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Rudolf Steiner's Identification of the Zodiac


Much has been written and could be said about zodiacs, all referring to the circle of the stars the sun passes in front of through its yearly course. The number of different zodiacs applied to this one circle lend a wonderful confusion to the discussion.

Rudolf Steiner reported a really staggering vision of the past, present and future importance of this circle of creative beings indicated by the stars, but I have not found a comprehensive definition of their division into zodiacal signs in his works I have surveyed so far. On the other hand, numerous facts he reported do allow a calculation of the zodiac signs he was talking about. I would like to present the most pertinent of these facts here in a chronological manner.

The first references to the zodiac I have found are on 26 Sept. 1905, when Steiner stated that the twelve levels of consciousness were related to the twelve sign of the zodiac; on 3 Oct., when the direct connection between cultural epochs and the precession of the equinoxes was listed such as on 8 Jan. 1918, below; and on 8 Oct. 1905, when he spoke of the spring equinox entering the constellation of the Ram or Lamb about 800 B.C. and that of the Fishes about 1800 A.D., defining a zodiacal period as 2,600 years. (These lectures are in Foundations of Esotericism, 1983)

By June 1906, Steiner had revised his zodiacal period to 2,160 years and indicated consecutive ages of the same span going backward from the Ram at 800 B.C. through the Bull, the Twins, and the sign Cancer. (in: An Esoteric Cosmology, 1987) On 25 Aug., Steiner repeated the approximate dates for the Twins, Bull and Ram. (in: At the Gates of Spiritual Science, 1970)

The first indication of the eternal scale of the zodiac and of the time-period governance of all signs came 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 10 Sept. 1908, Steiner refined the entry of the equinox into the sign of the Ram to ca. 747 B.C..(in: Egyptian Myths and Mysteries, 1972) This will become a familiar date. On 15 Apr. 1909, he again gave the beginning of the Bull age as about 3000B.C. and the Ram age about 800 B.C..

Dr. Steiner seldom reported the association of specific stars with zodiac signs. One of the few instances I have found occurred on 18 Dec. 1910: “Take, for instance, the seven holy Rishis. The symbol of the Initiation into the Sun-Mysteries is the picture of the sun in Taurus. When the Sun stands in the sign of Taurus the spectacle in the firmament reveals the mystery of the particular Initiation of the Rishis. This Initiation took effect through the seven personalities who were the seven holy Rishis. This is also expressed in the fact that the Pleiades, a cluster of seven stars, shine from the same region of the heavens. That is, moreover, the region where the whole solar system entered into the Universe to which we belong.” (Background to the Gospel of St. Mark, 1968, pp. 206-211)

On 19 Jan. 1915, Steiner stated emphatically, “ . . . the time interval needed for the sun to progress from one constellation in the zodiac to the next is approximately 2,160 years, and this is important.” (The Destinies of Individuals and of Nations, 1987, pg. 70)

Steiner reported on 17 Sept. 1916, that the fourth post-Atlantean age began about 747 B.C. and ended about 1413 A.D., and that the fifth post-Atlantean age will continue for 2,160 years after 1413 A.D.. This thought was reinforced on 15 Jan. 1917: “This ecclesiastical element of cultus and hierarchy, which was a transformation of ancient Rome into the Roman Catholicism which streamed into Europe, is one of the impulses which continue to work like retarded impulses throughout the whole fifth post post-Atlantean period, but especially in its first third. You could, I might add, work out how long this is going to last. You know that one post-Atlantean period lasts approximately 2,160 years. One third of this is 720 years. So starting with the year 1415, this takes the main period to the year 2135.” (The Karma of Untruthfulness, Vol. II, 1992, pg. 114)

On 28 Jan., he explained: “You know that the position of the sun on the ecliptic at the spring equinox moves forward in the Zodiac. You know that this point has been designated, ever since mankind began to think, according to its position in the Zodiac. So from about the eighth century before the Mystery of Golgotha until about the fifteenth century after the Mystery of Golgotha, the sun of the spring equinox rose in the sign of the Ram, though not always at exactly the same spot. During this time the sun traversed the sign of the Ram. Since then, the sun of the spring equinox has been rising in the sign of the Fishes.” (The Karma of Untruthfulness, Vol. I, pg. 178)

Steiner again referred to the vernal sun on 13 Feb. 1917: “We know that now the sun rises in Pisces. Up to the fifteenth century it rose in Aries . . . ” (Cosmic and Human Metamorphosis, 1989, pp. 16-17)

On 13 Mar. 1917, Steiner threw some illumination on his lack of reference to the “connect-the-dot” star patterns normally identified as the zodiac. Referring to ancient man at the time of atavistic clairvoyance, Steiner said: “[Man] did not actually see the physical stars with external eyes; but he saw the spiritual part of the physical stars. Hence we must not look upon what is related of the ancient star-worship as though the ancients looked up to the stars and made all sorts of beautiful symbols and images.” (Cosmic and Human Metamorphosis, 1989, pp. 60-61)

On 18 Sept. 1917 the time span of the Graeco-Latin epoch was given as 747 B.C. to 1413 A.D.

On 5 Jan. 1918, Steiner said of the initiates of the Osiris myth, “They meant to say the old life in the Imagination vanished when the setting sun in Autumn stood in seventeen degrees of Scorpio and in the opposite point of the heavens the full moon rose in Taurus or in the Pleiades.” (Ancient Myths, 1971, pg. 18)

The correspondence between the post-Atlantean cultural epochs and the precession of the equinoxes is reported in detail on 8 Jan. 1918. The Ancient Indian epoch is identified with vernal Cancer; “Then the sun entered the sign of Gemini, the Twins, at the Vernal Equinox. And then as long as the Vernal Equinox continued to be in Gemini, we have to do with the second post-Atlantean cultural epoch, the original Persian . . . Then came the third; this was the age when the sun at the Venal Equinox entered Taurus, the Bull . . .

“Then came the Graeco-Latin time, the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. The sun entered Aries, the Ram, at the Vernal Equinox . . .

“But think of the great revolution that now comes with the 15th century when the Aries culture passes over to the Pisces (Fishes) culture. What the Pisces forces have become in the macrocosm are the forces in man connected with the feet. There is a transition from head to feet; the swing-over is an immense one.” (Ancient Myths, 1971, pp. 51-57)

Steiner reported on 11 Jan. 1918, “During the 2,160 years that followed the great Atlantean catastrophe mankind can be said to have been capable of development in a way quite different from what was possible later.” Two days later he noted, “Twelve epochs ago the sun was in the same position, so that towards the end of the Lemurian age there were conditions similar to ours.” (Ancient Myths, 1971, pp. 63-64 & 112-113) The latter day also saw him repeat 747B.C. as the beginning of the Graeco-Latin epoch. The dates for this epoch were again repeated on 11, 13 and 18 Oct.

On 19 Oct. 1918, Rudolf Steiner made this significant point: “Considered as a symptom, the French Revolution is extraordinarily interesting. It presents - in the form of slogans applied haphazardly and indiscriminately to the whole human being - that which must gradually be developed in the course of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul, from 1413 to the year 3573, with all the spiritual resources at man's disposal. The task of this epoch is to achieve fraternity on the physical plane, liberty on the psychic plane, and equality on the spiritual plane.” (From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, 1976, pp. 49-50) Again, on 25 Oct., he stated that the epoch of the Consciousness Soul began in 1413, and on 2 Nov. he said this date was the start of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.

In an extensive discussion on 16 Apr. 1920, Steiner pointed to the well known fact that the sun moves backward (relative to its yearly course) against the stars at a rate of about one degree every seventy-two years. He has spoken all along of this movement underlying the sun's passage through the zodiac, but this is the first specific mention of the detailed rate that I have found. On 8 May 1920, he reported the duration of the Graeco-Latin epoch as 747 B.C.-1413 A.D.

On 24 Nov. 1921, the Greek epoch was identified with the sun in Vernal Aries, after the following comments: “The changing position of the Sun in the zodiacal constellations through the various epochs has been taken as an indication of the different forces which pour down to man from the world of the fixed stars.” (Self-Consciousness: The Spiritual Human Being, 1986, pp. 263-267)

The emphatic statement, “In 2,160 years the Sun has progressed from one Zodiacal sign into the next.”, was made on 29 Aug. 1923. (The Evolution of the World and of Humanity, 1989, pp. 188-189)

The first specific date of solar movement into zodiac signs I've seen occurred 1 Dec. 1923. “You know that on March 23, the Sun enters the Sign of the Fishes. I have told you before that the spring equinox is now in the Sign of the Fishes. The Sun remains in this Sign `til April 20, then passes into the Sign of the Ram . . . In the beginning of May the full force of the Ram is working; by the end of the month the Sun is already in the sign of the Bull.” (Beekeeping - Nine Lectures on Bees, 1964, pp. 37-38) All previous and subsequent quotes available to me show that the dates and zodiac signs are probably mistranscribed, as does the sense of the quote itself - the sun entering Pisces March 23 is already after the spring equinox.

On 20 Jan. 1924, we are back on familiar ground: “Now, you can look at the vernal point of the zodiac, where the sun rises every spring. This point is not stationary; it is advancing. In the Egyptian epoch, for example, it was in the constellation of Taurus. It has advanced through Taurus and Aries and is today in the constellation of Pisces; and it is still advancing..” (Anthroposophy and the Inner Life, 1994, pg. 29)

The last two references I have found include a description of the Platonic year on 17 Sept. 1924, and the following definite statement on 9 Sept. 1924: “If in the present epoch we look at the point in the heavens where the sun rises on the twenty-first of March, we find behind the sun the constellation of the Fishes (Pisces). The Sun has been rising in this particular constellation for hundreds of years, but always at a different point. Going back a few centuries we find that the point at which the sun rose in spring was still in the same constellation, but if we go back as far as the year 1200A.D., we find that the sun rose in the constellation of the Ram (Aries).” (The Evolution of the Earth and Man, 1987, pp. 155-164)

This concludes my survey of Dr. Steiner's evidence. It is clear that he does not relate the zodiac signs to any connect-the-dot patterns of stars. The zodiac signs represent relatively equal periods governed by the forces of twelve different choruses of spiritual beings behind the stars. These beings exist and continue to work beyond the physical existence of the planet and solar system itself. Their forces are mediated by the sun, both in the yearly passage through the seasons and in the Platonic year of the precession of the equinox, through 12 times 2,160 or 25,920 years.

The spring equinox is the great definer of the ages, and from the oft-repeated dates given by Steiner, we can calculate the approximate dates when the sun passes from one sign to another, throughout the year.

If we accept that the vernal equinox entered Pisces about 1413 A.D., then it has moved at a rate of about one degree (day) every seventy-two years for 584 years; slightly more than eight days past March 21. In its yearly round the sun now leaves Pisces about Mar. 29. If we take these dates as the midpoints of three-day gray areas or cusps, we can use Steiner's reported equal zodiacal ages (2,160 divided by 72 equals 30 days movement in precession) and extrapolate the following calendar for Steiner's zodiac signs:

Aries, beginning March 29

Taurus, April 29

Gemini, May 30

Cancer, June 29

Leo, July 29

Virgo, August 29

Libra, September 28

Scorpio, October 28

Sagittarius, November 28

Capricorn, December 28

Aquarius, January 27

Pisces, February 27

The stars the sun stands in front of during these dates are the zodiacal signs Dr. Steiner describes as representing beings and forces that essentially condition the nature of the sun, so that we can think of `Aries-sun', or `Leo-sun', etc. Readers familiar with any of the popularly employed zodiac sign definitions will at once notice both dramatic and subtle differences. However, we can only test the many facts Steiner gave regarding the zodiac if we know, from his own work collected and correlated, what zodiac he was talking about.

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