Hyperborean epoch

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The Hyperborean epoch, also called the second root race[1] according to outdated theosophical tradition, is the second of the seven main ages into which the Earth's own development is divided.[2] It was preceded by the Polar epoch, in which the actual physical development of the Earth only began. According to a statement by Rudolf Steiner, which has been handed down inadequately, the Hyperborean period corresponds approximately to the Palaeozoic on the geologic time scale (Lit.:GA 300a, p. 107). In fact, the Hyperborean period may have already begun in the middle Archean more than 3 billion years ago[3]. This was followed by the Lemurian period, which probably lasted from the early Proterozoic to the end of the Mesozoic. All dates here are only for comparison with the current state of external research and should be taken with great caution, as Rudolf Steiner also clearly points out.[4]

Exit of the Sun and condensation into the water element

In this epoch of development the Sun separated from the Earth, which at that time still contained the Moon. The fact that the Earth, with the Moon still contained within it, condensed into an independent celestial body was brought about by the hardening forces of the solar demon Sorat, which was counteracted by Nachiel, the intelligence of the Sun[5][6] (Lit.:GA 101, p. 135ff). The descriptions of the biblical creation story begin at about this time (Lit.:GA 122, p. 35). The outer light arose and worked from the Sun on the Earth and formed the organs of sight in the etheric human formations. The human being, separated from the Sun and bound to the Earth, could no longer feel within himself the effect of the high Solar Beings who had gone out with the Sun. Therefore, at certain times, the Sun Beings snatched the soul of the human being from the physical-etheric body. At the same time, the Earth began to rotate and day and night came into being, but the days and nights were much longer then than they are today. From then on, with the rhythmic change of day, man alternately led a more earthly or a more spiritual existence.

After the Sun had come out, the Earth or the physical body of man condensed into a watery state. At the same time the etheric body condensed. The light ether came forth, which man perceived as a fine body of light, and into the astral body was incorporated the faculty of the consciousness soul. And the Angels worked in the water, in the light and in the consciousness soul.

„Then the Sun began to separate out, taking the finest substances with it. There was a time when the high solar entities left mankind, when all that now belongs to the sun left our earth, leaving the coarser substances behind. And this departure of the Sun was connected with the fact that the vapour cooled down into water, and we now have the water-earth sphere, whereas formerly we had the dark earth. In the centre were the primeval waters, but not surrounded by air; slowly the waters changed into dense, thick mists, which gradually became more refined. Thus we have the Earth of that time as a water-earth, thus also substances in it in a soft state, surrounded by mists, which became finer and finer, up to the highest spheres, where the mists became quite fine. This is how we once saw our Earth. It was changed in this way, and men now had to sink, as it were, the gas-form which had formerly glowed with light, into the turbid waters and embody themselves there as formed masses of water in the water, as before as air-forms in the air. Man became a form of water, but by no means completely. Man was never completely submerged in the water. This is an important moment. It has been described how the Earth was water-earth in the middle, but man was only partly a water-being, he protruded into the envelope of vapour, so that he was half water-being, half steam-being. Down in the water, man could not possibly be reached by the Sun, the mass of water was so thick that the Sun's light could not penetrate it. The light of the Sun could penetrate a little into the haze, so that man lived partly in the dark water deprived of light and partly in the haze glowing with light. However, the water was not deprived of something, of something that we must now describe in more detail.

From the beginning, the Earth was not only glowing, luminous, but also sounding, and the sound remained in the Earth, so that when the light went out, the water became dark inwardly, but inwardly it was also permeated by sound, and it was the sound that gave the water its shape, its form, as we can learn from the well-known physical experiment. We see that sound is a creating force, a shaping force, because the parts are structured or ordered by the sound. Sound has a formative power, and it was this power that formed the body out of the water. That was the power of the tone that still remained in the Earth. It is the tone, the sound that resounds through the Earth, it is the tone out of which the human form was formed. The light could only reach the part of the human being that protruded out of the water. Below a body of water, above a body of vapour, which the outer light touched, to which in the light the beings who had gone out with the Sun had access. Before, when the Sun was still united with the Earth, man felt himself in their bosom; now they shone down upon him in the light and radiated through him with their power. But we must not forget that in what remained after the separation of the Sun were also the forces which the Earth had to separate from itself, the forces of the Moon.“ (Lit.:GA 106, p. 69ff)

Not all human souls endured this condensation into the water element. For them, Jupiter was created as a dwelling place.


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. The term root race derives from the terminology used at that time by the Theosophical Society and was later no longer used by Rudolf Steiner, as was the term subrace. Steiner repeatedly pointed out that the term "race" is actually no longer justified in the post-Atlantean time, since now it is no longer the physical but the soul-spiritual development that comes to the fore. The division of humanity into races will gradually be completely overcome and is already meaningless for the spiritual development of man.
  2. The actual Earth evolution begins in the fourth and middle of the seven so-called rounds or life stages, during which the Earth existence unfolds. In the first three rounds, earlier states of embodiment of the earth were repeated in an abbreviated form in order to make the fruits of these earlier forms of existence ripe for the actual earth development. The actual Earth evolution, the fourth round, will be followed by three more rounds in which future new embodiments of the Earth will be anticipated in a certain sense. Each state of life is in turn divided into seven form states, the fourth and middle of which is the physical form state in which the physical Earth evolution takes place.
  3. cf. the table in Bosse 2002, p. 57
  4. Abstract concepts of time, detached from things, are not meaningful for the contemplation of nature. Rather, one must rely on the intrinsic time of the system under consideration. For example, the Earth year or the Platonic year can only serve as a reference since the separation of the Sun, Earth and Moon. Intrinsic time is rooted in the essence of a living, developing wholeness and expresses itself through the processes that take place in it periodically in an orderly sequence and thereby constantly metamorphose. All living beings and all living systems, such as our earth, the entire planetary system and the cosmos as a whole, are such wholes and each has its own specific time. There is no absolute time deducted from things. Time measurements can therefore not be related to them, but consist in comparing different proper times with each other.

    „And this brings me to the fact that basically every entity that may be regarded at all as a totality actually carries its time within itself. I can consider a piece [of an] inorganic body for itself, but not a leaf, because it only has a part in the tree. In my observation, therefore, I must take into consideration what is a total system closed in on itself, what is a totality. But every totality that I look at in this way has time in it as something immanent. So that I can't really have much to spare for the abstract time that is still outside every thing and exists [alongside] the time immanent in every thing or process. When I consider the time that is to go from beginning to end, it seems to me just as when someone forms the abstract concept for the individual horse. The individual horses are there in the external spatial reality, but in order to get the concept, I have to attribute something else to it. It is the same with time. The question: Is time in itself variable or not? - has no real content, because every total system has its [own] time in its immanent being, and its [own] course of speed. The course of velocity of the inorganic or of the process of life leads back to this immanent time...

    In geology we describe one period after another, as if it were a reality. It is not. It is only a reality with the whole of the Earth, in the same way that an organism is a reality, where I must not tear out one thing. Instead of relating our processes to coordinate axis systems, it would be more important to relate them to their own inner reality, then we would arrive at totality systems. And then we would have to come back to a kind of monadism.“ (Lit.:GA 324a, p. 144)

    Moreover, developmental epochs do not simply follow each other, but overlap in wide areas. As a rule, the beginning of the following epoch is already indicated in the middle of the preceding one and continues to have an effect until the middle of the next one.

    Cf. also (Lit.: Bosse 2002, p 38ff)

  5. Agrippa von Nettesheim: Die magischen Werke, Fourier Verlag, Wiesbaden 1985, S 251
  6. Francis Barrett: The Magus, London 1801, S 146 [1]