The Work of The Biography


One of the most important things Waldorf teachers do in their teacher training is to look at their own biographies.  It is a vital step, because children respond to not just WHAT we teach, but WHO we are.  This is true in parenting as well.


I am in my second year of Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts, and we are doing some biography work.  It is very interesting, and I wanted to share some of the resources and exercises as we go along for those of you who are interested in this kind of work for your own personal development in teaching and parenting.


Many of you know that Rudolf Steiner looked at the human lifespan on earth as working in seven year cycles ( although he was not the only one who looked at the human lifespan through seven year cycles).  He saw the human being as a threefold human being, so when we look at biography we must consider the physical body, the soul (Bernard Lievegoed refers to this as the psyche in his book, “Phases:  The Spiritual Rhythms of Adult Life” and the spirit (which, again Bernard Lievegoed refers to as the “biographical skeleton” in his book).


One of the first exercises we did in class was to take an index card and write one word or phrase that describes our physical body in the upper left hand corner and in the right hand corner we were to write down several “themes” that one could see at work in our life.  In the center of the index card, we had to make a list of important events in our life.  We had about five minutes to do this, so you could not sit and think for too long… (If you are going to do this, please grab an index card and do it before you read the next SPOILER part!!)


It was interesting to see how some people wrote down lots and lots from their childhood, and how some wrote almost nothing from their childhood but a lot from their adult life.  Some people put things in their biography like when they learned to ride a bike without training wheels and some put in their college degrees….


One of the major resources I like for understanding the human life span is Betty Staley’s, “Tapestries” – I went through this book chapter by chapter and you can see those posts here:


In our course we are referring to Bernard Lievegoed’s work, which I like, and also this book, which is out of print: “The Human Life” by George and Gisela O’Neil:


Food for thought this Labor Day weekend,


12 thoughts on “The Work of The Biography

  1. This is a timely post for me. I also did some biography work this year Carrie. It is so fascinating and helpful. Did you focus on the part where you try to figure out your life’s purpose? I got some unexpected insights in this area. We also looked at R. Steiner’s biography. Since I’m in the 42-49 year cycle, there is so much to be done and I feel really ready for it! I can’t wait to do more biography work.

    • Hi Lisa! I think we touche on life’s work with the themes we had to list this past time, but we will get more into that as the classes go by…My life’s work has a strong theme of development throughout, starting at the other end of the continuum (death, dying, advanced age) when I was 0-14 and then moving increasingly younger..
      Very interesting!

  2. I have wanted to do a biography study for a long time. As i turn toward 49 and my daughter turns toward leaving the nest, i find myself interested in my life cycles. Thanks for these resources.

  3. This is also so relevant to me right now. I am in year 1 of Rudolf Steiner teacher Training in Sydney and we are working on a huge biography module at the moment. I am finding a lot of ‘life notes or chords’ that repeat themselves no matter where I am, who I am with and how old I am- very interesting! Like life knocking me in the head and trying to teach me a lessons I just dont’ quite get no matter how many times they are repeated.

    In the exercise are the right hand recurring themes relevant to soul and important events relevant to spirit? Is that the idea? We are also reading Phases by Lievgood and Soulways by William A. Bryant to add another text for those interested. I would really like to get my hands on a copy of Tapestries. I’ve been taking a few days break from bio work and knitting instead but I think you just gave me a healthy bit of inspiration to get back into it. I find a little bit each day is less draining and more reflective than trying to release all of the thoughts and memories all at once.

    Enjoy your course and thank you as always for the inspiration and amazing posts.


    • What a great endorsement for biography work! It was certainly life changing for me by taking the training through Center for Biography and Social Art. It is a growing field in the USA. A more recent biography book: Why On Earth? Biography and the Practice of Human Becoming by Signe Schaefer

  4. Hi Carrie, I did a bit of biography work this year after reading Stiener’s biography and also an insightful book called “Taking Charge” by Gudrun Burkhard. Interestingly, I am in my 42-49 yr phase too and the biography work helped me tremendously to get insights, link up patterns and chart my future direction.
    Thanks a ton for the resources.

  5. Very timely post for me as I am hoping to participate in the Biography work with Linda B. in Minneapolis this Fall. Thanks for the links!

  6. Pingback: Relating And Connecting | The Parenting Passageway

  7. Pingback: The Work of Biography: The First Two Seven Year Cycles | The Parenting Passageway

  8. Hello Carrie,
    I love reading this and related posts on biographies. I’m very interested in starting some biography work myself and am unsure where to start. Would book would you suggest for me to begin with? Thanks! Sheila

    • HI Sheila,
      The Human Life from Mercury Press is a place to start self work from an anthroposophic perspective. For a more general overview of the seven year cycles, I would recommend Betty Staley’s Tapestries.

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