Seven year rhythm

From Anthroposophy

During Man's life development, the human being develops through an 'unfolding' of the different bodily principles in periods of seven years or 'septennia', related to the work of the hierarchies and corresponding the influences of the planetary spheres.

These septennia

  • correspond to major changes in Man's physiology, eg the changing of the teeth or the physical changes at puberty. See Schema FMC00.236.
  • can usually easily be found back in biography work.
  • have major consequences for education and the leading of a conscious life.


  • In the first seven years Man lives in an body based on inheritance, but thereafter he further develops his own physical body. See oa Model for hereditary physical body.
  • corresponding three 21 year periods in life and the Spirits of Form (SoF) (1910-06-10-GA121)
  • biographical examples: the seven year periods were very outspoken and clear and have been studied voor various personalities
    • a.o. Goethe, Napoleon, .. (eg 1916-11-05-GA172, 1919-08-30-GA293)
    • Rudolf Steiner (see book by Fred Poeppig under Further reading section below)
    • the Karmic Relationship Individualities (KRI), see Schema FMC00.241A on Karma research case studies, and the secondary literature with biographies (for example the seven year periods are apparent in Norbert Glas' book on Henry Stanley)
  • the importance of the age or 35, and the age of 33 for Christ-Jesus (1909-09-21-GA114)
  • see also: Humanity is getting younger: the moment that 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. This age shifts with time and this life period becomes ever shorter, showing a convergence point at the end of the epoch.
  • in Greek culture:
    • threefold Hecate represents the aspects of transformation on the physical, etheric, and astral bodies. Only afterwards the Demeter forces come into play again. The three daughters of Persephone: Luna, Astrid, Philia are mapped to the strengthening of the threefold 'I' soul (1911-08-18-GA129 and 1911-08-19-GA129, no extract yet below)


FMC00.236 provides an overview of the septennia or seven year periods and how Man develops his bodily principles corresponding to the planetary spheres due to the work of the spiritual hierarchies.


FMC00.236A illustrates with extracts from the original black board drawings (BBW)


FMC00.237 depicts Life Chart diagram diagram by George O'Neill based on Steiner's lecture of 1924-08-16-GA311 (by Florin Lowndes, see publication under references for an excellent book). This diagram is often used and appears in many books for personal biography work.


Lecture coverage and references

Pietro d'Abano (1257-1316) already writes about the seven year periods, see eg the following quotes from 'History of magic and experimental science' published in 1923 by Lynn Thorndike (1882-1965)

p895: In Difference 26 Peter divides the life of Man into seven ages under the seven planets

1907-03-04-GA096 - human biography and planetary evolution


1909-09-21-GA114 - the age of 35 + the ages of Nathan Jesus (14->12, 21->19, 28->26, 35->33)

  • When the physical environment of the mother's body is abandoned at birth, the part of the human being then born is really his physical body only; what comes to the fore during the first seven years is the physical body. In various lectures on the education of children the great importance of this knowledge for the teacher has been emphasized.
  • Then, when the etheric sheath has been discarded, the etheric body is set free.
  • Again, in the fourteenth year, when the astral sheath is discarded, the astral body is set free
  • Immediately connected with the etheric (or life) body is what is called the astral (or sentient) body which does not become completely free as regards the outer world until about the twenty-first year. Then what is called the sentient soul becomes gradually free.
  • At the twenty-eighth year the intellectual or mind-soul (Gemütseele) becomes free, and later the spiritual soul (or consciousness-soul).

This applies, to the human being of today. Observation of human life guided by spiritual science clearly reveals these stages of development. The great leaders and leading figures of humanity have also known why the thirty-fifth year is so important. Dante was aware why he made particular mention of his thirty-fifth year as the time when he had the visions set down in his great poem. At the very beginning of the Divine Comedy there is an indication to this effect. At the age of thirty-five man's being has progressed to the point where the can make full use of the faculties dependent upon the astral body, the sentient soul and the intellectual soul.

1910-06-10-GA121 - three 20 year periods and SoF



1916-11-05-GA172 - The Rhythm in Goethe’s life




1919-08-30-GA293 - Napoleon as example of strict rhythm of septennia

1919-10-04-GA191 discusses intuition, inspiration and imagination the first three seven year periods. Earth forces work in the first, air forces in the second, and in the third period work the from outside instreaming forces. After the 21st year these forces work in the blood.

.. the first of the capacities that leads man into super-sensible realms is the force of Imagination, the second capacity is the force of Inspiration and the third capacity the force of Intuition.

The question now is whether these capacities need concern us at all except in their connection with knowledge of super-sensible worlds or whether these capacities have any part to play in the rest of man's life?

You will see that the latter is the case. As my book Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy tells you, we can see human life running its course in three stages: from birth to the change of teeth, from the change of teeth to puberty, and from puberty till about the twenty-first year. If you do not regard man purely superficially, you will be struck by the fact that the nature of man's development is entirely different in the three different seven-year stages. The pushing through of our permanent teeth is connected with the development of forces that are not merely confined, let us say, to our jaws or their neighboring organs, but fill our whole physical body. There is work in progress within our physical body between birth and the seventh year, and this work comes to an end with the pushing through of our permanent teeth.

  • It is obvious that the forces doing this work of developing the physical body are supersensible, isn't it? The perceptible body is only the material in which they work. These super-sensible forces, active in the whole of man's organization during the first seven years of his life, become, as it were, suspended when their purpose has been achieved and the permanent teeth have appeared. At the age of seven these forces go to sleep. They are hidden within the being of man; they go to sleep within him. And they can be drawn forth from your being when you do the sort of exercises I describe in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds as leading to Intuition. For the forces that are applied in the acquisition of intuitive knowledge are the same forces that you grow with at the time of life when this growth culminates in the change of teeth. These sleeping forces that are active within the human body until the seventh year are the forces you use in super-sensible knowledge to reach Intuition.
  • Now the forces that are active from the seventh year to the fourteenth year and go to sleep at puberty in the depths of the body, are drawn forth and form the power of Inspiration.
  • And the forces that in bygone times used to be the source of youthful ideals between the fourteenth and the twenty-first year — it would be too much of an assertion to say that this still happens today — the forces that create organs in the physical body for these ideals of youth, are the same forces you can draw forth from their state of slumber and use for the acquisition of Imagination.

From this you will see that the forces of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition are not just any old forces gotten from we do not know where, but are the same forces as those we grow with from our birth to the age of twenty-one. So the forces that live in Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition are very healthy forces. They are the forces a human being uses for his healthy growth and that go to sleep within his body when the corresponding phases of growth are completed.


The question now arises as to how this activity is distributed. There is a considerable difference in this respect in the first, second and third stage of life, that is, up till the seventh year, the fourteenth year and the twenty-first year.

  • The will working in us up till the seventh year works entirely from out of the planet's interior. It is very interesting to see spiritual-scientifically that in everything working in the child up till the age of seven, it is the force of the earth's depths that are active. If you want to see an actual manifestation of the forces of the earth's interior, then make a study of everything going on in the child up till the age of seven, for these are the forces from within the earth. To delve down into the earth to find the forces of the earth's interior would be absolutely wrong. You would only find earth substances. The forces that are active in the earth come to manifestation in the work they do in the human being up till his seventh year.
  • And from the seventh to the fourteenth year, it is the forces of the encircling air that work in man, forces that still belong to the earth, to the earth's atmosphere. These are predominantly at work in everything developing in the human being between seven and fourteen.
  • Then comes the most important stage of all, from fourteen to twenty-one. At this stage the subsensible passes over into the super-sensible. Here a kind of balance is created between the subsensible and super-sensible. Now the forces of the earth's whole solar system work at organizing the human being.

So we have the earth's interior in the first period of life; encircling air in the second period of life, that is, what the earth itself is embedded in. The forces streaming down from cosmic spaces in so far as these cosmic spaces are filled with our own actual planetary system, up till the twenty- first year. Not until the age of twenty-one does man tear himself away, as it were, from the influences brought about in him from outside by the planets and the planetary system belonging to these.

Please notice that in everything I have referred to as having an influence on man, bodily influences are of course included. They are bodily processes that the forces from the planet's interior bring about up till the seventh year. They are bodily processes that are formed by the circulating air in connection with the breathing and so on between the seventh and the fourteenth year. There is no doubt that they are bodily processes, in fact actual transformations of bodily organs are brought about; everything being connected with man's growing and becoming larger. Thus man grows beyond all this work being done on him by the earth; all this ceases at twenty-one.

What happens then, however? What happens after twenty-one?

Up till twenty-one we draw on what comes from the earth and its planetary system in the way we have described. We build up our constitution with the earth's help.

  • Then, after we have reached the age of twenty-one, we have to draw on ourselves. We gradually have to release what we have put into our organism from out of the forces of the planet and the planetary system.

Activities going on in the blood forces always used to ensure that this happened in the past. As you will probably know, man has not learned to release the planetary forces himself, after the age of twenty-one. And yet he has been doing so. He did it as an unconscious process. The capacity was in his blood. It was built into him to do it. The important change in our present time — and the present extends over a long period of several centuries, of course — is that man's blood is losing the capacity to release what we have put into the organism in this way, before twenty- one.








1924-08-16-GA311 (or 1924-08-16-GA243 check)


The seven year rhythm can be found in one's personal biography in:

  • contacts with people that enter or leave one's life, certain people enter and become important
  • milestones regarding one's development in terms of personal interests and/or professional career

Related pages

References and further reading

  • Fred Poeppig: 'Die Bedeutung der siebenjährigen Entwicklungsperioden im Lebensgange Rudolf Steiners' (1950)
  • George and Gisela O'Neil: 'The human life' (1990, third printing 1998)