Anthroposophy and Astrology — PART 1

If you are reading this article most likely you are going to find what you’re looking for in this series of posts. Many people have the interest—sometimes the urge—to answer to many issues regarding Astrology in the light of Anthroposophy. Do know that you’re not alone.

In this first article I am going to touch the main issues that any anthroposopher interested in Astrology would stumble upon. The same applies to any astrologer concerned about what Anthroposophy has to say in regards to this hermetic art. There are indeed a few controversial topics that need to be clarified and this series of articles goes in that direction.

Please also note that this is part of a research: any valuable piece of information you might have to contribute—or deny—the content of this post is highly appreciated. We’re all seeking the truth.

The Horoscope

First of all we need to understand whether Astrology is plausible or not from an anthroposophical perspective. As any practitioner knows, Astrology holds its foundation in a very simple principle: the life of anything born on earth is described by the configuration of the sky at the moment of its birth.

Astrology is the art of interpreting this sky configuration (the astrological chart) to get a better understanding of the object of our investigation. Potentially, this could be literally anything: a person, a dog, a tree, a marriage, a company, etc. Their astrological chart describes both their life and potential.

From an anthroposophical standpoint, it does exist a strong connection between a person and the heavens at the moment of birth. This quote from Rudolf Steiner will dispel any doubt:

“Now it is the active forces of the stellar world that impel a man into physical incarnation; and when clairvoyant consciousness observes a person, it can perceive in his organization how this has resulted from the co-operation of cosmic forces. And if one were to photograph a person’s brain at the moment of birth and then photograph also the heavens lying exactly over the person’s birthplace, this latter picture would be of exactly the same appearance as that of the human brain. As certain centres were arranged in the latter, so would the stars be in the photograph of the heavens. Man has within himself a picture of the heavens, and every man has a different one, according to whether he was born in this place or that, and at this or that time. This is one indication that man is born from out of the whole cosmos.”

Spiritual Guidance of Mankind: Lecture III, 8 June 1911

In this passage Steiner clearly and undeniably confirms the validity of the aforementioned astrological principle, specifically in regard to human beings. In my research I’ve never found such a clear statement about something else—plants, animals, a marriage, or a company for example.

However all Steiner’s instructions regarding biodynamic agriculture point out the importance of the appropriate moment for sowing according to the position of the stars. This also applies to other operations such transplanting or cropping, but sowing better reflects this principle.

Regarding non physical beings (marriage, company and such), we will return on this later on discussing about the laying of the foundation stone of the first Goetheanum. For now we can all agree on the fact that Anthroposophy validates the foundational principle of the natal chart or horoscope.

The First Goetheanum
THE FIRST GOETHEANUM

Steiner’s point of view on Astrology

Even though Steiner confirmed the basic principle of astrology he had always wanted to distance himself from it. This quote is a perfect example of how on one hand he implied the validity of Astrology, but on the other he was discrediting it:

“The truth underlying the casting of a horoscope is that those who know these things can read the forces which determine a person’s physical existence. A certain horoscope is allotted to a person because, within it, those forces find expression which have led him into being. If for example, in the horoscope, Mars stands over Aries (the Ram) that signifies that certain of the Aries forces are not allowed to pass through —and are weakened. Thus is a man put into his place within physical existence, and it is in accordance with his horoscope that he guides himself before entering upon earthly existence.

This subject, which in our times seems so much a thing of chance should not be touched upon without our attention being called to the fact that nearly everything practiced in this connection today is simply dilettantism—a pure superstition—and that for the external world the true science of these matters has been for the most part completely lost. Consequently, the principal things which have been said here are not to be judged according to that which nowadays frequently leads a questionable existence under the name Astrology.

Spiritual Guidance of Mankind: Lecture III, 8 June 1911

If the Mars in Aries passage left you confused we are going to discuss it later. For now let’s stick to Steiner’s words on Astrology: dilettantism, pure superstition, leading a questionable existence. They are harsh words, to the point that saying he is belittling it is an euphemism.

But why? How is it that Steiner apparently seems to be so much against such an ancient and respectable tradition?

Spiritual Science vs Symbolic Interpretation

First of all, we need to understand that all Steiner’s efforts were focused on the development of a real spiritual science. This is very important to consider.

As a leader in this completely unexplored field, he wanted people to start developing the means (clairvoyant organs of perception) to have direct spiritual experiences by themselves. In other words, if you want to address to cosmic laws as a spiritual researcher:

  1. You have to experience them directly. You can’t scientifically investigate phenomena you are not able to see. So if you aren’t a clairvoyant you can’t speak from a spiritual science perspective;
  2. You need to have a scientific mindset. Even though you might be able to perceive those forces, in order to study them in anthroposophical terms you need to embrace a scientific mindset.

As you can imagine this is not only very hard, but in Steiner’s words also very advanced.

This has to do with the degrees of higher knowledge which—in Spiritual Science—are, in order: imaginative consciousness, inspirational consciousness and intuitive consciousness. For those who didn’t know them, intuitive consciousness is the most difficult to develop. In this regard, understanding what Steiner means with the term intuitive, he says:

How does Theosophy regard astrology? In the first place it must be said that at the present time people have little idea what astrology really is. For what often appears as astrology nowadays in handbooks is a purely external collection of rules whose deeper foundations are not anywhere explained. Methods of calculation are given, by which one can calculate the constellations of the stars for a person’s moment of birth or for the time of another important event.

Then it is stated that these constellations mean this or that, though one never learns from these indications why this should all be so, or even how it could be so. It is no wonder, therefore, that people today see all this as nonsense, swindle, and superstition. For it all appears to be quite arbitrary, to be assertions that are completely made up.
The real astrology, however, is quite an intuitive science and demands of those who wish to practice it the development of higher supersensible powers of knowledge. These powers can be present today in very few persons. If one were to set forth the basic character of astrology, one would have to consider, in the light of spiritual science, the highest cosmological problems. For this reason only a few, ordinary aspects can be mentioned here. 

[…]

So it happens that astrological writings, even though they are of such obscure origin, always contain pearls of wisdom to be found by the person capable of intuition—but indeed only by such a person.

Certainly astrological laws rest upon intuitions in comparison with which the knowledge of reincarnation and karma is still very elementary.

Issue 28 of the journal Luzifer-Gnosis

Now, the practice of Astrology is based on the interpretation of symbols, not on a direct observation of cosmic forces. It is true that speculating on a chart is very different from a real scientific understanding of the underlying phenomenon it represents. However, throwing the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion doesn’t make any sense especially because—even though only indirectly—astrological laws can be tested.

This might not be completely scientific, nevertheless it has a technical aspect to it. And this is undeniable.

An astrological chart

Astrology has changed

To better understand Steiner’s attitude we also need to understand that the type of astrology practiced at the time was very different from modern psychological Astrology. Classical astrology is very valuable, but its main focus was describing the outer conditions of the native. The psychological and spiritual dimensions of the individual were basically lacking.

Let’s take some examples. Of course my intention is not to denigrate classical astrology, but to point out its focus on external circumstances. For this reason I am going to roughly translate from a very renowned italian website—Cielo e Terra—some quotes from hellenistic astrologers about Mercury opposite Moon:

MERCURY OPPOSITE MOON

Dorotheus: “Indicates disagreements, public disputes; whoever is born will be the object of great defamation and will be shy in speaking.”
Anubio: “It raises the discord of the majority, popular dissent and clamor and makes those who have no courage in words.”
Valens: “The one who is born has a changing will in the things predicted and is treated with ingratitude in his actions and therefore receives damage from those to whom he joins.”

As you can see these statements are all very practical, easily verifiable and external. But none of them talks about issues regarding the relationship between emotions (Moon) and communication (Mercury). The inner dimension is not taken into account.

This doesn’t mean these statements are wrong. In anthroposophical terms we would say that they were suitable to the stage of development of men of that time. But now for almost a century modern astrology has strongly shifted the focus from external circumstances to psychological dynamics.

This means that we are not only interested in what might happen outwardly but also in why that might be so. We are looking for the inner causes of external effects. And we know that sometimes those effects might not even manifest outside.

Astrology has evolved into a suitable tool for the modern man. It is a product of its time and it reflects current human needs and issues. The astrology criticized by Rudolf Steiner is not the Astrology we practice today. Even though it is very different from a direct clairvoyant investigation we can nevertheless use it as a tool in our efforts to enlighten the human soul. Thousands of astrologers and serious researchers do it every day.

Steiner’s quote about the Horoscope and the Soul

Since we discussed about Astrology as a tool to research the human soul, I want to focus now on a very important quote I’ve found in the book Horoscope Handbook by Adrian Anderson Phd (you can visit his website at this link). Let’s jump straight to it:

“The horoscope which has been cast for thousands of years for the individual corresponded with infallible exactitude to the soul ….”

From an archive lecture, not in the German Complete Works, from Feb. 2nd 1911

The quote is at page 5 of Anderson’s book and I reported it exactly as in the book (both text and source).

As you can see this is a very important quote. Not only because it confirms—again—the validity of the horoscope but also because 1. it addresses specifically to the human Soul and 2. it indirectly confirms the use of the tropical zodiac (we are going to discuss it in PART 2).

I really wanted to find the conference of February 2nd 1911 at this point. But for some reason I couldn’t find it anywhere! With this goal in mind I emailed Mr. Anderson, asking him where I could find it. This was his reply that I was given permission to publish:

The lecture mentioned in my Lost Horoscope book is not available in English (so far as I know); and it is probably not even in the Gesamtausgabe. It was only once printed: in 1945 in Dornach  in the ”Wochenschrift”.
I have one of these original 1945 newsletters in the Archive section of my library. The date of the lecture is incorrectly given in the newsletter as 2nd Feb., it was actually given Feb 1st. So that makes it even harder to find.
The situation is, that  only a few pages of notes were written printed; so there is nothing else reported from the lecture about horoscopes – even though it appears that most of the lecture was about astrology.
So very regrettable that the notes are incomplete.
I can assure you that the quote which I give in my book is all there is in the notes about this topic.

Adrian Anderson Phd — email sent on October 20, 2019

The Gesamtausgabe is the German Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner, whereas the Wochenschrift is the weekly bulletin of the Goetheanum.

Apparently we can’t say much more about this quote for now. Further research would need to consult directly Steiner’s archives in Dornach. If any reader had the opportunity to visit it, please contact me. That would be a precious contribution to this research.

What we can say at this point

This is just the first part of a series of articles on the topic. For now we can say that the impulse given by Steiner in regards to the study of cosmic forces goes in the direction of a new spiritual science.

However, when it comes to the application of the results of those investigations, a completely different scenario opens.

In the next article we are going to discuss about Steiner’s use of the horoscope of two albino children during two lectures on Curative Education in 1924. We also going to deepen some controversial questions such as the validity of the tropical zodiac and the supposed inversion of the planets Mercury and Venus.

If you don’t want to miss them please subscribe to the newsletter on the top bar of this website. Thank you very much for reading.

Biography Work According to Anthroposophy

Recently, I’ve come across a very interesting book: The Human Life by George O’Neil and Florin Lowndes. This is a book about biography work, a discipline well known among anthroposophers (Giorgio if you are reading this, thanks for the advice!).

For those who never heard about Anthroposophy, it is a conception of the world founded by the Austrian philosopher, social reformer and esotericist Rudolf Steiner. I don’t want to go into that because it’s a huge topic and this post would probably turn into an article about it. In fact Anthroposophy is the mother of Waldorf Education, Biodynamic Agriculture and the Camphill Movement (just to name a few). So if you are interested you can start from here.

Biography Work

In a nutshell, Biography Work is the dynamic understanding of the human life. It is a way of looking at your biography as a piece of artwork you consciously contribute to create. And I say contribute because your life is driven by its own laws. We can’t ignore them; we need to learn the way to listen to them and understand them. In other words, it’s never a creation from scratch. You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. But you can definitely be an active part in order to live a meaningful life. That’s the goal of Biography Work.

The Chart

The book comes with a beautiful chart (it’s a poster by the way). It pictures the archetype of a human life divided in septennia (the rainbows below) in a way that they can also mirror each other.

The colors help to catch easily the relationship between events and experiences that we wouldn’t connect otherwise. Those correspondences are based on spiritual laws of rhythm and reflection discovered by Rudolf Steiner. You can think of it as a spiritual “breathing”: outer events and inner processing create together the game of life.

This chart is a potent, living symbol we can work with. Check it out, it’s stunning.

Biography Work Chart by George O'Neil

Planetary Spheres

As an astrologer I was at first interested in the correspondences between planets and septennia. From an astrological perspective they are indeed pretty obvious.

The chart starts at the top left corner with the Moon (0-7 years), and proceeds down through the spheres of Mercury (7-14 years) and Venus (14-21 years). This top-down representation means that as you grow your spirit gradually incarnate from the spiritual realms down to earth. This process ends with the formation of what Anthroposophy regards as the “body”. Please note I am simplyfing a lot, since Anthroposophy talks about a physical body, an etheric body and an astral body.

Then, the central part of the incarnation takes place. From 21 to 42 you are under the influence of the Solar Sphere. Here you go through a long threefold phase (3 septennia) of exploration and learning. If everything goes well, that should lead you eventually to understand who you really are. The central part of the incarnation is about the Soul: the second component of the human being.

Finally, the real spiritual journey begins (yes, at 42!). Now you know where you come from and who you really are. You have everything you need to do what you came down on earth for. It’s time for action, the influence of Mars kiks in (42-49 years). This is also called the “second adolescence” and it is a reflection of the experiences that took place on the Sphere of Venus (14-21).

You are now going upwards, ascending the ladder of wisdom. The Sphere of Jupiter (49-56) makes you a mature person, in the same way the Sphere of Mercury (7-14) gave you juvenile vitality and curiosity. At last, those vital forces begin to retreat as the influence of Saturn (56-63) grows stronger. These three septennia refers to the development of what Anthroposophy calls the Spirit.

In conclusion

The journey, of course, proceeds. But you are now a “child of the gods”: you are free from the influence of the planetary spheres. Or at least from the classic septenary, since the correspondences continue with the generational planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). Your life is now one with the life of others.

This article was just an introduction to a very complex subject. If you are not familiar with Anthroposophy the book itself is nevertheless an excellent compendium. If you want to deepen the threefold nature of the human being according to Anthroposophy I highly suggested the book Theosophy by Rudolf Steiner (you can find it here for free).