The Mystery of Seven

“We, together with the earth, are within these interpenetrating spheres.  Seven spheres mutually interpenetrate one another, and we grow into this interpenetration in the course of our life, are thus bound up with it.  Our life, from birth until death, evolves out of its basic endowment, while the star-spheres in a certain sense draw us on from birth to death.”

Rudolf Steiner (GA 234)

Every complete system of the spirit has seven parts. As students of anthroposophy know, humans are currently in the fourth large stage of evolution. And because we are only in the fourth stage of evolution, it may be challenging to understand how the fifth through seventh stages may be so incredibly different in dimension and consciousness. The subsequent stages are much more than a reorganization of the elements we experience in the fourth stage (or dimension) of evolution. That is because the fifth stage, as with all other stages, synthesizes the previous four stages and adds novelty, new creation out of nothingness, into the unfolding septenary cosmology. We stand at that moment of evolution to either leap forward or fall far behind.

We are embedded in seven cycles within seven cycles within seven cycles. Each of these cycles has a specific aspect of the complete system to contribute. Each cycle, within a greater cycle, within a greater cycle has metamorphic and morphological characteristics that work with each of the seven ethers to manifest one of the seven planetary characteristics (signatures). These cycles can be explained in general tenor and content but each is still a new manifestation, a living creation that reveals the intent of the big picture, the rhythms of the complete cycle of nature found in the great and the small. Certain qualities, virtues, and ethers enliven each cycle with new forces of growth and information. Each cycle contributes to the whole and is integrally one with the whole; each cycle is “part of the plan.”

Dr. Steiner pointed out in the Warmth Course (GA 321) that “the image of the octave can help us visualize the arrangement of elements in the periodic system. We see an analogy between the inner laws of pitch and the structure of matter as it prepares to be active in chemical processes. Thus we are also justified in seeing the processes of union and dissolution in material existence as an outer image of an inner cosmic music, which reveals itself to us as earthly music only in one particular instance.”

Matter is music slowed down according to Steiner; architecture is frozen sound. Atoms and elements seem to dance to the music of the spheres in their chemical exchanges that happen harmoniously throughout nature. The elements are a symphony of harmonious sharing that reflects cosmic order through the processes of a complete cycle of seven and its metamorphic power over time. We find this manifesting in all aspects of nature from caterpillars and rainbows to life-cycles and planetary manifestation.

As Steiner writes in the book Supersensible Knowledge (GA 55) concerning this topic, “Thus we have seven colors in the rainbow, just as there are seven notes in the scale and seven levels of atomic weights in the atomic realm.

The chemical ether is also called atomic ether, valence ether, sound ether, number ether, and numerous other names that indicate the power of sound to create “harmonious” exchange between atoms in chemical reactions. Geometry, proportions, ratios, and mathematics demonstrate the same forces of give-and-take that make life possible. The sound ether is seen as music, whereas the life ether is sometimes described as the “word” ether denoting conscious meaning and form. Sound becomes structured when the life ether enters into chemical exchanges and builds cohesive organisms. The sevenfold forces of the planets raying into the earth and the human body donate the harmonic music of the spheres as formative forces to build the ethers into cohesive life. This sounding ether is a cosmic mathematics that continually streams living sound into life. Steiner speaks of this as, “The mathematical proportions of chemistry are really expressions of the mathematical proportions of the music of the spheres, which has become mute by condensing into matter.”  (GA 130)

The music of the spheres creates the balanced proportions between the planets and also manifests in the organs of the human body and the structure and form of DNA and other such mechanisms. Through morphic resonance, the organs receive and broadcast the same music, or vibrations that keep the organs in alignment with healthy formative forces streaming into the organ from the planetary spheres and cosmos. This communication between the heavenly and earthly “spheres” is the source of cohesive life on earth. The combined forces of the seven planets, the seven intervals, the seven organs, the seven levels of atomic weights, and the many other complete cycles of seven found in the human environment are all linked together in a grand symphony of sound that is like music from a heavenly harp of seven strings. The human constitution is a symphony of beings, sounds, and life that make it an instrument for the gods to play.

In Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom (GA 220), Steiner tells us much the same thing: “If I were to describe everything to you, I would describe a wonderful music within the human body; music that is not heard, but is nonetheless experienced inwardly. What we experience musically is essentially nothing other than outer music meeting with the inner singing of the human organism. This human organism is a reflection of the macrocosm, which we carry within us as Apollo’s lyre, in the form of concrete laws that are much stronger than natural laws.  In us, the cosmos is playing Apollo’s lyre. The human body is more than simply the aspect that biology recognizes; it is also a most wonderful musical instrument.”

Music is the gift of the planetary spheres to humans that draws us into heavenly harmonies, bringing higher consciousness and health. We don’t need to travel to the planets because they are all resonating in our organs, sounding the music of the spheres as metamorphic life patterns of the harmony and resonance that design and create the morphological development of the cosmos and humanity.

The Four Basic Ethers

Four “basic” ethers can create a living, pulsing world of forces and activities that are much like the pulsing heart that circulates human blood performing many complex functions from simple diastole and systole polarics (contraction and expansion). The two ethers of warmth and light expand, whereas the ethers of sound and life contract. These are the forces of levity and gravity. Even beings, conditions, forms, states of consciousness and most everything in the physical world are found to relate to these four ethers. The akasha ether moves between the four other ethers as a “mother” who is always present whenever any two ethers want to connect. Complimentary opposites create polarity that the mother (akasha) is always rectifying.

These four ethers are found active throughout the body but especially in the etheric body which is the vessel that ethers flow in and out through etheric currents based upon the time of day and the rising and falling of each ether cycle. These currents are somewhat similar to the currents described in Chinese acupuncture. The ethers flow along these “meridians” and are found in the “spinning” of the chakras as they send energy up and down the channels and the spinal column.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – Levity (expands)

Warmth Ether – fire ether, chaotizing ether, primal beginnings, Thrones first offering, human consciousness, soul realm, waking consciousness, willing, thermal action, salamanders, ego, red, circle forms

Light Ether – radiance, illumination, Imagination, angels, Lucifer, phosphorous, nerves, astral, fallen astral, dream consciousness, animals, sylphs, air, pneumatics, electricity, yellow, triangle form

The Tree of Life – Gravity (contracts)

Sound Ether – chemical ether, number ether, form ether, tone ether, harmony of the spheres, folk spirits, Inspiration, feeling, dreamless sleep, plants, valence, magnetism, Ahriman, undines, fluids, organs, glands, archangels, sub-atomic, hydraulics, blue, semi-circular forms

Life Ether – word ether, spoken creation, limbs, archai, Intuition, time spirits, trance  consciousness, minerals, meaning, willing, physical, Asuras, radioactivity, gnomes,    atomic ether, gravity, the Third Force, solids, fusion, red, square forms


The cycle of wholeness is impressed into a complete cycle of seven. We can give each stage a different name and describe it from many viewpoints. The core characteristics of each stage can be found everywhere in nature from a butterfly’s metamorphosis to the life cycles of the growing human being. From Greek myth to modern gravity theories we find these mysterious seven cycles for those with ‘eyes to see.’

Take for example the life cycle of a monarch butterfly, a most wondrous creation of nature filled with wisdom and mystery. The butterfly is the best example of metamorphosis and has great secrets to share about the present evolution of humanity.


For instance, the butterfly egg starts as a “dot” on a leaf. A simple place holder, like a dot or point, filled with the secrets of becomingness. Often, seven raised lines cross the top of the egg, perhaps a sign of what is to come. As a spiritual exercise, we might imagine looking at the butterfly as a pattern of seven in nature. The egg represents zero dimensions–just a place holder. The egg hatches and the new caterpillar eats the remains of its own egg and starts moving forward in linear fashion, eating voraciously in “one direction”. Its form is now “one dimensional” as it moves forward in one direction.

After a while, the caterpillar finds the underside of a leaf to attach its back legs to while it begins to spin its thread into a cocoon. The cocoon resembles a crude sphere into which the butterfly encloses itself, creating the two dimensional experience of “inner and outer.”

The tomb of the chrysalis becomes a womb to the next stage of evolution. Its new home, the sac of the chrysalis, represents the beginning stage of a higher dimensional chrysalis of potential. The one dimensional caterpillar passes into the two dimensional cocoon and then into the three dimensional butterfly that commands the three dimensions of space.

The caterpillar dies and is reborn as a butterfly in the process of being birthed into the third dimension. This cycle of birth (caterpillar) – rebirth (butterfly) – procreation (egg) -death repeats itself through four generations of the butterfly cycle.

Then a marvelous thing happens for some fourth generation butterflies.

Instead of living its usual life of a few weeks to a month as a butterfly, the fourth generation butterfly lives much longer. It can fly thousands of miles to winter and then fly back to its home, laying eggs on the same milkweed plants upon which it was born.  The first generation butterfly lays eggs within a few weeks and then dies. The second generation butterfly does the same and so too for the third generation. The first generations of butterflies have lives of about four to six weeks. Only the fourth generation has the encoded message for extended life, enabling them to fly away for the winter and return home six to eight months later.

This is a perfect metaphor of human evolution through the seven stages of incarnation and ascension. In this analogy, spiritual initiates are the butterflies that don’t really come “into existence” until the fourth generation butterfly. The mineral stage (zero dimension) is likened to the egg, the plant stage (one dimension) to the caterpillar, the animal stage (two dimensions) to the chrysalis, and the butterfly stage (three dimensions) to the human. The spiritual initiate is a conscious human who observes his three dimensions and, by so doing, begins to awaken to his fourth dimension existence, like a fourth generation butterfly who is capable of living longer (transcending time) and flying great distances (transcending space).

The butterfly example is an excellent metaphor of the seven stages of evolution that man has gone through (Saturn, Sun, Moon), is currently in (Earth), and will become (Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan).  It is also a metaphor for the unfolding of the complete human being: mineral, plant, animal (past); ego-human (present); Spirit Self, Life Spirit, Spirit Man (future).

Are you like a fourth generation butterfly?


Do you feel an insatiable longing to return home to a place that you know in your heart, but have never physically been?


Do you sometimes feel spiritually “out of place” in your current life circumstance and want to curl up in a “chrysalis” in order to become something more of yourself?


Do you find it difficult to find a connection between your spiritual studies and your everyday life because “time and space” seem to be in the way?


Perhaps you are, like a fourth generation butterfly, a new type of human that will begin to witness the miraculous deeds already living inside of you.

The analogy is metaphorical but borders on literal. These processes can be found everywhere in nature.  It is our task to awaken to our stage of evolution and take our own spiritual development in hand and align it with higher forces and beings who can lead us across those quantum gaps in evolution that come between each new stage.

The full scope of the cycle of seven is to bring forth new creation from seeming nothingness. This process is happening all the time in human thinking, feeling, and willing as it evolves into Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. Humans become conscious co-creators while their hierarchical creators, and all other beings in the process, also evolve. This is the magic of the metamorphic processes of the cycle of seven found in all complete systems.

The various Incarnations of the Earth illustrate the seven stages of cyclic metamorphosis, even into the future. In the chart below, each hierarchical virtue for those stages is given in the second column. The human virtues that relate to the ancient incarnation stages of development are listed next, and then the beings associated with experiencing their “human” consciousness in the different stages. Note that once humans become fully and completely human, conquering death, space, and time, they become more than human and take on the characteristics and virtues of the next rank in the hierarchy – angels. It is also important that the new impulse for the future comes out of the fifth stage of development. For humans to find the new forces of evolution, they should look to the new capacity of Imagination that will support this new growth and evolution.

Incarnation         Hierarchical Virtue          Human Virtue              Beings

Saturn                  Sacrificing                            Humility                     Archai (Time Beings)

Sun                       Bestowing                             Love                            Archangels

Moon                   Renunciation                       Purity                          Angels

Earth                   Consciousness                     Generosity                  Humans

Jupiter                 Imagination                        Temperance                Humans as Angels

Venus                  Inspiration                           Diligence                     Humans as Archangels

Vulcan                Intuition                                 Patience                    Humans as Archai

Ancient Saturn gave us warmth that evolved into light on Ancient Sun and then into sound or fluid during Ancient Moon and eventually into solid life as we know it now in the present Earth Incarnation. Warmth ether evolved into light ether, then into sound/chemical ether, and then into life ether. The warmth of ancient Saturn evolved through four stages into what we now know as minerals. Light evolved through three stages into plants, sound into animals, and now life brings forth humanity on a planet that is filled with ancient donations that have evolved into the kingdoms of nature.

Humans have each of these stages of metamorphosis inscribed into etheric formative forces found in the human etheric body. This etheric body provides the patterns, substances, currents, donations of beings, and associations with living hierarchical beings as the blueprint of life. The past, present, and future are found in the workings of the etheric body.

Eternal Curriculum for Wisdom Children

One could say that the etheric body is a school that human consciousness attends without knowing it. The etheric body is the record of all human evolution and holds the secrets of future human development. It is the teacher and we must become attentive students. We can say that the etheric body is an eternal curriculum for the striving student of the spirit.

The aspirant studies this eternal curriculum by using the ethers, past and future, as the guideposts for human physical and spiritual evolution. We can examine the etheric body during the time of human development from ages seven to fourteen, when the etheric body is most active and building the connectivity to the world and cosmos. It is these years that create a “sensitive period” for an educator to observe the growing child and perceive the developing etheric body. It is a necessity of our times to understand this development and feed it the appropriate living images that can help build an individual child’s etheric body in a healthy way. It is through images, symbols, and literature that we can offer pictures for the growing child to “consume” at the particular stage of human development that matches her own development.

The seven year old child is like a freshly awakened ancient soul trying to come into the modern age. Each sensitive period, or stage of development, can be met with cultural offerings that meet the longings of the young child, who is none other than an ancient soul, reincarnating once again. Each grade, from first to seventh, can be structured to offer an experience of what it meant to be a person in ancient India, ancient Persia, or other cultures that created steps of development that formed the modern thinker. In this way, the development of the child replicates the development of the natural human intellect and its spiritual capacities.

As outlined in Our Spirit’s book, The Eternal Curriculum for Wisdom Children, the entire cosmos grows through the same stages as a butterfly or a child from age seven to fourteen. The archetypal system of seven stages that replicate this “memory picture” can be found in the human etheric body and needs to be nourished, just as the physical body needs proper food, water, and air, through a curriculum that recapitulates the past and indicates the future. This scheme is true in the large and small. A teacher’s job is to offer soul nutrition for the child’s developmental stage through appropriate literature and activities that feed the soul’s need to remember and re-embody the wisdom of the past, thus nurturing the growing etheric body.

Ultimately, understanding the seven ethers constitutes a Theory of Everything. We can teach the child the past through age appropriate education up to the seventh grade.  In eighth grade, we can help the child become a “citizen of his or her own time” through summarizing the content of grades one through seven in an objective way. This prepares the child to come into the modern age with a strong association to the stages of human development that have occurred over millennia. This is the healthy way to welcome and educate the child’s etheric body and to build it out of the ethers that have accompanied this evolution.  Educating the etheric body is the purpose of the Eternal Curriculum for Wisdom Children.

This article is an excerpt from The Eternal Curriculum for Wisdom Children by Douglas Gabriel. Tyla and Douglas Gabriel invite you to join them on a journey that will take you beyond time and space and begin to open your organs of supersensible perception at For initiates who are ready to begin the ascension process, a spiritual alchemical process of the etherization of the blood, the Ascension Sacraments for the Cosmic and Earthly Nutrition Diet  is offered as a gift of love to all spiritual seekers.