Ancient Indian Hindu uses Yuga ages to describe the qualitative differences of different evolutionary phases.
Rudolf Steiner describes these as follows (emphasizing that the time frames given are very broad and indicative).
- Golden Age or Krita Yuga — about 20.000 years
- Silver Age or Treta Yuga — about 15.000 years
- Bronze Age or Dvapara Yuga — about 10.000 years
- Dark Age or Kali Yuga — about 5.000 years, began approximately in the year 3101 BC with the end of natural clairvoyance, and came to an end in the year 1899. Note this is different than the start of the Michael age in 1879 (see Schema FMC00.239 on Spiritual hierarchies and their eigenperiods). Thus 1899 is the start of an important new period with, from the 20th century onwards, the appearance of natural clairvoyance also called the appearance of 'Christ in the etheric' (see also Christ Module 19 - experiencing the Christ)
- Irrespective of the above (high level and indicative) time periods given, in other qualitative descriptions of evolution the denomination of ages is used in a different meaning, as:
- the Golden age also refers to the age of the Sun (Hyperborea)
- the Silver age to that of the Moon (Lemuria, moon contains silver)
- the Bronze age refers to the influence of Mars passage (since the middle of the Lemurian age, Mars substance of iron intervened on impulse of the White Lodge, to bring warm blood).
- the gradual loss of natural clairvoyance is depicted on Schema FMC00.013 below as 'the great goodbye' with the start of the dark age Kali Yuga at the end of the Persian and the start of the Egypto-Chaldean cultural age. This 'great goodbye' of the curtain that is slowly dropped over Man's connection with the spiritual world), which was felt as a great loss by humanity, is represented by the Baldur myth, see Ragnarok. This was also the time of the Krishna impulse to compensate for this.
Schema FMC00.013 below stacks a number of views and original illustrations that have been calibrated to a single horizontal time line.
It is added here because of the dark age or kali yuga shown in green, following the bronze age in light red (middle of drawing).
The schema depicts the fact that in the current epoch the old form of natural or atavistic clairvoyance ('guided by spiritual beings') slowly ebbed away, and a new form of consciousness is forming and will further develop in the remaining cultural ages into a new independant form of clairvoyance.
The table under the blackboard drawing illustrations shows:
- the grey cultural ages on top along the horizontal time dimension (the blue is the current, the yellow pointer showing our current century)
- with underneath the typical level of clairvoyance, into which plane or world of consciousness
- at the bottom, an illustration to show that 'like a curtain fell' over the old clairvoyance and connectness with the spiritual world (this is the only part of the picture not calibrated to the time scale, it should be more extended)
- the blackboard drawing from GA191 shows: the old mixture of wisdom and morality is impacted by the central MoG event (in orange) .. and after a period of impact after consciousness soul (see also the GA343 drawing for this delay) .. a new future lies ahead with a different connectedness, clairvoyance and brotherly love that is developing.
Lecture coverage and references
Rudolf Steiner only makes reference to the Yugas in a number of lectures, specifically:
- 1910-01-25-GA118 and 1910-01-15-GA117A
- 1910-03-06 and 1910-03-15
It appears that after the split with the Theosophical Society end of 1912, he didn't use the concept of the Yugas any more.
Higher knowledge speaks of this age when man was still united with the divine-spiritual Beings as the Golden Age, or Krita Yuga. It is an age of great antiquity, the most important period of which actually preceded the Atlantean catastrophe. Then came an age when men no longer felt their connection with the divine-spiritual world as strongly as during Krita Yuga, when :they no longer felt that their impulses were determined by their life with the Gods, when their vision of the spirit and the soul was already clouded. Nevertheless, there still remained in them a memory of their life with the spiritual Beings and the Gods.
This memory was particularly distinct in ancient India. It was very easy in those days to speak about spiritual things; one could have directed men's attention to the outer, physically perceptible world and yet regard it as maya or illusion, because men had not been having these physical perceptions for so very long. So it was in ancient India. Souls then living no longer beheld the Gods themselves, but they still beheld spiritual facts and happenings and spiritual Beings of lower ranks. Only a comparatively small number of men were still able to behold the sublime spiritual Beings, and even for these men the former living communion with the Gods was already much less intense. The will-impulses from the divine-spiritual world had already disappeared. Nevertheless, a glimpse into spiritual facts and happenings was still possible, at all events in certain states of consciousness: in sleep and in those intermediate states to which reference has been made.
The most important facts of this spiritual world, however, which in earlier times had been experienced as immediate reality, were now there in the form of a kind of knowledge of truth, as something that the soul still knew with certainty but which was now operative only in the form of knowledge, as a truth. Men still lived in the spiritual world, but in this later age the realisation of its existence was not as strong as it had formerly been. This period is called the Silver Age, or Treta Yuga.
Then came the epoch of those incarnations when man's vision was more and more shut off from the spiritual world, when his whole nature was directed to the outer sense-world and firmly consolidated in that world; inner ego-consciousness, consciousness of manhood, became more and more definite and distinct. This is the Bronze Age, or Dvapara Yuga. Man's knowledge of the spiritual world was no longer as sublime or direct as in earlier times, but something at least had remained in humanity. It was as if in men of the present day who have reached a certain age there were to remain something of the jubilance of youth ... this is past and over but it has been experienced and known and a man can speak of it as something with which he is familiar. Thus the souls of that age were still in some degree familiar with experiences leading to the spiritual worlds. That is the essential characteristic of Dvapara Yuga.
But then came another age, an age when even this degree of familiarity with the spiritual world ceased, when the doors of the spiritual world closed. Men's vision was more and more confined to the outer material world and to the intellect which elaborates the sense-impressions, so that the only remaining possibility was to reflect about the spiritual world — which is the most unsatisfactory way of acquiring knowledge of it. What men now actually knew from their own experience was the material-physical world. If they desired to know something about the spiritual world, this was possible only through reflection. It is the age when man was most lacking in spirituality and therefore established himself firmly in the material world. This was necessary in order that he might be able by degrees to develop consciousness of self to its highest point, for only through the sturdy resistance of the outer world could man learn to distinguish himself from the world and experience himself as an individual. This age is called Kali Yuga, or the Dark Age.
I emphasise that these designations — Krita Yuga, for example — can also be applied to longer epochs, for before the Golden Age man experienced and participated in still higher worlds; hence all those earlier ages could be embraced by this name. But if, so to speak, demands are kept moderate and one is satisfied with the range of spiritual experience described, the periods can be divided in the way indicated. Definite time periods can be given for all such epochs. True, evolution progresses slowly and by degrees, but there are certain boundary-lines of which it can be said that prior to them such-and-such conditions of life and of consciousness predominated, and subsequently, others.
Accordingly, in the sense first spoken of, Kali Yuga began approximately in the year 3101 B.C. Thus we realise that our souls have appeared repeatedly on the earth in new incarnations, in the course of which man's vision has been more and more shut off from the spiritual world and therefore increasingly restricted to the outer world of the senses. We realise, too, that with every incarnation our souls enter into new conditions in which there are always new things to be learnt. What we can achieve in Kali Yuga is to establish and consolidate our I-consciousness. This was not previously possible, for we had first to be endowed with the I.
If in some incarnation souls have failed to take in what that particular epoch has to give, it is very difficult for the loss to be made good in later epochs. Such souls must wait a long time until the loss can in some respect be counterbalanced. But no reliance should be placed upon such a possibility.
We will therefore picture to ourselves that the result of the doors being closed against the spiritual world was of fundamental and essential importance. This was also the epoch of John the Baptist, of Christ Himself on earth. In that epoch, when 3,100 years of the Dark Age had already elapsed, a fact of salient importance was that all human beings ,then living had already been incarnated several times — once or twice at the very least — in the Dark Age. I-consciousness had been firmly established; memory of the spiritual world had faded away, and if men did not desire to lose their connection with the spiritual world entirely, it was essential for them to learn to experience within the I the reality of the spiritual world. The ego must have developed to the stage where it could be certain — in its inmost core at least — that there is a spiritual world, and that there are higher spiritual Beings. The ego must have made itself capable of feeling, of believing in, the spiritual world.
If in the days of Christ Jesus someone had voiced the truth in regard to the conditions then prevailing, he might have said: In earlier times men could experience the kingdom of heaven while they were outside their ego in those spiritual distances reached when out of the body. Man had then to experience the kingdoms of heaven, the kingdoms of the spiritual world, far away from the ego. This is no longer possible, for man's nature has changed so greatly that these kingdoms must be experienced within the ego itself; the kingdoms of heaven have come so near to man that they work into his very ego. And it was this that was proclaimed by John the Baptist: The kingdoms of heaven are at hand! — that is to say, they have drawn near to the I. Previously they were outside man, but now they are near and man must grasp them in the very core of his being, in the ego. And because in this Dark Age, in Kali Yuga, man could no longer go forth from the physical into the spiritual world, it was necessary for the Divine Being, Christ, to come down into the physical world ... Christ's descent into a man of flesh, into Jesus of Nazareth, was necessary in order that through beholding the life and deeds of Christ on the physical plane it might become possible for men to be linked, in the physical body, with the kingdoms of heaven, with the spiritual world. And so Christ's sojourn on earth took place during a period in the middle of Kali Yuga, the Dark Age, when men who were not living in a state of dull insensibility but understood the nature of the times could realise: The descent of the God to men is necessary in order that a lost connection with the spiritual world may be established once again.
If at that time no human beings had been able to find a living link with Christ in their hearts and souls, the connection with the spiritual worlds would have been gradually lost; the kingdoms of heaven would not have been received into the egos of men. It might well have happened that if all human beings living at that crucial point of time had persisted in remaining in darkness, an event of such momentous significance would have passed them by unnoticed.
The souls of men would have withered, gone to waste, decayed. True, even without Christ they would have continued to incarnate for some time still, but they would not have been able to implant in the ego the power that would have enabled them to find the link with the kingdoms of heaven. The event of the Appearance of Christ on the earth might everywhere have passed unnoticed — as it did, for example, in Rome. It was alleged in Rome that a sect of sinful people were living in some out-of-the-way, sordid alley, that among them was a wicked spirit calling himself Jesus of Nazareth and inciting them by his preaching to all kinds of villainous deeds. At a certain period that was all that was known in Rome of Christ! And you may possibly also be aware that Tacitus, the great Roman historian, wrote in a similar vein about a hundred years after the events in Palestine.
Thus it was by no means universally realised that something of supreme importance had taken place: that the Divine Light had shone into the darkness of earth and that it was now possible for men to be brought safely through the Kali Yuga. The possibility of further evolution for humanity was ensured because there were certain souls who understood what was at stake at that point of time and knew what it signified that Christ had been upon earth.
If you were to transfer yourselves in thought to that time, you would realise that it was quite possible to live without knowing anything at all of the advent of Christ Jesus on the physical plane — it was quite possible to live on earth without having any consciousness of this most momentous event.
[Christ in the etheric]
Would it not also be possible today for something of infinite importance to take place without men being aware of it? Might not our contemporaries fail to have the slightest inkling of the most important happening in the world at the present time?
It might well be so. For something of supreme importance is taking place, although it is perceptible only to the eyes of spirit. There is a great deal of talk about periods of transition; we ourselves are actually living in a very important one. And its importance lies in the fact that the Dark Age has run its course and a new age is beginning, when slowly and by degrees the souls of men will change and new faculties will be developed.
The fact that the vast majority of men are entirely unaware of this need not be a cause of surprise, for it was the same when the Christ Event took place at the beginning of our era. Kali Yuga came to an end in the year 1899 and we have now to live on into a new age. What is beginning is slowly preparing men for new faculties of soul.
The first indications of these new faculties will be noticeable in isolated souls comparatively soon now, and they will become more clearly apparent in the middle of the thirties of this century, approximately in the period between 1930 and 1940. The years 1933, 1935 and 1937 will be particularly important. Very special faculties will then reveal themselves in human beings as natural gifts. Great changes will take place during this period and biblical prophecies will be fulfilled. Everything will change for souls who are living on earth and also for those who are no longer in physical bodies. Whatever their realm of existence, souls are on the way to possessing entirely new faculties. Everything is changing — but the happening of supreme importance in our time is a deeply incisive transformation of the faculties of the human soul.
Kali Yuga is over and the souls of men are now beginning to develop new faculties. These faculties — because this is the purpose of the epoch — will of themselves draw forth from souls certain powers of clairvoyance which during Kali Yuga had necessarily to be submerged in the realm of the unconscious. A number of souls will experience the strange condition of having I-consciousness but at the same time the feeling of living in a world essentially different from the world known to their ordinary consciousness. The experience will be shadowy, like a divination, as though an operation had been performed on one born blind. ... Through what we call esoteric training these clairvoyant faculties will be attained in a far better form. But because human beings progress, they will appear in mankind in their very earliest beginnings, in their most elementary stages, through the natural process of evolution.
For continuation and more on Christ in the etheric, see Christ Module 19 - Experiencing the Christ
 - Link between yugas and the evolutionary periods
Rudolf Steiner does not link the yugas with any reference to Zodiac clock, platonic year, or the Earth's Seven Epochs he uses throughout his work. See however the periods of 21.000 and 24.000 years mentioned on Sun.
References and further reading