World evolution

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The first 4 planetary stages of world evolution: Old Saturn - Old Sun - Old Moon - Earth; blackboard drawing from GA 354, p. 17.[1]

The world evolution unfolds from the anthroposophical and theosophical viewpoint in seven planetary stages of world evolution. Each cosmic-planetary stage of evolution comprises a world age (Sanskritकल्प Kalpa) and proceeds according to three fundamental principles, according to which the creation arising from the creative spiritual source is gradually condensed into material appearance - and then gradually spiritualises again. These three principles are called the Conditions of Consciousness, the Conditions of Life and the Conditions of Form.

World metamorphoses - reincarnation on a planetary scale

The seven planetary stages of world evolution correspond to seven successive planetary embodiments that form our planetary chain. The principle of reincarnation is universal and applies not only to individuals but also to entire worlds. Three planetary embodiments are already in the past. Rudolf Steiner calls these ancient planets Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon. Then follows our present Earth as the fourth stage. Three more embodiments will follow in the future, the New Jupiter, the New Venus and the so-called Vulcan.

Between the planetary embodiments, the so-called Manvantaras, lie purely spiritual states called Pralayas. The names of these Occult Planets are based on our present planets for certain inner reasons, but they must not be confused with them. Only a deeper occult contemplation reveals certain connections which justify the same naming for the Occult Planets and for certain present-day planets. Old Saturn, for instance, was so large that it reached to where today's Saturn moves in its orbit through celestial space. Rudolf Steiner describes these connections in more detail in his "Occult Science":

„In individual chapters of this book it has been shown how the world of man and he himself pass through the states which have been designated by the names Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan. It has also been indicated how human development relates to celestial bodies which exist beside the Earth and which have been named Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, etc. These latter celestial bodies make up the natural world of the human being. These latter celestial bodies are naturally also undergoing their evolution. In the present period they have reached such a stage that their physical parts show themselves to the perception as what in physical astronomy is called Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, etc. If now the present Saturn is considered in the spiritual-scientific sense, it is, as it were, a re-embodiment of what Old Saturn was. It came into being because before the separation of the Sun from the Earth there were certain beings which could not take part in the separation, because they had incorporated into themselves so many of those qualities which are appropriate to Saturn's existence that their place could not be where the Sun's qualities are especially developed. The present Jupiter, however, came into being because beings existed which had qualities that could only develop on the future Jupiter of the total evolution. For them a dwelling-place came into being in which they could already anticipate this later development. Thus Mars is a celestial body in which dwell beings who have gone through the lunar evolution in such a way that further progress on Earth would be of no use to them. Mars is a re-embodiment of the Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for beings who are ahead of the Earth's evolution, but precisely because they have developed certain Earth qualities in a higher way than can happen on Earth. The present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future state of Venus in a similar way. From all this it is justified if the names of the states which have preceded and succeeded the earth are chosen according to their present representatives in the universe.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 324f)

The evolution of the Earth is divided into a half of Mars, determined by the so-called passage of Mars, and a second half of Mercury, connected with the passage of Mercury. The great initiates who give important impulses for the future development of the Earth and Man are therefore also called Mercury initiates.

The whole evolution was initiated by the Thrones, the Spirits of Will, sacrificing a part of their will substance and thereby producing the heat substance from which Old Saturn was built. Only on the Old Sun was the air element added, on the Old Moon the water element, and only on our Earth the solid crystalline earth element.

The 7 planetary embodiments are thus in the order of their emergence:

Old Saturn - Old Sun - Old Moon - Earth - New Jupiter - New Venus - Vulcan

This arrangement of Occult Planets corresponds to the Chaldean series, from which the sequence of our weekdays is also derived.

„Just as man undergoes embodiment after embodiment, metamorphosis after metamorphosis, so all beings in the world undergo embodiments and re-embodiments, from the smallest to the largest, and even such a being as our Earth itself is, that is, a planetary being, undergoes re-embodiments. Our Earth was not already created as an Earth, but was preceded by another state. There has always been a great deal of talk in our circles about the fact that, just as man in this existence is the re-embodiment of a previous life, the Earth is also a re-embodiment of an old planet which preceded it. We call this previous planet the Moon, and we do not mean the present Moon, which is only a piece, a remnant, of the Old Moon, but a previous state of our Earth, which once existed and passed through a spiritual life, which is usually called Pralaya, just as man passes through a spiritual state after death. This lunar planet has been reborn, just as man is reborn. But what we have thus called the planetary state of the Moon is again only the embodiment of a previous planetary state, which we call the Sun. This Sun, not the present Sun, but a quite different being, this Sun is the re-embodiment of the last planet to which we must first look back when we speak of the embodiments of our Earth, the Old Saturn. Thus we have four successive embodiments: the Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 48)

„Let us briefly sketch the development of our solar system. We know that it started from the Old Saturn, then this Old Saturn changed into the Old Sun, which changed into the Old Moon. At the time when the Old Sun becomes the Moon, a special development takes place. This Moon emerges from the Sun for the first time, and in the Old Moon we first have a world body which is outside the Sun. Through this the Sun can develop higher, that it has put the grossest out of itself. Now the whole system develops into the system of our present Earth. Our Earth comes into being through the fact that, apart from everything else, the Moon and the Earth separate themselves from the Sun as the coarser substances and the bearers of the coarser entities. But the development goes on. The beings who must now dwell apart on Earth, who have been thrown out of the Sun, so to speak, develop higher and higher in their seclusion from the Sun. They still have to go through a state, the Jupiter state. But through this they gradually mature to unite again with the Sun. And when the state of Venusian evolution has come, then all the beings who are now living on our Earth will, so to speak, have again been absorbed into the Sun, and the Sun itself will have reached a higher stage of evolution, precisely because it will have redeemed again all the beings which it has set apart from itself. And then comes the Vulcan evolution, the highest stage of the evolution of our system. For these are the seven stages of development of our system: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. In the Vulcan evolution, all the beings that have emerged, so to speak, from small beginnings of Saturn's existence, have become spiritualised in the highest sense; together they have become not only Sun, but Super-Sun. The Vulcan is more than the Sun and has thus attained the maturity to sacrifice, the maturity to dissolve.

This is the next stage of development, that such a system, in which a sun arises from a starting point, this sun is, so to speak, weak at first and must throw out its planets so that it can develop itself further. It becomes strong, takes up its planets again, becomes a volcano. And now the whole thing dissolves, and the vulcanic sphere later becomes a hollow sphere, it then becomes something similar to this round dance of Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. So the Sun will dissolve, sacrifice itself out into the universe, radiate its essence. And thereby it will itself become a round dance of such Beings as the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones are, which will now progress to the new creation in the Universe.

Why are the Thrones able to give out of their substance that which Saturn needs? Because the Thrones have prepared themselves in a former system through such seven states as our solar system is now passing through. Before something becomes a system of Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, it must have been a solar system; that is to say, when a sun has reached the point where it has reunited with its planets, then it becomes a circumcircle, then it itself becomes a zodiac.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 78ff)

Simultaneous existence of all world evolutionary stages in the cosmos

We are currently standing with our Earth on the 4th world evolutionary stage. At the same time, however, other beings on other worlds are going through other of the aforementioned stages of development. All stages of development are present in the cosmos at the same time without interfering with each other.

„In spiritual science it is said that our Earth was formed gradually, first passing through a Saturnian, a solar, a lunar time and then advancing to this Earth time. But of course everything is always there. In the existence in which we now live as the Earth existence, other worlds are preparing their Saturn existence, other worlds their Sun existence. This can be observed in spiritual science. Saturn's existence is still there now. We only know that our Earth has overcome this stage; other worlds are only in this Saturn stage. There one can observe how it protrudes in. But to be able to observe this Saturn stage, that depends on the fact that one first changes the speed with which one follows the events, otherwise one cannot see them.“ (Lit.:GA 187, p. 149)

Consciousness - Life - Form

In the course of the evolution of our planetary system, seven conditions of consciousness are passed through, which are subdivided into seven conditions of life, each of which again passes through seven conditions of form. The conditions of consciousness are also called occult planets or planetary conditions, because each condition of consciousness is acquired in a specifically shaped planetary existence that manifests itself in the spatial world. This spatial manifestation of the planetary condition is called manvantara, following oriental terminology. After the corresponding condition of consciousness is attained, the planetary existence dissolves again, disappears from the spatial world and passes for a certain time into a purely spiritual state, which, again following oriental terminology, is also called pralaya.

The Trinity guides the entire development, in such a way that the First Logos or Father God effects the transition from one planetary state to the next, the Second Logos, the Son, effects the transition from one state of life to the next, and the Holy Spirit, the Third Logos, leads over from one condition of form to the next. (Lit.:GA 94, p. 97)

Every developing being passes through these stages many times during its evolution and shows the traces of this rhythmically repeating process in its being. As a result of this development, the human being, for example, is divided into body, soul and spirit.

7 Conditions of Consciousness (Planetary Conditions)

Schematic representation of the stages of world evolution (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 264).

Rudolf Steiner distinguishes seven conditions of consciousness which correspond to the seven stages of evolution of our planetary system, the so-called occult planets.

  1. Trance consciousness, all-consciousness (Old Saturn)
  2. Deep sleep consciousness, dreamless consciousness (Old Sun)
  3. Image consciousness, dream consciousness (Old Moon)
  4. Waking consciousness, object consciousness (Earth = Mars + Mercury)
  5. Psychic consciousness, conscious image consciousness (New Jupiter)
  6. Supra-psychic consciousness, conscious sleep consciousness (New Venus)
  7. Spiritual consciousness, conscious all-consciousness (Vulcan)

After each planetary stage of evolution, a state of rest (pralaya) occurs in which the entire outer creation withdraws into a purely spiritual existence. Thereafter, a new revelatory state (manvantara) gradually begins.

Each condition of consciousness is further subdivided into:

7 Conditions of Life (Rounds, Kingdoms)

  1. First elementary kingdom
  2. Second elementary kingdom
  3. Third elementary kingdom
  4. Mineral kingdom
  5. Plant kingdom
  6. Animal kingdom
  7. Human kingdom

After each condition of life, a small pralaya occurs, that is, a passage through a purely spiritual existence. Each condition of life is further subdivided into:

7 Conditions of Form (Globes)

  1. Arupa
  2. Rupa
  3. Astral
  4. Physical
  5. Plastic
  6. Intellectual
  7. Archetypal

Each condition of form passes through another 7 x 7 states of evolution, namely:

7 Main Ages (Root Races[2])

The earth is currently in the physical condition of form of the mineral condition of life. This condition of form is divided into the following main ages:

  1. Polar Epoch
  2. Hyperborean Epoch
  3. Lemurian Epoch
  4. Atlantic Epoch
  5. Post-Atlantean Epoch (we are currently in this epoch)
  6. Sixth Main Age
  7. Seventh Main Age

Each of these epochs or root races in turn passes through 7 smaller epochs, each of which lasts approximately as long as it takes the sun to pass through a sign of the zodiac in retrograde motion in the course of the great Platonic World Year, i.e. approximately 2160 years.

Our present post-Atlantean age is further divided into

7 Cultural Epochs (Sub Races[2])

  1. Ancient Indian culture (7227 - 5067 B.C.)
  2. Ancient Persian culture (5067 - 2907 B.C.)
  3. Egyptian-Chaldean culture (2907 - 747 B.C.)
  4. Greco-Latin culture (747 BC - 1413 AD).
  5. Anglo-German culture (1413 - 3573 AD, our present epoch)
  6. Slavic culture (3573 - 5733 AD)
  7. American culture (5733 - 7893 AD)

In total, our planetary system therefore goes through 7*7*7*7*7 = 16807 phases of evolution.

One would be mistaken if one were to understand this scheme as merely indicating a chronological sequence of cosmic stages of evolution. In order to get to the concrete spiritual reality connected with it, one must be aware that a wealth of spiritual beings are connected with this evolutionary process, which are creatively active in it. From a spiritual point of view, only spiritual beings and their deeds are real - everything else is an abstraction. Thus, for example, certain spiritual beings, which Rudolf Steiner has described very precisely on various occasions (Lit.: GA 11, GA 13), had to be active on the Old Saturn so that man could develop trance consciousness. But the activity of these beings has by no means been exhausted; even in later times, even today, they are still working in a modified way to advance evolution. And they are working to further develop trance consciousness and to adapt it to the present state of development. So we are not dealing here with something that merely belonged to a distant past and has become insignificant today. Today, it is true, the development of the I-consciousness is in the centre of our attention. But at the same time, trance consciousness is still of paramount importance for our physical body. It could not exist without it - and thus we would lack the necessary physical basis for our present I-consciousness. This is because it is particularly closely connected with the physical body!

We can see that old stages of evolution must always remain alongside the new ones in a modified form. And conversely, future stages, mediated through the creative beings who are connected with them, are already now casting their light ahead. One must therefore always consider all the stages which are lined up in the above scheme, not only in their temporal succession, but also in their simultaneous juxtaposition.

Justice, truth, beauty and morality in the context of world evolution

„If we look at man as he lives on earth today, we could say that he already contains in seed form that which will develop during the Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan periods. But man is also a result of the spheres of Saturn, the Sun, the Moon and the Earth. I said yesterday that wisdom, truth, is already predisposed on the Sun and will be completed on Jupiter. Let us illustrate this graphically.

Drawing from GA 170, p. 88
Drawing from GA 170, p. 88

For the seed of the Sun a certain completion will have been reached on Jupiter, so that we can say that from the Sun to Jupiter is the actual development of truth; on Jupiter it will have become entirely internal; then it will be entirely wisdom: From the Sun to Jupiter is the actual development of truth; on Jupiter it will have become entirely inward; then it will be entirely wisdom: Truth becomes wisdom!

On the Moon then begins that which contains the aesthetic sphere. This will be completed on Venus. We can draw it like this: Moon, Venus completed; so here we have the development of beauty. As you can see, this overlaps.

Actually, all that is contained in these two currents, and also in the third, rests in our subsoil, in the subconscious; for during the development of the earth, what we can call the sphere of morality begins. It reaches its completion on the Vulcan. So we have a third current, again overarching: the current of morality. In addition, we have a fourth current that will be completed when the earth reaches the end of its development. Morality begins with the earth. But it concludes a higher order, an order which has already begun on Saturn; so that we now have an order, a current from Saturn to Earth, and this is now called: Justice, in the sense in which I explained the word earlier. You know that on Saturn the senses were first predisposed. These senses would scatter man in all directions. You know, twelve senses we distinguish - the sense, by developing through Sun, Moon and Earth, would carry man to orientation, to justice, where also moral justice then, when it is grasped by the moral nature of the Earth, is first enclosed; moral justice is only present on Earth. What works inwardly towards the peripheral of the senses as central, that is the sphere or current of justice.“ (Lit.:GA 170, p. 88f)



References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
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  1. The colours are only for better illustration and have no deeper symbolic meaning.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rudolf Steiner has repeatedly pointed out that the term "race" is actually no longer justified in the post-Atlantean period, 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. The terms "root race" and "subrace" still originate from the terminology of the Theosophical Society in use at that time and were later hardly ever used by Rudolf Steiner:

    „Mankind mixes to group itself from spiritual points of view. It was a rudeness to speak of races in Theosophy as if they would always remain. The concept of race loses its meaning already for the near future, by which, however, thousands of years are meant. The eternal talk that seven and seven races have always developed in the world is the speculative extension of a concept which applies only to our age backwards and forwards; this has never been said of the gift of sight, of occultism. As everything comes into being, so also have the races come into being, and as everything passes away again, so also will the races pass away again, and those who have always spoken only of races will have to get used to making their concepts fluid. That is only a convenience! If one looks a little only into the future, the terms which one has applied in the past and present are already no longer valid.“ (Lit.:GA 99, p. 144)