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Rudolf Steiner's Basic Celestial Influences
Part I: The Zodiac


If, as holistic ecologists or even as interested observers, we inquire about the effects of celestial bodies and events on earth and its life, the abundance of social opinion really only gives us two points of view. Materialistic astronomy holds the sun far and away above all other celestial bodies, through its influences of gravity and solar radiations. These influences are recognised as prime motivators, but subsequent details are to be determined from strictly earthly forces and matter. The moon is admitted as the mover of tides, but influences beyond this and its pale reflected light are not thought much of.

Astrology, in its many forms, really seems to boil down to collections of statements. The array of celestial influence is expanded past sun and moon to include the planets and constellations of the zodiac. According to defined qualities, the influences of celestial relationships and aspects are said to be directly causal or at least representative of events and characteristics on earth. Proof is mostly in the form of looking back to agreeable coincidences, with disagreeable circumstances ignored or explained away. The predictive inabilities of this type of astrology are notorious - on the other hand there always seems to be enough accuracy to be tempting.

Astronomy sees no rational basis for the detailed, often humanly personal, influence claimed by astrology; astrology can present no “unified front”, no unifying view beyond various cultural traditions and individual, usually dreamy or mediumistic, clairvoyant statements..

Dr. Steiner offers a point of view that illumines the seeming quagmire of astrology with a clear-minded scientific approach to clairvoyance. Although the cold intellect of modern materialism will consider it wildly ironical, Steiner places astrology on a rational basis by reaching past the snowstorm of half-proven and unproven theories of astronomy and astrophysics to the view of our cosmos as a living, evolving whole.

It may seem trite to say that cosmic evolution is a complex subject, but it's a fact that is too seldom considered. Steiner always emphasised this point, and when trying to organise his observations, these themselves lead in many directions. One main direction that I will not pursue is the influence of the heavenly bodies on personal and collective human destinies. This (all too often egotistical) aspect of astrology was placed on a rational footing by Dr. Steiner's frequent descriptions resulting from the relationships between the spiritual realms of the different planets and zodiac constellations, and human souls between death and rebirth.

In this series of two parts, I would like to focus on Steiner's basic facts concerning more general characteristics of respectively the zodiac, and the planets. His facts speak for themselves - indeed, it is up to the reader to decide their acceptability. For a variety of reasons, I prefer to present them chronologically.

Steiner always presented the zodiac as the perennial creative force of the solar system. This influence was clearly described as early as 25 Aug. 1906: “What was it, then, that people saw in this process? The ancients saw it as an embodiment of the forces of nature. In the Winter these forces were asleep, but in Spring they were recalled to life by the Sun. Hence the constellation in which the Sun appeared in Spring symbolised these reawakening forces; it gave new strength to the Sun and was felt to be worthy of particular reverence. The ancients knew that with this movement of the Sun round the Zodiac something important was connected, for it meant that the Sun's rays fell on the Earth under quite different conditions as time went on. And indeed the period of 2,160 years does signify a complete change in the condition of life on Earth.” (At the Gates of Spiritual Science, 1970, pp. 35-36)

Modern astronomy considers the movement of the sun through the zodiac as an artifact of earth motions, but Steiner attributes this movement a basic, if not ultimate reality extending well beyond the physical existence of the earth itself; as on 22 Apr. 1907 . . . “Before the Lemurian age the sun, moon and earth, united in one body, moved forward in terms of the zodiac. Time was measured following this movement. For this reason, the twelve signs of the zodiac are characterized as the heavenly clock and drawn as such.

“A planet alternates between pralaya, a cosmic night, and manvantara, a cosmic day, just as we alternately pass through day and night. The planet passes through the signs of the zodiac during pralaya and manvantara; for that reason the twelve signs of the zodiac are counted twice, just as we also count two times twelve to equal twenty-four hours. The hours symbolize the signs of the zodiac.” (Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse, 1993, pg. 22)

Pralaya is the non-physical, highly spiritual “seed” stage of planetary evolution; manvantara, the physical and lower spiritual; roughly speaking!

On 27 Jan. 1908, as part of a broad discussion, Steiner gave a startling description of our relationship to the zodiac, and of our ultimate responsibilities: “The following will seem grotesque, even preposterous to those whose concepts are rooted in modern astronomy. Nevertheless it is a truth of cosmic evolution that when a planet like the earth has risen to sun-existence, when it has gradually achieved union with the Sun and even Sun-existence is transcended, there arises, as a still higher stage of evolution, something that in a certain way you can perceive in the heavens: there arises what we today call a `Zodiac' - it is the stage higher than that of the fixed star. Thus when beings are no longer restricted to the form of existence belonging to a fixed star but have expanded their evolution so powerfully that it extends beyond fixed stars and the fixed stars lie like bodies in it - then a higher stage is reached, the stage of Zodiac-existence. The forces which work from a Zodiac upon a planetary system themselves evolved, in former ages, in a planetary system and have advanced to the stage of a Zodiac.” (The Influences of Spiritual Beings Upon Man, 1961, pg. 22)

This staggering goal of our earth evolution is achieved through progressive metamorphosis, and so views that see celestial influences as eternally the same are not supported by Steiner. Indeed, following the above quote the astrologically and astronomically unheard-of fact is presented that: “ . . . The distribution of forces in our earth existence may be conceived as follows: - on the one side forces are descending from the Zodiac and, on the other, forces are ascending to the Zodiac.

“As far as human understanding goes, these forces began to descend during the Saturn-existence of our Earth and when Earth-existence proper had reached its middle point, the stage had arrived when they gradually began again to ascend. We have now passed beyond the middle point of our evolution, which fell in the middle of the Atlantean epoch.

“When, therefore, you think of the whole Zodiac, you must picture that some of its forces are descending and some are ascending. We think of the forces which are now involved in the ascending line of evolution, collectively, as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra - because they actually belong to these constellations. The descending forces comprised, approximately speaking, in the five constellations of Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. Thus forces rain down from the Zodiac and ascend again: seven constellations of ascending, five descending forces. The ascending forces also correspond, in man, to the higher members of his being, to his higher, nobler attributes. The forces which are in the descending phase of evolution have first to pass through man and within him to attain to the stage at which they too can become ascending forces.” (The Influence of Spiritual Beings Upon Man, 1961, pp. 25-26)

On 17 Apr. 1909 there were details given as to the character of previous solar system evolution that has led to our earth, which he calls the old Saturn, old Sun and old Moon stages. Old Saturn reached only the density of fire, or warmth, and a particular influence on this stage of evolution was exercised by the spiritual beings represented by Leo in the Zodiac. Old Sun reached the density of air (gaseous), with the celestial influence of Scorpio significant. And the old Moon condensed to water (liquid), with a particular governance of the Waterman. All of these stages “peaked” at the elemental densities mentioned, and then died into the pralaya “seed stage” mentioned 22 Apr. 1907. Steiner then continues:

“We now come to the earth, which represents the fourth stage of evolution. The three earlier stages are repeated: A Saturn is formed; a Sun is formed and leaves a Jupiter behind, which is a repetition of the Sun; a Moon is formed and a Mars is left behind. Then the earth emerges, as I have described it, severed from the sun and with the part that is separated off as lunar slag. You recall that the first beginnings of the ego took place in ancient Lemurian times when the present moon separated itself off from the earth.

“Again, however, that could only happen because an impulse was given from the periphery that resulted in one rotation being completed. Sufficient maturity had now been reached to receive the first beginnings of the ego. This took place in ancient Lemurian time, and one pointed to the constellation of the Bull.” (The Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World, 1970, pp. 101-107)

The beginning of the ego is identified with the beginning of the solid mineral condition called the earth element. Here we have the rational basis for zodiac sign / element relationships, although you may notice the reversal of air-water designations. A few days earlier (13 Apr.) while discussing these beings from a different perspective, Steiner pointed out that: “ . . . I have only spoken about four names of the zodiac. They represent the four principal expressions of the Cherubim, but in reality each of these cherubic beings has to the right and left of it a kind of follower or companion. Thus we have twelve-fold forces in the Sun's periphery belonging to the realm of the Cherubim.” (The Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World, 1970, pp. 51-52)

The need to view celestial influences as spiritual, and a way to do this, was pictured 26 Mar. 1910: “And now we realize that the comparison with a clock is by no means far fetched. We relate the heavenly bodies of our solar system to the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, and we can find our bearings in the World of Spirit only by viewing it in such a way as to be able to assert that Spiritual Beings and events are realities; we compare the facts with the courses of the planets but the Spiritual Beings with the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. If we contemplate the planets in space and the zodiacal constellations, if we conceive the movements and relative positions of the planets in front of the various constellations to be manifestations of the activities of the Spiritual Beings and the twelve constellations of the Zodiac as the Spiritual Beings themselves, then it is possible to express by such an analogy what is happening in the World of Spirit.” (Macrocosm and Microcosm, 1968, pp. 107-109)

Some specific thoughts on the structure of the zodiac were mentioned on 11 Apr. 1920: “We cannot conceive of any other plane in celestial space as being of like value with the Zodiac, any more than we could conceive the plane which divides us in two and creates our symmetry, as being placed at random just anywhere . . . In the same way we must imagine that in the organisation of the Universe it is a matter of consequence whether a thing is above or below the Zodiac . . . Now just as we can think of this plane . . . so we can also think of another at right angles to it. Let us think of a plane extending from the constellation Leo to that of Aquarius on the other side. Then we can go further and imagine a third plane at right angles again from this one, running from Taurus to Scorpio. We have now three planes at right angles to one another in Cosmic space.

“If we think of the plane we have denoted as that of Will - the plane that namely separates us behind and before - we have the plane of the Zodiac itself.

“If we think of the plane running from Taurus to Scorpio, we have the plane of Thinking; that is, our thought plane would be coordinated to this plane. And the third plane would be that of Feeling.” (Man - Hieroglyph of the Universe, 1972, pp. 38-39)

And some basic facts of zodiac influences were spoken of a little later, on 17 Apr. 1920: “There simply does not exist such a thing as mathematics calls `Space'; but everywhere are lines of force, directions of force, and these are not equal, they vary, they are differentiated. Man will not admit this as long as he lives in the world of the senses; but as soon as he ascends to the Imaginative life of the soul, he no longer experiences the directions of space as the same when facing Aries or Cancer, but feels their influence upon him as greatly differentiated.” (Man - Hieroglyph of the Universe, 1972, pg. 68)

“Taking the case of an inhabitant of our part of the globe, we can see that at any given time he has facing him one half of the Zodiacal signs, while the other half are obscured by the earth.

“Let us say, from the direction of the sign Cancer proceeds a certain kind of influence. This would be opposed by an influence from Capricorn, but the latter is taken away, is intercepted . . . the influence of Cancer is thereby in a sense left in me, put into my hands, as it were.” (Man - Hieroglyph of the Universe, 1972, pp. 70-72). Dr. Steiner gave many descriptions of specific zodiac influences that weave into and expand the briefer characterisation given here. The Spiritual Beings of the zodiac sacrifice themselves to create our solar system through series of planetary reincarnations. The planets come and go; the zodiac persists, although the nature of its influence evolves. This basic fact conditions the essentially spiritual influence they exert, working into the physical. Thus the zodiac is in the “background” of all considerations we may have of celestial influences.

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