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Do not confuse Present Earth with Earth.
Present Earth is a period in time;
Earth is a planet, the place where we live.
To remind you: During the Old Saturn stage of evolution, we had been clouds of warmth, beings who were essentially at the mineral level of development. During Old Sun, we became airy plant-like beings. During Old Moon, we were soft-boned, gliding, leaping, animalish creatures. Old Moon then winked out of physical existence, taking us with it. We rested up (pralaya), getting ready for our next manifestation, one that will seem a bit more familiar: We came to Earth (i.e., the incorporeal solar system reemerged into a new form of physical manifestation, and we were part of this): We entered the period of evolution called Present Earth. [To review the previous periods, see the sections, above, titled "Old Saturn", "Old Sun", and "Old Moon."]
Present Earth consists of seven epochs. We have already passed through four of these (the Polarian, Hyperborean, Lemurian, and Atlantean epochs), and we are currently living in the fifth, the Post-Atlantean Epoch. In this installment of Steiner Static, we will look at the Polarian and Hyperborean epochs, in addition to getting an overview of the entire Present Earth period up to the present (in fact, we're getting part of that overview right now).
At the beginning of Present Earth, during the Polarian Epoch, we were still far less than solid — we were not at all physical as we understand the term today. Conditions then were still soft and fluid, and most phenomena of the solar system were still intermingled, so that the Sun and Moon, for instance, were still united with the Earth:
89) [Polarian Epoch] “Let us again call to mind that, in the beginning of its development, our Earth was united with Sun and Moon. At that point man had arisen once more out of the earliest germ which comprised physical, etheric, and astral bodies [i.e., we had preliminary versions of such bodies]; he appeared, so to speak, in his first earthly form — the only one possible to him while the Earth still contained both Sun and Moon. This period of Earth evolution, which man experienced in common with his planet, is usually called in the literature of spiritual science, the ‘Polarian’ period. It would lead too far to explain today why this period is called ‘Polarian’; meanwhile let us simply accept the term.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1948), p. 66.
Saturn became the first planet to separate from the Earth, doing so during the Polarian Epoch. As for ourselves: As beings of the Polarian period, we were members of the Polarian Race. As such, we incarnated only to a very thin and insubstantial degree; we were primarily etheric bodies:
90) [Polarians: Us] “In the so-called Polarian Race...the etheric body was the most important. Man's whole body [i.e., the combination of our three bodies] at that time consisted of fine etheric substance. Only later did the etheric body densify by permeating itself with physical matter ... [During the Polarian Epoch] man was not fettered to the ground as he is today. He hovered through the etheric earth, and his organs, too, were etheric.’” — Rudolf Steiner, “(On) Apocalyptic Writings” (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), a lecture, GA unestablished.
Steiner had a disconcerting way of distancing himself from his own words, as when he referred to the “so-called Polarian race.” What he meant, usually, was that words can hardly describe the amazing things he told us about (in words). Anyway, we got more solidly physical during succeeding epochs, and eventually we manifested the “I”, our true human spiritual essence or ego.
91) [Self Am I] During Present Earth, we finally became human.* Prior to Present Earth, we had been working our way up toward human status — which is to say, we were evolving toward the time when we would acquire our I's. The I is a human being's fourth invisible body, higher than the astral body. It is sometimes called the ego body. It is the spark of divinity that gives each of us an individual, unique spiritual identity. You and you alone have your particular I; no one being has that unique, precious individual identity. It is you (in a sense); you are it (in a sense). Only you can say "I" about yourself.
No beings lower than ourselves possess I's. Animals don't have them, nor do plants nor minerals. But all beings above us have acquired I's in their own time, ahead of us. Those beings — gods — have evolved through their own human stages on their way toward still higher stages. The Spirits of Personality (gods three levels above us) gained their I's during Old Saturn; the Spirits of Fire (gods two levels above us) gained their during Old Sun; the Sons of Twilight (gods one level above us) gained their during Old Moon. While all of that was happening, we trailed behind, starting to develop our physical bodies during Old Saturn, our etheric bodies during Old Sun, and our astral bodies during Old Moon. Only during Present Earth would we, at long last, become sufficiently evolved to develop our I's. Only then would we be able to say,
“I am the self
the self am I,
the spirit in my heart
is the self.”
— from a Steiner-written meditation, BREATHING THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), p. 55.
92) [Hyperborea] The second phase of life on Earth was the Hyperborean Epoch. Like other epochs, it saw phenomena and capacities separating from one another. The Sun separated from the Earth during the Hyperborean Epoch. Equally important, human beings (who were not yet human, remember) gradually became more distinct and particularized — this was part of the process of individuation, the development of human selfhood. Previously, all parts of our bodies performed virtually all functions interchangeably; we did not have separate organs for separate functions. But slowly separate organs did form and our various senses started to become distinct from one another:
“One must imagine the perceptual world [i.e., the world that could be apprehended during the Hyperborean Epoch] of these ancestors of man [i.e., ourselves, before we became human] to have been a quite general and indefinite one. Only two of the types of perception of today had already become separated: the sense of hearing and the sense of touch. Because of the changes that had taken place in the body as well as in the physical environment, the entire human form was no longer capable of being, in a manner of speaking, an 'ear'. A special part of the body remained capable of reverberating to delicate vibrations. It furnished the material from which our organ of hearing gradually developed. However, approximately the whole remainder of the body continued to be the organ of touch.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), p. 114.
The Polarian and Hyperborean Epochs — preliminary stages, on Earth, in our evolution toward becoming fully-fledged I's* — are hard to visualize. Here is how they are described in the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia:
Polarian Epoch - also see astral plane; epochs; ether; Hyperborean Epoch; Old Saturn; Present Earth
Hyperborean Epoch - also see Earth; epochs; great epochs; Lemuria; Polarian Epoch; solar Pitris
Our Earthly lives became a bit more recognizable in the two following epochs, the Lemurian and Atlantean. We will get to these in future installments of Steiner Static.
* Becoming fully human, fully possessing our I's, is a complex, lengthy process. According to Steiner, the ancient Norse god Thor has had a lot to do with fostering our I's. [See "The Gods".] But far more important has been Christ, the Sun God, who incarnated on Earth and gave us the impetus to develop our true human potential. We could not have true I's until He showed us the way. [See "Sun God".] The I is, in a sense, a gift from the Sun. In a perhaps less precise sense, the I comes to us from the "cosmic I," the I of the universe, the divinity that infuses and directs all. [See the entry for "I", in the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]
During our current period within Present Earth, we have I's — but we are not yet fully human: We have not yet reached the Human Kingdom of Present Earth. (See the third scale in the chart reprinted in the section on "Old Moon, Etc.", above.) We are still terribly, densely physical — we are at the "mineral" level within Earth evolution — we must evolve considerably before we reach the "human" level. Then again, we will not perfect ourselves in a higher sense until Future Vulcan. By then, we will be superhuman; but only then will we fully comprehend (and thus possess) our I's. Our "higher I's" exist in the spirit realm; our "lower I's" are with us in our lives of incarnation. We will not truly be I's until we fully unite with our higher I's. We might call this the real formation of the spiritual ego or I. "Not till the Vulcan period [i.e., Future Vulcan], after the Jupiter and Venus evolutions [i.e., Future Jupiter and Future Venus] are completed, will the Ego [the "I"] be formed [i.e., fully, truly formed].” — R. Steiner, THE FORMING OF DESTINY AND LIFE AFTER DEATH (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1927), lecture 3, GA 157a.
During Earthly life for us now, in the Post-Atlantean Epoch, we posses I's or egos, to some degree. They incarnate at a particular stage of individual evolution or development in this life: at about age 21. The physical body incarnates at birth, Steiner said, the etheric body incarnates around age seven, the astral body incarnates at around age 14, and the I incarnates at around age 21. [See "Incarnation".]
[R. R., 2009.]