The Little Ninja asks me something to do with numbers practically every week. He’ll say:
Pick a number between one and ten.
Then he’ll tell me to add two, subtract one, and on and on until finally he’ll tell me the number in my head (if I haven’t already forgotten it by then). I usually pick “7” because that’s my favorite number, but after the first couple of times he started saying:
Pick a number between one and ten, but not seven.
The other day, he asked me why I like “7” so much, and I didn’t really have an answer. So I started thinking about it.
Some people say “7” is a spiritual number – representing completeness and perfection.
According to the Bible, it took seven days for God to create the world. The scripture is saturated with the number seven…there are seven major divisions, seven annual holy days, seven seals of Revelation, etc.
A kabbalistic concept of seven sees it as the number of the natural world:
- 7 days in the week
- 7 notes on the musical scale
- 7 directions (left, right, up, down, forward, backward, center)
Life itself seems to be based on the law of sevens: children are born after an optimal number of weeks in utero – 280 days (a multiple of seven). Human physiology sees changes occur every seven years, the time it takes for complete cell turnover in the body.
What intrigues me the most is Rudolph Steiner’s theory about the seven-year cycle. He said that these cycles are constant throughout our lives, and they go a long way towards explaining physical, emotional and mental changes that occur in given time periods. He was the man behind Waldorf education, in which methods of teaching are based on the seven-year cycle.
Birth to age 7: we learn the concepts of “I” and “love.” Education should be experiential and sensory-based, because children at this age learn best by imitation. At seven, most kids lose their baby teeth, which indicates a growing independence, the beginnings of temperament and habits, and improved memory skills.
Age 7-14: our personalities are beginning to form. Formal instruction should begin at this time – reading, writing and numeracy – but it should center around the cultivation of the child’s imagination and emotional life. Children begin to explore their inner lives at this time.
Age 14-21: we become more self-conscious. Secondary education should consist of specialized subjects that focus on fostering intellectual understanding, independent judgment and social responsibility. This is when we start to develop interests, whether they are spiritual, artistic or more worldly, and we start to figure out our life’s purpose.
Age 21-28: we enter into “adulthood.” Everything we have learned up to this point influences how we approach our career paths and interpersonal relationships. Our hard edges should begin to soften, allowing us to see the world around us more objectively and with more understanding and intuition.
Age 28-35: we begin to look inside ourselves, to determine who we really are as opposed to who we have been pressured to become. This is a time of inspiration and discovery, both on the personal and the broader, world level as our creative juices are flowing. According to physical science, the association centers of the brain reach peak efficiency as we near 35, which is when many great thinkers came up with their brilliant ideas (Jesus, Buddha, Dante, to name a few).
Age 35-42: we begin to reevaluate ourselves and examine the fruits of our labor up to this point. It can be a time of restlessness because we start looking at what is (and isn’t) making us happy. If we’ve learned something in the previous cycle, we can develop the idea further.
Age 42-49: MID-LIFE CRISIS! This is when most people decide to change – careers or partners. It is the time when we distill all our experiences up to this point and come away with a new, more focused purpose or direction. The flip side of that is that some people carry all their fears and insecurities into this cycle and they rise, bubbling to the surface. But we should be settled into our personalities by now, more comfortable in our skin, and ready to make our mark (if we haven’t already done so) on the world.
Age 49-56: we take inventory of our lives, our purpose and beliefs. Some of us may lose some of physical vitality, which results in us looking more inward and questioning our spirituality. Those who are prone may suffer personality disorders as a result of long-time repression, becoming moody and depressed, which could cause difficulties in relationships.
Age 56-63: we begin to be at peace with who we are while at the same time making adjustments in terms of our activities. We become more willing to adapt our ways so that our relationships are more satisfying. It is a time of self-discovery, of differentiating our true self from the conglomeration of influences on our life – like those from our families, our teachers, and our culture. The hard part is reconciling our young self with our old self. Carl Jung described it as “Individuation” – the process of realizing that we are independent of the forces that have transformed us. When we realize that there is a relationship between us and everything else in the cosmos, we begin to discover the Divine in ourselves.
Age 63-70: we become less attached to the world and more accepting of the people in our lives, appreciating the differences between us. Many tend to reflect on their lives up to this point, what it has meant for them, and see themselves at a sort of crossroads. They start thinking also about death.
Age 70-77: if the previous cycles have run according to course, this is the time when we become more intuitive and accepting. If we have been true to ourselves, exploring and connecting to our inner lives, we should now be able to harvest that experience and use the knowledge to improve our lives as well as our relationships. We can also help others with their search.
Age 77-84 and up: hopefully, the last few cycles have enabled you become more perceptive and in tune with your spirituality. You might see your life as not just the totality of the cycles described, but as a continuum of all who came before you and all who will come after. Steiner was a believer in reincarnation, so while physical life may end, spiritual life goes on.
Seven-year cycles make sense to me, especially when I look back on my life journey so far. Obviously, some of them might overlap a bit as we struggle to deal with issues and events in our own lives. And when we aren’t able to resolve things, they will continue to influence us as we go through life. I guess I understand more of why the number “7” really appeals to me now. But how to explain it to The Little Ninja…..?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!
I almost forgot – there are seven colors in a rainbow!