The Seven Life Processes and Sculpture Therapy

The seven life processes and sculpture therapy.

We can look at the creative process, in this example a sculptural process, as a living process, as it is a process of trans-forming a raw material into a seemingly living creation. The creator is going through different stages as he creates an art work, stages that we can recognise as the 7 life processes.

The example I give here below, of forming and trans-forming a sphere with clay, is only one way of showing you this process. Whatever the idea is that is being expressed in form, how small or how big, in clay, wood or stone, the creative process stays the same.

I describe here below how the 7 life processes, as given by Rudolf Steiner, are working in the creative process of making a sculpture. The terms in the table below are given by Dr. Adam Blanning in the medical conference in February 2018 in Hawke Bay.

I also add questions we can ask ourselves when working therapeutically or pedagogically, so that we can observe the changes that occur over time, and continue to guide a client, student, and ourselves, in the growth towards health.

In other questions I describe how each stage is also about crossing a boundary and there also we can see how this is done in a healthy way or maybe not yet fully balanced.

The seven life processes:

In the body      –       In thinking and               –       Questions and                 

                                         sensory processing:             observations                      

                                                                                                   in working with clients:


  1. breathing, taking in      –       taking in               –   unshielded?
  2. warming, adapting        –       recognising        –   not recognising?
  3. nourishing, breaking down   –   analysing    –   unable to digest?
  4. secreting, sorting   –  questioning     –   what is me? what is not me?
  5. maintaining                      –        combining           –   how do I release?
  6. growing                              –        imbedding           –   when do I rest?
  7. regenerating, bringing into being  –  recreating  –   optimism for the future?
  1. Breathing, taking in. Unshielded?

Activity: making the initial connection with the clay, some even long before touching the clay.


– What is the relationship between the client and the clay?

– Does the client come in with a sense of anticipation or of dread to touch the cold clay? Ready and eager or reluctant, to meet a challenge?

– How does the client enter the room? Eager or slowly? Quiet or chatty?

– How is the initial touching of the clay? With only the fingertips or whole hands? Preferring to use tools, scratching only the surface or hacking into the clay? Staying on the surface of the clay and hardly changing its shape, or going deep into it and moulding the clay?

– Can the client meet the clay without losing themselves into the sensory experience?

– Is it enough to explore the touch, feeling the texture of the clay, on the hands, even arms, or does it come easy to bring movement and transformation into the clay?

Boundary: am I freely able to connect with the idea of the activity, staying connected with myself while meeting that what draws me out into the activity? Do I lose myself in the activity, am I drawn out so far that I forget about my surroundings, or do I find it hard to come out of my thinking and intellect and relax into the activity?

  1. Warming, adapting, recognising. Not recognising?

Activity: taking little bits of clay and kneading them, warming them, feeling every part of the clay, then adding more and more pieces, each one of them warmed and kneaded, to form a sphere that fills the space between our hands.


– Noticing the warming of the clay through the kneading, touching.

– Does the clay dry out quickly, needing water added to it?

– What is the speed with which pieces are added?

– Are they really warmed through or only on the surface?

– Is it easy to form a sphere, or does it stay lumpy?

– Does the client keep talking while doing this or do they become quiet?

– Does the breathing change, slow down?

Boundary: am I able to touch the clay through and through or only superficially? Does my warmth penetrate the whole lump of clay or only the surface?

3. Nourishing, breaking down. Unable to digest?

Activity: bringing in something different from the outside, to the sphere of clay: using the thumb, pressing into the roundness and altering the shape. Bringing a concave space, allowing something from the outside to enter, into the convex shape.


– How easy is this space made?

– How deep does it go?

– Is there enough convex left to keep the balance between space and form?

– Does it become a shell around a large concave space, even flattening out?

– What is the quality of that space, open, enclosed, safe, vulnerable?

– Are the whole hands used or mainly fingertips?

– How is it to experience a form that stand now in the 3 dimensions of space with a front, back, left, right, top and bottom?

Boundary: Does the form stay solid enough, even after my impressions in it, or does it disappear into a thin shell? Am I hardly able to push into the clay and stay at the surface of the sphere?

  1. Secreting, sorting. What is me, what is not me?

Activity: bringing in a dialogue between the convex of the sphere and the concave of the space we pushed in. How do they relate, find a balance between them, add more clay or take away some? Listening to how the form responds to my impressions I make: do I need to push harder or very gently? Allowing the form to guide my hands in shaping a sculpture, leaving what belongs and changing what doesn’t belong.


– Does the shape keep changing or is the client finding a form that wants to stay?

– Is the client able to adjust the strength of their pressure on the clay to make the form?

– Does the imposing from the outside overwhelm the allowing of the forms to emerge?

– Does what appears, as quickly disappear, or is it assimilated into the whole form?

Boundary: Am I able to consider how my actions change the form, and react appropriately, changing my actions to meet what comes back to me from the clay?

  1. Maintaining, combining. How do I release?

Activity: coming to the appearance of an idea that wants to be expressed in the clay. Finding that all sides of the 3-dimensional form are supporting, expressing that one idea and together are forming a whole. Recognising what the form is saying, what it is becoming. It is starting to find it’s identity.


– Can the client come to this recognition or is the form continually changing?

– Are all the parts forming a whole or a collection of unconnected sides, parts?

– Is there a dialogue between the form and the client? Is the client able to adjust their actions to what is happening in the clay, able to bring into being what is appearing?

Boundary: Once the identity is found, can I stay with that and refine it, bringing all the parts together to express that one idea, or is it hard to stop the continual changing?

  1. Growing, imbedding. When do I rest?

Activity: Bringing the form to maturation, coming to a point of completion, as far as we can take it now, as close to the idea/ideal, as we can bring it.


– Can the client find the point of completion and let the form go?

– Can we find a name, title for the work?

– Are all aspects of sculpture: balance in proportions, texture and clarity of surface, ease of movement from one part/side to all the other parts, supporting the identity of the form?

Boundary: Can I let go of the work once it is completed, even in its imperfection?

  1. Regenerating, recreating. Optimism for the future?

Activity: Taking all that has happened so far, we start again and find out what comes to expression next.


– Is the client repeating the same theme, is a similar form appearing, repeatedly?

– Is the next from a closer expression of the idea/ideal than the previous one?

– Is there a metamorphosis/transformation of the idea, between the different forms?

Boundary: Is there a healthy movement, progression and metamorphosis between the forms a client makes?



The Art of Sculpture and Therapy