Steiner usually taught that we will progress through seven stages of evolution:
Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, Present Earth, Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan.
However, he sometimes added an eighth stage.
Thus, the overall pattern is this:
Old Saturn is at the upper left,
Future Vulcan is at the upper right.
Present Earth is in the middle — at the bottom of the V —
with the Eighth Sphere suspended below it.
We evolve from left to right, descending toward the intense physical condition
of life during Present Earth, and then reascending toward more fully
Errant humans descend too far, falling from Present Earth to the Eighth Sphere,
which is in effect a place of perdition.
Humans who evolve properly avoid the Eighth Sphere;
they will proceed from Present Earth to Future Jupiter
and then to the higher spheres beyond.
[R.R. 2015, based on image in Rudolf Steiner,
THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), lecture 5, GA 254.]
(On some occasions, Steiner said there will be five more stages
after Vulcan, but they cannot be described.
Thus, the overall pattern should look like this:
But since the final five stages are so distant and incomprehensible,
we can forget them for now.)
Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon lie in the past —
we have already undergone those evolutionary stages.
We exist now in the Present Earth stage of evolution.
Future Jupiter, Future Venus, Future Vulcan,
and the five unnamed mystery stages, lie in the future.
Despite being named for planets, the stages are spiritual environments,
they are not the planets we see today in the solar system.*
The images, below, are impressionistic and merely suggestive.
They are not based on images drawn by Steiner,
nor are they tightly bound to the images above.
Note that these pictures represent spiritual or mental states,
forms of consciousness, not spherical objects (planets) hanging in space.
•• ◊◊◊ ••
This stage differs from the others; only evildoers descend to it,
and by doing so they leave the proper sequence of evolution.
[See "Sphere 8".]
[All sketches, above, by R.R., 2010,
except Earth, drawn ~1968 and modified 2010,
and the Eighth Sphere, drawn ~1964 and modified 2010.]
* Steiner knew that his terminology could be confusing. Here is his effort, in a Supplementary Note at the end of OCCULT SCIENCE, to explain the differences — and connections — between planetary stages, such as Old Saturn, and planets, such as Saturn:
"In the fourth and sixth chapters of this book it was described how the World to which Man belongs, and Man himself, evolve through the successive states called ‘Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan.’ Some indication was also given of how human evolution is related to the existing heavenly bodies other than the Earth — Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, for example. They too are of course evolving, and in their present stage of evolution the physical part of them is perceptible to our senses in the forms known to physical Astronomy as ‘Saturn’, ‘Jupiter’, ‘Mars’ and the rest.
"Seen in the light of spiritual science, the present Saturn is a kind of reincarnation of Old Saturn. It came into existence because, before the Sun had separated from the Earth, Beings were there who would not have been able to leave with the Sun. They were so much imbued with Saturnian characteristics that they could not live where Solar properties above all were to be developed. So too the present Jupiter arose because Beings were there with characteristics which cosmic evolution as a whole will be unfolding in the future Jupiter and not till then. Mars on the other hand is a heavenly body inhabited by Beings whose evolution on Old Moon was such that they could not have benefited from any further progress upon Earth. Mars is a reincarnation of Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for Beings who are ahead of earthly evolution in that they have developed certain earthly qualities in a higher form than is possible upon the Earth herself. Likewise the present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future Venus state.
"Such are the reasons for naming the past and future stages of World-evolution after the heavenly bodies — their present representatives, as it were, in the Cosmos."
— Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 328-329.
During its second incarnation — called Old Sun — the solar system achieved a degree of differentiation that allowed two portions of the basic, unified solar substance to separate. These were proto-versions of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. This is what you see in the second column: a large proto-Sun existing alongside a proto-Saturn and a proto-Jupiter. The solar system existed in this form for a while, then it became less differentiated again, "Saturn" and "Jupiter" reunited with "Sun," and then the whole solar system faded out of existence and the second incarnation — Old Sun — ended.
Here is another schematic representation of seven stages of earthly/solar evolution, as described in Anthroposophy. This image comprises seven columns, as it were. To the left, the first stage of earthly/solar evolution is represented. When the solar system first incarnated — during the evolutionary stage called Old Saturn — it was a single body. But at one period of Old Saturn, this single body developed enough internal differentiation for a first version of the planet Saturn to separate. Thus, the left-hand column shows an immense proto-Sun existing in company with a much smaller proto-Saturn. (The "Sun" is the large yellow form; "Saturn" is the small sphere below it.) The solar system existed in this form for a while, then it became less differentiated again, "Saturn" reunited with "Sun," and then the whole solar system faded out of existence and the first incarnation — Old Saturn — ended.
The third column shows conditions prevailing when the third incarnation — Old Moon — reached its period of maximum differentiation. "Sun" then existed alongside versions of "Saturn," "Jupiter," "Mars," and a sphere that contained preliminary versions of both "Earth" and "Moon." The solar system existed in this form for a while, then it became less differentiated again, "Saturn," "Jupiter", "Mars," and "Earth/Moon" reunited with "Sun," and then the whole solar system faded out of existence and the third incarnation — Old Moon — ended.
The fourth columns shows conditions as we know them today, when the Sun as we now know it is accompanied by the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury as we now know them. Moreover, the Moon as we now know it is separate from the Earth as we now know it. (Uranus and Neptune are not depicted, since Steiner said that they are not true members of the solar system.)
The remaining columns show future incarnations of the solar system: Future Jupiter followed by Future Venus followed by Future Vulcan. These are, approximately, reverse images of earlier incarnations. Thus, during Future Vulcan, the "Sun" as it will exist at that stage will be accompanied by just one "planet": "Saturn" as it will exist at that stage. In this sense, Future Vulcan will be similar to Old Saturn. But all conditions throughout the solar system will be far more highly evolved during all the future stages than they were at any time previously. Thus, Future Vulcan will be more evolved than Future Venus, which in turn will be more evolved than Future Jupiter, etc. Thus, Future Vulcan will be vastly more evolved than Old Saturn — it will be a climactic fulfillment of the potentialities first hinted at during Old Saturn.
There is another important difference between the future stages and the past stages: After both Future Jupiter and Future Venus, moons or satellites will split off, forming the dwelling places for abnormal beings who are unable to evolve properly. These moons or satellites will be places of penance or perdition or alternative evolution, depending. In any event, this is the account given by Kees Zoeteman in GAIASOPHY (Lindisfarne Press, 1991), p. 68ff. [My sketch, 2013, is based on the diagram on p. 70.] Zoeteman is reasonably faithful to Steiner.
Steiner's use of language (Sometimes when I say "Saturn" I mean Saturn, but usually I don't) is far from perfect,
but this isn't wholly his fault. He inherited much of his terminology from previous mystics, and in some ways he was clearer than they were.
Here are two Theosophical expositions of the meaning of the word "planet".
I have taken them from the ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY
Copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press:
Planet Usually refers to the visible satellites of our sun, though in its general sense including the planets belonging to other solar systems, and planets belonging to the universal solar system, whether visible or not on our plane. One particular meaning is that of the seven sacred planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and two secret planets for which the Sun and Moon are substituted exoterically. Uranus and Neptune do not belong to this group, although circulating around our Sun; Neptune while belonging to our universal solar system does not cosmogonically belong to our own minor solar system, and hence is what from our standpoint may be called a capture.
Each planet, like all other celestial orbs, is composed of seven or twelve globes, in coadunation but not in consubstantiality, forming a planetary chain on the various cosmic planes, only those on our particular physical plane being visible to us. Planets are the outer shell of living beings and have evolved from cosmic seeds, passing through various stages including that of comets. They are inhabited by denizens adapted to their conditions. Each planet of the solar system is in its own particular stage of planetary evolution, one planet being in one round of its own evolutionary course, another in a different round of its evolutionary development; and the substances or matters composing them are in respectively different states of materiality, ethereality, or spirituality. The periods of the planetary movements and of their nodes and apses are regulated by mathematical law originally impressed not only in the structure of the solar system, but in the svabhava or characteristic nature of each individual planet in the system, and these periods mark innumerable cycles of time, great and small. They shed influence on the earth and its inhabitants both as time indicators and by virtue of their quality as living beings. Each celestial body is the mansion, vehicle, or house of what is in its essence a divine entity; and these regents or governors, each one of its own sun or planet, are themselves undergoing courses of evolutionary unfolding in time periods so vast that mathematics of cosmic extent are required to compass them.
Planetary Chain Every kosmic body or globe, be it sun or planet, nebula or comet, atom or electron, is a composite entity comprised of inner and invisible energies and substances, and of an outer and often visible physical body. These elements all together, whether enumerated as seven or twelve, are the principles or elements of every self-contained entity or individual life-center. What theosophy calls a planetary chain is an entity composed of seven or twelve such multiprincipled globes, and which taken as a unit form one planetary chain. All celestial bodies are multiprincipled entities as man is, who is a copy in the small of what the universe is in the great, there being one life and one system of laws in that universe. Every entity in the universe is an inseparable part of it, therefore whatsoever the whole contains, is found in miniature in every part.
Our own earth-chain is composed of seven or twelve globes, of which only one, our physical earth, exists on this plane, perceptible to our physical sense apparatus because that apparatus is evolved to cognize this earth-plane and none other. But the life-waves of all the globes of the earth-chain pass in succession, following each other, from globe to globe, thus gaining experience of energy, matter, and consciousness on all the various planes and spheres that this chain comprises.
Limiting our explanation only to the manifest seven globes of the complete twelve, the six globes other than the earth exist, according to one diagrammatic delineation, two by two, on the three planes of the solar system more ethereal than the physical plane. These three superior planes or worlds are each one superior to the world or plane immediately beneath it. Our earth-globe is the fourth and most material of all the manifest globes of the earth-chain. Three globes precede it on the descending or shadowy arc and three globes follow it on the ascending or luminous arc of evolution.
[ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY]
The following is from
FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THEOSOPHY by C. Jinarajadasa, chapter 9
The work done through seven Chains in succession makes one "Scheme of Evolution". There are seven such Schemes of Evolution, and over the work of each presides a Planetary Logos; nay, more, each Scheme is the expression of His exalted Life, and the seven Chains of His Scheme are as successive incarnations of that Life. Each of the seven Planetary Logoi has thus before Him a Scheme of Evolution to develop and guide; each Scheme involves seven Chains, and each Chain requires seven distinct globes.
There are now in the solar system seven Schemes of Evolution; they require, at some stage of their work, a physical planet; the stage of each of these seven Schemes is given in our next diagram., Fig. 72. (We are told that there are three Schemes which require no physical planet at all; but there is no information about their arrangement.) The Schemes of Evolution which involve Vulcan, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, are behind the Earth Scheme by one Chain; the Neptune Scheme (which includes Pluto and another planet not yet discovered) is, like the Earth Scheme, at its Fourth Chain whereas the Venus Scheme of Evolution is in advance of the Earth Scheme by one Chain.
It must be remembered that though a physical planet may not be able, owing to heat and pressure or absence of atmosphere, to permit life in such organisms as we have on our Earth, nevertheless there are types of non-physical evolution which can do their work efficiently on the astral planes of planets, where physical life is not possible.
It is because the Venus Scheme is one Chain in advance of the Earth, and therefore the average humanity of Venus is near the Adept level, that Adepts from Venus were able to help the work of the Earth Chain at its commencement, becoming Lords of Worlds, Manus, Buddhas, Chohans, and other great leaders of our evolution. These are the "gods" and "divine rulers" of the myths of primitive mankind. In exactly a similar fashion, such of the Earth's humanity as attain Adeptship at the end of the Earth Chain, and care to do so, may begin helping the work of evolution of the four backward Chains of the Vulcan, Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus Schemes.
And this is from
FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY by G. de Purucker, chapter 23
“The Sun and the Planets. Their Role in the Evolutionary Drama”
We refer more particularly to the role which the sun and the planets of our solar system play in the evolutionary drama. There are great mysteries connected with this, and we are told very plainly that not merely the ultimate word but even specifying explanations in no circumstances are given out except to those who have pledged themselves irretrievably and irrevocably to the Lodge. And even then they are given out only with "mouth to ear," and "at low breath"; and, furthermore, only to those, says H. P. Blavatsky, who have passed successfully their fourth initiation, which consists very largely in the personal and individual experiencing of the teachings given in the three preceding stages — three stages of preliminary teaching and training, leading to actual personal experience thereof in the fourth initiation, in which, we are told, the candidate must leave the body of flesh, yea, even the brain-mind, behind, and become that of which he was taught, because only by being can he know. Nevertheless a great deal has been openly said that is, to the student, very illuminating as regards these subjects.
First, at various times we have spoken of the sun, of our solar orb, as the central locus of our solar system. So it is, not merely physically but also in other ways. The sun, paradoxically but truly, supplies most of our material, vital powers; and it is interesting to note that the nearer the planets are to the sun, as a general rule, the more dense they are. Mark well that Mercury, the planet of bodha or of wisdom, the particular guardian and initiator in the Mysteries, is the nearest to the sun (but one) of our seven planets, i.e., the seven Mystery-planets. Note the words "but one." You will remember that the ancients spoke of seven Mystery-planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars — I give them in the old order — Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Moon. This matter we shall develop somewhat in diagrammatic form later this evening if we have the time.
The intra-Mercurial planet, as it is called, according to our teaching became practically invisible to the physical eye during the third root-race, after the fall of man into physical generation. On March 26, 1859, a body was seen crossing the solar disk, making what astronomers call a transit. That body has not been seen again; but there are other reasons which have induced some astronomers to believe that there actually is an intra-Mercurial planet (although they cannot find it again despite the search for it), such as the perturbations of Mercury. An attempt at explanation of these perturbations has been recently made, based on the relativity doctrines of Einstein, and that explanation is now in fashion. Nevertheless, our Teachers say that there is an intra-Mercurial planet; we may call it Vulcan, as the astronomers so called it.
Even if Vulcan became invisible during the third root-race, it could yet become visible in transit, that is, in crossing the sun's disk, as this body was actually in 1859 seen to do, because although invisible to our unaided sight, yet through the lens of a telescope when turned upon the unsurpassed illumination of the sun's disk, its body could probably be seen against the great brilliance of the solar orb. The immensely great illumination provided by the sun would readily throw into shadow, or make appear as a shadow, any body of less brilliance, or any body normally too ethereal to be seen otherwise.
The seventh planet, our teaching is, is a planet which under proper conditions is sometimes seen apparently near the moon. It is said that it has a retrograde motion, and that it is slowly dying. It has reached the end of its cycle. I think it erroneous to say that the moon "hides" it. That may be a good way, perhaps, of expressing a certain appearance, but I think it is a misleading one. Let us keep the facts just as they were given us, that it is sometimes "seen apparently near the moon," that it has a retrograde motion, and that it is slowly dying.
Vulcan is in one mystic sense the highest of the seven sacred planets; perhaps not the least dense, but in one sense the highest psychologically; and we have reason to believe that the other planet sometimes seen apparently near the moon is perhaps the lowest of the seven sacred planets. This does not mean that our teaching limits the number of the planets of the solar system to seven. On the contrary, we are taught that there are many more planets in the solar system than are known to astronomers, some perfectly invisible, because they are on planes both higher and lower than our plane. There are planets in our system higher than ours, higher than any planet visible to us; there are also planets in our system much lower than ours, much lower than any planet visible to us.
These seven especial planets were called sacred for a reason most difficult openly to explain; but we may say this, that the seven planets which we on earth (please note the qualification) call sacred, are those planets (and the earth is not one of them) which are the upadhis — a Sanskrit word meaning "bearers" or "carriers" — (to us) of the seven solar forces. They are all "higher" in that sense, or from that point of view, than is the earth; and they are all intimately connected with this earth, and provide this earth, not with its principles, but with spiritual and intellectual and psychical and astral and vital powers, so to say. These seven sacred planets, moreover, are our "makers," and oversee our destiny.
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◊◊◊ 11. THE WALDORF WORLDVIEW ◊◊◊