Thirty three years rhythm

From Anthroposophy

The duration of the life of Christ became a rhythmic cycle for humankind itself, a cycle which begins with Christmas each year and completes itself at Easter 33 years later.

In the yearly context, the number of days between Christmas to Easter varies, given the fact that Easter is a moveable feast (being defined as the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox), However, historically, the number of years between the historical Christmas (Jesus's birth) and his Resurrection at Easter, is 33 years.

The birth of Jesus was like a seed which produced its fruit on Easter some 33 years later.

Hence historically, we can look for the 'Easter' of events whose 'Christmas' had taken place thirty-three years before.

The 33 year rhythm can be found in how individual impulses of an Individuality find their way into the world and humanity in the a number of 33 year waves, so after 66 or 99 years (re illustration with Goethe, see below).

The impact of an Individual of event is characterized as:

  • the first period between [date of death] + [date of death+ 33 years] is of less influence
  • the first wave between [date of death+ 33 years] and [date of death+ 66 years] represents a rising first wave of influence
  • the second wave of influence is in the period between [date of death+ 66 years] and [date of death+ 99 years]
  • the third wave of influence is in the period between [date of death+ 99 years] and [date of death+ 132 years]



Lecture coverage and references


is the key lecture, with title 'Et Incarnatus Est - the time cycle of historic events'

People of today tend to regard history as though the earlier were invariably the cause of the latter, as though in order to understand the events of the years 1914 to 1917 we need simply go back to 1913, 1912, 1911, and so on; historical development is regarded in the same way as evolution in nature, in which we can proceed from effect to impulse and in the impulse find the cause. From this method of thinking, that fable convenue which we call history has arisen, with which the youth of today are being inoculated to their detriment.

True Christianity, especially a reverent and sincere insight into the mysteries of Christmas and Easter, provides a sharp protest against this natural scientific caricature of world history. Christianity has brought cosmic mysteries into association with the course of the year; on December 24 and 25 it celebrates a memory of the original constellation of the year 1, the appearance of the sun in the constellation of Virgo; this date in every year is celebrated as the Christmas festival. This is the point in time that the Christian concept has fixed for the Christmas festival. The Easter festival is also established each year by taking a certain celestial arrangement, for we know that the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox is the chosen day, though the materialistic outlook of the present time is responsible for recent objections to this arrangement.

To those who wish, reverently and sincerely, to tune their thoughts in harmony with the Mystery of Golgotha, the period between Christmas and Easter is seen as a picture of the thirty-three years of Christ's life on earth. Previous to the Mystery of Golgotha, with which I include the mystery of Christmas, the magi studied the heavens when they wished to investigate the secrets of human evolution or any other mysterious event. They studied the constellations, and the relative positions of the heavenly bodies revealed to them the nature of events taking place upon earth. But at that moment in which they became aware of the important event that was happening on earth, by the sign given to them through the position of the sun in Virgo on December 24 and 25, they said, “From this time onward the heavenly constellations themselves will be directly revealed in human affairs on the earth.”

Can the starry constellations be perceived in human affairs? My dear friends, this perception is now demanded of us, the ability to read what is revealed through the wonderful key that is given us in the mysteries of the Christian year, which are the epitome of all the mysteries of the year of other peoples and times.

The time interval between Christmas and Easter is to be understood as consisting of thirty-three years. This is the key.

What does this mean?

That the Christmas festival celebrated this year belongs to the Easter festival that follows thirty-three years later, while the Easter festival we celebrate this year belongs to the Christmas of 1884. In 1884 humanity celebrated a Christmas festival that really belongs to the Easter of this year (1917), and the Christmas festival we celebrate this year belongs, not to the Easter of next spring but to the one thirty-three years hence (1950). According to our reckoning, this period — thirty-three years — is the period of a human generation, thus a complete generation of humanity must elapse between Christmas festivals and the Easter festivals that are connected with them. This is the key, my dear friends, for reading the new astrology, in which attention is directed to the stars that shine within the historical evolution of humanity itself.

How can this be fulfilled? It can be fulfilled by human beings using the Christmas festival in order to realize that events happening at approximately the present time (we can only say approximately in such matters) refer back in their historical connections in such a way that we are able to perceive their birthdays or beginnings in the events of thirty-three years ago, and that events of today also provide a birthday or beginning for events that will ripen to fruition in the course of the next thirty-three years. Personal karma rules in our individual lives. In this field each one is responsible for himself; here he must endure whatever lies in his karma and must expect a direct karmic connection between past events and their subsequent consequences.

How do things stand, however, with regard to historical associations?

Historical connections at the present time are of such a nature that we can neither perceive nor understand the real significance of any event that is taking place today unless we refer back to the time of its corresponding Christmas year, that is 1884 in this case. For the year 1914 we must therefore look back to 1881. All the actions of earlier generations, all the impulses with their combined activity, poured into the stream of historic evolution, have a life cycle of thirty-three years. Then comes its Easter time, the time of resurrection. When was the seed planted whose Easter time was experienced by man in 1914 and after? It was planted thirty-three years before.

Connections that reach over intervals of thirty-three years are essential for an understanding of the time rhythms of historic evolution, and a time must come when people in the holy time that begins with Christmas Eve will say to themselves, “What I do now will continue to work on, but will arise as outer fact or deed (not in a personal but in a historic sense) only after thirty-three years. Furthermore, I can understand what is happening now in the events of the outer world only by looking back across the thirty-three years of time needed for its fulfillment.”

When, at the beginning of the 1880's, the insurrection of the Mohammedan prophet, the Mahdi, resulted in the extension of English rule in Egypt, when at about the same time a war arose through French influence between greater India and China over European spheres of control, when the Congo Conference was being held, and other events of a like nature were taking place — study everything, my dear friends, that has now reached its thirty-three years fulfillment. It was then that the seeds were sown that have ripened into the events of today. At that time the question should have been asked: what do the Christmas events of this year promise for the Easter fulfillment thirty-three years hence? For, my dear friends, all things in historic evolution arise transfigured after thirty-three years, as from a grave, by virtue of a power connected with the holiest of all redemptions: the Mystery of Golgotha.

It does not suffice, however, to sentimentalize about the Mystery of Golgotha. An understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha demands the highest powers of wisdom of which the human being is capable. It must be experienced by the deepest forces that can stir the soul of man. When he searches its depths for the light kindled by wisdom, when he does not merely speak of love but is enflamed by it through the union of his soul with the cosmic soul that streams and pulses through this turning point of time, only then does he acquire insight and understanding into the mysteries of existence. In days of old the wise men who sought for guidance in the conduct of affairs of human beings asked knowledge of the stars, and the stars gave an answer; so, today, those who wish to act wisely in guiding the social life of humanity must give heed to the stars that rise and set in the course of historic evolution. Just as we calculate the cyclic rotations of celestial bodies, so must we learn to calculate the cyclic rotations of historic events by means of a true science of history. The time-cycles of history can be measured by the interval that extends from Christmas to the Easter thirty-three years ahead, and the spirits of these time-cycles regulate that element in which the human soul lives and weaves in so far as it is not a mere personal being but is part of the warp and woof of historic evolution.



We shall see the Mystery of Golgotha in the true light, if we recognise in it that which must compensate and balance the harmful forces which are arising from these quarters: All that the Mystery of Golgotha can bring about, is such as to counteract that which proceeds from these forces. ...

Christ Jesus is always present. The spirit and the outlook, recognising Christ as ever-present, is precisely that Christian spirit which can be gained through anthroposophical spiritual science. But this requires us to make ourselves acquainted in all detail with the real impulses that are connected with the Mystery of Golgotha, and learn to recognise that which lies hidden in the Mystery of Golgotha.

Whatever a man undertakes — not as concerns his own individual, personal Karma, but in the whole context of the social, ethical, historic working of mankind, is subject to a certain law of historic evolution, namely this: That which is done in a given year, when, as a thought, it springs forth from man, has — so to speak — a Christmas character. This refers to the effects of our deeds in the whole nexus of the social life; not to our personal Karma. If I manufacture a pair of shoes, needless to say there is something in this act that rays back, so to speak, into my personal Karma. That is a stream by itself. But I manufacture the shoes for another human being; and inasmuch as I do so, I am already working socially. No doubt an elementary process; and it is a long way from this to the measures of political and social life on a large scale.

Nevertheless, everything that lies along this line belongs to the realm of those things which become effective after 33 years. And after the 33 years — when a seed which has thus been planted has had time, as it were, to ripen, — then it goes on working. A seed of thought or of deed takes a whole human generation — 33 years — to ripen. When it is ripened, it goes on working in historic evolution for 66 years more.

Thus the intensity of an impulse planted by man in the stream of history can truly be recognised in its working through three generations, that is, through a whole century.


In 1832 Goethe (1749-1832) died, then ..

  • 1832-1865:
    • The period belonging to the first generation after his death, that is, up to 1865, was not such that many forces from his spirit influenced it. (This is merely a representative example; of course the forces of other men are active also.) Thus, up to the year 1865 anyone who directed his attention to Goethe's soul would have noticed little influence coming from his forces to the earth.
  • 1865-1898:
    • Then after the first thirty-three years the forces began to come from him out of the spiritual worlds into our earth evolution; and they became stronger and stronger up to the year 1898. If we follow it further, beyond this period, we can say: The first period of influence of Goethe's super-sensible forces upon our earth civilization is, then, 1865 to 1898 (as I have said, up to 1865 it was insignificant, then it began).
  • 1898-1931 and 1931-1964:
    • After thirty-three years we have in 1931 the end of a further period, which would be the second; and 1964 would be the end of the third period.

From such an example it can really be learned how relatively soon after a man has passed through the gate of death the forces which he then develops take part in what is going on here on earth. Only we must know how these forces take part. Anyone who works spiritually — really spiritually — knows how the forces of the spiritual worlds cooperate with the forces he uses.

Willi Sucher (1954)

wrote (published in Vol 31 No. 4 of April 1954 of the circular published by the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain)

It is, however, not only the initial and the ending stages of this humanity-road of 33 years that have become the guiding pattern of evolution. The intermediate points also are of great significance.

  • For instance, such a humanity-impulse may be at a certain time “12 years old” and one may then notice that it goes through experiences and developments which can only be compared with the story of the 12-years-old Jesus in the temple (St. Luke II). It would be of great benefit to humanity if some attention was devoted to these facts. A situation may be hopeless at a certain moment, but judgment on the foundation of the 33 years’ rhythm may give the consoling assurance that a crisis at a certain moment is the unavoidable pre-condition for further progress.
  • The time when an impulse is 30 years old is an especially crucial point on the road to its fulfillment. In the archetypal 33 years of Christ Jesus this was the time of Baptism, for Jesus “was about 30 years old” when he went down to the Jordan, to the place where John the Baptist baptized (Luke III). It was the moment when the bodily sheaths were mature enough to serve as the vehicle of the cosmic Christ, in which He dwelled for “three years”. Rudolf Steiner has described the cosmic significance of this event for the whole future evolution of the Earth. If spiritual impulses grow and mature according to the 33-years’ cycle, then the point of 30 years must mean a decisive stage for them. It signifies a moment in which an impulse must prove itself to be mature enough to be accepted by the Sun Spirit, who united with the Earth during the events on Golgotha.

Johannes Tautz (1986) says in the lecture of 1986-06 published in ‘The Meditative Life of the teacher’

Two generations have passed since the beginnings of the movement in 1919. Two 33-year periods - 1919 to 1952/3 and 1953 to1986 - have elapsed. Today we are at the threshold of the third 33-year period, which will last to 2019.

Rudolf Steiner has pointed to this “Law of 33-Year Periods” as a tool to understand historical events (December 23, 1917, Basel, GA 180). This periodicity has been imprinted into the flow of history by the life of Christ Jesus, spanning 33 years, beginning with the birth at Christmas and ending with the Easter event. Since then there are “Christmas Years,” years containing seeds of future events, which will blossom forth after 33 years, in an “Easter Year.” The Mystery of Golgotha has thus created an archetypal form of social configuration. The implication for active men and women is this: That which now is responsibly intended and inserted into the will continues to work and becomes external fact in a historic, not a personal, sense after 33 years. Consequently, the thought and will seeds inserted into the time stream of history in 1986 will see their manifestation, their resurrection, in 2019.

In his lecture, Rudolf Steiner referred to the effect on three generations:

“One generation of 33 years brings to active maturity a seed of thought, a germ for deeds. Once it has matured, this impulse continues to work into the course of history. The intensity of such a historic impulse is recognizable for a duration of three generations — a whole century.”

How powerfully such an impulse manifests after three generations of metamorphosis depends on its original vigor.



  • Within the anthroposophical community, the 33 rhythm is considered for events such as Rudolf Steiner's Christmas Conference, the Karmic Relationship lectures, the death of Rudolf Steiner, etc.
    References ao
    • van Manen in 'Transparent Realities' (p 46)
    • W.J. Stein on Rudolf Steiner after his death

Related pages

References and further reading