From Anthroposophy

Recapitulation refers to the fact that a period of evolution repeats and passes through the evolutionary characteristics of earlier periods of evolution at a higher level, for example:

  • on the planetary stage Old Sun, the first condition of life (CoL) with seven conditions of form (CoF) consisted of recapitulations of the seven conditions of life (CoL) on Saturn
  • during the planetary stage Earth, the third Egypto-Chaldean cultural age in the current fifth epoch has a remembrance of the third Lemurian epoch

As a result, after recapitulating earlier stages (one level higher), there is always a new period of development which builds on the previous. The recapitulations prepare this new development so that 'the already existing' is adjusted and equipped so as to support the new development.

  • For example: on Old Moon the first two CoL repeated the CoC stages old Saturn and Old Sun, but for Man this recapitulation brought about a transformation so the previously developed physical body and ether body developed thusfar could be united with the newly developed astral body. As such, this is a form of metamorphosis (as depicted in Schema FMC00.130 and Schema FMC00.168 below.

Recapitulation plays at various levels (see schema FMC00.057C)

  • the main threefold recapitulation at CoL level, at CoF level, and then at epoch level
    • planetary stages CoC map to the CoL - see Schema FMC00.298A below
  • also the cultural ages connect in character to these epoch characteristics (Schema FMC00.168)
  • and even in Man, the embryonic development is a recapitulation of Man's earlier evolutionary stages (see Ernst Haeckl's theory)

Through the Schema illustrations below, one can feel one's way into the weaving of the hierarchies in the rolling off as shown in Schema FMC00.130, but then at various levels down, levels that are related through the spiritual hierarchies. This way recapitulation is a key characteristic of the Cosmic Fractal: previous patterns are repeated at a smaller scale of development to include the new.


  • recapitulation and repetition as a characteristics of the etheric, as exemplified in the plant (compare 1908-03-08-GA111, 1908-10-21-GA107 with Wachsmuth and Schema FMC00.379 below)
  • positioning:
  • orchestration
    • everything which depends upon repeated happenings, all rhythms and recapitulations in the kingdoms of nature, is regulated by the Spirits of the Rotation of Time, the offspring of the beings of the First Hierarchy. (,1912-04-07-GA136)
  • examples:
    • relation between (third) Egypto-Chaldean cultural age in current fifth epoch has a remembrance of the (third) Lemurian epoch
      • and the connection with the souls as carriers of the waves of cultural impulses (1908-08-11-GA105)
      • "the mission of the Egyptian people was to recapitulate what had happened for humanity in the Lemurian epoch; but at the same time to permeate it with consciousness" (1914-03-07-GA152)
  • partial reverse recapitulation (1908-03-24-GA102, see Schema FMC00.286 below)
  • Rudolf Steiner's comments on Ernst Haeckl's theory of recapitulation, see Discussion area below.


FMC00.057C provides an overview scheme for the study of the evolution of our current Earth planetary stage and CoC, the formation of the current physical solar system with the planets, the emergence of the spectrum of elements and ethers, and nature's kingdoms on Earth.

Note the threefold recapitulation (in colours) at CoL level, at CoF level, and then at epoch level (giving the feel of a fractal).


Schema FMC00.168 shows recapitulation of Planetary stages (PS) and Epochs (EP) for current planetary stage Earth, and current CoL and CoF.

At every level of the evolutionary fractal, the previous is recapitulated upto the point there is nothing to recapitulate: the new phase shown in red. This is shown here at the levels of epoch and cultural age.

See also Schema FMC00.046 and Schema FMC00.047 on Development of the I and Schema FMC00.167 on Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams

Schema FMC00.130 provides a simple tabular overview of evolution and the developmental goal per planetary stage (and Condition of Consciousness) - and epoch (taking into account Conditions of Life and Form). For the current fifth epoch on Earth that developmental target is spirit self (or manas), for the sixth it is life spirit (or budhi), and for the seventh it is spirit man (or atma). Only a limited cohort of the population will reach those targets in each epoch. The seed cohort for the next epoch is selected taking into account the developmental goal for the next epoch.

This view also shows, in grey, that in each planetary stage, what was developed before is recapitulated so as be ready for a new development (in yellow).

Schema FMC00.298A is a simplified version of the reference FMC00.298 to highlight the process of Man in context of the Meaning of Free Man Creator', his relationship with the kingdoms, and the aspect of recapitulation of CoC at CoL level.


Schema FMC00.286 illustrates that one can not always assume intellectual logic of induction and deduction to hold in reality, as spiritual research shows. The development of Man's subsystems did not develop along the sequence of recapitulation as they were developed in the planetary stages, but actually in a more complex 'partial reverse recapitulation'.


Schema FMC00.379 illustrates the rhythmic aspect of the etheric formative forces and the various planetary influences and their reversal, as explained in Wachsmuth on Formative forces. This principle explains the principles underlying the differentiation of plant growth, see also the 'Further reading' section on Overview on etheric research and the plant kingdom.


Lecture coverage and references


The human body only developed fully in this way during the fourth Old Sun round. The three preceding rounds had been preparatory.

The first round (CoL) [on Old Sun] was really only a recapitulation of Old Saturn existence. Its seven conditions of form (CoF) were seven recapitulations of the conditions of life (CoL) on Old Saturn.


The first two CoL of Old Moon must be seen merely as a repetition of what took place on Old Saturn and on Old Sun.

But this repetition must not be imagined as a re-enactment of all the events which took place on Old Saturn and on Old Sun. That which repeats itself, namely the development of a physical body and of an ether body, at the same time is subject to such a transformation that in the third round on Old Moon these two members of the nature of Man can be united with the astral body, a union which could not have taken place on Old Sun.


uses the 'choir of genies'


(p129 in DE edition 2018), positions repetition (as a characterististic of the etheric) and closure (as a characterististic of the astral)

The plant's growth process is controlled through the etheric principle, and this principle is managed through the law of repetition. This way the trunk gets branches, and the branches gets leaves. The astral principle of the plant surrounds it from the outside as a glowing light, and the astral principle leads and tames the etheric so as to, in the right moment, bring to a halt the further leave development, to make room for the development of blossoms, flowers, fruit and seeds.

The etheric principle is the principle of repetition, the astral is the principle of closure.

[continues with the analogy of esoteric development: the repetition of daily meditations to guide the forces, the astral devotion to an ideal]


Let us now recall how it was said that the Egyptian religion repeated the facts of the third epoch of the earth, preserving the results of it as religious knowledge. The Egyptian form of religion contained as knowledge that which had taken place at one time on earth. You will now wonder no longer that so many animal and animal-headed shapes appeared in Egyptian art.

This was a spiritual repetition of what had actually existed on the Earth at one time, and was more than a mere simile.

In a certain sense it is literally true when we say that the souls who principally incarnated in Egyptian bodies remembered the Lemurian epoch, and that their religion was spiritually a reborn memory of it.


For even the plant body is quite different, though it consists of the same physical materials as the stone. It has the etheric body within it, and the plant's physical body would fall to pieces if the etheric body were not to permeate it in every part. Hence, the spiritual scientist says, “The physical body of the plant would dry away unless the etheric body kept it alive and fought against this dissolution. In regarding the plant, we find that it is a combination of the principles of the physical and etheric bodies.”

[Recapitulation as principle etheric body]

Now, it has often been emphasized that the most elementary principle of the etheric body is recapitulation. A being, standing solely under its etheric and physical principles, would express in itself the principle of recapitulation.


We see evidence of this in the plant in a very marked degree: We see how leaf after leaf develops, since the plant's physical body is permeated by the recapitulation principle of the etheric. A leaf is formed, then a second and a third; leaf is added to leaf in continuous repetition. And even when the plant comes to a certain conclusion above, recapitulation is still there. There is a kind of wreath of leaves forming the calyx of the flower, though they have a different form from the other leaves. Yet, you feel that it is still a recapitulation of the same leaves in altered form. We may therefore say that the green calyx-leaves up above where the plant ends are a kind of recapitulation. And even the flower petals are a recapitulation. It is true that they have a different color, but in essentials, they are still leaves — greatly transformed leaves.

It was in Goethe's great work in the plant-kingdom that he showed how not only the calyx-leaves and flower petals are transformed leaves, but also how one must see in pistils and stamens just such a metamorphosed repetition.

[and continues]

However, it is not a mere repetition that meets us in the plant. If the purely elemental etheric principle were alone active, the plant would come to no termination. The etheric body would press through the plant from below upwards, leaf upon leaf would be developed, and there would never be an end.

Then, what makes the flower come to a conclusion, makes it end its existence, begin to be fruitful in order to produce another flower?

It is the fact that in the same degree as the plant grows upward, there comes to meet it from above, enclosed in itself, the plant's astral body. The plant possesses in itself no astral body of its own, but as it grows upwards, the plant-like astral body meets it from above. It brings to a conclusion what the etheric body would continue in eternal recapitulation; it causes the transformation of the green leaves into the calyx, flower petals, stamens and pistil. For clairvoyant sight, we can say that the plant grows towards its soul-like part, its astral part, which causes the metamorphosis.


Everything too which takes place in the kingdom of nature rhythmically and in recapitulation, such as day and night, alternations of the year, the four seasons of the year, everything which thus depends upon repeated happenings, is regulated by the Spirits of the Rotation of Time, the offspring of the beings of the First Hierarchy.

These Spirits of the Rotation of Time (SoRT) can be described from one aspect, as we did some days ago, and we can now describe them according to their origin, as we have done to-day. Thus we can comprehensively represent the beings of these three Hierarchies as follows:

1st Hierarchy:1st Hierarchy: World-creation. Creation of Beings. Spirits of the Rotation of Time.
2nd Hierarchy:1st Hierarchy: Self-creation. Stimulation of Life. Group-Souls.
3rd Hierarchy:1st Hierarchy: Manifestation. Being filled with Spirit. Nature-Spirits.

If we want to proceed further in the task before us we must now become familiar with the conceptions to which the trained vision of the occultist gradually rises and which, when one first becomes acquainted with them, are somewhat difficult; but today we will place these concepts and ideas before us. This will enable us, when in the following lectures, the whole life and being of the kingdoms of nature and of the heavenly bodies is to appear before us, to accustom ourselves more and more to the form and manner in which the beings described are connected with the kingdoms of nature and with the heavenly bodies. In this way we shall be able to acquire more definite conceptions concerning them.


After the occurrence of the three Christ-Events, which have again been described today from a certain standpoint in their influence on human evolution, came the Postatlantean epoch.

In this evolution the mission of the peoples belonging chiefly to that stage of man's development known to us as the Egyptian-Chaldean was to recapitulate what had happened for humanity in the Lemurian epoch; but at the same time to permeate it with consciousness.

Quite unconsciously man learnt to stand upright in the Lemurian epoch, and to become a speaking being in the Atlantean epoch. Quite unconsciously he took in the Christ-Impulse at that time because his power of thought had not been awakened.

In the Post-Atlantean times he has had to be led slowly to understand what it was that he had thus taken in unconsciously in prehistoric ages. It was the Christ-Impulse which enabled him to stand upright and look up into the cosmic heights.

In the Lemurian epoch, Man lived as he was obliged to do. Later the peoples of Egypt, who were not yet fully conscious but in a condition preparatory to the attainment of full consciousness, had to be led to revere what dwells in the human power of erectness. The Initiates, whose mission it was to influence the culture of Egypt, taught the people to revere that power by causing them to build the Pyramids which reach up from the earth towards the Cosmos. Even now we cannot but marvel at the way in which, through the working of the cosmic forces into the whole form and position of these structures, this power of the upright is brought to expression. The Obelisks were erected so that man might begin to penetrate into the power of the perpendicular. The wonderful hieroglyphics in the Pyramids and on the Obelisks, which were intended to point to the Christ, awakened to consciousness the super-earthly forces of the Lemurian epoch.


As regards the power of speech, however, the Egyptians could not even acquire that dim comprehension which they had for the power which enables man to stand upright. Their souls had first to undergo the right schooling, so that in later times they might be able to understand the riddle — how the Christ lives in Man's gift of speech. That riddle was to be received with the most sacred reverence by the maturing human soul. This was provided for in the most wonderful way by the Hierophants, the Initiates of the Egyptian civilization, when they erected the enigmatic Sphinx with its dumb, granite form which only produced sound under the influence of the Cosmos when the human beings of that day were in an exalted state of consciousness. In the contemplation of the silent Sphinx, from which sound only proceeded at sunrise under certain cosmic conditions and in certain relations, there came to man that deep reverence by which the soul was prepared to understand the language which must be spoken when it would be brought to higher consciousness how the Christ-Impulse gradually enters into the evolution of earthly humanity. That which the Sphinxes themselves could not yet say, although they prepared the way for it, had to be said to mankind. In the forming of the word-movement lies the Christ-Impulse.


[1] - Haeckel's theory of recapitulation

It appears through the GA lectures that Rudolf Steiner liked Ernst Haeckel's (1834-1919) concept of phylogeny but not with a material explanation, but rather the spiritual underlying, as explained.

Note: Haeckel is KRID number 12 (Karmic Relationship Individuality number, one of the approx. 50 individualities described by Rudolf Steiner in the about 80 Karmic Relationship lectures).

wikipedia states:

The theory of recapitulation, also called the biogenetic law or embryological parallelism— often expressed in Ernst Haeckel's phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny—is a largely discredited biological hypothesis that in developing from embryo to adult, animals go through stages resembling or representing successive stages in the evolution of their remote ancestors.

  • The earliest recorded trace of a recapitulation theory is from the Egyptian Pharaoh Psamtik I (664 – 610 BCE), who used it as a hypothesis on the origin of language.The concept of recapitulation was first formulated outside the field of biology. It was widely held among traditional theories of the origin of language (glottology), being assumed as a premise that children's use of language gives insights on its origin and evolution.
  • The idea was reprised in 1720 by Giambattista Vico in his influential Scienza Nuova.It was first formulated in biology in the 1790s among the German Natural philosophers, after which, Marcel Danesi states, it soon gained the status of a supposed biogenetic law.
  • The first formal formulation was proposed by Étienne Serres in 1824–26 as what became known as the "Meckel-Serres Law", it attempted to provide a link between comparative embryology and a "pattern of unification" in the organic world. It was supported by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and became a prominent part of his ideas which suggested that past transformations of life could have had environmental causes working on the embryo, rather than on the adult as in Lamarckism. These naturalistic ideas led to disagreements with Georges Cuvier. It was widely supported in the Edinburgh and London schools of higher anatomy around 1830, notably by Robert Edmond Grant, but was opposed by Karl Ernst von Baer's ideas of divergence, and attacked by Richard Owen in the 1830s

Ernst Haeckel attempted to synthesize the ideas of Lamarckism and Goethe's Naturphilosophie with Charles Darwin's concepts. While often seen as rejecting Darwin's theory of branching evolution for a more linear Lamarckian "biogenic law" of progressive evolution, this is not accurate: Haeckel used the Lamarckian picture to describe the ontogenetic and phylogenetic history of individual species, but agreed with Darwin about the branching of all species from one, or a few, original ancestors. Since early in the twentieth century, Haeckel's "biogenetic law" has been refuted on many fronts.

Haeckel formulated his theory as "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". The notion later became simply known as the recapitulation theory.

- Ontogeny is the growth (size change) and development (shape change) of an individual organism;

- phylogeny is the evolutionary history of a species.

Haeckel claimed that the development of advanced species passes through stages represented by adult organisms of more primitive species. Otherwise put, each successive stage in the development of an individual represents one of the adult forms that appeared in its evolutionary history.

Related pages

References and further reading