Part 1 - Introduction
Our life on earth is framed by our birth and our death. From our soul’s point of view, it’s an amazing journey we undertake to help us to progress spiritually. Our spirit is like a light always shining ahead of us; our body is always in the now. The soul is a mediator between the two. And this has implications:
We came from spirit and will return to this our spiritual home. During our physical life our soul retains a connection with the spiritual realms, even if we aren’t conscious of it.
Before we are born our spirit gives us a blueprint. It’s the purpose of our incarnation.
Our soul chooses to incarnate into a certain family, place and into certain conditions. What we encounter throughout our lifetime needs to be experienced so we can work with and fulfil the requirements of our blueprint – for this life.
In the big picture it’s part of a continuing process for the soul. We have lived before and we will live again in a new body.
What we bring with us from previous lives is our karma. Mostly the memory is erased at birth and karma appears in the form of gifts and abilities that we can learn to express and the issues we face that we can now redress and transform. The challenges are there to help us because karma is always directed towards self and is an opportunity for us to learn. This journey is above all about self-knowledge.
Here we enter the mystery of life and how it unfolds. Chronos relates to the linear forward momentum, the chronology of hours, days and years. As well there’s a different rhythm relating to kairos, the season or right time. In the words of the Preacher:
For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.
Mother Nature’s seasons are cyclic, framed by the death of the old and the birth of the new. Our soul also moves in such a distinct cycle of little births and deaths within the larger lifespan.
The Power of Seven
Seven is an archetypal number denoting a perfect pattern of existence. That’s why seven is the number of weekdays, musical tones and colours of the rainbow. It's why on the seventh day of creation, after the six days during which the ‘seed of life’ was planted, the creative powers rested. Seven is the number marking completion. And in a human being, as a cosmos in miniature, our life progresses in a seven-fold rhythm of years.
Not being ‘perfect’ we don’t all fit exactly into the archetypal pattern of seven of course. We are infinitely varied; sometimes a stage takes longer, sometimes you pass through it more quickly.
Because in the early stages the physical and etheric bodies are being built up, we see external markers, losing our ‘baby teeth’ and puberty. Most of this happens automatically. It is the mentors in our lives who help facilitate the inner transitions, or sadly, thwart them. Young children are dependent. The terrible abuse some suffer in our institutions and through hatred, oppression and war is not in their control. Sometimes evil happens because evil exists in our world.
Yet as we mature, karma emerges and soul development is increasingly in our own hands. Each new stage presents us with fresh demands and lessons. Different issues become important, from sex and its challenging emotions to money, power and eventually facing our death. They are crises in the original sense of the word; the Greek word krisis meant a separating and then a decision which often requires action.
Because these inner shifts don’t happen automatically, we sometimes see people stuck at a certain stage, not cognizant of the need for transition. Or if we fight against these turning points, we can even grow bitter and disillusioned.
But if we meet what confronts us and learn the lessons involved, every stage offers an exciting opportunity for exploration with distinct characteristics and special significance. When we are attuned to our soul and its purposes, spirit can work in us. So we grow in wisdom and inner authority.
Knowledge helps us
Understanding the spiritual and psychological stages of development based on the rhythms of our soul can help us on our personal journey, and it will be relevant in our relationships with the children in our lives and with other loved ones.
I want to trace the seven-year life cycles in a series of blogs that call on Anthroposophical teaching and also my own experience over the years running seminars and courses. In my research I found the focus mainly on the ‘growing years’ and up to the traditional lifespan of age 70.
I was often asked to delve into the deeper reasons for the extended lifespan of so many people today. I learnt a lot from observing my own beloved parents who passed on at 96 and 104. Now I too have moved through that 70 ‘end point’ and am spiritually in ‘time-on’. I seem to be in the phase when memory awakens in a new way. Referencing events, dreams and shifts from my past, will I hope, unfold the wondrous dance of life we all undertake – the movement and purpose through which we experience many births and deaths as we pass from one stage to another.
Strangely I’m also unexpectedly encountering people from significant times in my youth. This relates to another archetypal pattern within and beyond the 70 years – correspondence between earlier and later stages with a ‘mid-point’ at age 35. This cycle is depicted for example in the hero’s journey – the call to adventure, setting out, gaining of understanding through trials and mentors, and the eventual return with knowledge and wisdom.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
—T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding from Four Quartets
Further, in the universal picture, each physical incarnation involves our soul in its spiritual existence before and after every birth and death on earth. Life after life, this mighty progression is part of our ongoing evolution of consciousness which involves the quest for wholeness, harmonization of body, soul and spirit and eventually spiritual completion.
To be continued …