In PART 1 of this series of posts about Anthroposophy and Astrology, we have discussed about the Horoscope from an anthroposophical perspective. We have also talked about Steiner’s point of view on Astrology. We have pointed out the differences between spiritual science and symbolic interpretation, and explained why their approach is fundamentally different.
In this article we are going to tackle one of the main issues for astrologers interested in Anthroposophy. What is the “right zodiac” to use in astrological charts? This is an old debate in the astrological community. But what has Anthroposophy to say about it? Let’s jump right into it.
Tropical, Sidereal or Astronomical Zodiac?
Signs and constellations are not the same thing. Explaining the differences between Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac is not the purpose of this post, so if you are new to the topic you can deepen it further here. Long story short, we can say that zodiacal signs are not strictly speaking a group of stars (constellation) but a uniform division of the ecliptic into twelve segments. They depend on seasons, not on the actual position of the stars.
This is a very well known topic for astrologers. Tropical Zodiac is the zodiac that refers to signs, whereas Sidereal Zodiac—sidus meaning star—to constellations. Every year the two zodiacs slowly separate, to the point that right now they are one sign distant from each other (see the picture below).
Both zodiacs are used by ancient and respectable traditions. It would be inconclusive trying to demonstrate which is the “right zodiac”, simply because they are the result of different types of investigations. But what does Anthroposophy say about it? What’s the zodiac used by Rudolf Steiner?
The short answer is both. Rudolf Steiner not only used tropical and sidereal zodiac in his arguments, but he also gave specific indications about the usage of the actual Astronomical Zodiac. The Astronomical Zodiac is another way of looking at the Sidereal Zodiac, so this makes three zodiacs in total.
The Astonomical Zodiac
Let’s briefly explain what the Astronomical Zodiac is about.
The Sidereal Zodiac refers to the twelve classical constellations crossing the ecliptic. But even though the constellations have different sizes, the division of the ecliptic is still uniform: twelve slices of the same size. The Astronomical Zodiac instead divides it according to the actual extent of the constellations.
For example, try to compare in the blue ring below Aries—which is very small—to Virgo or Pisces—which are very large. As you can see the Astronomical Zodiac (in blue) is an uneven division of the ecliptic, whereas the Sidereal Zodiac (in purple) and Tropical Zodiac (in orange) divides the ecliptic evenly:
Keeping in mind that something such as “the right zodiac” doesn’t make much sense, here’s some examples of when and how Steiner used different types of zodiac. If you know about other examples that are not in the list please write them on the comment section below. Any contribution is highly appreciated.
- Tropical Zodiac:
- The moment chosen for the laying of the foundation stone of the first Goetheanum in 1913 (the statement on the document doesn’t leave any doubt, see below);
- The Twelve Moods presented in Dornach in 1915. Steiner’s description of the mood of Cancer, refers to the summer solstice (which would fall in Gemini on the Sidereal Zodiac): “If you take the mood in Cancer, for example, in which after the ascent there again follows the descent, where one has the feeling that the sun comes to rest for a moment […] there you will be able to feel something from the way in which the words within the Cancer verse are placed.“;
- The Horoscope analysis of two albino children during two lectures on Curative Education in 1924 (see below);
- Sidereal Zodiac:
- Steiner’s division of The Platonic Year (12 times 2,160 or 25,920 years). Meaning that the division of the Sidereal Zodiac is uniform: “ … 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, 19 Jan. 1915;
- Astronomical Zodiac:
- The first edition of the Calendar of the Soul (Kalender 1912/1913) contains notes about the zodiac placement of the Sun and Moon. The position of the Sun is reported against the constellations. On the contrary, the position of the Moon refers to the tropical zodiac.
- The Agriculture Course in Koberwitz, 1924. Clear indications where given about using actual astronomical constellations.
More than One Zodiac
In my opinion different zodiacs hold different meanings.
The Tropical Zodiac for example attunes us to the seasons. It allows us to clearly recognize in Nature the specific quality—or “mood”— of each sign. Take for example November, when the Sun is in Scorpio: we can feel outside the atmosphere of the twilight of the year and connect to it. We can easily understand why this sign is about death, mysteries and the occult. The same applies pretty much to all other zodiac signs.
I believe the Tropical Zodiac to mainly reflect dynamics occurring in the etheric body and in the astral body. Personally, I use it in my astrological analysis because I find it very accurate in describing what’s going on at that level. Again, this is just the way I use it so this doesn’t mean the tropical is “the right and only” way to go.
On the other hand, the Sidereal Zodiac connects us to the actual spiritual life of the stars. They are literally the bodies of the gods, and we can use them to deepen our understanding of the spiritual hierarchies. The equal division of the sky doesn’t alter the harmony of the cosmos that we would expect from spiritual realities. It also sheds light on the laws of reincarnation, and in this regard the work of Robert Powell—inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s research on spiritual individualities—is very interesting.
Lastly, the Astronomical Zodiac has been used for almost a century by biodynamic farmers. In particular, I’d like to remember Maria Thun’s work. Many efforts and experiments have been done to determine the exact boundaries of the constellations, looking at how the plant kingdom responds to them.
So if the Sidereal Zodiac is able to give us some clues about reincarnation—the relationship between the I and the physical body—the Astronomical Zodiac seems to be more fit in describing the relationship between the physical body and the etheric body.
The albino children natal chart
In 1924, during a couple of lectures on Curative Education Steiner discussed about albinism. With the aid of Dr. Elisabeth Vreede, he introduced the horoscopes of two sisters affected by this condition. Going through the charts he explained how the etheric body of the children was affected by the natal position of the Moon and Mars.
As far as I know, this is the only documented case in which Steiner explicitly uses astrological charts. The gallery of images reported below clearly shows that Steiner refers to the Tropical Zodiac in his analysis.
Tomorrow we will speak about the other cases that you have at Lauenstein, and I shall be particularly glad to be able to consider with you the interesting phenomenon of albinism, which we have opportunity to study in two of your children. One of them is fifteen years old and the other a much younger sister of hers.
(Dr. Steiner asked Dr. Vreede [the original leader of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section at the Goetheanum] if she had drawn their horoscopes, and she handed them to him. The dates were 6th December, 1909, approximately 4 a.m., and 18th May, 1921, approximately 3 a.m., both at Jena.) How does Uranus stand? Did you not find any special constellations? (Dr. Vreede replied that she had — namely with Uranus and Neptune. In the case of the elder girl, Neptune was in opposition to Uranus.)5th July, 1924 – Curative Education Lecture 10
As you can see we have birth day, time and location of the children. This allows us to verify Steiner’s statements about their horoscopes.
The First Horoscope
Let’s take the first horoscope. Talking about the Moon Steiner said:
Take first this horoscope (of the elder sister). […]
Mars stands in complete opposition to the Moon.
Mars, which has Venus and Uranus in its vicinity, stands — itself — in strong opposition to the Moon. Here is the Moon and here is Mars. And Mars pulls along with it Uranus and Venus. And now I would ask you to pay careful attention also to the fact that the Moon is at the same time standing before Libra.6th July, 1924 – Curative Education Lecture 11
Let’s take a look to the charts. We expect to find Mars in opposition to the Moon in Libra. Is it the tropical Libra or the sidereal one? In the pictures below we can compare the tropical and the sidereal horoscopes; in addition we also have a simulation of the sky at the same date and location rendered with the software Stellarium . This gives us the astronomical position of the Moon.
As you can see none of those cases show the Moon exactly in Libra. This could be due to the approximate time of birth, or to calculation errors made by Elisabeth Vreede. However, the case that comes closest is the tropical one, where the Moon is about entering Libra. On the contrary, in both the sidereal and astronomical scenarios we are getting farther from it. In the astronomical scenario you can clearly see that the Moon is standing before the constellation of Virgo. No doubt about that.
The Second Horoscope
Let’s take now the second horoscope. Luckily, in this case we get a clearer picture about the position of the Moon. Steiner said:
On this second horoscope, Mars, Venus and Uranus are in close proximity, exactly as before; but when we examine more nearly the position of Mars, we find it is not, as before, in complete opposition to the Moon. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation to opposition.
But what strikes us as still more remarkable is that when we come to make our observation of the Moon, we discover she is again in Libra — while being at the same time, as we have seen, almost in opposition to Mars, which latter drags Uranus and Venus along with it.6th July, 1924 – Curative Education Lecture 11
So again we are looking for a Moon in Libra. Let’s take a look:
Now, the situation here refers without any doubt to the Tropical Zodiac. As you can see both the sidereal and astronomical positions of the Moon are in Virgo. Meaning that in the analysis of the etheric body of these children Rudolf Steiner used a classic Tropical Zodiac based horoscope.
The Laying of the foundation stone of the first Goetheanum
The laying of the foundation stone of a building is not a mere symbolic moment: it is the very birth of the building itself. This moment was reported on the parchment paper in the picture below, which is the document signed by the attendees during the event. I would like to link this important article that I found online that definitely helped me with this research.
Quoting the article, the statement on the lower part of the document translated from German says:
This Stone we lower into the kingdom of the condensed elements as symbol of the force for which we endeavour to strive through 3, 5, 7, 12, laid by the Johannes-Bau Verein, Dornach, on the 20th day of September 1880 after the Mystery of Golgotha, that is 1913 after the birth of Christ, when Mercury as the evening star stood in Libra.Source: https://tinyurl.com/wld967u
Again, verifying which zodiac has been used is very simple. Let’s take a look at the position of Mercury on the evening of the 20th of September 1913—when the parchment document was signed.
As you can see only in the tropical zodiac scenario (first picture) Mercury had just entered Libra. In the other two it is in Virgo and between Leo and Virgo, respectively.
Now, the position of Mercury clearly has a very important meaning. From an astrological perspective, it is what we call an election: choosing the best moment for an operation to take place, looking at the position of the stars and their influence on earth. Technically speaking this is a magical operation, and yes—I do believe Steiner knew exactly what he was doing,.
Some people refer to that statement as a symbolic moment—a vow to the spiritual world—as Elisabeth Vreede called it. I disagree. My take on this is that focusing on spiritual science, Steiner referred to something real and not merely symbolic. It wasn’t a vow, or a message to the spiritual world, or just an abstract symbol. It was an occult process, a real operation in the subtle realities, reported in the parchment paper on a specific date and time.
As astrologers and anthroposophers we feel the need for a unified system. Being able to bridge the hermetic current—of which Astrology is part—with Anthroposophy is no easy task. This series is a small contribute that goes in that direction.
This article turned out to be very long. For the sake of this series I am going to talk about the inversion of Mercury and Venus on PART 3. Thank you very much for reading, and if you are interested in the upcoming articles please subscribe to the mailing list through the toolbar on the top of this website.
I consider myself a free researcher in western spiritual disciplines, in particular Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy and the Neoplatonic Hermetic tradition. I have a three-year training in Astrology at the CIDA delegation of Trieste, the Italian Center for Astrological Disciplines. I graduated in Computer Engineering from the University of Trieste.