Every Seven Years (7) You Change

I have republished the book and have improved and  enlarged  it enormously. So I have only included three of the twelve Life cycles here. The whole book is now available in ebook and in paperback in the USA – UK  – AustraliaBrazilCanadaFranceEspanaIndia – ItalyJapanMexicoNetherlands

Most cells in your body are renewed over a period of time.

Does your personality change, too?

b-flowers

0-7 Years35-42 Years  77-84 Years

 

INTRODUCTION

Are you the same person now that you were fifteen years ago? In fact, are you the same person you were just seven years ago? Most of us have heard the old saying that every cell in the body is changed over a period of seven years; but recent investigation has uncovered facts of far more significance to us as human beings. This concerns the emotional, physical and mental changes that seem to occur in approximate seven-year intervals.

Of course, there are no fixed boundaries and so we may achieve these levels of maturity at any period of our lives. So what follows are simply the general changes you may find. Rudolph Steiner, the great teacher of Anthroposophy, said that the seven-year cycles continue throughout life, and are of the utmost importance to doctors, teachers, psychiatrists and the social sciences. Without some smattering of these changes it is difficult for anyone to understand the relationship of any given individual with his or her environment.

I have tried to summarise what Steiner, myself and others have said about the cycles. By way of introduction, I feel it is important to say that as humans, in fact as any life form, we are creatures of great polarities.

We exist strung between enormous duality – sleep and waking, male and female, pain and pleasure, light and darkness, life and death, and death and resurrection, war and peace, matter and anti-matter, negative and positive, the void and bodily existence. To be whole we need to accept and meet these opposites. In the pursuit of love we need to recognise that we must integrate the other gender to become whole.

One of the great paradoxes of our lives is that we constantly go through such enormous changes every day. Each of us is immersed in a ‘river’ of constant change. If you think about it, you have been carried, pushed, impelled by this current as you were moved through babyhood, childhood, teenage and adulthood, and there are more stages of growth beyond adulthood. And as we pass through these changes we die to our old self in order to change to the new. We actually experience ‘dying’ but most people are so out of touch with death, because they are scared of it, that they do not recognise the experience as such.

I use the words ‘death’, ‘life’ and ‘inner world’ a great deal, and to make what I write understandable I need to explain where I get these ideas from, because most people do not understand.

To start with, while we sleep our conscious self is largely or totally unconscious, and while we dream our voluntary muscles are paralysed – therefore another will or motivating force moves our body and creates our dreams. So, in life and sleep we have two powerful actions working in us. The first is our waking experience based on having a body, its limitations, vulnerabilities and a particular gender. This is our Conscious Will. Our second Will is the power that gives us life and in fact runs all our important life processes, such as our heartbeat and digestion, and in sleep continues to express as dreams. This is our ‘life’, to which I have given the description Life Will.

That is not a new idea.  Many ancient thinkers and writers have expressed it in one way or another. For instance, Jakob Boehme, who lived between 1575 and 1624, wrote:

Thou must consider that there are in thy Soul two Wills, an inferiour Will, which is for driving thee to Things without and below; and a superiour Will, which is for drawing to Things within and above. These two Wills are now set together, as it were, Back to Back, and in a direct Contrariety to each other; but in the Beginning, it was not so.

Here is an experience of my own

In 1953, when I was sixteen, and already deeply interested in the possibilities of the human mind, I took a course in deep relaxation. I practised every day for three months, tensing my muscles, relaxing them, then passing my awareness over and over my body, dropping the feeling of tension and letting go. After three months I was quite proficient. One evening, after coming home from dining out with friends, I went to bed thinking I would leave my usual practice, but in the end decided to practice even though it was late. After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and – my whole body. It was like falling through a trap-door into the stars. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless awareness. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So, we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.

“I felt at the time, and still believe it correct, that I had fallen asleep yet remained awake. Waking, critical awareness had been taken through the magic doors of sleep into a universe we seldom ever see – deep dreamless sleep.”

The world I entered was a completely different world than waking consciousness – I call it the ‘inner world’, and it gives one access to areas of experience normal waking life does not.

Now, coming to my use of the word ‘death’, I use it to mean that any one of us can enter the inner world if we know how to die to our own ego and conscious, thinking mind. So, as described above, I have learnt to die to my conscious self by entering that amazing and huge world.

So when I mention Life in this work, I am referencing the huge possibilities that are open to us all, once we have learnt how to still the ego and calm the surface life in order to access our inner world.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that in addition to the summaries included in this short book of the work of others in relation to life cycles, my own observations on the subject arise from having lived a long and full life, much of which has been given over to the study of my own and others’ inner lives, with the result being that I am able at times to have a broader view than many.

0-7 years

One of the most important of these cycles is the first, from birth to seven years of age. Its importance lies in the fact that it is the beginning of everything, the foundation upon which the later structure will be built. Birth gives individual life to an infant body. Even at birth, this small being already has its given potential of intelligence, creativity and personality. But this potential has to come to terms with its environment, which includes its own body. In a human being we cannot have awareness without consciousness; we cannot have thinking without the tools of thought such as language, concepts or ideas. So during our early years we are largely moved by the instincts of hunger, need for love, survival, protection and support, along with pain and the impact of our environment. All this while we build up the inner, mental structures that in later years will allow us to think, to feel, and to be aware of ourselves as an individual.

The most important of these inputs is that of the unconscious behavioural responses we learn. From the moment you are born, perhaps even prior to that, you are learning, or there are pressed upon you, responses to what you are experiencing. The culture you are born into is a huge ready-made set of behavioural responses. For instance, an Australian aborigine would easily respond to a huge living grub/caterpillar by eating it. This would be a very difficult behavioural response for most Northern Europeans or Americans. As babies we learnt everything from whether we respond to opportunity with fear or eagerness; to love with fear of warmth; to food as a glutton or with healthy appetite.

At birth there is a very different physical and glandular system than in later years. For a start the sexual organs have not developed, meaning responses to sex and sensation are very global. Also the thymus is very large and in later years becomes smaller. It has been said this, in these early years, gives the child a very primitive response to truth, right and wrong, and what later become moral codes. So the child only slowly develops any real sense of social morality. In a way a baby is a wild animal, and only slowly develops ‘human’ qualities.

But something so mysterious happens to us during this first seven year cycle that once done it can never be fully undone. The Roman Catholic Church recognises this by saying that if they can have the first seven years of a child’s life that is all they need to insure a lifelong influence. Napoleon also observed that as the twig is bent, so the tree will grow. This is borne out by seeing the cases of children who have been lost and brought up by animals during these formative years. Even with the best tuition they never learn to become a self aware personality as we know it. Time is a mystery to them, and even though their brain size and function is normal, they never approach the usual capabilities that education gives to modern women and men.

So, in the first cycle we pass through an incredible process of learning. This includes motor movements, speech, relationship to ourselves and to our environment. And that means learning a vast amount about what is useful, entertaining or harmful; about what responses we get from others, and developing habits of response that may be difficult to change in later years. We learn a sense of personal awareness and move toward becoming an individual. In other words, we learn to say “I” and know what we mean.

The learning of language is like a powerful computer programme that gives us the ability to develop an identity and self awareness. This is shown again by children reared by animals. Language also adds limitations which we can overcome if we recognise them. The life of Helen Keller throws an enormous light on such children’s ability to learn. Helen was struck dumb and blind at an early age when she had only learnt one word, so was like a child reared by an animal. She lived life as such without self awareness until the age of eleven. Then she was taught by a deaf and dumb teacher and remembered the first word and quickly began the climb to become a human person. [Source: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller].

The stories of such children’s lives show us the enormous influence the early years of learning have on our mind, and how language is like a huge computer programme that alters our natural awareness, allowing us to have self awareness and a personality.

Rudolf Steiner would add that during this first stage of development the developing inner forces are working to transform the body of the child from one that was inherited from the parents, to one that represents the full personality of the child.

 

Emotional Age 

Something often overlooked about the stages of growth is one’s emotional age.

From age zero we are completely dependent upon the loved person for our needs, physical, emotional and social. Great anger, jealousy or pain are felt if the loved one relates to anyone else, is lost, or threatens to leave. If we do not mature beyond this emotional age, in adulthood this enormous feeling reaction may also be felt at a time of emotional withdrawal of the partner, even if there is no sign of an actual physical withdrawal on their part.  In the infant and toddler there is a desire for unconditional love and a need to be always with the loved one. In an adult with this developmental level of love, sex may be a part of the relationship, but the main need is a bonded connection. This is sometimes felt as a need to have the loved person want us as much, or as desperately, as we want/need them; possibly the greatest fear, one that can trigger great anger or an enormous desire to placate or earn love, is the threat or fear of being abandoned. Obviously many people never develop beyond this level.

The point is that certainly in the past, and still today in many parts of the world, abandonment means death. The greatest and most prominent drive in a baby animal is to stay connected with its parent or group; if it doesn’t it will almost certainly die. That instinct has been built into us as vulnerable animals for millions of years. The baby cannot help but feel that imperative. It will react with tremendous emotional force, swinging between extremes of placation and murderous rage. In a baby that can simply be noisy, but many adult still carry this ‘baby’ inside them, and its responses can be tragic for them, or even end in murder.

This is so important, that if during this and/or the next, second cycle, any feelings that you were abandoned or lacked love were felt, then you need to be aware that you have a huge time bomb that can be triggered in your life.

Adult men and women with that time bomb in them can become painful victims of their desperate need for ‘love’. This can happen at any time of life, even the late sixties or beyond.

A woman can be triggered by any signs that a man or woman ‘loves’ her, and can be so hypnotised by such attention that she becomes a sexual slave for a man, and when he has finished with her, or she demands a loving and not just sexual relationship, is cast off, often leaving great painful wounds.

A man can equally fall in the same way. So it is important to recognise whether you have been the victim of abandonment, sexual assault as a child, or just unloving parenting. If so, recognise you are very vulnerable when someone takes an interest in you.

Another very important part of a child’s life that is barely recognised in our culture is that we all learn enormous amounts in a similar way to how a fox cub learns from its parents – without any verbal communication. Just as a fox cub ‘learns’ how to hunt from its parents, so we absorb the deeply etched survival strategies of our parents simply by being around them. The process instinctively draws in the survival tactics that perhaps even our parents themselves have never really been aware they live by. In doing this the higher animals learn what cannot be passed on as instinct, what is not ‘hard wired’ into them. This holds in it a tremendous advantage because ‘hard wiring’ takes a long time.

So, not only can one have a ‘gene pool’ from which our body is formed, there is also a ‘behavioural pool’ acting as a similar resource. This does not so much shape the body, but certainly gives form to the character and responses. But we absorb not only the helpful attitudes and behaviour of our parents but also the awful strategies many people use to survive.

So if we can develop something of the ability to stand outside the attitudes that most of us identify as ‘us’, it is useful to see if we can find and assess these deeply buried behaviours.

35-42 years

From the thirty-fifth to the forty-second year, depending upon one’s personality and what one’s circumstances allow, one begins to feel a new restlessness. In some degree a desire to share whatever one has gained through life with others comes to the surface. Thus we find many successful business men building libraries, or aiding colleges and the arts at this period in their life. What has been developed or realised can be taken to greater subtlety during this period. This is almost like unfolding something, perhaps similar to the way a flower unfolds a bud that has been developing in earlier phases of its growth.

This period is when we reassess the results of what we are doing externally in our life. Our relationships, careers, habits and the ways we interact are all put under scrutiny and modified or changed. It’s a time of facing up to what does and what doesn’t satisfy us.

You may reach heights of realisation and creativity not touched previously. The profound breakthrough of one’s innate genius that emerges around this time will no doubt be expressed in some degree. However, whatever is attained or realised will be enlarged and synthesised in later periods.

You are about to enter the most creative period of your life. I see it as a burst that opens in us that colour all the years afterwards. But you need to be ready to burst, like flowers do, that are green one moment and then suddenly burst into colour.

In your dreams you create a world and experiences which are new every night. To bring forth the new is a sign of great creative genius – and that is you. But perhaps you have not taken time to consider the wonder of your creative process in dreams. Every night you create a new drama. You conjure out of your own being the people, the creatures, the surroundings of your dream. Then you give life to what you create; not only life but purpose and drama. You are a supreme dramatist, playwright, actor and actress. You are the great Creator in your dreams. Considering this, have you ever wondered why that enormous creativity does not flow into your waking life? You can see that some people have that creativity and are enriched by it personally and financially. Why not you?

Well, the answer is simple – we hold ourselves back. We do not allow that passion, that ability to feel all the wonder of all the characters we hold within us, and dream about, to enter our conscious life. Most of us have inbuilt mechanisms which prevent this spontaneous creative activity. Think about it – do you like meeting the new, the force of wonderful change in your life; can you face your own passionate emotions, your fears and wonder? If not then you are holding back the force of Life in you. Life is a passionate, living, moving, evolutionary thing, and dreams are a product of life. I remember watching a young lovely woman who had just had a cast taken off her broken arm, who was talking noisily to a group of her friends. Suddenly she slipped on the wet floor and banged her arm. She lay on the floor crying with the pain, and immediately all her friends scattered and left her lying alone. Why were tears or pain so awful?

Another memory strikes me as an example of such avoidance. I and a friend were sitting on a slope of a park outside of the children’s enclosure of a zoo. It was a lovely summer day and many family groups were also sitting and enjoying the view. Many animals were wandering about mixing with the children in the zoo. Suddenly a male donkey mounted a female donkey. An explosion of people happened as parents picked up their children and literally ran away. It struck me that people are frightened of Life.

Life is a mystery whose secrets we as a species try to learn, but so far often fail to fully understand. A large text book on the biology of living creatures, states, that “Life is a mystery”. But you are an expression of that mystery. Therefore, although you may not intellectually understand the depths of what you are, nevertheless, you are that mystery discovering itself. By allowing the depths of your being to unfold, you move closer to knowing the mystery you are. You can take the first steps toward this by recognising that any beliefs you have about what you are, are incomplete. You do not know the full nature of your body, mind, or the universe, and therefore you do not know, even if you are very well educated, the full extent of what you are. To drop such preconceptions, opinions and beliefs is the first step. To stand before oneself naked of preconceptions is to begin the process of opening to your potential.

77-84 years onwards

During the three preceding periods a new self developed. This emerged out of a summary and synthesis of all that we had lived. Perhaps, if a person has given  attention to their inner life, doorways of perception were opened through which was seen how our present life is a continuum of the long past, of ancestors and other influences. From this new self and widened perception we are acting and living in the world in a different way. The essence of the purpose, love and ideas we lived by is given new expression.

Something that I believe happens as we age, or if we meet stress or a shock, is that the threshold between our waking life and our underworld breaks down. Then these dark creatures begin to emerge. We see this in countless thousands of people in today’s world who only manage to carry on existing through the use of anti-depressants and other medical drugs.

To most people it seems highly unlikely – unlikely that nearly all of us carry this dark world within us consisting of childhood miseries and of repressed parts of ourselves that were never allowed to grow. But most people have, not even for a moment, broken through that threshold into the darkness and light of that interior realm. And even if they have, they usually rush headlong for some means of pushing it back into the darkness. At least in part this is an explanation for the amount of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs that decrease our awareness.

I believe that the suffering we see in the elderly is at least in part due to them never having met and integrated the creatures of light and darkness in their underworld.

But there is another world than the darkness. It is a world of growing awareness, a world in which you can heal and transform.

We have had a long life, but of course a part of us has existed since the beginning of Life on this planet. For no plant or creature grows from a dead seed, and each living seed carries within it all the past gathered from all its forebears. So, the seed in our mother’s womb is as old as and even older than human kind, and we carry that wisdom or memories within us.

As for what Life is, it is like asking who are you? It is no good answering that you are a woman or man, or that you are a success or failure, a TV personality or a housewife because they are just words you have been taught apply to yourself. Words are sounds or signs we have associated with experiences of reality. Dog is a word we have fixed to a reality, so words are like photo copies of reality we use and we believe are reality.

Death is another word we use and often scare ourselves with – but reality is not found in words. Might we not speculate then, by saying that the biggest physical change of all – death – may be but a pre-requisite for yet another cycle of life; an initiation into an entirely new type of awareness? In fact it can happen that from the last cycle onwards, if we dare to experience our inner life reasonably fully, we will already have experienced what naked awareness, reality, is like, or have penetrated the reality of what is called death in some way.

Meeting death while alive – relinquishing all we have considered to be the reason for our personal existence – dropping the urge to grasp what have been the goals of our life, such as sex, money, power, self expression – brings a new life in which we realise our intimate oneness with life. And although this seems like an end as we enter it, as we die to it, the vastness of it promises new and wondrous life. It is an end to the life we have led up to this point. But ends are beginnings in the wider life. For at our very centre is the ever shifting mystery that is life itself.

I said earlier that Life is a mystery, and as a mystery is little understood. But here is something that I feel captures something of that mystery.

To quote J. B. Priestley from his book Rain Upon Godshill:

‘Just before I went to America, during the exhausting weeks when I was busy with my Time Plays, I had such a dream, and I think it left a greater impression on my mind than any experience I had ever known before, awake or in dreams, and said more to me about this life than any book I have ever read. The setting of the dream was quite simple, and owed something to the fact that not long before my wife had visited the lighthouse here at St Catherine’s to do some bird ringing. I dreamt I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down upon myriads of birds all flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds. But now in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek, and then, in a flash bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless effort?

As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us, had been born, if the struggle ceased for ever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy. But now the gear was changed again, and the time went faster still, and it was rushing by at such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; and as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me, in a rocket burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real but this quivering and hurrying lambency of being. Birds, men and creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so far as this flame of life travelled though them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought was tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life. I had never before felt such deep happiness as I knew at the end of my dream of the tower and the birds.’

 

Comments

-April 2018-01-01 20:38:33

This article has left me at a loss for words, in a good, almost unexplainable way. However, I noticed that several comments relate to being in an older age (50’s or 60’s) and resonating with the younger life periods (0-14). What are your thoughts on someone like myself, who can feel and know the concepts of the 42+ phase, despite only being 22 years of age? Do you have any other works on experiencing awakening or consciousness at a younger age?

-Cozette Hallman 2017-08-01 23:36:19

I’m so glad that I found this Literature on the Aging Process, Physically Mentally Spiritually Emotionally and the stage of ~#Individuation
I’ve always talked with my children to individualize your Life, every 5 years, where do you see yourself and what you are doing to fulfill or Grow to that Purpose.

-moreblessing geti 2017-01-21 13:57:34

I have learnt a lot on waldorf education. Thank you

-pristine derma 2015-09-14 0:55:35

I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.
The issue is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently
about. I’m very happy I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.

-Thomyjeane lewis 2014-05-13 15:36:25

I love this. It is so true. I am 61 & I admit the changes I have gone thru is just as you stated. Thank you, now I know what to expect in the future. I wish I have known this years ago. Again. Thank you.

-Tanvi 2013-12-13 23:39:39

how many years is the first half of your life ?

    -Tony Crisp 2013-12-16 13:24:56

    Tanvi – We can only give an average, because some people die very young and others very old. So an average used to be forty because man people did not live beyond 80. But even though people often live much longer, between 40 and 50 is still a good measure, as the body starts to show signs of going over the crest of the hill about then.

    Tony

-Amelia 2013-11-30 5:30:31

I want to to thank you for this excellent read!!

I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I’ve got you book
marked to look at new things you post…

-elham jafari 2013-08-29 20:50:49

i love this

    -Tony Crisp 2013-09-04 8:11:05

    Elham – Thank you. It is one of the most popular pages on the site.

    Tony

-Tony Crisp 2013-08-23 20:21:05

I wrote this 40 years ago. How old is your teacher?

Tony

-Kate 2013-07-14 18:49:13

I saw a lion kill a little girl at the national zoo when I was 9. She was 2 & 1/2. I’m now 64. I was told when a traumatic experience happens in youth, you stay at that age mentally as far as acting like a goofy kid. I’ve held responsible jobs but away from work and the responsibility I’m nine. Does this really happen? Thanks for your response.

-Avery 2013-06-12 2:11:34

Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other sites?
I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would
love to have you share some stories/information.
I know my subscribers would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested,
feel free to send me an e mail.

-virus scanners 2013-04-01 20:40:38

Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe this website needs much more
attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!

-Mandy Merrell 2013-02-13 20:54:51

I really enjoyed reading this article!

    -Tony Crisp 2013-02-17 13:45:32

    Thanks Mandy. I enjoyed writing it, and it is something that has grown and developed over the years, and I hope will still carry on growing.

    Tony

-D'Arcy 2013-01-20 11:14:50

I realized I have a 7-year pattern in my life – it seems that every 7 years I take up learning something new, specifically a style of dance. From age 6-10 I did ballet (5 years), from 10-17 Irish step-dancing (7 years) and age 18-25 Swing dancing (7 years). Now at age 25, I’ve started studying karate! Not a dance, but dance-like in movement. I was curious to see if this was a shared pattern & googled “7 years” and found this. Thanks for the insights! Maybe every 7 years you change because that’s how long it takes to master something, to integrate something until it becomes a part of you, and you can then use it as a foundation for something else, like teaching dance, or studying a new art.

-Kate Walker 2013-01-06 9:12:00

Well thank you ! Last night , I put it to the spirit world to help me with my life phases assignments……. this morning, in my n.z garden watching monarchs flying…. a little reluctant to go to a screen….well hey presto ! look whats here….. thank you !! And I love also the world of dreams…. Art and medicine…. Great to discover your helpful website Kind regards, Kate

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