Anthroposophy and Astrology — PART 3: Mercury and Venus

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In PART 1 of the series Anthroposophy and Astrology we have discussed about the Horoscope, whereas in PART 2 we deepened the different zodiacs from an anthroposophical perspective. In this article we are going to talk about a very controversial topic: the inversion of the names of planets Mercury and Venus. For those not familiar with this issue, let’s jump right into it through this quote by Rudolf Steiner:

“Here I would like to add one thing, because misunderstandings have crept into the naming of the planets. In all occult nomenclature, what the astronomers call Venus is called Mercury, and vice versa. Astronomers know nothing of the mysteries behind this, because in the past it was not desired that the esoteric names should be revealed. This happened in order to conceal certain things.”

Egyptian Myths and Mysteries – Lecture IV – September 5, 1908

This is not the only time Steiner talked about it. Actually, there are many quotes referring to the same naming issue. I’d like to credit this important article by R. S. W. Bobbette that reports a huge list of Rudolf Steiner’s quotes about this topic. For the sake of this post we are not going through all of them, but if you’re interested check it out.

As you can see here Steiner is talking about the names of planets Mercury and Venus that were, at some point in history, interchanged. In his words, this was purposely made because it was not desired for the real names to be revealed. So Venus was called Mercury, and Mercury Venus. But why was that?

To understand the whole picture, the first thing I’d like to point out is that Steiner made a distinction between the esoteric (inner) knowledge of the Mysteries and the so called exoteric, outer knowledge. This is a very important aspect of the whole issue if we want to understand it correctly.

Mercury and Venus in the Copernican System

Now, with this distinction in mind, let’s take a look to the quote below. The quote is taken from the cycle of lectures “Spiritual Hierarchies”, and what’s interesting about it is that it comes with a diagram of the planetary spheres:

“You may be astonished at the sequence in which I have placed the planets [see picture below]. When the earth is here, and the Sun there, you would have thought that I should draw Mercury in the vicinity of the Sun, and Venus here. But no! For these Planets have had their names interchanged, in later Astronomy. That which is called Mercury to-day was called Venus in all ancient teachings, and that which is called Venus was called Mercury.

Thus, note it well, one does not understand the ancient writings when one takes that which in them is called Venus or Mercury for the Venus or Mercury of the present day. That which is said about Venus has to be applied to the Mercury of to-day, and what is said about Mercury to Venus. For those two designations were later interchanged. On the occasion when man turned the world system topsy-turvy, when the earth was deprived of its central position, the perspective was not only changed, but the designations of Mercury and Venus were also changed.”

Spiritual Hierarchies —Lecture VI — 1909
Mercury and Venus — Celestial Spheres — Spiritual Hierarchies
A picture of the Copernican System described in Spiritual Hierarchies —Lecture VI

The planetary arrangement in this picture is very peculiar. Here Steiner uses both the heliocentric model (Copernicus) and the geocentric model (Ptolemy) for the inner planets. As you can see the Earth, the Moon, Mercury, Venus and the Sun are drawn with both the heliocentric and geocentric orbits.

What Steiner is doing is starting from the heliocentric model that we all know. And he is arranging the planets in a specific position that makes possible the overlapping between this model and the old geocentric model. In doing so, he is suggesting that this overlapping is plausible. Honestly I don’t know why he doesn’t introduce the Tychonic System at this point, because what he is doing is basically describing it.

We are going to talk about it later as the solution to this riddle. But for now, let’s go back to Mercury and Venus. In the quote, Steiner says that “these Planets have had their names interchanged, in later Astronomy”. But was it really so? Did Copernicus inverted the names of these two planets? That would be something extremely well known by common astronomers because it has to do with the history of astronomy itself.

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