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Do not confuse Old Sun with the Sun.
Old Sun was a period in time;
Sun is a place in the sky.
Let’s continue with the story of our evolution. If you’ll recall, Steiner said that we were created somewhat mysteriously, not by the conscious act of a single God — or, anyway, not as far as we or Steiner or anyone can say. We emerged into a vague, very mildly physical (i.e., "warm") existence on/at/during Old Saturn. Then we and the solar system went away for a pralaya — what we might call a siesta or breather.
That is how Steiner usually described our beginnings, anyway. He wasn't always consistent. But let's push on. The next chapter occurred at/during/on Old Sun. We reemerged from absence into a slightly more physically realized existence than we had known during Old Saturn: We and the solar system entered a second incarnation, called Old Sun. Taking up solar existence, we became “air” instead of “warmth,” and work began on our etheric bodies. Our development was pushed along by the Dominions and other gods. We didn’t develop all that much, however. The purpose of evolution is to rise to higher and higher states of consciousness, eventually attaining divine consciousness rivaling or even exceeding that of the gods. But the first stages were extremely sluggish. During Old Saturn, we were effectively comatose. During Old Sun, we rose to the equivalent of deep, unconscious sleep.
52) [Sleep, Sleep] “Man now passes [i.e., passed] through his second stage of consciousness on the Sun [i.e., during Old Sun]. It resembles that into which today man sinks during a calm and dreamless sleep. This condition, which interrupts man's state of wakefulness today, is a remainder, as it were, a memory of the time of the Sun development [i.e., dreamless sleep today is a version of our consciousness during Old Sun]. One can also compare it with that dull state of consciousness in which the world of plants exists today. As a matter of fact, in the plant [i.e., any plant, such as a rutabaga] one must see a sleeping being.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), p. 175.
The "Sun" that we lived "on," way back when, was not yet a star; it was a "planet" (technically, a "planetary condition"), although a very tenuous one. It was a ball of Sun-stuff extending all the way out to the present orbit of Jupiter. This, according to Steiner, meant that the Sun filled the entire solar system. (Steiner excluded Uranus and Neptune from the solar system, for occult reasons.) Indeed, like the other conditions of consciousness past and future, Old Sun was an evolutionary stage of the entire solar system. Everything that exists today in the solar system, including ourselves, existed then as a single semi-physical mass or amalgam. Nothing had yet split off to become a separate body — there were no planets, no Earth, no Moon. There was the Old Sun, there were gods (who traced their beginnings to other solar systems and thus were not precisely in or of our solar system), and there was us — in our semi-physical, airy, undifferentiated solar condition. [See THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1928), lecture 5, GA 110.]
53) [Being Helped] Here’s how things went for us on the Sun. First, we recapitulated our previous existence on Saturn. (According to both Theosophy and Anthroposophy, evolution entails an almost infinite number of recapitulations: Each time we take a step forward, we have to repeat — in new, higher form — all the steps we took before.) In the process, many spiritual beings — gods — worked on us, as they and other gods would continue to do at later stages of our evolution. “What can be observed during the first Sun cycle [i.e., the first phase of the Old Sun period]...is the labor of the 'Spirits of Wisdom' (Dominions or Kyriotetes in Christian esoteric doctrine [gods six levels above humanity]). They have [i.e., had] intervened in the development of man around the middle of the first Saturn cycle [i.e., during the middle phase of Old Saturn] ... [They] now continue their labor during the first half of the first Sun cycle by repeating in successive stages the wise arrangement of the physical body [i.e., these gods worked further on developing our physical bodies (which we would not receive for a long time yet), building upon the design previously laid out]. A little later this labor is joined by that of the 'Spirits of Motion' (Dynamis in Christianity, Mahat in theosophical literature [gods five levels above humanity]). Thereby that period of the Saturn cycle is repeated during which the human body received the capacity of motion.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), chapter 15, "The Life of the Sun", GA 11.
Steiner goes on to list other spiritual beings who contributed to our solar progress, including Archai (gods three levels above us) and archangels (gods two levels above us). Bear in mind that on the Sun, we were not yet really human. We were more like plants, actually (I’ll develop this development further, below). Just as the Archai (Spirits of Personality) passed through their human stage while we were on Saturn, the archangels (Fire-Spirits) were human during our Sun period. One remarkable fact about this: The behavior of the "human" archangels on Old Sun, like the behavior of the "human" Archai on Old Saturn, is not at all what we Earth humans, today, are capable of. Steiner’s conception of what it means to be human was quite elastic. At root, he meant that an entity becomes "human" when it develops its "I" — its spark of divinity, its spiritual individuality.
The Old Sun spun or rotated (just as Old Saturn did, only more so). This spinning created separations of the basic spirit/matter of the Sun into higher and lower spirit/matter stuff. Among the condensing stuff was the stuff that would eventually become our physical selves today. The overall schema is that during our evolution we grew more and more densely physical until the present day. We are now about as dense as we will ever be (unless we are evil, get denser yet, and fall into the Eighth Sphere). In the near future, we will begin becoming more and more spiritual again. (This is Steiner’s solution to a conundrum: Why does the universe that we see around us bear no relationship whatsoever to the universe Steiner described? And why are we, and all other living things, and all other inanimate things, and all observable processes and patterns, so completely different from what Steiner described? Well, children, it just so happens that we live in a period when the truth of Steiner’s doctrines is hidden, because ours is such a very densely physical period. But in your past incarnations, you could have seen that Steiner was right; and you’ll see this again in future incarnations. So hang on — all will be revealed, in time. This will, sadly, take a long, long time, however: Steiner taught that we reincarnate once every 2,166 years, give or take a few. So, if you have doubts about Steiner's doctrines now, in twenty or so centuries from now, proofs of Steiner's correctness will begin to blossom all around you.)
"On" Saturn we were essentially minerals, as it were, and "on" the Sun we were essentially plant, so to speak. "On" our next go-round, the Old Moon, we will be animals, sort of. And then, during our fourth condition of consciousness, "on" Earth, we will finally become human. (I have put "on" in quotation marks to remind us that Steiner was talking about events happening during various phases of evolution. He himself often spoke of things happening "on" or even "in" various "planets," when what he meant (usually) was events happening during planetary conditions, which he also called conditions of consciousness: the mega-stages of our evolution. Keeping all these things straight takes a bit of work. If you find yourself confused at any point, checking various terms (Sun, Old Sun, planet, planetary stages...) in the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia may help. You might also consult "Planets".)
54) [Mineral Level] “[I]n Saturn [i.e., during Old Saturn], man's physical body had been formed [i.e., conceived]. The latter was completely lifeless at that time [i.e., we did not yet inhabit such bodies]. Such a lifeless body is called mineral by mystery science [i.e., “spiritual science” — in essence, Anthroposophy]. One can therefore also say that on Saturn man was mineral, or he passed through the mineral realm. This human mineral did not have the form of a present-day mineral. Minerals as they are at present, did not yet exist at that time [nothing now is what it was then, for the reason I explained above].” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY, chapter 15.
55) [Competition] Steiner proceeded to explain that, "on" the Sun, we shed from our essence the substances that would later become present-day minerals. Our evolution entails many such sheddings; we climb upward by tossing overboard bits of ourselves. These bits become members of lowly kingdoms of various sorts. Thus, there is something rather invidious about our story, although Steiner doesn’t see it that way; rather, it is just how things work in the wide cosmos. We advance by pushing other beings (coming from within ourselves or otherwise) lower: “It can be seen that man ascends into a higher realm by thrusting a part of his companions down into a lower. We shall see this process repeating itself many times in the subsequent stages of development. It corresponds to a fundamental law of development." — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY, chapter 15.*
56) [Overview] Steiner helpfully provided a summary of our Sun/plant period. See what you think:
◊ The "Sun" is the "planet" "on" which develops the second human condition of consciousness, that of dreamless sleep. The physical human body rises to a kind of plant existence through the incorporation of an ether body into it.
◊ This development passes through seven subsidiary stages (smaller cycles or “rounds”).
◊ In the first of these cycles the stages of development of Saturn are repeated [or recapitulated], with respect to the physical body, in a somewhat altered form.
◊ At the end of the first cycle begins the pouring out of [i.e., the development of] the ether body by the “Spirits of Wisdom.”
◊ In the middle of the second cycle, the work of the “Spirits of Motion” on this body begins.
◊ In the middle of the third cycle. the action of the “Spirits of Form” on the ether body has its beginning.
◊ From the middle of the fourth cycle onward, this body receives selfhood through the “Spirits of Personality” [gods three levels above humanity].
◊ In the meantime, the physical body has advanced so far through the action of the forces which have been working on it since earlier periods that from the fourth cycle onward the “Spirits of Fire” [gods two levels above us] can elevate themselves to humanity through it [i.e., these gods — also called archangels — reach their “human” phase during Old Sun].
◊ In the middle of the fifth cycle, the “Spirits of Fire"... take over the work on the ether body. The “Sons of Twilight” [gods on level above humanity] are active in the physical body at this time.
◊ Around the middle of the sixth cycle. the work on the ether body is transferred to the “Sons of Twilight,” Man himself now works on the physical body [bearing in mind that we are not yet human and we do not yet inhabit the physical body we will have on Earth].
◊ In the course of the seventh cycle, the animated monad has come into existence. [Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY, chapter 15.] The animated monad is atma-buddhi, the germ of our later spiritual essence. More generally, a monad is a self-enclosed being. We become monads when we, in our souls, carry our individuality through life and lives. [See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, INITIATION, ETERNITY, AND THE PASSING MOMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1980), p 44.] The sum of all monads is Monad, the macrocosmic human, Christ. [See Rudolf Steiner, CORRESPONDENCE AND DOCUMENTS 1901-1925 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), p. 83.]
Our life "on" was followed by another pralaya — we and the solar system once again dropped out of existence for a while in order to recuperate. In a future episode, we’ll move along to our next major evolutionary period, Old Moon.
* 57) [More Competition] This is the struggle for existence, Steinerstyle. Anthroposophists often overlook the violence and strife in Steiner’s doctrines. But these are present and undeniable. In our own time, for example, the whites will soon need to overcome nonwhites in order to clear the stage for future human evolution: “[T]hese things cannot happen in the world without the most violent struggle. White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human being [i.e., colored mankind is at a lower stage than whites; they have not incorporated spirit into their physical bodies]. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas. And world history will consist of those events that will lead to these battles between white and colored mankind until the great fight between white and colored mankind has been brought about. Future events are frequently reflected in previous events. You see, we stand before something so colossal that, if we regard it through the diverse perceptions of spiritual science, we will in the future recognize it as a necessary occurrence.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), GA 174b, p. 38.
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