this impression. It is of infinite consequence to grow up in such a way as not merely to look back at one's youth and say: Ah, how fine it was when I was a child! This beauty of life will certainly never be taken from men by any kind of spiritual reflection. But it is a one-sided reflection which was supplemented in ancient times by the other: How beautiful it is to become old! For in the same degree as one became weaker in body, one grew into strength of soul, one grew into union with the wisdom of the world. This was at one time an accepted part of training and education.

[spiritual scientific view on older and younger]

We grow older , but only our physical body grows older. For from the spiritual aspect it is not true that we grow older. It is a maya, an external deception. It is certainly a reality in respect of physical life, but it is not true in respect of the full nature of Man's life.

Yet, we only have the right to say it is not true, if we know that this human being who lives here in the physical world between birth and death is something else than merely his physical body. He consists of the higher members, in the first place of what we have called the etheric body or the body of formative forces, and then the astral body, the I — if we only speak of these four. But even if we stop short at the etheric body, at the invisible, super-sensible body of formative forces, we see that we bear it within us between birth and death, just as we carry about our physical body of flesh and blood and bones. We carry in us this etheric body of formative forces, but we see there is a difference: the physical body grows ever older, the etheric or body of formative forces is old when we are born; in fact, if we examine its true nature, it is old then and it becomes ever younger and younger. We can say, therefore, that the first spiritual member in us continually becomes more vigorous and younger, in contrast to the physical-corporeal that becomes weak and powerless. And it is true, literally true, that when our face begins to get wrinkled then our etheric body blooms and becomes chubby-cheeked.

Yes but, the materialistic thinker could say this is completely contradicted by the fact that one does not perceive it! In ancient times it was perceived. It is only that modern times are such that people pay no attention to the matter and give it no value. In ancient times nature itself brought it in its course, in modern times it is almost an exception. But even so, there are such exceptions.

... [and goes on to ]

Our whole educational system is constructed on entirely materialistic impulses — and this must be seen in much deeper connections than is generally indicated. People reckon only with man's physical body, never with his becoming-younger. No account is taken of one's growing younger as one grows older!


[link with spiritual science as a lifelong study for the soul]

We are gradually developing a consciousness that what one can absorb through learning is really only of service for one's youth and that one gets beyond it later on. And this is so. One can still force oneself later to turn back to many things, but then one must really force oneself — it does not come naturally as a rule. And yet, unless a man is always taking in something new — not just by allowing it to enter him through the concert hall, the theatre, or, with all due respect, the newspaper or something of that kind — then he grows old in his soul. We must absorb in another way, we must really have the feeling in the soul that one experiences something new, one is being transformed, and that one reacts to what one takes in just as the child reacts. One cannot do this in an artificial way, it can only happen when something is there which one can approach in later life precisely as one approaches the ordinary educational subjects when one is a child.

.. now take anthroposophical spiritual science. .. in any case, as it is now — to the dislike of many — there is no primary necessity to cease absorbing it. No matter how extremely aged one may have become at the present time, one can always find in it something new that grips the soul, that makes the soul young again. And many new things have already been found on spiritual scientific soil — even such new things as let one look into the most important problems of today. But above all the present needs an impulse which directly seizes upon men themselves. Only in that way can this present time come through the calamity into which it has entered, and which works so catastrophically.


synopsis reads

When the head is 28 the rest is only about 7, in modern education. A man should not mature for public life before 45. Between death and re-birth we work on the head, and there is added something for the rest of the organism.

The older we grow the younger the etheric, but in youth we must learn to supply spiritual ideas as future youthful forces.


is a key lecture (not on rsarchive any more, has been taken off-line, it is part of the special Karma of Untruthfullness Volume 2 with sensitive and eye-opening materials)


synopsis: dullness of many people after having reached age 27


synopsis reads

How humanity is becoming younger; the lowering of the age at which we have the ability for development in our present era. The coming end of the development of physical humanity on Earth.


synopsis reads

Our ability to develop until age twenty-eight; the science of initiation is the only possibility for the further progress of humanity.


As you know, humanity as such is becoming younger and younger. It is becoming more and more the case that the development of body and soul only continues up to a certain point in life. At the time of the death of the Christ when the event of Golgotha took place, mankind in general was capable of physical and soul development until age thirty-three. Today, people are able to develop only until age twenty-seven. In the fourth millennium A.D., a time will come when human beings will be capable of development only until age twenty-one. Again, in the seventh millennium, a time will come when their bodily nature will be capable of development only until the fourteenth year of life. Then, women will cease to be fertile; an entirely different form of living on earth will come about. That will be the time when the moon will again approach the earth and will be incorporated into it.


The intellect will become more and more shadowy. If man does not resolve to absorb what is to descend from the spiritual world, he will pass completely over to the shadowy side of his intellect. The intellect is now only able to understand the mineral kingdom, it cannot penetrate to the human being. Plant life is a deep riddle to it, animal life is more so, human life is completely opaque. The formation of images devoid of reality will continue unless man resolves to develop imagination. If he does this the shadowy pictures will be re-animated by Spiritual Science, and become not merely human events but cosmic as well.

No reference:

In the course of evolution humanity is becoming younger and younger and retains the power of evolving in body and soul to a definite age.

  • In ancient India man retained plasticity up to the age of 56.
  • At the time of Golgotha to the age of 33; now, to the age of 27.
  • In the 6th post-Atlantean epoch it will be to the age of 21-14
  • in the 7th epoch, 14-7.

Woman will cease to be fertile, another mode of entering earthly life will take place when the Moon re-unites with the Earth, in 8,000 A.D. The re-uniting of the Moon with the Earth will be of great significance; we shall be connected with the Earth differently.



The matter in this topic shows how a door is closing. The window of opportunity for development in the physical body is coming to an end, and not slowly but at a very high speed of evolution if we relate it to the number of incarnations we still have left. This directly relates to the urgency of the need to develop spiritual abilities (sense organs), and the importance of not only studying spiritual science but also practice of exercices of initiation.

With some 5-6000 years to go, this leaves only a number of incarnations to develop one's astral senses and higher triad.

Rudolf Steiner's on a personal note

In 1917-05-29-GA176 Rudolf Steiner also shares more personal notes (see also the start of the lecture) on how the depth and importance of this research affected his soul:

It affects one deeply when, in considering mankind's evolution as such with quite different assumptions, one discovers during spiritual investigation the deep connection between mankind's earthly evolution and the age and death of Christ Jesus. I can think of little which must have a greater impact on the soul than knowledge of the placement of the Mystery of Golgotha within an important law of development governing the individual person and the evolution of humanity as a whole. ... .. I venture to say that during my spiritual research, few moments have been more moving than when—let me put it in these words — there arose for me, out of the grey mist of the spirit, the recognition of the connection between mankind's age of 33 in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch and the age of 33 of Christ Jesus just when the death on Golgotha took place.


see also 1918-01-11 (re Biography work)

Related pages

References and further reading