Epochs of Evolution
The previous article was devoted mostly to a discussion of modern 'neo-Darwinian' ideas about evolution and their relationship to the picture of evolution which emerges from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. I tried to indicate how some of the apparent contradictions may be resolved, and to sketch briefly the kinds of evolutionary concepts which then emerge.
This article is intended as a sequel to the first, although it is written from a quite different point of view. Rudolf Steiners account of the evolution of the earth and man includes many detailed descriptions of changing conditions of consciousness, of the activities of various spiritual beings, of the different relationships of the spiritual and physical members of man to each other during evolution, and so on. But he gives only the briefest indications of what the physical aspect of development was like, and only the sketchiest clues as to how the modern animals and the vast panorama of extinct fossil forms fit into the picture. To pursue this theme a little further is the purpose of the present article.
* * *
Geologists divide the fossil-bearing racks into three broad divisions, according to the nature of the fossils contained in them. The divisions are: Paleozoic - the rocks containing ancient forms of life; Mesozoic - 'middle life'; and Cenozoic - or rocks containing recent forms of life. Broadly speaking, remains of invertebrate animals and of primitive fishes dominate the Paleozoic strata; reptile remains dominate the Mesozoic strata; and mammal remains dominate the first part of the Cenozoic (the Tertiary strata). Not until the later Quaternary strata, after the great Ice Age1, are fossil remains found of man as he is today.
The following very simplified table (to be read upwards) will summarise this:
| Quaternary | Man appears
Cenozoic | | Ice Age
| Tertiary |'Age of Mammals'
| Cretaceous |
Mesozoic | Jurassic | |'Age of Reptiles'
| Triassic |
Paleozoic | Devonian | |'Age of Fishes'
| Silurian |
Pre-Cambrian .No fossil remains
Between these main groups of animals, various other groups mediated. For instance, towards the end of the Paleozoic, especially during Carboniferous times, remains of all kinds of amphibian creatures, half-way between fish and reptile, abound. During the second ha1f of the Mesozoic, and at the beginning of the Cenozoic, various 'mammal-like' reptiles, and curious primitive mammals are found. These geologica1 epochs are relatively simple compared with the complicated series of evolutionary stages described by Rudolf Steiner, but it will be helpful to try to see how the two sequences are connected. In the first place, Dr. Steiner refers to three 'planetary incarnations' which preceded the present earth; he calls them 'Old Saturn', 'Old Sun' and 'Old Moon'. Between each of these incarnations, creation returned to a purely spiritual existence for a while.
The present solar system can be regarded as the fourth incarnation of the cosmic bodies which have evolved through these stages.
Man himself, and also the animals, plants and minerals, are not simply a product of evolution on this earth, but were involved in the earlier stages, too. Man's physica1 body, according to Rudolf Steiner, began its evolution on Old Saturn. His etheric body, which endows his physica1 substance with the capacity for growth and reproduction, began to evolve on Old Sun. His astral body, the bearer of feelings and passions, began its evolution on Old Moon. Man's individual spiritual core, his Ego, has only just begun its evolution, and the central significance of the present planetary incarnation - the Earth stage - is to allow the Ego to begin to transform the three older members of man so that it can come to full expression in them.
The minerals have only a physica1 body on earth, and are therefore at a stage comparable to the evolutionary stage of man on Old Saturn. (Dr. Steiner says that if the minerals could talk, they would tell you about conditions on Old Saturn. They have, so to speak, an 'Old Saturn consciousness'.) Similarly, the plants have a physical and etheric body, and an 'Old Sun consciousness'. The animals have an astral, etheric and physical body, and a consciousness reminiscent of that possessed by man on the Old Moon. Only man himself has an individual Ego incarnated on the earth.
In another sense, however, the hard, solid, present-day minerals are very much a product of the present stage of evolution. On Old Saturn, Dr. Steiner says, matter did not become material at all in our sense; it condensed from out of a purely spiritual condition into a state he describes as one of finely differentiated warmth. On Old Sun, something like a gaseous state was reached; on the Old Moon, a liquid state; solid substance as we know it now is a product of the Earth evolution. But in speaking of 'gas' and 'liquid' it is important to realize that this is only an analogy. Nowadays, we mean by gas something just as solidly physical as stones and racks, but very finely dispersed. We must picture the 'gas' of Old Sun, or the 'liquid' of Old Moon as permeated with tremendous spiritual forces, and the entire planet as a vast living being in its own right.
The present earth-evolution began with a kind of recapitulation of the previous stages, and substance itself passed through these earlier conditions. Just as the human being passes through embryonic stages and develops a really hard skeleton only gradually, some years after birth, so the present mineral body of the earth developed gradually through various 'embryo-like' stages, when its substantial condition was quite different from what it is now.
* * *
Rudolf Steiner describes five main evolutionary stages of the earth up to the present He calls them Polarian, Hyperborean, Lemurian, Atlantean, and Post-Atlantean (our own).
The Polarian epoch began in a way reminiscent of Old Saturn with a kind of condensation from out of the cosmic periphery of a planetary body consisting of 'differentiated heat'. This body contained the present sun, moon, earth, and all the other planets within itself. During the Hyperborean epoch further condensation took place, and gave rise to a body consisting of warmth-and light-filled air. At the same time, the outer planets, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars were separated off from the parent body, which still contained the sun, earth, moon, Mercury and Venus. The Hyperborean epoch closed with the separation of the earth - still containing the moon - from the sun2.
The Lemurian earth was the scene of a great many events of the utmost significance for mankind. Dr. Steiner's descriptions of this epoch take some getting used to, for the whole aspect of the earth at that time was extremely strange. But, unlike the Polarian and Hyperborean epochs, the Lemurian age is the first which has left direct physical remains which we can study, and is therefore in some ways more accessible to our understanding.
We must imagine the earth at the dawn of the Lemurian age as a huge, egg-shaped, living body, much larger than it is now, consisting of liquid imbued with air and warmth. The densest matter was in a fine colloidal, or 'aerosol' condition. Gradually the centre of the earth began to differentiate from the periphery, and, in particular, heavy metals such as iron and nickel began to condense into the centre. The present heavy metallic core of the earth originates from this time.
On to this inner core a 'rain of silica', in Dr. Steiner's phrase, began to fall, condensing down out of the surrounding warmth-and air-permeated liquid to form the first beginning of the earth's crust.
This kind of sedimentation from out of the fiery, misty, watery, living atmosphere, continued throughout the Lemurian epoch to a greater or lesser extent, and to this process a major part of the geological strata we know today are to be attributed. The pre-Cambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian rocks were laid down in the first part of the Lemurian epoch, but it must be borne in mind that they had a quite different consistency - colloidal and 'foamy' at first, then jelly-like, and later more waxy and horny, but still 'alive' to some extent and 'dying' to become minerals as we now know them only at a much later stage.
To an orthodox geologist this whole picture will, of course, sound simply fantastic - but this is largely because scientists have got so used to the assumption that 'laws of nature', and the physical conditions to which they apply, are eternal and immutable. But there is no special evidence to support this metaphysical assumption, and it would clear the way for a much more subtle and dynamic view of evolution if orthodox science would consider the notion that not only plants and animals, but the whole earth, the matter of which it consists, and physical 'laws' themselves, have been subject to evolution. If one looks at a cliff face containing convoluted layers of rock which seem to have been twisted about like plasticine, it becomes almost impossible to believe, as orthodox geology would have it, that ordinary hard rock was slowly bent into such shapes simply by enormous pressures. It is much easier, for the naοve observer at least, to imagine a time when the rocks had a more toffee-like consistency, and the whole surface of the earth was far more active and flexible3.
* * *
The strata known as Carboniferous, Permian, and Triassic belong to the middle part of the Lemurian epoch. During this period, according to Rudolf Steiner, an extremely important event occurred - the separation of the moon from the earth. In the part of the earth where the Pacific Ocean now is, a kind of infolding of the earths crust occurred, and a separate planetary body was formed, which was then ejected to become what is now the moon. Into this body were concentrated all those substances and forces which had tended to make the solidification and hardening processes of the earth go on too fast. The departure of the moon left a huge 'wound' in the earth, and many of the geological revolutions of the period were caused by the whole earth's crust trying to 'grow' over from the western pole of the earth, in order to 'heal' this wound. The whole Pacific basin is today surrounded by mountain ridges which provide evidence of this process, and the constant volcanic activity and colossal chasms which still exist in the floor of the Pacific show that the wound is still not healed.4
Through the steady precipitation from the thick col1oidal atmosphere, a hot watery earth surface, with islands of denser material floating in it, gradually formed. The core of dense fiery material was constantly breaking through the very thin crust. The atmosphere itself was still extremely heavily laden with water, but was thinning slowly all the time.
The swampy regions of the tropics today are a kind of echo of conditions during the final part of the Lemurian epoch, after the departure of the moon. But one must imagine everything mineral in a more plastic state, temperatures higher, the air still much thicker, and volcanic activity, often on a tremendous scale, going on all the time. Above all, one must remember that all matter was still far more intimately woven through with spiritual forces. The Lemurian epoch ended when the Lemurian continent - roughly on the site of the present Indian Ocean - was destroyed by a fiery volcanic catastrophe, and the principal scene of evolution, as far as mankind was concerned, became Atlantis, where the Atlantic Ocean now is.
The beginning of the Atlantean epoch coincides approximately with the beginning of the Tertiary. During this period the earth's crust gradually became much more solid; volcanic activity diminished, and the atmosphere, though still very watery by our standards, became gradually clearer. During the later phases of the Atlantean epoch parts of the earth began to get much cooler, and the Ice Age drew on. Atlantis itself was destroyed by a water catastrophe and now belongs to the bed of the Atlantic Ocean.
By this time the glaciers which had covered most of northern Europe were receding; the end of the Ice Age marks the transition from the Atlantean to the first post-Atlantean epoch. At last, conditions on the earth had become very like those of today.
This is a very simplified account of a very complicated series of events, but to go into more detail would make this article too long.
The table below is an amplification of the table above.
| Quaternary . . . . . Post-Atlantean epoch Modern man
| Ice Age
| Tertiary . . . . . . Atlantean epoch Mammals
| Cretaceous |
Mesozoic | Jurassic |. . . . Late Lemurian epoch Reptiles
| Triassic |
Differentiation and departure of the moon.
| Permian |
| Carboniferous |. . . Middle Lemurian
Paleozoic | Devonian | |... Fishes
| Silurian |
| Ordovician |
| Cambrian |. . . Early Lemurian
Condensation as far as air- and warmth-filled liquid . . . .Hyperborean
Condensation as far as warmth-filled air . . . . . . . . . .Polarian
Purely spiritual existence.
* * *
When we look at the huge panorama of geological strata and fossil animals, together with the existing animals we know today, several important questions force themselves on our attention. Why, in the first place, is a distinctive group of vertebrate animals associated with each of these geological divisions (which match at the same time Rudolf Steiner's evolutionary stages)? What is the significance of the 'Age of Fishes', the 'Age of Reptiles', etc.? Why are mammals and birds the dominant vertebrate creatures now (excepting man himself), rather than reptiles or amphibians?
The physical remains of past evolution reflect spiritual and cosmic evolutionary processes which were going on at the same time. The series of fossil animals reflect - but only reflect - the evolutionary processes which prepared a physical body into which the Ego of man could incarnate. How, then, are the spiritual events which took place during the epochs described by Dr. Steiner reflected in the physical events we have been considering? The succession, fish-reptile-mammal-man, is in itself suggestive.
The fish lives suspended in water. It is dependent on the sea for everything - for moving about, eating and breathing; the sea looks after its eggs; its behavior is closely interwoven with things happening around it in the water. The consciousness of fish seems to be spread out in a kind of deep watery dream through the ocean; it has little or no internal soul-life of its own. Fish are united with, given up and abandoned to, their environment.
The reptile breathes air. It has limbs on which it supports itself, and eyelids of a kind, so that it can shut out impressions from the environment. It is still bound up with the environment in many ways - if the weather gets cold, it gets cold too, and many reptiles depend on the sun's warmth to hatch their eggs. But the reptile seems to have an internal life which is more separate from the environment than that of the fish is; there is a new sort of action and reaction between the creature and its surroundings.
If one looks at the fossil skeletons of Mesozoic reptiles, one can read something of the 'character' of the various forms: the fierce carnivores, with predatory jaws and powerful limbs; the huge, placid looking Diplodocus - a reptilian version of the cow; the delicate bird-like flying reptiles, and so on. It is true that primitive fossil fish also may look extremely fierce, or fantastic. But this impression is not derived from the internal skeleton of these animals, about which little is known in many cases, since it was cartilaginous, and has left few fossil traces. The fishes' 'expressions' derive largely from the elaborate external armour of plates of various kinds in which most of these early forms were dad. Here again, one feels that the fishs 'character' is somehow 'impressed' upon it from outside.
The mammal is warm-blooded. It can maintain its own internal world of warmth, which the reptile cannot. It can reproduce its own kind with negligible help from the environment, and, from its larynx, it can give birth to a wealth of new sounds, where the reptile can only produce, at best, mechanical hissings or drummings.
Thus the fish is a water creature; the reptile 'conquers' dry land with its limbs, and air with its lungs. The mammals 'conquer' the element of warmth, and can express their inner experiences to a limited extent in sounds.
* * *
What does this succession of 'water animal', 'air animal', and 'warmth animal' suggest in the light of Rudolf Steiner's teachings?
The watery element may be regarded as a kind of gate through which etheric forces can enter the physical world. Seeds start to grow when they are wetted, and the physical bodies of all living things contain more water than anything else. Similarly, air is in a sense the gateway for astral forces. The air carries the cries of animals which express their pains and pleasures. Our breathing is particularly sensitive to our feelings and passions. The soul-life of the whole planet is expressed in the winds and weather which swirl over the earths surface. The atmosphere is in a sense the physical expression of the earth's astral body.
The warmth element bears Ego forces into the world. We speak of the 'warmth' of someone's personality. We may also speak of a 'cold fish', where the Egohood of a person does not come out into the world properly to meet other people.
I think we should regard the 'Age of Fishes', the 'Age of Reptiles' and the 'Age of Mammals', therefore, as a reflection of the changing and evolving relationship between the physical, etheric, and astral bodies, and the Ego of man himself. By the dawn of the Lemurian age, a tenuous etheric-physical vesture for man had already evolved, formed in the fiery misty living atmosphere out of which the more solid parts of the earth were gradually condensing. The astral and Ego principles of man were still hovering in a more purely spiritual condition round the earths periphery. Where this tenuous vesture was taken hold of by beings who were over-eager, so to speak, to unite themselves with the solid earth-element which was beginning to emerge, primitive fish forms began to appear, swimming in the denser parts of the earth's watery, fiery atmosphere (a division between air and water had not yet taken place). In this way, the fish lost the chance of beginning to incorporate astral forces into itself in a more intimate way.
Gradually, something like solid land - but still very plastic and imbued with life-forces - arose, and in the atmosphere a less dense, hot, gaseous, steamy part began to divide from the denser, more watery part. Astral forces were beginning to work down into the body of the earth, and into the physical-etheric vesture of man. The human bodies of that time lived in the thick Lemurian atmosphere, half-floating, half-flying. They would have looked grotesque, as an embryo looks grotesque, and were distinctly reptilian in appearance.
(Dr. Steiner describes the physical body of mid-Lemurian man as looking rather like a 'soft-bodied dragon'.) In the Mesozoic reptile fauna we can trace the expression of beings which seized on the human physical-etheric-astral substance in order to descend at once into material existence, thus creating forms in which they were, so to speak, imprisoned, with no opportunity of evolving further.5
There is, however, a further essential aspect of the evolutionary process which must be taken into account (however briefly and inadequately) at this stage. According to Dr. Steiner the departure of the moon in the middle of the Lemurian age: had a definite connection with what we call the 'Fall of Man'. The Fall occurred when certain spiritual beings - the Luciferic beings - entered into mans astral nature and were able to endow it with a certain independence from the higher beings who had previously guided it. Through this, man became the possessor of a wild and fiery astrality which his Ego was too young to control. This astrality-run-wild is reflected right down into the Mesozoic reptiles, with their often terrifying and stormy aspects.6
The Luciferic influence had the effect also of drawing man into closer connection with the fiery, or astral, forces of the earth, and thus causing him to 'fall' from the cloud-regions to the earth's surface. The departure of the moon may be regarded as a necessary counter-influence to these events. By reducing the gravity and hardening forces of the earth, it enabled man to take an upright posture, thus freeing his hands for creative work, and also to postpone the hardening of his physical body until it was sufficiently developed to bear the Ego. While mankind was living in physical-etheric-astral form on the volcanic turmoil of Lemuria, where astral forces were running wild, the human Ego was able to hold back, so to speak, and not become involved in physical existence until the beginning of Atlantis. (The volcanic fiery catastrophe which destroyed Lemuria was caused, Dr. Steiner says, by a release of astral forces which man could not control.) Man's adoption of an upright posture is reflected also in the reptiles. During the middle of the Mesozoic, many forms arose which walked or ran on two legs, and stood almost upright. But during the second half of this epoch something particularly interesting happened. On the one hand, the reptiles were gradually overcome again by gravity, and sank back on to four legs - some even took to the water, like the crocodiles. At the same time, some forms seem to have gained a certain freedom from gravity, and various flying, bird-like reptiles, together with the first primitive birds, appear in the fossil record.
By the end of the Mesozoic - which is also the end of the Lemurian - something like the present-day division into dry land, sea and air had taken place, although - compared with any conditions we know today - the land was much softer and wetter, the water much thicker, and the air much waterier. At this point the real task of earth evolution - the gradual descent of the Ego into the physical world - could begin. Gradually, the physical-etheric-astral vehicle for the Ego was made ready to receive it. In the wonderful panorama of fossil animals during the Tertiary period, from the so-called mammal-like reptiles, up to the apes, we see a remote reflection of this process. Remote, because the beings who expressed themselves in the Atlantean-Tertiary mammals had parted from the human evolutionary stream right back in the Mesozoic, and had then renounced the possibility of ever giving full expression to the Ego principle in the physical world. Nevertheless, the warm-blooded animals represent an attempt to incorporate the Ego - but an attempt which had to stop half-way.
* * *
By the end of Atlantean times the human physical vehicle had reached a stage when it could begin to receive the Ego fully into it, and when also it was mineralised enough to leave fossil remains.
(This is a rather simplified picture. In his book, Der Mensch der Eiszeit und Atlantis, Sigismund von Gleich traced the connection between some of the fossil forms of 'primitive man' and the later Atlantean races. But to go into this would need too much space.) However, the picture can be developed a little further from another aspect. As we have seen, the physical, etheric and astral bodies of man began their evolution on Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon respectively. When the earth evolution began, these principles already existed, in a certain sense, as spiritual 'Ideas'. The first three evolutionary stages of the earth, the Polarian, Hyperborean, and Lemurian, were recapitulations of Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon, necessary in order to adapt the physical, etheric and astral principles of man to earthly conditions, ready to receive the Ego. But a similar recapitulation can be discerned within the Lemurian age itself.
The 'Age of Fishes' is like a memory of Old Sun; the fish, with its consciousness, spread out in its environment, given up to the watery element, is the nearest a vertebrate animal can get to the plant-like consciousness and condition which characterised the stage of evolution reached by man on Old Sun. Similarly, the Age of Reptiles is a recapitulation of Old Moon, in which astral forces come to expression with great force. The Atlantean (or Tertiary) sees the beginning of something new, which belongs to the earth alone.
In this connection it is interesting to observe how all the mammals seem, in a sense, much younger than fishes or reptiles. Reptiles, in particular, seem to bring an almost uncanny recollection of times long, long ago, before man was man at all. Most of them live secret lives in parts of the world, such as the tropical jungles, where man is not welcome or at home. Just as we may look at the plant kingdom as a legacy of Old Sun, so are the reptiles a legacy of Old Moon, as well as of the Lemurian Age.
The animals with which man has most to do on earth today are 'new' animals, so to speak. There are still some 'old' animals about - the reptiles, curious creatures such as the rhinoceros (which while a mammal has a prehistoric air), and various eccentric forms. But we are most familiar with the modern birds, and with herbivorous and carnivorous mammals such as the cows, the cats and dogs. These groups somehow 'belong' to the present age. The special connection of these groups of animals with the present age, the 'Age of Man', is indicated in the figure of the Sphinx, which is at the same time a kind of composite figure of man himself.
The Eagle, the Lion and the Bull are expressions of forces which work in the head, the heart, and the digestion and limbs of man respectively. Now looked at zoologically, so to speak, the Sphinx is curiously lop-sided - the Eagle is a bird, but the Lion and the Bull are both mammals. This implies that man's heart and limbs have something in common which is not shared by the head. I believe a key to this problem lies in the fossil record.
During the Mesozoic a division took place between 'mammal-like' and 'bird-like' reptiles. But while modern mammals, in their whole character, have 'broken' with the reptiles, so to speak, the birds, in an interesting way, have not. A bird is like a reptile in disguise: its feathers make it into a beautiful creature. As it swoops and circles in the air, it seems a creature of light, air and warmth, ignoring gravity completely. But look a bird closely in the face, and one becomes aware of the curious mask-like quality of the head, with its hard and often cruel beak, and unwinking eye. A plucked bird, or an unfledged nestling, has loose, wrinkled skin, reminding us of the skin of an extremely ancient man or woman. Removing the feathers from a bird unveils it as a reptile. A thrush running across a wet lawn betrays its reptile connections immediately: it runs a few twinkling steps, like an agile two-legged lizard, and then stops, with the same uncanny frozen immobility as the lizard - a peculiar immobility of which mammals are incapable. The bird fauna, represented in the Sphinx by the 'king of birds', the Eagle, seems to point back to a distant past, to the 'Age of Reptiles', in fact. Why should this be?
The Eagle represents the head forces in man. (Dr. Steiner described birds as animals which are 'all head'. The legs are insignificant twigs, while the digestive system - compared with that of a cow - is little more than an afterthought.) In another connection, Dr. Steiner has also described the special connection which man's head has with the past. When we return to earth for a new incarnation, we bring what we have experienced through our limbs, and what we have learned through our deeds, back into the world, but transformed and 'summed up' in our head. Every child bears its past life in a metamorphosed form in its head, while in its limbs lie the germs of its future life. Now the bird fauna seems to me a sort of reincarnation of the Mesozoic reptile fauna. It brings over into the earth-evolution proper - into Atlantean and post-Atlantean times - a transformed summary of the physical-astral-etheric nature which expressed itself on Lemuria, and was really a recapitulation of something which developed on Old Moon. The bird is a metamorphosis of an animal form whose great achievement was the development of limbs (the reptile) into an animal which is 'all head'.
In the same way, the Eagle in the Sphinx points us back to our past - to our past life, but also to our whole past evolution. The emergence of the birds reflects the transformation of man's Old Moon nature into its earthly form. In his head, man bears not only the imprint of his past life, but also the imprint of his past as a whole. In his head he is a metamorphosed denizen of the Old Moon.
(In his rhythmic system, his blood and breathing, on the other hand, he is a citizen of the earth. Through his limbs, he already works towards a future planetary incarnation of the earth, called by Rudolf Steiner the Jupiter incarnation.) The fact that the bird reproduces by means of an egg - that there is a kind of discontinuity in the physical world between mother-bird and offspring - is a hint that the head aspect of man is connected with his past through reincarnation. In the mammalian part of mans nature, that which bears the forces of his present and future life, he is connected with his past through the continuous stream of heredity, expressed in the milk which the young animal draws from its mother.
* * *
The fossil record is taken by orthodox scientists to express purely physical events. But with the help of Dr. Steiner's teachings, these old, stone bones can take on quite new life. They reflect, often in a quite startling way, the great cosmic and spiritual events which Dr. Steiner described in his account of the evolution of the earth and of mankind. There is nothing fortuitous about the huge fossil fauna, or about the animal forms which surround us today. They all have definite parts to play in the scheme of things; every animal 'makes sense'. Sometimes, to our eyes, the aesthetic quality of a creature - a tiny tropical fish, for example - may be more apparent than its usefulness. But it should be possible to 'read' in the forms of all existing and extinct animals an expression of specific spiritual forces, beings, and events. A future 'spiritual zoology' will have to try to do this.
Here I have tried only to trace, broadly and rather sketchily, the way spiritual and physical evolution have intertwined in the animal kingdom - or, rather, in the vertebrates - and the relationship of the animals to man, both in the past and today. It is as a very provisional sketch that this article should be read.
1. There is evidence of other ice-ages during earlier geological epochs, but in this essay I shall use the term to refer only to the most recent one, which - with warm intervals - occupied most of the Quaternary, and ended about 8,000 B.C.
2. Dr. Steiner says that Mercury and Venus did not separate from the sun until after the latter had separated from the earth.
3. Similar considerations apply to time-scales. According to Dr. Steiner, the Atlantean Age ended, and the post-Atlantean began, about 7200 B.C. This corresponds very well with the end of the Ice Age, in about 8000 B.C. On the other hand, Dr. Steiner puts the middle of the Atlantean Age at something over 15,000 years ago - but the geologists put the middle of the Tertiary at some 15 million years ago. The geologists' calculations, however, are based on the assumption that physical processes have always gone on at the same sort of speed as they do now. But Dr. Steiner says that even the idea of a year is no longer valid earlier than mid-Atlantean times, as it is only since then that the earth has been revolving round the sun at the same speed and in the same orbit as it does today. Thus when geologists put the beginning of the Cambria at some 500 million years ago, this represents an extrapolation of contemporary time-scales back into ages when they do not apply. Before Atlantean times, in fact, it is pointless to think in terms of numbers of years; one has to think purely qualitatively, instead.
4. The departure of the moon was a gradual process. I have not been able to find an exact indication by Dr. Steiner, but it seems likely that the differentiation of the moon-substance began towards the start of the Carboniferous, and that the whole process of separation was complete by the end of the Triassic. The Permian is a mid-point. It is noteworthy that geologists can never quite decide whether to include the Permian in the Paleozoic or the Mesozoic.
5. Dr. Steiner has spoken also of this process from another point of view. The premature descent of these beings into matter was at the same time a sacrifice which made it possible for man to continue his intended evolution. In taking form as the reptiles of Mesozoic age, these beings absorbed into themselves part of the powerful limb- and lung-building forces which were working on man at the time, and might have drawn him down prematurely to walk on the earth and breathe physical air if they had not been partially diverted, as it were, into the reptiles. Similar considerations apply to other animal forms.
6. It is not without significance that the Devil comes to Eve in the Garden of Eden in the guise of a reptile. But I do not think we should picture this Devil as a snake - he did not crawl upon his belly until he was himself cast out of Paradise - but rather as a winged and fiery dragon (and in the Oberufer Paradise Play this is indeed how Lucifer appears). The whole of Mesozoic evolution bears this dragon-like imprint of Lucifer.
John Davy, O.B.E., M.A. (1927-1984), was co-director of Emerson College, Forest Row, England, and had particular responsibility for the foundation year program, a requirement for the Waldorf teacher training. He was also an international lecturer and chairman of the Anthroposophical Society of Great Britain. After studying zoology at Cambridge, he became science editor of the Observer in London. He was awarded the O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) in 1965 by Queen Elizabeth II for his achievements in writing on science.
This article was first published in "The Golden Blade", London, 1957.