2. ETHERIC LIFE & THE DISCOVERING CHILD
The second stage - years 7-14
When the baby teeth loosen most children feel that something new is in the air. It is. And it involves more than physical events. The coming of the second set of teeth marks the etheric cycle or second birth. The etheric – prana, chi or life body – is what gives the life to the physical. The invisible etheric weaves through the earth’s flora and fauna. Without these forces any physical form isn’t alive. The etheric is characterised by movement and rhythm and relates especially to the rhythms of life as kairos or the timely season.
A child enters a new life season at around seven years and the etheric forces begin to flow in a new way. Children develop new energies, more vivid imaginations, memory and a sensitivity to the world through an emergent feeling level. Through the inner rhythm of their own being they become awake to the rhythms of the world, of day and night, of the seasonal cycle and of daily life.
Rhythm and energy from the etheric
Specific needs follow. One is for a fundamental regularity in mealtimes, bedtimes, story times, school times. Although this isn’t inflexible, an external rhythm provides security which instils confidence. Especially relevant is the rhythm of time spent online – and as we know, this time should be organized around limits.
Then there is time attuning to nature, whether in the wilder countryside or even a local park. Children benefit physically from being in the fresh air and much more. The etheric energy in plants flows freely, not limited by the mind as can happen in humans, even young ones. A child’s etheric is invigorated through being in the living world. As children awaken to the world in a fresh way their physical resources are being attuned to the etheric.
Progress here is related to expending energy. I live next door to a primary school and enjoy the kids’ noisy delight in physical activity. Improvised ball games are de rigueur in their appropriate season. And there’s plenty of chasing, leaping and doing cartwheels for the fun of it. When a climbing playground was built and completed in the schoolyard the children swarmed all over it, calling out in delight, trying new climbs, hanging together at the top. Such spontaneous physical activity mostly lessens in later stages of the cycle. That’s when organised opportunities need to continue through music, dance, gymnastics, sports, team games.
It’s fruitful for children to participate in all kinds of rhythmic activities according to their capability. Gaining skill and control means the etheric and physical levels become integrated. And this is not dependent on prowess or being ‘the best’ in competition. It’s a real case of each child according to what is possible.
This is also the time of great friendships and need for friendship. The child is more of a group soul than an individual at this stage, experiencing life as a member of their age group. They feel most at ease in a group situation – secret clubs, team games, communal outings. The negative aspect is exclusiveness and rejection, and the scourge of bullying aimed at those who are different.
Children who can’t join in fully for physical or other reasons often feel isolated. Ways of helping them to ‘belong’ are today being explored by teachers and parents. Yet if such a child, or any child, is helped to face their challenges and discover options, the soul is strengthened for the future. Challenges during this stage will also give the child a glimpse of their own inner resources. Yet I would say most children will feel the loneliness of not being in ‘the group’ at times. Childhood can be painful.
Animals are often used in therapy. Children benefit from being around animals too. It’s good if they have pets to encourage responsibility and more so because a pet is simply ‘there’ when the child feels that other humans are inadequate. Animals are part of nature in being great healers and reflectors of something higher than human inadequacy.
This is the Mercury cycle
Rhythm is a symbolic characteristic of Mercury the messenger. That’s why this planet governs the 7-14 cycle. The bards of old could recite lengthy poems, always constructed in rhythmic form because it was understood that rhythm stimulates learning and memory. In the larger evolutionary picture modern analytical thinking has brought us wonders of knowledge but adults cannot as readily master this old skill. But children can. They are in the pre-analytical stage and the old-fashioned learning tools of rhymes and sing-song chants are ideal. Memory will be stimulated by such activities and should be acted upon.
Winged Mercury brings messages of authority from the gods. The younger child learnt by imitation; this second phase finds the need for figures of authority, wise guides through the pathways of existence. These are ‘the gods’. And children are susceptible to their power.
Learning comes through participation and most children are ready to be directed and usually keen to explore their capacities. That’s why good leadership is important – in teachers, older children, other adults of all ages. Children learn reverence and respect in this way. Authority imposed by dictating and policing can shut down a child’s unfolding soul path. The innate open idealism of childhood is extremely vulnerable.
The ‘character’ of the child is emerging now in a noticeable disposition or temperament. This can give us a glimpse of the future adult. However, it’s important to remember that in a child this ‘character’ is still soft and pliable. A child is never simply a miniature adult.
Imagination and creativity
The trunk and the face change between the 7th and 9th years. Within this changing shape the child’s individual imagination is emerging. Their body becomes like a wall between the inner life and the outside world and a child recognizes the difference between the two. Previously there was no distinction.
Imagination strengthens the etheric. Children can have a whole imagined life apart from the everyday one, and it’s often more adventurous and idealised. In this way the soul is ‘filling in the gaps’ before adulthood (when you have hopefully accepted who you are). When I was about nine, I acted out a whole cast of characters through my different expressions in the mirror. My mother would get cross with me for being vain. Little did she know about this amazing other world within ‘the looking glass’.
In this time of fantasy friends and familiars from an alternate realm, the child usually knows they are not real in terms of the external world, but it is still important that the inner reality of such imaginations be respected by adults.
Mercury is to do with the mind, which at this stage needs to be trained through these living pictures of the imagination.The adults are still in charge in as much as they can make opportunities available. What imaginative environments do we offer? What stories, books, television shows, and outings to movies, plays, events, theme parks and unfamiliar places? The most enriching experiences will later be a creative resource in the fully functioning adult.
This is the creative, artistic stage where children need to be free to explore the richness of the senses with traditional and improvised tools. The big jar of marbles at our house was always a great source. Here are two of my grandchildren delighted with their 'marble art'.
How we speak to children is always important. Words can become nourishment if they are filled with life, colour and humour. When we moralise or ‘preach’ our words squash a child’s creative imagination.
In our society children are out of the family cocoon and already enmeshed in school life. In schools, and families too, if we are to ‘draw out’ the originality that souls bring to this world, it begins in this school age second cycle.
In the middle years of this stage children usually become competent readers. Some devour books; others only read the books they must for school. It’s easier to ‘read’ online games. This may be due to difficulty and needs to be addressed. Authors of children’s books understand that childhood is the vehicle for the development of imagination, which is the doorway to the inner world of the soul. So they continue to create good well written stories to enrich and inspire – and get reluctant readers reading.
Towards the next cycle
As time progresses feeling levels change. Around age ten or eleven there’s typically a crisis – a deep experience of aloneness. It stems from an unconscious sense of the separation from the spiritual worlds. Moods and fears emerge which will lead into puberty. This can also be the age of profound pondering. We cannot avoid this if we are to become fully part of the earth.
Authority may be challenged, especially if adults fail to live up to the child’s ideals, if the child has had no positive role models in their environment or in the stories they hear and read. Still, adults are never ‘perfect’ and recognizing this is part of the child’s ‘growing up’ into the world. As for adults, knowing about this transition can help them understand the irrational emotions that sometimes emerge in children.
Interests begin to change with a desire to know more about the physical world. Themes related to science, biology, geography, geometry and technology become important in the later stages of this cycle. If these topics are given from a holistic, participatory viewpoint, this strengthens the child’s relationship with the world around which is now their home. They will be ready for the next challenge, puberty, which marks the culmination of this significant life stage.