It is a fact of existence that we start from what is in force in the cosmos and then we arrive at what lives in man.
In the embryonic development of the individual, ontogenesis, it begins with a single spherical fertilized cell, the zygote. We proceed by successive divisions by mitosis: first the cells will all be similar to each other, then they differentiate and specialize for certain purposes. An undifferentiated, totipotent cell can become a nerve cell, a muscle fiber, an epidermal cell and so on. Identity is therefore becoming blurred, it is inherited from the previous generation and is superseded in the following ones. Thus it is that the cell at the beginning of the process is like a seed which, in power, contains everything that will be realized later, over time. The cells of the embryo are virtually immortal, as they differentiate, age and die.
The tree traced by the paths of the history of evolution, phylogenesis, in the material world proceeds from unicellular organisms, capable of a few metabolic functions, to increasingly specialized forms. Some more complex, others simpler, but always able to interact more with the surrounding environment, the environment. The individual becomes more and more “in-dividual”, i.e. not divisible further than destruction. From the level of the history of evolution, we arrive at that of the history of environments, of ecology, in which organisms are themselves environments for other organisms. The more specialized an organism or ecosystem, the more limited and therefore its balance is more precarious.
Thus do ideas: the idea that arises from the unconscious is initially cosmic and unitary. It then subdivides itself into sub-ideas, concepts more and more specific connected by logic, of corollaries to the original idea. The idea of God, for example, was born as a general affirmation on the world and then declined in specific contexts, such as the god of the sea, of the sky, of war. Each god with its function. Differentiation can be so paradoxical as to produce even the same and opposite idea, the absence of God. It is in the idea of God that the idea of the death of God is born. The atheist can be such only because God exists as pure idea in the spiritual world. The differentiation then proceeds by polarity, similarities and differences, up to exile from the original idea. And just as the origin and life correspond to the undifferentiated, the end and death correspond to the differentiated.
Beyond death, or there is the second death in the unconscious which is the negation of the spirit, or there is the resurrection in full consciousness.
The Tree of Life is the original unitary and cosmic state of human consciousness, which still lived in the One. But when Adam and Eve ate of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, their conscience was fragmented and divided, limiting itself to the Knowledge of the many, thus losing the sharing in Life in the One. Whenever things in the material world materialize, there is a repetition in abbreviated form of the Fall in matter from the spiritual world. Such is the Law of Recapitulation that every time an organism comes into being after fertilization, it briefly repeats all the evolutionary stages that characterize that particular species, until it reaches the adulthood of the organism itself.
Ontogenesis recapitulates phylogenesis.
This is the maxim of Ernst Haeckel, the most daring naturalist philosopher of the nineteenth century. The development of the individual thus intersects the development of the species, so that development itself becomes evolution. But if we stayed within the dimension given by natural science we would fail to appreciate how much wisdom is contained in this maxim. Haeckel’s natural science, when correctly understood, goes beyond itself. This law, in fact, was further expanded by Rudolf Steiner, which gives it a cosmic dimension.
Evolution proceeds in such a way that birth is in spirit and death is in matter. For the same reason, in the physical world we can only search for proximate causes, in a concatenated series of cause and effect that is completely circular. The true initial and final causes, in fact, are in the spiritual world, from where the physical cosmos has condensed itself initially and where it will be reabsorbed at the end by spiritualization. But since he also shared with the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the cosmos itself will become aware of itself thanks to the spirit of man.
Every existence comes from the Spirit,
every life is rooted in the Spirit,
all beings evolve towards the Spirit.
– Prayer for the dead given by Rudolf Steiner
We therefore follow this idea up to its spiritual origin.
Being man at the beginning of Creation as a whole with the cosmos, his three parts were also: the body (embryonic development), the soul (humanity) and the spirit (ideas) were part of the original universal man, a man who covered the limits of the cosmos with his being. His name is Adam of Light or Adam Kadmon. In Ancient Saturn, man is in a mineral state and has a trance consciousness. From this very ancient stage of human spiritual evolution the present minerals will then condense. In the Ancient Sun, man is in a vegetable state and has a sleep consciousness. The current plants will be condensed from this second stage. In the Ancient Moon, man is animal with dream consciousness. Current animals will be condensed from this stage.
For a more detailed exposition of the phases of metamorphosis of the cosmos, we can read The 7 Metamorphoses of the Earth.
In the words of Rudolf Steiner:
In reality the Old Saturn did not contain other realms in that stage except the human one. Everything was “man”. The other kingdoms appeared later, thanks to the fact that part of the original human substance did not become all “man”, but took other directions. The kingdoms inferior to man that exist today are in fact “substance” which has not become human, which has evolved into other forms.
Every stone, every plant or animal, is a “missed man”.
This is why we go from the universal to the particular: because in the beginning man was the universe! And it still is, but the present man has a restricted conscience that does not allow him to see that the many in the One and not the One in the many.
Thus the three Kingdoms of Nature, mineral, vegetable and animal, are a precipitate of the spiritual evolution of man: when man passed his mineral stage some parts of his physical body of heat remained behind in evolution and became minerals. In the human plant stage, parts of his etheric body of gas remained behind and became plants. In the animal stage of man, some parts of his liquid astral body lagged behind and became animals. As man descends spiritually into evolution, from an unconscious spiritual stage to a self-conscious material, the Kingdoms of Nature ascend into physical evolution, culminating in the physical embodiment of man himself. In other words, so that man is fully “human being”; minerals, vegetables and animals sacrificed themselves for man so that his evolution could proceed according to the plans of the Spiritual Hierarchies.
Thus it happens again within the fourth earthly metamorphosis (172nd Condition of Form), when the three previous stages of the Ancient Saturn, the Ancient Sun and the Ancient Moon are summarized at the beginning. The condensation of what is expelled from the body of man is found in the sequence of layers of the Earth studied by geology, so that natural science associates with the appearance of physical organisms a precise period in the geological history of the Earth.
- From the archetype of the physical body of the Polar Age man the minerals and bacteria descend (in the Archean). The man has a spherical shape as does the first prokaryotic cells.
- Plants (in the Cambrian) descend from the archetype of the physical and etheric body of the man of the Hyperborean age. It is the etheric body from which plants draw their affinity with the solar element of the cosmos.
- From the physical, etheric and astral body of the man of the Lemurian Age the invertebrates and the first fishes descend (in the Silurian). The lemurian man is at first similar to a shell, then swimming in water takes on a pisciform form. As the Earth solidifies it takes the form of an amphibian and then a reptile. Thus the reptiles (Permian) and the birds (Triassic) originate.
- From the physical, etheric and astral body of the man of the Atlantean Era the mammals descend (in the Jurassic), first the insectivores, then the quadrupeds (in the Cretaceous) and finally the primates (in the Tertiary). The last to appear are the anthropomorphic monkeys, which are human beings incarnated too early, when the physical body developed by the animals was still unable to receive the human I created by the Spirits of Form during the Lemurian Age.
This evolutionary sequence can be read more thoroughly in the article The 7 Days of Creation
From this just mentioned evolutionary sequence it is possible to return to human embryology, in whose succession of forms are present precisely these initial spiritual stages of the evolution of humanity and therefore, indirectly, also the stages of evolution of the other Kingdoms of Nature that gradually have appeared in the history of life on Earth. The process takes place at two levels: that of the mother’s body and subsequently that of the embryo.
- Ancient Saturn: corresponds to the development of the mineral man and to the mineral Earth, whose shape is reflected in the fertilized egg (zygote). As in Ancient Saturn, man and Earth took the form of a heat sphere from which the cosmos would then differentiate; so the zygote is a spherical cell full of undifferentiated substances.
- Ancient Sun: corresponds to the development of vegetable man and to the vegetable Earth, whose shape is reflected in the differentiation of the trophoblast from the embryoblast. The trophoblast is the set of cells that nourish and defend the embryo. This separation corresponds to the separation of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars from the Sun-Moon-Earth mass during the metamorphosis of the Ancient Sun (division by 2).
- Ancient Moon: the development of man and the Earth was then at the animal stage. As the Sun separates from the Earth-Moon, so the trophoblast differs in the chorionic villi and in the embryonic disc (division by 3).
- Earth: in the metamorphosis of the Earth all the previous stages are repeated and therefore all the divisions occurred previously, so that there is a division by 4: of the outer planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars), of the Sun, of the Moon. Only the Earth remains. The three embryonic appendages are formed amnios, corion and allantoide (yolk sac). The development of amnios and yolk sacs corresponds to the last expulsion of the Moon from the Earth. The placenta is formed. In the amnios the embryo is suspended which therefore swims in the amniotic fluid.
Now the ontogenetic development starts from the beginning so that embryonic development recapitulates the cosmic stages within the fourth metamorphosis of the Earth (172nd Condition of Form):
- Polar Era: how man is made up of a sphere of vital ether and thus the Earth, which is still united with the planets, the Sun and the Moon; thus the physical body of the embryo is still undifferentiated. In phylogenesis, this stage corresponds to the appearance of bacteria in the Archean.
- Hyperborean Era: as man develops an etheric body divided into two parts, the Earth condenses into a luminous sphere of steam; thus in the third week of gestation the etheric body descends into the physical body of the embryo. The primordia of the vertebrae appear whose subdivisions correspond to the segments of the vegetable stem. In phylogenesis this stage corresponds to the appearance of protists and plants.
- In the middle of the Hyperborean Era the detachment of the Sun occurs.
- Lemurian Era: man develops his animal life in a form of vapor and fire, the Earth condenses into a sphere of vapor and liquid. The first solid floating masses are also formed. The man passes a stage similar to a shell-shaped mollusk, then develops a swim bladder and gills. It feeds through an umbilical cord. In the same way, when in the embryo the astral body descends to the fifth week, the umbilical cord develops, the beginnings of the sensory organs appear. The gill slits open in the throat and the heart begins to beat. In phylogenesis this stage corresponds to the appearance of molluscs, followed by crustaceans, fish and amphibians.
- In the middle of the Lemurian Era there is the detachment of the Moon: as man assumes the erect position due to the sacrifice of the Spirits of the Form who give him the ego for the first time, so in the third month in the embryo the head begins to develop as well as the trunk. The I is embodied in the fetus. The lemurian man differs in the two sexes, Adam and Eve, so that in the embryo the beginnings of the sexual organs appear in the fourth month. In phylogenesis this stage corresponds to the appearance of reptiles, dinosaurs and birds, as well as the first mammals.
- Atlantean Era: the Atlantean man appears for the first time in the physical world perceivable to the senses. Mineral rocks solidify from the origins of Lemurian plants. In the embryo a begins to solidify the skeleton of the spine and limbs. The phases after the destruction of Atlantis, when the Sun appears to Noah through the cloud cover at the end of the Universal Flood, giving rise to the first rainbow, are recapitulated when the waters break and the newborn comes out of the mother’s womb in the outside world. In phylogenesis this stage corresponds to the appearance of anthropomorphic monkeys and finally of man himself.
- Post-Atlantean Era: man, having developed self-awareness, feels detached from material and Earth reality. Thought becomes the main activity of his organism. This is summarized about the third year of the child’s life, when he begins to refer to himself as “I.” The man’s self manifests itself completely in the middle of the fourth age of Greek-Roman culture after the Mystery of Golgotha, this is summarized in the fourth seven years, at the age of 28.
We can therefore summarize this grandiose process with the aphorism.
Ontogenesis recapitulates cosmogenesis.
This is the causal explanation of the existence of the Law of Recapitulation.
The intertwining of natural and spiritual history of Creation
For natural science the evolution proceeds from the simple to the complex, therefore from the evolution of the matter minerals were formed first, then vegetables and finally man. As through a mirror, let’s now turn the point of view upside down. For the science of the spirit it is the exact opposite: originally there existed only the archetype of man, the Adam Kadmon or Adam of Light, from which the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms which were incarnated in the physical world were born. according to what natural science knows as evolution. We derive from other worlds and we ourselves are worlds that originate other worlds, but what natural science believes to be the cause, is really only the effect: the first and ultimate cause of material reality is in the reality of the spiritual worlds.
The science of the spirit thus returns to Nature its first cause and its ultimate goal, its spiritual meaning. But the study of natural science is nevertheless the first step of knowledge on the path of spiritual science. We must not therefore despise natural science! In reverse. Where the science of nature ceases, its epistemological realm of material effects is limited, the science of the spirit begins, which investigates spiritual causes. We must always be clear that a properly understood natural science does not contradict the science of the spirit and vice versa the science of the spirit does not contradict natural science but rather completes it: through the double knowledge of natural and spiritual science, we have the key to understanding both of natural and spiritual phenomena.
Therefore, it exists as a specular surface, which mirrors and collimates, material and spiritual evolution. According to the science of the spirit, in fact:
1) Ancient Saturn: the cosmos is composed of only spiritual heat, at the level of the Upper Devachan or Arupa Devachan. The Thrones or Spirits of the Will make the sacrifice of their volitional substance to create the germ of the physical body of the human body. Man is the archetype of creation. Man is an egg of heat, and the Earth tied to it is a set of heat eggs that exchange heat in unison. There are no real forms, only differences in heat, without any spatial dimension. Here the first physical germs that give rise to minerals are left behind. The Thrones who become spirits of the obstacle, the Asuras, also fall behind. The Principalities or Spirits of Time (Archai) pass their human stage here.
2) Ancient Sun: in a first phase saturnia is recapitulated, but we have already descended to the level of the Lower Devachan or Rupa Devachan. Here the Dominations or Wisdom Spirits sacrifice part of their cognitive substance to create the germ of the etheric body of the human body, which is added to the physical body, formed at the end of the saturnia recapitulation. Man is now like a floral chalice composed of heat and air, and so the Earth is a bunch of goblets that first radiate light from within and finally from outside. The linear dimension of the space is added. The etheric germs that give rise to the plants remain behind. The Dominations who become spirits of the obstacle, the Arimanic spirits, also lag behind. The Archangels or Peoples Spirits pass their human stage here.
3) Ancient Moon: in a first phase saturnia is recapitulated, then the solar one, but we have gone down further to the level of the Astral World or the World of Feeling. Thus by the sacrifice of the Virtues or Spirits of the Movement, from their feeling, the germ of man’s astral body is created, which is added to the physical and etheric body, formed at the end of the solar recapitulation. Man is now like an animal embryo that absorbs nourishment from the fiery air, the Ruach. The Earth as a whole is a symbiotic animal. The second dimension of the space is added, the surface. The astral germs that give rise to animals will remain behind. The virtues that become spirits of the obstacle, the luciferian spirits, also lag behind. The Angels or Twilight Spirits pass their human stage here.
4) Mars-Earth: in a first phase saturnia, then the solar and lunar existence are summarised. We are now at the level of the Etheric World first and then of the Physical World. Here by the sacrifice of the Elohim or Spirits of the Form, by their identity, the germ of the human Ego is created, which is added to the three lower bodies, the physical, the etheric and the astral, formed at the end of the lunar recapitulation . The man is now a human being in all respects, even if at first he will be composed of ether and subsequently, he will thicken up to be formed by air, then by liquid and finally by solid, and so also the Earth that gives vegetable and finally animal-based divine mineral. From the spiritual body of man the nature kingdoms are formed by crystallization: first the minerals then the vegetables and finally the animals. Man is incarnated last, even though he is the archetype of all creation. The third dimension of space is added, solidity. Within the inner layers of the Earth are recorded all the previous stages that our planet has passed after its metamorphoses: the most superficial layers are the most recent, and derive from the Ancient Moon, the median layers from the Ancient Sun, the deeper ones from the ‘Ancient Saturn.
And it is about mid-Mars-Earth that material and spiritual evolution meet in a cosmic embrace that transcends micro and macrocosm. Only at that point in fact, after the Expulsion from Paradise occurred in the middle of the Lemurian Era, the material is covered by its veil perceptible to the physical senses. This period is the adolescence of humanity, in which Adam and Eve developed their astral body. In it insinuated the luciferic spirits: Eve, whose astral body was more evolved, was recognized by the Serpent and was offered the Fruit of Knowledge. Lucifer allows man to see, Arimane infuses matter, that is darkness, into the physical archetype of the man who until then was woven of pure light. This is the moment in which man becomes a physical-sensitive being, in which already the rest of the Kingdoms of Nature, expelled from the body of the Adam of Light, had gradually descended.
5) At the beginning of the second half of the planetary metamorphosis of the Earth, the Mercury-Earth, the birth takes place on the physical plane of the human ego. What happens microcosmically within every man from the 21st to the 28th year of age, occurs macrocosmically throughout the cosmic evolutionary chain in the fourth post-Atlantean period, in the Greco-Roman Age, through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, which is also one of the Elohim, the Spirit of the Sun: Christ descends into the baptism of the Jordan in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. With his death and resurrection, Christ as Spirit of the Sun becomes Spirit of the Earth, so that the very material of the physical body of the Earth and therefore of man, begin their ascent towards the spiritual worlds through the “Christification” of matter, or the interpenetration of material atoms with the human ego.
From here on the evolutionary possibility of the spiritualization of the matter is posed and the return towards the Kingdom of the Father through the Son in us.