Following back the evolution of the Earth with spiritual-scientific research, we come to a spiritual condition of our planet. If however we pursue the investigation still further, we find that this spiritual has already been in a kind of physical embodiment before. That is to say, we encounter a past physical planetary condition which afterwards became spiritual and then, becoming material once more, was at length transformed into our Earth. Our Earth thus appears as the re-embodiment of a primeval planet. But spiritual science is able to go even further back, and as it does so it finds the whole process repeated again twice over. Thus our Earth has passed through three previous planetary conditions, with intermediate states of spiritualization in between. The physical proves to be more and more fine and delicate, the farther back we trace the Earth's embodiment.
Against the descriptions that will now follow it may quite naturally be objected: How can any reasonable person entertain the postulate of world-conditions so immeasurably remote? The answer is, that to a man who can look with understanding at the spiritual that is there now, hidden within what is manifest to the senses, insight also into former sates of evolution, however distant, cannot appear essentially impossible. If we do not recognize the hidden spiritual existence that is around us even at the present time, then it will indeed be meaningless to speak of an evolution such as is here in mind. But once we are able to recognize the presence of the spiritual here and now, we shall find the earlier condition given or implied in the immediate vision of the present, just as the condition of the one-year-old infant is implied in the appearance of a man of fifty. Yes, someone may say, but in this instance we have among us, beside people of fifty, children of a year of — and all the intermediate stages too. That is quite true; but the same is also true of the evolution of the spiritual to which we here refer. Anyone possessing clear insight and discrimination will recognize that a complete observation of the present — which will necessarily include its spiritual part too — cannot but perceive there also are evolutionary conditions of the past, preserved side by side with those stages of existence which have reached the present evolutionary level. Just as children of a year old are present side by side with men and women of fifty, so within all that goes on upon Earth at the present time we can still behold primordial happenings, if only we are able to hold distinct from one another the diverse stages of evolution.
Man, in the form and figure in which he is now evolving, does not emerge until the fourth of the above planetary embodiments — the Earth proper. The essential feature of man's present form is that he consists of the four members: physical body, life-body, astral body and Ego. This form however could not have emerged at all, had it not been prepared by the preceding facts of evolution. The preparation took place through the gradual evolution, during the earlier planetary embodiment, of beings who had already three of the four members of the present human being, namely physical body, life-body and astral body. These beings, whom we may call in a certain respect the ancestors of man, had as yet no I, but they evolved the other three members and the mutual connections of these three up to the point where they were ripe, subsequently to receive the I. Thus on the preceding embodiment of the planet, man's ancestor had reached a certain degree of maturity in three members. With this he passed into the state of spiritualization, out of which the new planetary condition — that of the Earth — subsequently arose. In this Earth were contained, like seeds, the thus far matured ancestors of man. By undergoing entire spiritualization and re-appearing in a new form, the planet could give the seeds it contained within it, with their physical body, life-body and astral body, not only the opportunity to evolve again up to the height which had been theirs before, but the further possibility, having attained this height, to go beyond it by receiving in addition the I. Earth evolution falls accordingly into two parts. In the first the Earth appears as a re-embodiment of the earlier planetary condition, although by virtue of the spiritualized condition it has meanwhile undergone, this recapitulation represents a higher stage than that of the former embodiment. Within it the Earth contains the seeds of the ancestors of man which have come from the earlier planet. To begin with, the seeds evolve up to the level on which they were before. When they have reached it, the first period is at an end. And now, since its own evolution is at a higher stage, the Earth can bring the seeds also to a higher level; it can make them capable of receiving the I. Thus the second period of Earth evolution is characterized by the unfolding of the I in physical body, life-body and astral body.
Through Earth evolution man is thus lifted a stage higher in his development. Now this was also the case in the former planetary embodiments. For something of the human being was already in existence on the very first of these. In order therefore to come to a clear understanding of man's present nature, we have to trace his evolution back to the far primeval past — to the above-mentioned first planetary embodiment. In supersensible research this first planetary embodiment may be called Saturn, the second may be designated Sun and the third, Moon; the fourth is the Earth. One thing, however, must be strictly borne in mind in regard to these designations. They must not, to begin with, be associated in any way with the identical names as applied to the members of our present solar system. “Saturn,” “Sun” and “Moon” are here intended simply as the names for past evolutionary forms which the Earth has gone through. As to the relation of these pristine worlds to the heavenly bodies that constitute our present solar system — that will emerge in the further course of our studies. Then too the reason for the choice of the names will become evident.
The conditions on the four planetary embodiments will now be described. It can only be done in merest outline; for the events, the Beings and their destinies were truly no less manifold on Saturn, Sun and Moon than they are on Earth itself. Attention will be drawn to a few characteristic features that can help to illustrate how the present conditions of our Earth have evolved out of the former ones. The farther we go back in evolution, the less will the conditions be found to resemble those of the present time. Yet they can only be described by resorting to ideas and images derived from present conditions. Thus when we speak in this connection of light, warmth and the like, it must not be forgotten that what is thus referred to is not precisely the same as what we now call light and warmth. The notation is justified nevertheless, for the observer in the supersensible perceives in the earlier stages of evolution something from which the present light, warmth, etc. have come to be. And anyone who carefully follows the descriptions will be well able to gather, from the whole context into which things are placed, the kind of conceptions he will need in order to have pictures and images that truly convey the character of the events that took place in those remote ages of the past.
The difficulty is, however, undeniably great for those planetary conditions which precede the Moon embodiment. For the conditions of the Moon period still show a certain likeness to those of the Earth, and in attempting to describe them these similarities with the present day give one a point of contact and enable one to express in clear ideas what has been supersensibly perceived. It is a very different matter when we come to describe the Saturn and Sun evolutions. What confronts the clairvoyant observer here is as different as possible from the things and beings that now belong to the horizon of man's life. This makes it exceedingly difficult even to bring the corresponding facts into the domain of the supersensible consciousness at all. But since the present human being cannot be understood without going back to the Saturn state, some description of it must none the less be given. And the description will not be misunderstood if it is borne in mind that the difficulty exists, and that many of the things here said are to be taken not so much as an exact description but more as a hint and indication of the facts.
What has just been said, as well as what will be said in the following pages, might not unnaturally be held to contradict the statement made previously as to the persistence of the earlier conditions within the present. Nowhere, it might be said, is there a former Saturn, Sun or Moon condition existing side by side with the present Earth condition, still less a form of human being such as is here described as having existed in those earlier conditions. It is quite true: there are not Saturn, Sun or Moon men running about among Earth men in the way that little children of three run about among the men and women of fifty. But within the hum an being as he is on Earth these earlier conditions of mankind are indeed perceptible — supersensibly. To recognize that this is so, we need only have acquired a power of discernment extending to the full horizon of the facts of life. As the child of three is present beside the man of fifth, so are present, beside the alive and waking man of Earth, the corpse, the man asleep, and the dreaming man. Granted that these various forms of manifestation of man's being do not immediately reveal, as we see them before us, the several stages of his evolution, nevertheless clear and objective contemplation will behold in them the corresponding stages.
Of the four present members of the human being the physical body is the oldest. Moreover it is the physical body which has attained the greatest perfection in its kind. Supersensible research shows that this member of the human being existed already in Saturn evolution. It is true, as will emerge in these descriptions, that the form it had on Saturn was utterly different from man's present physical body. The physical body of man as it is on Earth can only exist in its proper nature inasmuch as it is connected with a life-body, an astral body and an Ego, as has been described in earlier chapters of this book. On Saturn, there was ads yet no such connection. The physical body was passing through its first stage in evolution without a human life-body or astral body or Ego being incorporated in it. During Saturn evolution it was only maturing towards the stage of receiving a life-body, and before this could happen, Saturn had first to pass into a spiritual state and then be re-incarnated as the Sun. In the Sun embodiment of the Earth, what the physical body had become on Saturn unfolded once more, as from a seed. Only then could it be permeated with an etheric body. Through receiving into it an etheric body, its nature was changed: the physical body was raised to a second level of its perfection. A like thing happened during the Moon evolution when the ancestor of man, having evolved from Sun to Moon, received into himself the astral body. The physical body was thereby changed again; this time it was raised to a third level of perfection. The life-body too was changed; henceforth it stood upon its second level of perfection. On Earth, into the ancestor of man consisting now of physical body, life-body and astral body, the Ego was incorporated. Therewith the physical body reached its fourth degree of perfection, the life-body is third, the astral body its second; while the Ego even now is only at the first stage of its existence.
If we really set out to consider man with an open mind, we shall have no difficulty in forming a right idea of the varying degrees of perfection of the several members. Compare, for example, the physical body with the astral in this respect. The astral body, it is true, being of the nature of “soul,” stands at a higher level in evolution than the physical; and when in future time the astral body has come to perfection, it will signify far more for man's whole being than the present physical body. Yet the latter in its kind has attained no mean height of development. Consider the structure of the heart, planned as it is in accordance with the highest wisdom! Or look at the miraculous structure of the brain; or at that of a single part only of some bone — the upper end of the thigh-bone, for example. We find there a network or scaffolding of tiny rods, arranged according to an inner principle. The structure of the whole is so compact as to produce with the minimum use of material the best possible effect at the joint-surfaces — the best distribution of friction, for example, hence affording the right kind of mobility. So do we fined in different parts of the physical body arrangements that give evidence of the working of a deep wisdom. And if we go on to observe the harmony that prevails in the co-operation of the parts within the whole, we shall surely agree that this member of the human being has reached a certain perfection of its kind. The fact that here and there seeming inefficiencies appear, or that disturbances in structure or in function can occur, is unimportant in comparison. Nay more, we can even find that such disturbances are in a sense only the necessary shadows cast by the light of a wisdom which is poured out over the organism as a whole.
And now compare with this the astral body as the bearer of joy and sorrow, of cravings and passions. How full of uncertainty it is in its joy and sorrow! What manifold cravings and passions work themselves out in it that are adverse to the higher aims of man, and are often meaningless! The astral body is only on the way to the achievement of that harmony and self-containedness which we see already before us in the physical. So too it could be shown how the etheric body in its kind proves more perfect than the astral body, but less so than the physical. And the same line of thought will show with no less certainty that the real kernel of man's being, namely the I or Ego, is now only at the beginning of its evolution. For how much has the Ego yet accomplished of its task, which is to transform the other members until these become a revelation of itself?
For one acquainted with spiritual science, the insight arrived at in this way by external observation is intensified by something else. It might well be argues that the physical falls a pretty to disease. Now spiritual science is able to show that a large proportions of illnesses are due to some fault or failing in the astral body being transmitted to the etheric, and, through the latter, disturbing the harmony of the physical body, which in itself is perfect. This deeper connection — which can here be no more than indicated — and with it the essential cause of many a disease, eludes that mode of science which would restrict itself to physical and sense-perceptible facts. More often than not, the connection is as follows. Injury to the astral body is followed by morbid symptoms in the physical, not in the same life in which the injury is done, but in a subsequent life. Consequently the laws that prevail here are significant only for those who are ready to admit the repetition of man's life on Earth. But even if one did not wish to concern oneself with these deeper realms of knowledge, common observation would reveal only too clearly that man gives himself up to cravings and enjoyments which undermine the harmony of the physical body. Now cravings, passions, enjoyment and the like have their seat not in the physical but in the astral body. In effect, the latter is in many respects still so imperfect that it can actually mar the perfection of the physical body.
Here again let it be emphasized that the connections indicated are by no means intended to prove the statements of spiritual science as to the evolution of the four members of man's being. The proofs are derived in every case from spiritual research, which reveals that the physical body has behind it a fourfold transformation to higher stages of perfection, and the other members less, as has been explained. It was only desired to point out that these communications from spiritual research are related to facts of which the consequences are even outwardly observable, in the degrees of perfection of physical body, life-body and the remaining members.