Seven-year periods

From AnthroWiki

The essential members of man develop in seven-year periods. When a human being is born, all his or her members are already predisposed, but only mature at a certain age. At first they are only bestowed upon the human being; little by little he must first bring them to maturity and thereby make them completely his own, i.e. adapt them to his very specific individuality. This further maturation takes place in approximately seven-year periods.

The seven-year rhythm as a pedagogical-therapeutic task

„Of course, the time indications given are more or less approximate. With one person the thing comes a little earlier, with another a little later; and all the indications of the number seven are not real indications, but only approximate indications.“ (Lit.:GA 307, p. 79)

With the change of teeth around the age of 7, the basic form of the individual physical body is formed. With sexual maturity around the age of 14, the formation of the independent etheric body is completed and the astral body is born as an independent member of the human being. These stages of life are very distinctive because of the corresponding strong changes that the human body undergoes. The developmental steps that follow later are no longer so clearly reflected in bodily changes. From the 21st year of life, with the birth of the independent I, the man works on his three mental, and from the 42nd year of life on the three higher spiritual members of his being.

Wolfgang Schad emphatically emphasises that the seven-year rhythm has nothing to do with ancient number mysticism:

„A Waldorf-classical example of the searching understanding of child development is, for example, the problem of the seven-year rhythms. Waldorf education is often accused, especially by educationalists, of practising a kind of number mysticism that originated in antiquity; Steiner is merely continuing this. Of course, the Greeks, Romans and the Middle Ages already spoke of developmental stages in seven-year steps. At seven one became a page, at fourteen a squire and at twenty-one a knight. - However, there is an account by Rudolf Steiner in which he speaks of the fact that one should not expect the child to develop in exactly this seven-year rhythm. In fact, this is usually not the case, there are far too many prematures and delays. One cannot even expect a group of the same age to go through the seven-year rhythm together, at least on average. Rather, he speaks of how the seven-year rhythm is not a diagnostic result that can be found, but of the fact that nothing better can be given to a person for the whole of his life than to help him into the seven-year rhythm through education. The seven-year rhythm is a pedagogical-therapeutic task, but not a diagnostic result! The task now is to determine the child's stage of development. One can then carefully try to lead the child into the age-appropriate range if it is too far ahead, and help it along if it is too far behind. The completely individual only thrives in the long run if it can join a humanity without being pressed into it. The general and the individual can be reconciled to the benefit of both. This is ultimately what biographical education consists of.“ (Lit.: Wolfgang Schad (2004), p. 973)

The development of the microcosm of the human members as a reflection of the macrocosm

The temporal development of the members of man as a microcosm is under the influence of the macrocosm. If one directs attention in particular to the effect of the planetary spheres, the following elementary connection arises, in which the occult order of the planets is reflected:

Physical body 0 - 7 years Moon
Etheric body 7- 14 years Mercury
Astral body 14 - 21 years Venus
Sentient soul
I Intellectual or mind soul 21 - 42 years Sun
Consciousness soul
Spirit self 42 - 49 years Mars
Life spirit 49 - 56 years Jupiter
Spirit man 56 - 63 years Saturn

However, one must not take this assignment schematically. From another point of view, which reaches from the Earth up to the zodiac and beyond to the so-called crystal heaven, there is a completely different connection: During the first seventh year of life, the forces of the Sun work on the human being and form his independent etheric body. In the second seventh year, the forces of the Moon are added, forming the astral body. Then, until about the age of 21, the much more subtle forces of the other planets of the planetary system are at work, which are much more difficult to notice. Up to the age of twenty-eight, the constellations of the fixed stars still have an effect that is hardly observable. But then development comes up against a fixed limit, the rightly named crystal heaven. From now on, the human being can no longer draw any forces from the cosmos for his development, but must from now on process on his own what he has absorbed so far. Precisely because of this, however, the human being can only now really develop his independent self. (Lit.:GA 318, p. 59f)

Physical body 0 - 7 years Sun
Etheric body 7- 14 years Moon
Astral body 14 - 21 years Planets
Sentient soul 21 - 28 years Fixed stars
Intellectual or mind soulI 28 - 35 years crystal heaven as natural developmental boundary
Consciousness soul 35 - 42 years
Spirit self 42 - 49 years
Life spirit 49 - 56 years
Spirit man 56 - 63 years

„Now you see, the human being is active within himself in the first seven years of life with the forces of the sun, in the second seven years of life with the forces of the moon. The solar force remains, but the lunar forces are mixed with it. In the third seven years of life, from sexual maturity until the twenties, the much finer forces of the other planets of the planetary system are absorbed into the human being. Then the other planetary forces appear in the human being in the process of growth, and because these have a weaker, much weaker effect than the sun and moon on the human being, the things that the human being then absorbs are much less outwardly visible. We no longer notice as strongly as we did in the early twenties - while the planetary forces are still at work in the human body between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one - how in the early twenties these forces begin to work in the soul-spiritual sphere. It is the planetary forces which begin to work in the soul-spirit, and he who has insight then looks at man in such a way that he notices in this strange transformation which man experiences in the beginning of the twenties: up to now only the sun and moon have spoken out of human activity, now this solar and lunar activity modifies the planetary forces. The crude procedure of men, the crude observation, has even quite little sense for envisaging this transformation, but it is there.

Now you see, it is true that for those who observe man in relation to health and disease, knowledge of these connections is necessary. For what do we really know of man, let us say in his eleventh or twelfth year, if we do not know then that the lunar forces are at work in him?

But now the question will arise within: What is the next step? Later on, even if the parts to be renewed become smaller and smaller, man must also renew things later on. Now you see, up to the twenty-first, twenty-second year, the sun, the moon, the planetary system successively work into human growth. Then, up to the twenty-eighth year of life, the constellations of the fixed stars still have an effect; so this is already very much beyond observation. It is only with the wisdom of the Mysteries that one sees the whole fixed star system playing into the human being between the beginning of his twenties and the end of his twenties. Then the world becomes hard. It no longer wants to work its way into the human being; the world becomes hard. Of this peculiar relationship of man to the world in his twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth year of life, that the world becomes hard, modern science hardly knows anything any more. Aristotle still taught it to Alexander by telling him: "Then, as a human being, you come up against the crystal sky; it is hard. - This is how the crystal sky, which is outside the sphere of the fixed stars, acquires its meaning, its reality, for human perception. With this, one begins to realise that man no longer finds any powers in the universe when he is at the end of his twenties in order to renew. Why then do we not die at the age of twenty-eight? This world that surrounds us actually lets us die at twenty-eight. It is true that whoever sees the connection between man and the world now looks out into the world with the consciousness: O world, you will actually only sustain me until the end of my twenties! - But it is precisely by realising this that one begins to understand man properly in his essential nature.“ (Lit.:GA 318, p. 59f)

In his course on curative education (Lit.:GA 317, p. 171f), Rudolf Steiner showed yet another perspective, again starting from the connection of the members of the being with the planetary spheres, but this time also including the two outer planets Uranus and Neptune:

Spirit man Neptune
Life spirit , Uranus
Spirit self Saturn
Consciousness soul Jupiter
Intellectual or mind soul Mars
Sentient soul Venus
Sentient body Mercury
Etheric body Moon
Physical body Sun

„Take the human being for instance. We divide him into the physical body, the etheric body, the sentient body, which we bring into connection with the sentient soul, the intellect soul, what the Greeks call the power soul, the consciousness soul, and here we come to the spirit self, life spirit and spirit man. Now, you see, if you look at these members of human nature, at first they turn out to be something that must be regarded in relative independence and that composes the human being. But actually the composition is different in every human being: One has a little more strength in the etheric body, but less in the physical body, another a little more strength in the consciousness soul, and so on. In all this there is the human being with his actual individuality, which passes through the repeated earth-lives, who must first bring this whole connection into an individual regulation from the principle of freedom. But that which comes from the cosmic depends on the human being in such a way that to the physical corresponds the strongest solar effect, which has a strong influence on human beings in general. To the etheric body correspond the strongest lunar effects, to the sentient body the strongest Mercury effects, to the sentient soul the strongest Venus effects. To the intellectual soul correspond the strongest Mars effects, to the consciousness soul the Jupiter effects, to the spiritual self Saturn. And that which is not yet developed in man today comes to the fore in Uranus and Neptune, these are, after all, the vagabonds who joined our planetary system later, so with them we have to look for the planetary influences which, under normal circumstances, do not actually have a very strong influence on the birth constellation.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 171f)

The substantial renewal of the physical body in seven-year periods

Cell type / renewal rate
Small intestine 16 years
Small intestine epithelium 2-4 days
Rib muscles 15 years
Stomach 2-9 days
Cervix 6 days
Alveoli 8 days
Taste buds 10 days
Platelets 10 days
Osteoclasts 2 weeks
Epidermal cells 10-30 days
Trachea 1-2 months
Spermatozoa 2 months
Osteoblasts 3 months
Red blood cells 4 months
Liver cells 0.5-1 year
Fat cells 8 years
Skeleton 10 years

During the seven-year periods there is also an extensive substantial renewal of the physical body.

„We are continually shedding physical matter from our form. The process, however, is more complicated than one could simply imagine, if one wants to be exact, in such a way that one says: Man sheds all his physical matter in the course of seven to eight years and renews it. - There is something quite true about this, but one need only look at the change of teeth itself and one will find that one has to imagine it somewhat modified. For if the thing were correct in this abstractness, we should always get fresh teeth after seven years. But that is not the case. We only get them once. Teeth, however, belong precisely to that which does not undergo renewal after a single replacement. They belong in the most extreme sense. But the course of man's development on earth is such that the older he gets, the more and more of the old physical matter he retains, so to speak. A replacement in seven to eight year periods of by far the most parts of physical matter already takes place, but we must distinguish in the human being between something that always remains behind; with the seventh year it is only the teeth that then set in and then remain, but after further rhythmic repetitions of such transitional periods there always remain in the human being parts of the material that are not replaced, although the greatest part of the human being definitely replaces his matter in the course of seven to eight years.“ (Lit.:GA 318, p. 50)

Recent studies by the Swedish stem cell biologist Jonas Frisén have confirmed that the cells of the human organism renew themselves on average every 7 to 10 years, although the renewal rate varies greatly between different cell types (see table). The determination was made using the C14 isotopes stored in the cells, which had entered the biocirculation system as a result of the above-ground nuclear weapons tests that were finally stopped in 1963. Since the C14 concentration in the atmosphere had decreased by about half every eleven years since then, he was able to precisely calculate the cell age of the different tissue types.[1][2][3][4]

Becoming younger of humanity

Main article: Becoming younger of humanity

In ancient times, this gradual unfolding of the higher members of mang was guaranteed to a great extent by the natural forces of development that were predisposed in man. These forces, however, are drying up more and more. Today the human being must increasingly take his development into his own hands through his conscious spiritual striving. Rudolf Steiner has repeatedly emphasised that a comparison of the general and the individual age of development shows that a constant becoming younger of humanity is taking place in the sense that the natural development of the members of man breaks off at an ever earlier age. At present this is the case around the age of 27, whereas the people of the primitive Indian times had retained the natural powers of development until old age.

„Man consists of the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the I. But we also know that in the course of human life only the physical body of man is born at first with the physical birth, that then up to the 7th year the etheric body of man is still surrounded by a kind of etheric mother-shell, and at the 7th year, with the change of teeth, this etheric mother-shell is pushed back just as the physical mother-shell is when the physical body is born into the outer physical world. Then later, at sexual maturity, an astral sheath is similarly pushed away, and the astral body is born. At about the age of 21 the I is born, but again only gradually.

After we have gone through the birth of the physical body, that of the etheric body at the 7th year, that of the astral body at the 14th to 15th year, we have to observe in a similar way a birth of the sentient soul, the intellect soul and the consciousness soul; namely, at about the 21st year the sentient soul is born, at the 28th year the intellectual soul and at about the 35th year the consciousness soul.“ (Lit.:GA 112, p. 39f)

See also


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. Kirsty L. Spalding, Ratan D. Bhardwaj, Bruce A. Buchholz, Henrik Druid, Jonas Frisén: Retrospective Birth Dating of Cells in Humans, in: Cell Volume 122, Issue 1, 15 July 2005, pp. 133-143 doi:10.1016/j.cell.2005.04.028 pdf
  2. Jonas Frisén et al.: Dynamics of Cell Generation and Turnover in the Human Heart, in: Cell Volume 161, Issue 7, 18 June 2015, pp. 1566-1575 doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.05.026 pdf
  3. Samiha Shafy: Körperzellen sind sieben bis zehn Jahre alt, Die Zeit, 24.08.2005 online
  4. Petra Apfel: Der Sieben-Jahres-Mythos: Sie sind viel jünger als Sie glauben,, 26.01.2016 online