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Do not confuse Old Saturn with Saturn.
Old Saturn was a period in time;
Saturn is a place in the sky.
True-believing Waldorf school teachers think that they and their students used to live "on Saturn" — or, more exactly, during the Old Saturn stage of evolution. That’s what their mentor, Rudolf Steiner, taught.
Here’s the story. The Creation occurred, in some fashion, as we have seen. [See the section titled "Origins", above.] It produced a vague, ethereal solar system in which everything was intermingled — everything that would eventually separate out as individual entities and objects was, at that stage, united as a single insubstantial, semi-spiritual mass. This first phase of our evolution (which was also the first stage of the evolution of our entire solar system) is called Old Saturn. The solar system was then, for the first time, physically manifest, but only in a very preliminary way. Steiner taught that the solar system blinks in and out of existence, manifesting and then re-manifesting in successive states, beginning in a delicate, virtually impalpable state and then becoming progressively denser, more physical, and more individualized in later manifestations. The first blink was Old Saturn, which would be followed by a second blink called Old Moon, then a third called Old Sun, and then our current blink — the phase of evolution in which we currently exist — called Present Earth. Following Present Earth, we will proceed to additional stages, but the movement toward physicality will be reversed. We are currently about as densely physical as we can be — meaning we are about as far removed from the spirit realm as we would ever want to be. In our future evolution (the stages will be Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Venus), we will rise again toward spirituality, but in far higher, more perfect form than in our distant past. [See, e.g., "Matters of Form".]
The planets we see in the sky now (Saturn and the rest) should not be confused with the phases of evolution that bear the same or similar names (Old Saturn and the rest. Although, of course, they are related. The Saturn that we see overhead is a physical planet; it exists here and now, in the present solar system (i.e., it exists in the stage called Present Earth). Old Saturn was an evolutionary stage long ago. The powers of the gods of Saturn infused Old Saturn — hence the name — and the planet Saturn in our sky now exists under these deities and powers — indeed the planet Saturn is a sort of remnant or miniature reincarnation of Old Saturn. Nonetheless, Saturn and Old Saturn can be distinguished (even through Steiner's language often muddies the difference): one is a planet here-and-now, the other is a period of time long, long ago. (Steiner's use of language is indeed a problem. He wrote and spoke as a mystic, using mystical — and one might suspect intentionally mystifying — terminology. Thus, he often referred to Old Saturn, Old Moon, etc., as "planets," and he sometimes called them as Saturn, Moon, etc., and he even sometimes spoke of life "on" them when he meant during them... Keeping your bearings as you read Steiner can be a challenge. But buck up. It can be done.)
OK. Back to Old Saturn, our first stage of evolution. Old Saturn was a phase where everything was quite undifferentiated, being essentially just warmth. Steiner considered warmth to be a sort of physical substance, but he stressed that "warmth" during Old Saturn was different from "warmth" now during Present Earth. During Old Saturn, we were brought into semi-separate, semi-physical, lukewarm existence in the form of “eggs of warmth.” We got that way under the benign authority of gods of various ranks (Dominions, Mights, and so on). These gods were evolving, like us, only they were much farther along, and they elevated themselves further by helping us. The angels/gods called Spirits of Personality (or Archai or Zeitgeists) were especially important in getting us going during or on Old Saturn:
40) [Us as Eggs] “What is the power that rules in the Spirits of Personality [gods three levels higher than humanity] on [sic] ancient Saturn? It is no other than that which we know in modern man as the power of thought. For in reality, the Spirits of Personality did nothing else on ancient Saturn but exercise the power of their thoughts ... [T]he Spirits of Personality were powerful magicians. They formed those eggs of warmth [i.e., us] on Saturn by the force of their thoughts ... It is perfectly comprehensible that an entity who is really human should take on form from his surroundings (for the eggs that were formed there were constructed out of the surroundings [i.e., substance] of Saturn) and those eggs were bewitched, or chained to a further existence [i.e., the eggs became destined to continue their existence in future, higher incarnations].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 4, GA 110.
The Spirits of Personality advanced their own evolution by ministering to us during Old Saturn — selflessness and kindness always reap spiritual rewards. "On" Saturn, we were not yet human, by a long stretch of the imagination. In fact, the term “human” can be quite confusing. According to Steiner, being human is not a matter of lineage or species; it is a matter of spiritual evolution — beings at a certain stage of their development are “human.” Thus, for instance, the gods called Spirits of Personality began their own evolution three incarnations prior to Old Saturn. That incarnation, of course, occurred outside our solar system, which first came into existence during Old Saturn. So, the Spirits of Personality began evolving in a different solar system from ours, in a time before time any we have known. By the time we first came into existence, the Spirits of Personality were in the fourth phase of their own evolution — they were "human" during Old Saturn. We ourselves, being mere eggs of warmth during Old Saturn, would not become "human" until our own fourth phase of evolution — Present Earth. The whole point of evolution, according to Steiner, is to evolve to higher and higher forms of consciousness.
Our own consciousness "on" Saturn was extremely dull, whereas the various gods above us possessed higher forms of consciousness (the higher a god's rank, the higher that god's consciousness). On or during Old Saturn we were essentially comatose:
41) [Us, Awfully Dim] (The following is difficult. I will try to help via footnotes.) “The human being himself can make no use of his luminosity on Saturn.* The luminosity of his sensory germs could not express anything in itself, but through it other more exalted beings are given the possibility to reveal themselves to the life of Saturn.** ... These are exalted beings ... [T]hey now radiate something of their nature out of ‘free will.’*** ... These Sons of Twilight develop in the ancestor of man a kind of understanding, of which however, in his dull consciousness, he himself cannot yet make use.**** ... Man has now reached the point where he can work unconsciously on his own material body.***** Through his activity in the utter dullness of Saturn existence, man produces the first germinal predisposition to the true ‘spirit man.’******.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959 ), chapter 14: “The Life of Saturn”, GA 11.
* We were “the human being” (although we were not yet human). We had a sort of potential spiritual/mental light within ourselves, but we couldn’t make use of it “on Saturn.” We were too unevolved. (Don't be thrown by Steiner's use of the present tense. He often did this, perhaps for narrative effect. He was speaking of things long, long ago.)
** We had seeds of illumination within us, which eventually would enable us to perceive and affect phenomena outside ourselves, but "on" Saturn we couldn't use these seeds ourselves. Instead, our seeds enabled higher beings to reveal themselves — and act — within the developing life of Old Saturn.
*** The gods helping us did it by their own free choice, which elevated them in their own spiritual evolution. They imparted some of their divine essence into Old Saturn.
**** Among our helpers were “Sons of Twilight” — gods one rank above humanity. They “developed” a “kind of understanding” within us, i.e., within the eggs of warmth. Steiner here refers to us as the ancestors of men — he means us as we were during Old Saturn, when we were still far from becoming human. The eggs of warmth, having been enchanted, would reincarnate as higher beings during Old Sun, and higher yet during Old Moon, and even higher yet during Present Earth — when they would become us as we know ourselves now, as human beings.
The understanding the Sons of Twilight gave us was important — it was our first stage of consciousness — but it was so low and dull that we could make no use of it ourselves, during Old Saturn.
***** Despite being so dim, we could start, unconsciously, developing our physical bodies. ("Physical" is another relative term, however. We would not develop physical bodies as we now know them until Present Earth.)
****** Dimly, dimly, we started to evolve toward our own true spiritual identity, although it was still far, far off. All we could work up, on Saturn, was a germ of a predisposition toward attaining our eventual ‘spirit.’ (“Spirit man” has a specific meaning in Theosophy and, by extension, Anthroposophy: It is atma, which can be considered the god within.)
So, we started our journey. Things went along, and time itself began: The solar clock started to tick, as it were. Also, Saturn rotated — which caused separations, which would ultimately create openings for Lucifer and Ahriman to get at us. So, there was trouble ahead.
When things during Old Saturn went as far toward materialization as possible under the prevailing conditions of dimness, everything reversed course, disintegrated, and became wholly nonphysical again. Then, after everything had disappeared, there was a period of rest called a pralaya (like much of the terminology used by Theosophists and Steiner, this is a Hindu term — it means, approximately, melting away):
42) [Time Out] “No condition of Pralaya could have arisen for Saturn through [the actions of] the Spirits of Personality alone. Higher spirits [i.e., higher gods] had to come into action in order to dissolve Saturn so that a Pralaya, or state of transition, of disappearance and of sleep might take place. Higher spirits, the Thrones [gods seven levels above humanity]...had to dissolve all this, so that, as the life of Saturn reached its end, the following process was carried out. The Spirits of Personality had attained self-consciousness [i.e., they had become "human"], had breathed in again a part of the warmth, had realised the Self as the centre of their being [i.e., they gained their "I's"], and left behind them a lower kingdom [i.e., they evolved higher, leaving behind their previously lowest layers]. Now entered the kingdom of the Thrones and dissolved that which had been left behind, and Saturn entered into a sort of planetary night.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 3, GA 110.
So, we lapsed into sleep and absence, along with all of the solar system. The Thrones (aka Spirits of Will) kindly made this possible. The Spirits of Personality, having been very kind to us in their own special way, graduated to the next stage of their own evolution.
I will now take a pralaya myself. The next episode or two of Steiner Static will go elsewhere. But before long I’ll swing back to Steiner’s cosmic history, and I’ll tell you about life on “Old Sun.”
In leaving, I’d just ask you to meditate on this: Waldorf school students are taught by people who think they see good, solid sense in Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. They think that the history we are reviewing is the true story of our existence.
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[R. R., 2010.]