Conditions of Life

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Seven Conditions of Life (CoL) or stages of life, also called rounds, kingdoms or elementary kingdoms, must be passed through in order to form a new stage of consciousness in the course of the planetary stages of world evolution. However, one must not imagine that these stages are simply passed through one after the other, but rather that what has already developed from them then also continues to exist. Each stage of life in turn passes through 7 stages of form in order to mature completely.

„You have there the different forms of consciousness Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth and so on[1], the seven forms of consciousness. Man passes through a consciousness in each of these stages, one of which is the earth. He passes through seven different stages of consciousness, on each of these stages of consciousness, that is, Saturn, Sun, and so on, seven stages of life, and in each stage of life seven stages of form.“ (Lit.:GA 187, p. 87f)

Overview of the elementary kingdoms and kingdoms of nature

The following elementary kingdoms can be distinguished, which from the mineral kingdom onwards also appear as outer natural kingdoms:

  1. First elementary kingdom (elementary kingdom of radiant colours).
  2. Second elementary kingdom (elementary kingdom of free tones)
  3. Third elementary kingdom (elementary kingdom of coloured forms)
  4. Mineral kingdom (mineral kingdom of coloured bodies)
  5. Plant kingdom
  6. Animal kingdom
  7. Human kingdom

In his fundamental work "Theosophy" Rudolf Steiner describes the elementary kingdoms as follows:

„1. the kingdom of primordial formless beings (first elementary kingdom);
2. The kingdom of form-creating beings (second elementary kingdom);
3. The kingdom of soulish beings (third elementary kingdom);
4. the kingdom of created forms (crystal forms);
5. the kingdom that becomes perceptible to the senses in forms, but in which the form-creating beings work (plant kingdom);
6. the kingdom that can be perceived sensuously in forms, but in which in addition the form-creating and the soul-acting beings work (animal kingdom); and
7. the kingdom in which the forms are perceptible to the senses, but in which still the form-creating and soul-acting entities are still active and in which the spirit itself forms itself in the form of thought within the world of the senses (human kingdom).“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 153)

Properties of the elementary kingdoms

The three lower elementary kingdoms are difficult to characterise. We have to do with radiant and flowing colours and weaving tones, and in the third elementary kingdom also with shaped mobile colour forms (see below), which, however, do not open up to the sensual eye, but only to the imaginative gaze. The mineral kingdom is created, as it were, by condensing the three lower kingdoms, in that the flooding colours surround the solid crystalline forms and the weaving tones resound through the mineral inwardly, but inaudibly to the outer ear.

„Perhaps you will succeed in forming some sort of idea of the three elementary kingdoms if you tell yourself the following. So you think of stones, metals, and so on, and these members of the mineral kingdom becoming finer and finer, so that you see less and less, that they dissolve, so to speak, into finer and finer substantiality. Let us suppose that you let them all evaporate so that they would actually only have very fine substantiality through which you could look, which would no longer be visible to you. From such formations, if you were to bring them to still greater refinement, something would emerge which would finally no longer be a mineral kingdom, but the third elementary kingdom. Then we would ascend to the second, the first elementary kingdom. It is difficult for the present-day qualities of perception to conceive of these kingdoms, which are hidden and condensed in our world. It is as if these elementary kingdoms, condensed into our world, had, let us say, disappeared. They precede our mineral kingdom. We have seen when this mineral kingdom itself was formed. In earlier periods of the earth's development this mineral kingdom existed precisely in the state of the elementary kingdoms.“ (Lit.:GA 104, p. 197)

„Such a world, where all beings live in radiant colours, is called the first elementary kingdom. When the matter of these beings becomes a little denser, descends into the rupic, they begin to make themselves heard through sounds: This is the second elementary kingdom. The beings who live in it are very mobile. In the third elemental kingdom, shape is added to the rest. The inner colour is shaped. Passion shows itself in the form of lightning, sublime thoughts in the form of plants. In higher realms they are sparks and shines, here they are forms of monochrome and tonal world.

All our beings have passed through three elemental kingdoms. Gold, copper and so on have now passed into the mineral kingdom. Gold in the lunar round did not look as it does now, but like a star shining on different sides, through which one could reach. By a similar process water, when it freezes into snow, becomes a small crystal. The metals are the condensed forms of the third elemental kingdom. Therefore metal is not internally uniform, but internally shaped (Chladnian sound figures). According to lines and figures the whole mineral kingdom is animated, and in the third elementary kingdom it is coloured. Through the fact that the forms solidify, surface becomes, and now the colour arises on the surface.

So we have:

  1. Elementary kingdom of radiant colours
  2. Elementary realm of free tones
  3. Elementary kingdom of coloured forms
  4. Mineral kingdom of coloured bodies.

The physical world contains all three elementary kingdoms as if they had coagulated within it. Sound is much more connected with the inner being than colour, the latter being more of a surface. The radiant colours are still more inwardly connected.“ (Lit.:GA 291a, p. 188f)

The transition from the invisible elementary kingdoms to the visible creation

The entire evolution of the Earth is currently in the 4th stage of life, which is called the mineral kingdom. One can already see from this that what lives around us today in minerals, plants, animals and human beings must not simply be equated with these stages of life, for the whole of nature - minerals, plants, animals and also the human being, insofar as he is not only but also a natural being - lives today in the stage of the mineral kingdom, will later ascend to the plant kingdom and so on. Man is involved in this evolution from the very beginning; it is he who develops through the various stages of life and stages of consciousness, and what otherwise appears as nature around man is something which, for certain necessities of evolution, is only temporarily removed from his being, but later reunites with it. So when we speak of the conditions of life, we are speaking of something that we have already lived through repeatedly, each time on a new level. How can this be understood?

„In occultism they say: 'Man today is in the mineral kingdom.' - What does this mean? Man today understands only the mineral kingdom, and he can master only this. He can build a house, construct a clock and other things by assembling minerals, because these things are subject to the laws of the mineral world. But he is not yet able to do other things. For example, he cannot form a plant of his own accord today; for that he would have to stand in the plant kingdom himself. That will be the case later. Today man is a creator in the mineral kingdom. This was preceded by three other kingdoms, called the three elementary kingdoms; the mineral kingdom is the fourth. Altogether there are seven such kingdoms of nature. Thus man stands today in his fourth kingdom; there he attains his actual consciousness outwardly. On the Moon he still worked in the third elementary kingdom, on the Sun in the second and on Saturn in the first. On Jupiter man will be able to work in the plant kingdom, he will be able to create plants, just as today he can make a clock. Everything that visibly comes forth in creation is in the sign of the four. There are many planets that you cannot see with physical eyes; those planets that are in the first, second and third elemental kingdoms are not visible to physical eyes. Only when a planet enters the fourth realm, the mineral realm, can you behold it. That is why four is the number of the cosmos or of creation. Only when it enters its fourth state does a being become fully visible to eyes that can see externals.“ (Lit.:GA 101, p. 177)

„Occult science contrasts man himself with this "great world" as the "small world". In his dispositions he already has within himself as a soul what the "great world" is to become physically. He is therefore on the way to expanding his inner "small world" into the "great world". In him is the creative womb of the latter. In this sense, occult science sees in the soul a creative germinal plant for the future, an "inner being" that strives to realise itself in an outer being.

But in order to be able to be creative on the outside, this soul itself must first become mature. It must first experience inwardly what it is later to develop outwardly. For example, until the soul possessed the ability to imprint organs into the physical body for the waking consciousness of the day, it first had to go through a series of stages of development in which it gradually acquired this ability. Thus the soul first had to experience the first state of consciousness in itself before it could create it; and so accordingly for the other forms of consciousness. These stages of development of the soul, which precede the creation of the forms of consciousness, are called stages of life in the Occult Sciences. There are therefore seven stages of life, just as there are seven stages of consciousness. Life differs from consciousness in that the former has an inner character, the latter is based on a relationship to the outer world.

Applied to the Earth, one can say: before the bright daytime stage of consciousness of the human body appeared on it, this world body had to pass through four stages, which are to be understood as four stages of life.


The stages of soul experience arise when one internalises what is perceived as the outer world in the stages of consciousness. First there is that dullest stage of consciousness which precedes dreamless sleep. In this latter stage the soul harmonises the body; its corresponding state of life is the harmonisation of its own inner being. It thus permeates itself with a world of sounding movement. Before, in the dullest state of experience, it was in its own motionless interior. It felt this interior in indiscriminate indifference on all sides. This lowest state of life is called the first elementary realm. It is an experience of the substance in its original quality. The substance comes into excitement and movement in the most diverse directions. And its self-experience of this mobility is, as the first stage of life, the first elementary kingdom. - The second stage is reached when rhythm and harmony emerge from these movements. The corresponding stage of life is the inner awareness of rhythm as sound. This is the second elementary kingdom. - The third stage is formed when the movements are transformed into images. Then the soul lives in itself as in a world of forming and dissolving images. This is the third elementary kingdom. - On the fourth level, the images take on solid forms; the individual emerges from the panorama of change. Thus it can no longer be experienced merely inwardly, but can be perceived outwardly. This realm is the kingdom of the outer bodies.

One must distinguish in this realm between the form it takes for the bright daytime consciousness of man and the form it experiences in itself. The body actually experiences in itself its form, that is, the substance forming itself into regular shapes. - At the next stage this mere experience of form is overcome; in its place comes the experience of the change of form. The form forms itself and transforms itself. One can say that at this stage the third elementary kingdom appears in a higher form. In the third elementary kingdom, the movement from form to form can only be experienced as an image; in this fifth kingdom, the image passes over to solidification in the external object, but this external object does not die in the form, but retains its ability to change. This realm is that of growing and reproducing bodies. And its ability to transform is manifested precisely in growth and reproduction. - In the next kingdom comes the ability to experience the outer in its effect on the inner. This is the kingdom of sentient beings. - The last kingdom to be considered is that which not only experiences the effect of external things in itself, but also experiences their inner being. This is the kingdom of compassionate beings. Thus the sequence of stages of life is divided in the following way:

  1. Dull material experience
  2. Experience of inner movement
  3. Experience of inner formation
  4. Experience of a fixed boundary
  5. Experience of reshaping
  6. Experiencing the effects of the outer world as sensation
  7. Co-experiencing the outer world.
“ (Lit.:GA 89, p. 35ff)


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. Rudolf Steiner names the following stages of world evolution or consciousness in the future: New Jupiter, New Venus and Vulcan.