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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
THREE-SCORE AND TEN
Numbered are the Days of Our Lives
Numerology, the recognition of number as a fundamental principle in the creation of the world and man, is central to an understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s Spiritual Science. It is based on the ancient wisdom of the Kaballa, bequeathed to a selective humanity in the Egypto-Chaldean civilization, some 5000 years ago.
An enlightening area of study of this Numero Mystika is the unfolding of the various generic stages of the path of human life from birth to…well, a second birth. Actually there are three different perspectives on this mystery we all experience (whether aware of it or not). Confusion between the three can lead to spiritual error.
The three paths must be viewed separately, in spite of areas of overlap. They are the 7-fold Planetarydevelopment of the human being; the 9-fold Bodies equivalent – both from birth to the 63rd year; lastly the Moral imperative, again 7-fold, but times three.
The Oral unfolds up to the 7-th year, the “three score and ten” nominal life span provided by the exoteric partner of the Kabala, the Old Testament. This chapter will focus mainly on this Moral path, both the Planetary and Body being dealt with variously in many other of my books, including this one. But first we should skate over the first two, to give context to the third:
THE PLANETARY. Birth to 7 a Moon period of development; followed by Mercury in the 7-year period 7 to 14; then the Venus years 14 to 21. The next 21 years, 3X7, is a Sun age; followed by 42 to 49 Mars; 49 to 56 Jupiter and 56 to 63 brooding Saturn.
The BODIES path is similar: Physical Body 0 to 7; Life Body 7 to 14; Sentient Body 14 to 21. Rudolf Steiner used the phrase “best time to develop” in describing the next six 7-year periods.
The first three are to be seen in the envelope of the Ego; the first ego aspect is Sentient Soul from 21 to 28; “the best time to develop” Intellectual Soul is 28 to 35; and Spiritual Soul from 35 to 42.
After the three ‘soul’ periods, we have the ‘spirit’: Spirit Self – Manas – 42 to 49; Life Spirit – Buddhi – 49 to 56; and finally Spirit Man – Atman – from 56 to 63. In both Planet and Body paths, the seven years from 63 to 70 are a kind of Shamballa, a time of recapitulation before the great journey into the beyond.
Indeed, Spiritual Science regards any life lived beyond 70 or 72 (yet another perspective, see heart-breath rhythms in No coma in the Kalpa in this book) as a kind of blessing by the karmic gods. It is a period of freedom, not only for the body, most people are in retirement by then, but for the soul and spirit as well. These are truly to be regarded as bonus years – not to be enjoyed by Steiner himself, who died at 64, alas. As long as one lives an honorable, constructive post-70 life, one is released from the obligations imposed by the Planetary, Body and Moral imperatives.
It is a time of Grace; but only if one has earned it by honoring the demands of the pre-70 years.
The MORAL is 7-fold; the following descriptive terms are approximate only: Exploration; Establishment; Effectiveness; Harmony; Bestowal; Reflection; Preparation. Each of the Holy Seven are sown as seeds in each of the three first 7-year periods (0 to 21) of infancy, childhood and adolescence.
These three 7-year periods manifest fully in the freedom of the seven, 7-year stages of adulthood from 21 to 70. In the Physical Body 7-year period, the absolute necessity for Exploration by the 0 to 1 babe is self-evident. The child explores his/her close environment with an intensity as at no other time in life; whether with their eyes, hands, tongue or tiny feet even.
To deny the baby this sustained exploratory experience with sense-depriving idiocies of one kind or another, like keeping them shrouded under veils of colored silks, is to condemn the next exploratory phase, that of the 7th year, to an unnecessary enfeebling.
This first year of official childhood – nominally Class 1 – is also one primarily of Exploration, not the least being of the world of formal learning. Also important is their need to explore their wider environment, that between school and home respectively, as Rudolf Steiner advises. Then there’s the exploring of new relationships.
Any and every encouragement of this exploration principle by teachers and parents will assure a necessary vitality – all other things being equal – in the child with which to face the third exploratory year, the 14th(Class 8). This first year of high school yet again demands, before all else, an exploratory consciousness.
Again the most obvious example is the introduction of a new curriculum and learning ethos. But equally important is the psychological health enjoyed by exploring relationships on a new, elevated level, whether with family, teachers or friends, especially friends, especially those of the opposite sex!
The moral outcome of these three 1, 7, 14 years is seen in the ability of the young adult, from 21 to 28, the climactic Age of Exploration, to explore their new ream of ego freedom. Parents who coerce their newly-liberated and now fully educated offspring to “follow dad into the safe world of accountancy” may be doing them an occupational favor, but probably not a whole-person, or indeed karmic, one. Life for young adults is not about safety, rather risk.
Exploration of the world and man in these seven years of early adulthood involves a level of physical, psychological or even moral danger; but in overcoming the hazards and mastering the unpredictable, one grows in strength, confidence, and self-esteem.
These are the ‘backpacker years’, a period of potential high adventure, whether in relationships, travel, employment of even philosophy, unequaled by any other time in life. Exploration is a moral imperative for this period, one which qualifies the individual to confront the rigors of the next 7-year stage.
Establishment: This began in the year 1 to 2, when infants begin to snuggle into their – now known – environment, establishing their ranking in the family hierarchy (hopefully above the dog!).
The habitual nature becomes more conscious in this second year, establishing firm eating, sleeping, playing (learning) routines.
Routine becomes rhythm in the year 7 to 8, Class 2, when many Steiner teachers observe that the class entity is now ‘established’.
Again, encouragement of establishment morés (don’t split the family in this vital year!) from both home and school, leads to a strengthening of health and happiness for the child.
15-year-olds in Class 9 are also ‘establishing’. Teenagers are not now merely looking longingly at members of the opposite sex, but often settling (again ‘snuggling’!) down with girl or boyfriends.
Again, the high school Guardian can sense a stabilizing of the group, whether in work or play. These three years, 2, 8, and 15, will certainly influence the second Age of Adulthood, Establishment, from 28 to 35. This is the time one usually establishes one’s family, career, and even sense of Self. If the Exploration seven years is the drawing of the plans for the rest of life, those of Establishment lay the foundations. This is yet again a moral imperative to avoid the dangers of a rudderless and irrelevant post-35 existence.
Effectiveness is the third-year phase. The young child is now walking, speaking and thinking, in that order; hence can make a significant – ‘effective’ – contribution to social and physical life.
Parents should nurture this – at time demanding! – effectiveness impulse, rather than subdue it. If so, they will help assure a strong entry into the second effectiveness year, 8 to 9 – Class 3.
Suddenly these more robust children can do things impossible a year or so before; like chores. And do them they should, if the moral seeds are to be sown for an effective contribution to life 35 to 42.
Steiner focused heavily on Class 3, describing a coming out of the chrysalis of new learning skill, like games, numeracy and literacy; a higher plateau of the previous walking, speaking, thinking.
By 35 these faculties, and legion other, should have developed to a stage where the individual can make a real difference in the world.
The years 35 to 42 are for many people (like your author) the golden years, when they made their most significant contribution, hopefully for the good. The world of work recognizes this effectiveness factor in preferring, as job ad. statistics attest, employees in this age range. The 35-42s are considered, rightly or wrongly, to be more energized, committed, competent, and dynamic than any other equivalent age group. They are people of their time.
In an understanding of Steiner’s karmic teachings, pre-35s tend to respond to their past; like clearing up loose ends from previous lives. Conversely, post-35s gradually begin to peer more into the mists of the future, establishing connections for the next incarnation.
These kinds of reflections, and the general study of the 7-year life phase sequences, can be a revelation when overviewing one’s own destiny path. One can tell where one’s blessings were bestowed, and where life’s shortcomings led to an adult outcome where expected potentials were sadly unrealized.
If the reader will forgive a personal example to illustrate:
My Exploration path has seemingly been without obstacle, especially in relation to my family upbringing. I have always been given the maximum freedom to explore my world, especially in my first year with a loving mum. But also in the 7th, when I was the archetypal Aussie bush kid – ditto the 14th. These foundation years led to a fulfilled adulthood in which I was so unencumbered that my acceptance of Anthroposophy, a true path of freedom, at around the 21st year seemed the most natural thing in the world.
As for Harmony! This has been a different story. My 3 to 4th year was a period of global chaos, the height of the Second World War. Here I was subjected, like everyone at the time, to a storm of anxiety and hatred. This planted a seed of fear in my soul for my 9 to 10 period, Class 4, a time of heart-aching domestic turbulence as my beloved mother sickened and was committed to a mental asylum.
My 17th year (nominally Class 11) was similarly shackled, when in my welter of disharmonious dislocation, I left home and school to work in the city. Consequently the period 42 to 49 was wracked with conflict and emotional and occupational chaos. I simply could not comprehend how the previous effulgent Establishment years imploded into the hideous Harmonies!
Which brings up the point that in a perfect world, the Sublime Seven are the paths that should unfold – but too often do not. In fact, certainly in adulthood, karma places obstacles in one’s way specifically as challenges to overcome; an example being the aforementioned autocratic father in the Exploration years; or the pioneering of a highly innovative but controversial high school (as I did) in the Harmonies. The contradictions to this smooth-flowing, 7-fold River of Life are as enlightening as the confirmations.
Another common hurdle in the Harmony years is the ‘mid-life crisis’. This hits women as well as men in the early 40s. The former is also known as the ‘empty nest syndrome’; that which disturbs the otherwise harmonious souls of doting mums as their offspring leave home with callous abandon. Men are often forced into an unwanted career change at around the 42nd year; or do battle with their demons over a host of unresolved inner and outer conflicts.
The year 4 to 5 is that of Bestowal, or philanthropy – or generosity. Any of these words describe the moral responsibility of someone who has spent the last three 7-year life stages receiving from the world, to give back – to bestow. In children of kindy age, this highlights the need for ‘sharing’, in spite of a tendency to do otherwise – especially with their precious toys!
11 to 12-year-olds, Class 5, are at an age when a strong strand of community service ought to be part of their learning plan. And the family?
The child should strongly and consciously support its physical and social well bringing in myriad ways. We begin to lose sight of the teenagers at this stage, as they are either in Class 12 or leaving school. It is an absolute necessity for the development of these 18-year-olds’ character to, after a lifetime luxuriating in the benison of family, school and community, to give something back.
This should be in both a palpable form, like charitable, community or social contributions of various kinds; or the less tangible, such as being exemplary and helpful role models for younger siblings and those in lower classes – all the way to Kindergarten; especially to Kindergarten! This nameless yearning to bestow is so easy to harness in this age adolescent, but sadly so easy to ignore.
The 5, 11, and 18-year moral building blocks flower in the years 49 to 56. Many people of this age inextricably turn from a life of acquisition to one of altruism. They may take on a range of volunteer projects, statistically more so than at any other age – or support family and friends in a hitherto unseen spirit of selflessness.
Many, especially Steiner types, bless the world with their accumulated wisdom in one form or another; like lectures, consultation, publishing and so forth. The soul dynamics of the 49 to 56 should turn from one of absorption (of learning, wealth, whatever), to unselfish contribution to the prosperity of others. So we have a smooth segue into the 6th moral path, Reflection:
This begins in the year 5 to 6, when children proudly voice their memories of “When I was little.”. At this stage, it is healthy to reflect on the few short years they’ve been on earth; as it is in the 11-12th year, Class 6. A good class teacher responds to this nameless need by directing the children’s minds and hearts back over their primary education; to Class 1 even. They do so with lots of revision; including singing old songs, and other artistic highlights enjoyed in sunny times past. 18 to 19 is the year most beneficial for teenagers to reminisce on their whole school and family life. Hence they find meaning in their bewildering existence at this twilight of youth and dawn of adulthood.
The period 56 to 63 does likewise for a life lived longer – a lot longer. Your author published his memoirs at this reflective time. This would have been inconceivable, say in my 40s. My reflections also impel me to make contact with people I knew or worked with decades earlier; again, quite inexplicably. Included there (this Age of Reflection is present tense for me) are visitations to old stamping ground, homes and work sites. Again, the feeling is one of finding meaning in the puzzling pageant we call existence.
Finally the year 6 to 7, that of Preparation. This is fairly self-explanatory, as the child looks anxiously through the portcullis dividing infancy and childhood – and in the 13th year, Class 7, childhood and adolescence. The obligation of teachers and parents is to kindle a spirit of optimism in the child; one which will counter the natural anxiety of a person crossing a threshold into the unknown – for the infant, childhood; the child, adolescence; the adolescent, adulthood.
If the Preparation imperatives of this transition are sound, the individual in the corresponding years 63 to 70 will also ‘prepare’ for their own shrouded vision of the unknown – old age and death.
In the 3-score and 10 principle, this would occur at the 70th year; but increasingly, in the West at least, we seem to have an extended ‘blessing’ period. Most healthy folk don’t expect to die when they’re 70, but it’s not that unlikely either. One thing is clear, they do dramatically age from then on. For example, 70% of 70-yearl old men have an active sex life, but only 12% do at 80.
If Reflection is a gazing back to the past, Preparation directs us to the future. And in anthroposophical understanding, there is a future beyond the grave. Preparation is getting one’s life in order, both materially and – especially – spiritually. Pope John XXIII, when told he has a terminal illness and his death was imminent, praised God that, instead of dying without warning, he had the luxury of being able to prepare for his appointment with the Pearly Gates.
This attitude of gratitude should warm the thoughts of those whom the Great Spirit has blessed with a long life. Rudolf Steiner assures us that meditation on, and spiritual study of, the journey ahead provides for a less cluttered path than that strewn before spiritually indolent or ignorant souls. In general, stony paths await all who are haplessly catapulted into the afterlife without long and earnest preparation.
Who would have thought, to some degree at least, that our entry to our respective havens after our nominal 3-socre and 10 would be influenced by the moral tasks we undertook and demons we vanquished, at their various levels, in the 6th, 13th and 20th years?
Life is a series of cycles in circles. Or so the Kabala tells us.