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Rudolf Steiner's Basic Celestial Influences
In Part I we saw the rational basis, from Steiner's point of view, from which we can speak of a celestial influence of the zodiac. To put it bluntly, the zodiac-Beings created the solar system out of themselves; as noted before also, the manner of expression of their influence leads in many directions, and a second direction that will not be followed up here is the description of the Spiritual Beings of the Lower Hierarchies. However, no abstract force or influence is ever meant by Steiner, but always the living interaction of these many Beings with the elements, minerals, plants, animals and men.
Dr. Steiner describes the primordial solar system as containing all the planets, sun, moon and earth, all of which gradually separated to provide proper fields for the evolution of various beings; as on 27 June 1909: . . . Before the sun could withdraw, it became necessary for certain beings to segregate special fields of action for themselves, and these places figure today as the outer planets, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. It can therefore be said that overall matter, which contained sun and moon, comprised Saturn, Jupiter and so forth as well; and certain beings withdrew from the beginning with these heavenly bodies, beings requiring for their life precisely what these planets could offer . . . So the separation of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars occurred before the division of sun and earth, while later Venus and Mercury split off from the sun, and finally the moon from the earth. (The Gospel of St. John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels, 1982, pp. 71-72)
Steiner often includes the sun and our moon in the general use of the term planets, and he also often includes the planets (but not moons) in his general use of the word star. Some principal influences of sun and moon were clearly described on 26 Aug. 1909:
. . . These forms have all developed as a result of the influence of the Sun and Moon from without, and this was the purpose of the withdrawal of these two bodies. The influence which worked upon the Earth from the Sun and the Moon charmed from it, as it were, everything that has since arisen upon it and all that surrounds us today. The outer forms of the minerals, the plants, the animals and of physical man have all been produced by the beings which work from the Sun; whereas the beings which work from the Moon have stimulated the soul life of men and animals. This is an approximate and broad sketch of evolution from the so-called Lemurian epoch into that of Atlantis. It was during the Atlantean epoch that, very slowly and gradually, the Earth began to wear an appearance more or less similar to that which we see around us to-day. (The East in the Light of the West, 1986, pp. 66)
However, we shall see that a progressive emancipation from the direct influences of the planets (including our sun and moon) has occurred throughout evolution, as exemplified by the moon on 9 Dec. 1909: Thus man frees himself inwardly by making the external rhythm into an inner one. He has long since freed himself from the rhythm which connected his inner being with the moon. Hence we have emphasised that man lives through the phases of the moon inwardly, but these experiences are not caused by the moon in the sky. The course of the moon shows a similar rhythm because man has retained the rhythm inwardly, though outwardly he has made himself free and independent of it.
We are led in this way to regard the earth as a living being, but since it shows us only its physical body, with no evident signs of life or feeling or knowledge, its condition is nearer to that of the moon. Now we can understand why it is wrong, even taking only the external facts, to speak of a direct influence of the moon on the tides, and why we can say only that the ebb and flow of the tides corresponds to the phases of the moon. The tides, as well as the course of the moon are caused by deeper spiritual forces in the living earth. (Metamorphosis of the Soul; Paths of Experience, Vol. I, 1983, pp. 145-151)
From the 3rd - 14th Apr. 1912, Dr. Steiner gave extensive descriptions of celestial phenomena, including the following clear picture of the nature of the planets:
What I am saying is not mere theoretical idea or fancy, the fact actually is that matter, not coarse physical matter but fine etheric matter, fills the space within the orbit of Saturn in its lenticular, flattened ball-like form, as drawn here. It is just as much a fact that a second smaller space for Jupiter is filled with a different etheric substance which permeates the first; so that there is simple etheric substance only between the two orbits; within the two etheric substances permeate one another.
The spiritual beings which we call the Spirits of Form work as forces within the etheric substance I have just mentioned; but they all have a common centre, and this is none other than the Sun . . . That means that the Spirits of Form corresponding to our planets, comprise, as it were, a synod or council of Spirits, having its seat in the Sun, and from there sets boundaries to certain masses of ether, so that what we call occult Saturn, occult Jupiter, come into being.
But within the cosmos are certain spiritual beings corresponding to the Spirits of Form, but who, as it were, are rebels against those of their own class . . .
At an outermost point of this etheric globe, in opposition to the Spirit of Form working from the centre of the Sun works the rebel, the Luciferic Spirit of Form . . . and at a point through the combined working of the forces working inwards from cosmic space, and those others working outwards from the Sun, there occurs an `inturning', which finally becomes detached, and that is the physical planet Saturn. Thus we have to imagine that where our physical eyes see the planet Saturn, there are two forces working together; . . . This produces an `inturned' structure; the ether is notched and this notch appears to the physical eye as the physical planet Saturn. Just the same occurs with the physical Jupiter, and with the physical Mars.
The Spirits of Form working from the Sun extended the etheric substance to a certain distance; there worked the abnormal Spirits of Form in opposition, and caved the substance in, so that in reality a hollow was made in the etheric substance . . . Our Earth itself, in so far as it is an accumulation of matter, is a hollow in cosmic space, something bored into cosmic space . . . In a physical sense matter only exists when spiritual forms are broken up. Thus the planets out there are also broken-up forms. (The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature, 1951, pp. 95-104)
We must see the interpenetrating, lens-shaped etheric bodies of the planets as the means by which their active influences permeate the earth, and add this to the remembered' or internalized influences mentioned earlier. The physical planets are to be seen as hands of the cosmic clock, not causing the influences but indicating them. The intimate way the relationships between the planets and the zodiac differentiated the animal and plant worlds (called forth by the sun as noted above) was then described.
Occult vision shows us that the cause of the varieties of the animal species does not simply originate on the earth; rather does the animal species receive its forms from cosmic space, and indeed the forces which produce the one species come from a different part of cosmic space from that whence come the forces which produce another. The forces which construct the various animal-forms stream down upon our earth planet from the other planets of our planetary system . . . Once upon a time, in far distant ages, there were only seven principal animal forms; but these seven forms were very mobile, determinable, so soft and plastic in their formation that they could easily be transformed; . . .
The whole of cosmic space is filled with spiritual beings of the different hierarchies working in different ways from various directions on to the earth. And men were also aware that from certain points specially precise and definite forces worked down from cosmic space, which were of quite particular importance to the earth . . . Men did not then speak without reason of the Zodiac or Animal Circle; they knew why it was so called. In the heavenly spaces the case is as follows: The forces which worked down from the planet Mars, for instance and brought about in the still plastic substance, one of the seven principal forms, worked in a different way according to whether Mars stood before one sign of the Zodiac or before another . . . In this way the seven different forms were modified. . . . you can see that there are a very great number of possibilities. (The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature, 1951, pp. 159-161)
Certain plants are allotted to the forces of the Spirits of Motion who work from Mars, others to those who are on Venus, others to those on Mercury. They work in from their planet and according as they work in from one or the other, they impart to the plant the movement expressed in the coil of their leaves; it is the same movement which the corresponding planet makes; the absolute movement it makes in the heavens.
Thus we have to compose the whole plant out of that which grows toward the sun or toward the centre of the earth and that which winds itself round and copies in the stipules the movements of the planets. (The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature, 1951, pp. 170-172)
And similar influences, at formative stages, apply to the mineral kingdom: Now through the co-operation of what comes from the planets for the minerals, what comes from the sun, and what streams in from the universe from the various directions arises the possibility that not only those basic types already mentioned come into existence in the mineral kingdom, but all sorts of other forms, all sorts of differently modified substances of the mineral kingdom been formed.(The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature, 1951, pg. 198)
Considerably later, on 26 Mar. 1920, Steiner gave a clear picture of this formative influence of the planets on metals: . . . Suppose that a planet in extra-terrestrial space is in an especially favourable position for working on a certain portion of our sphere. Assume Saturn to be the planet in question and that Saturn can best exercise its full influence when the direction of other planetary influences strike the earth as far away as possible from its own, and do not mingle with nor deflect them; i.e., when Sun, Mars and other bodies are not in or near a line from Saturn to the earth. Then the Saturn force impinges directly on our planet. And if conditions are favourable in the portion of the earth directly under Saturn's influence, that unmixed and undeflected Saturnian influence causes a structure to be formed there, differing from that due to the action of Mars under similar conditions.
Earth's substances are the combined result of forces from the stars. In the case cited as illustration, the effect of such action is shown in the production of lead . . . (Spiritual Science and Medicine, 1989, pp. 90-92)
The next day, the fact that the outer and inner planets exert certain influences in basically different ways was pointed out: . . . The earth has its own lunar principal working outwards from within. Physical manifestations such as the tides are not essentially telluric, but lunar; nevertheless they are not directly due to lunar influence (as recent theories claim), but to the lunar principle in the earth itself. There is an apparent correspondence between these effects and the moon, but there is, at least generally, no immediate connection in time. So when we trace the influence of the inner planets, we must look for their counter-image in the earth itself, so that the physical effect, the effect upon the physical, comes via the earth. And on the other hand, to the outer planets must be ascribed effects in the realm of soul and spirit. (Spiritual Science and Medicine, 1989, pp. 103-106)
Prior to his description of the three planes of the zodiac (given in Part I of this essay), Steiner described the three planes related to the sun, on 9 Apr. 1920:
If, however, we learn to describe Thinking, Feeling and Willing concretely in these three planes, and to place ourselves thus in space as psychic-spiritual beings, with our Thinking, Feeling and Willing - then just as we learn to apply to Astronomy three dimensions of space, so do we learn to apply to Astronomy the threefold division of man as a being of soul and spirit. And it becomes possible if we have here Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury and lastly Earth, then it becomes possible, if we look at the Sun, to observe it in its outer manifestation as something separating, as a dividing element . . . So too I shall no longer say of Mars and Mercury that the one is at such a distance and the other at such a distance from the Sun, but I shall know that if I regard the Sun as dividing partition, Mars being above must be of one nature and Mercury below of another.
I shall now be able to place a similar plane perpendicularly through the Sun . . . But if I study cosmic space concretely, as I must my own being as a man, it is not a matter of indifference whether a planet is at one time on the left and at another time on the right . . .
In the same way I make a third plane, and must again form a judgement in accordance with that. And if I extend my knowledge of Man to the Universe, I shall be obliged, as I connected the one plane with human Thinking, and the second plane with human Feeling, to consider the third plane as connected with human Will. (Man - Hieroglyph of the Universe, 1972, pp. 14-19)
A month later, on 9 May, the differentiation of celestial influences was further elaborated:
…I described yesterday that we have on the one side the astronomy that applies to the Sun - and also to the Earth. We ourselves are part of that astronomy, for we are organised into it as organisms containing solid substances. Lunar astronomy however, is different. We are organised into lunar astronomy in so far as it is connected with our fluid constituents. (Man - Hieroglyph of the Universe, 1972, pp. 174-175)
And on 20 Oct. 1923:… The Sun maintains its power through the fact that it comes into connection with the different regions of the universe. Human perception of these connections has resulted in relating the Sun's activities with what is known as the Zodiac, so that when sunlight reaches the earth from Leo, from Libra or from Scorpio, this always means something different. It also means something different for the earth if the Sun's light is strengthened or weakened by the other planets of our planetary system. And here different relationships arise in regard to the different planets; the relationships to the `outer planets' - Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - are different from those to the `inner planets', - Mercury, Venus and Moon. (Man as Symphony of the Creative Word, 1991, pp. 28-31)
The last two extracts in this essay were given one month apart, on 9 Aug. and 9 Sept. 1924, respectively.
…It is quite correct to say that one planet has a particularly strong influence upon one part of the earth, another planet on another part… So we find that each of the planets works particularly strongly upon some specific part of the earth. They radiate their light from the various places where they stand in the heavens. The light of Venus, for instance, works quite differently upon the earth from the light of Mercury. This is connected with the different formations of mountains, of rocks. (The Evolution of the Earth and Man, 1987, pp. 145-148)
…The sun has the most powerful influence of all. But it exerts its greatest influence upon everything on the earth that is dead, that must be called to new life every year - while the moon influences only what is living… The other planets have their influence upon what is of the nature of soul and spirit…
So the planets exercise their influence upon the more delicate conditions of growth and of life. Hence we can say: When, like all the planets, Mars comes near the earth, we must not attach primary importance to this outer nearness. What is of far greater importance is how things in the universe are connected with the finer, more delicate states and conditions of life. (The Evolution of Earth and Man, 1987, pp. 155-164)
Here we have, as with the zodiac, a primary rationale from which to consider planetary influences being effective on the earth - in earth's primordial state all planets intermingled forces and substances, and as separation occurred, remnants remained. Also, at the spiritual etheric and astral levels, the physical planets become `special events' at the outer circumference of the actual planets, which are lens-shaped, fill the inner space bounded by the physical planet's orbit, and interpenetrate one another and the earth.
It should be noted here that Steiner specifically excludes, again and again, Uranus and Neptune (and therefor Pluto) from sharing in these characteristics.
We are also given some general indications of how the physical planets, as indicators of the spiritual realities, can be seen to have different qualities according to their orientation in the three planes of the zodiac and the three planes of the sun, thus lending significance to the idea of `nodes' as the change from one plane to the other. Apogee and perigee, on the other hand, seem to be not much thought of. Hints as to separate astronomies for the `inner' and `outer' planets, the sun, and the moon, are given; and the point made that each planet has a particular influence on certain parts of the earth's geography, its flora, fauna and minerals.