Cultural epochs

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The post-Atlantean age (7227 BC - 7893 AD) is the fifth main age of the physical evolution of the earth. Initially it was also called the fifth root race[1] according to the now obsolete theosophical usage of Rudolf Steiner. It began after the sinking of Atlantis and will end with the war of all against all. It is divided into seven cultural epochs, each lasting about 2160 years, and serves above all the development of the human soul. At present we are living in the 5th post-Atlantean cultural epoch, the consciousness soul age. Towards the end of the post-Atlantean age, people who have attained the corresponding spiritual maturity will no longer incarnate on earth in physical form. This will already begin around the year 5700 AD, i.e. at the end of the 6th post-Atlantean cultural epoch (→ beginning and end of the earthly incarnations of man). However, larger parts of humanity could be tied to the earth for even longer by the Ahrimanic powers, in order to divert them from their regular development (Lit.:GA 196, p. 90f).

When, in the course of the initiation, the spiritual researcher begins to survey the development of the world, the first thing that opens up to him is the view of the seven cultural epochs into which the post-Atlantean period is divided. This is how Rudolf Steiner describes it, for example, in his lectures on the Apocalypse of St. John:

„We think of man as having just reached that stage of initiation where that has happened to him which was described at the end of the last lecture. We think of him just at the border where, between the finest entities of our physical world and the next higher, the astral world, he is allowed to stand as on a peak and look down. What can man behold on this first summit of initiation?

The subdivision of the post-Atlantean age into seven cultural epochs (original drawing from GA 104, p. 67).
The subdivision of the post-Atlantean age into seven cultural epochs (original drawing from GA 104, p. 67).

There he sees in his spirit everything that has happened, according to his inner being, since the Atlantic flood destroyed the old Atlantis and the post-Atlantean man came into existence. There he sees how the cycles of culture follow each other until the time when also our age will take a downfall in order to bring up a new one. By the water of the Atlantic flood the old Atlantis has perished. Through what we call the war of all against all, through terribly devastating moral entanglements, our age will find its downfall. And this great age from the Atlantean flood to the mighty war of all against all, we divide again into seven successive main cultural epochs, into seven cultural periods, as can be seen from the above scheme. At one end we think of the great Atlantic flood, at the opposite end the great world war, and this we divide into seven sub-ages, into seven cultural epochs. The whole epoch containing these seven sub-ages is again the seventh part of a longer age, so that you have to imagine seven such links as our age between flood and war, two forward, after the great war, and four backward before the Atlantic flood. Our age, the post-Atlantean, is thus the fifth great age.

One must again ascend to an even higher peak of initiation, then one overlooks these seven times seven ages. They are to be overlooked when one has reached the border of the astral and the spiritual, the devachanic world. And so it goes up step by step. We will see which are the still higher stages.

Now we must note that first of all one can reach a summit on which, as from a mountain, the vast plain, the seven cultural ages of the post-Atlantean time become visible to us. We all know them already, these cultural ages. We know that when the Atlantean flood washed away the ancient Atlantis, the first to blossom was the ancient Indian culture and that it was replaced by the ancient Persian culture. We know that the Assyrian-Babylonian-Chaldean-Egyptian-Jewish culture followed it, and that the fourth cultural age, the Graeco-Latin-Latin, followed it, and that the fifth, ours, in which we live, followed it. In the sixth, which will follow ours, what we have to build in spiritual culture will have to come to fruition in a certain respect. The seventh cultural age will take place before the war of all against all. There we see this terrible devastation of culture approaching, and we see the small group of people who have understood to take up the spiritual principle in themselves and who will save themselves from the general destruction by egoism.“ (Lit.:GA 104, p. 67f)

During the Atlantean Age, the physical body of man was developed in such a way that it could later become the vessel for his self-aware spirit, for his I. Due to the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence, however, a uniform human race did not emerge, but was divided into different races. Since the fall of Atlantis, the emphasis of human development has been on the further formation of the human soul within. At the same time, however, the impulse was given to create human culture on the outside. Since then, different cultures have shaped the progress of mankind, while the race principle has receded and must be overcome. This development, which finally overcame the dependence of spiritual development on racial characteristics, started with the prehistoric nomadic people of the Aryans[2] who, after the sinking of Atlantis, emigrated from an area west of present-day Ireland to the east in the region of the Tarim Basin and from here founded the first post-Atlantean cultures.

„What we call races today are only remnants of the significant differences between people that were common in ancient Atlantis. The concept of race is only really applicable to the old Atlantis. Therefore, since we reckon with a real development of humanity, we have not used the concept of race in its most eminent sense for the post-Atlantean period. We do not speak of an Indian race, Persian race and so on, because that is no longer correct. We speak of an ancient Indian cultural period, an ancient Persian cultural period and so on.

And it would completely lose all sense if we wanted to speak of a sixth race preparing itself in our time. If remnants of the old Atlantean differences, of the old Atlantean group soulfulness still exist in our time, so that one can still speak of the racial division still having an effect - what is preparing for the sixth period consists precisely in the fact that the racial character is being stripped away. That is the essential thing. That is why it is necessary that the movement which is called anthroposophical, which is to prepare for the sixth period, should take up in its basic character this stripping away of the racial character, namely that it should seek to unite people from all races, from all nations, and in this way bridge this differentiation, these differences, these chasms which exist between the individual groups of people. For it has in a certain respect a physical character, which is old racial standpoint, and it will have a much more spiritual character, which will take place in the future.“ (Lit.:GA 117, p. 152f)

During the great cultural epochs, humanity continues to form its non-physical members. This development follows the great cosmic rhythms of the Platonic world year. Each cultural epoch lasts approximately as long as it takes the Sun to advance 1/12 of the zodiac, i.e. exactly one sign of the zodiac, in the course of this world year. 7 cultural epochs will thus follow one another before a completely new development cycle begins after a major break (the "war of all against all" in the sense of John's Apocalypse):

  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)


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: URL:
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 - 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 originates from the terminology used by the Theosophical Society at that time and was later no longer used by Rudolf Steiner, just like the term "subrace". Steiner 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 and is already meaningless for the spiritual development of humanity.
  2. These views of Steiner were in sharp contrast to the racial doctrine advocated by the [[w:Nazis|]], through which they wanted to glorify the Aryans as the supposed "master race". After Rudolf Steiner had already been fiercely opposed by the first representatives of National Socialism during his lifetime, the Anthroposophical Society was banned by Reinhard Heydrich's decree on 1 November 1935 "as a result of the antagonism between the views of the Anthroposophical Society and the nationalist ideas advocated by National Socialism".