Astrosophy — The First Hierarchy and the Spiritual Origins of the Sidereal Zodiac

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This article is a continuation of the previous post on the Three Zodiacs. There, we provided a bigger picture about the Zodiac Archetype, and the ways it manifests through the three levels of existence: the spiritual, the soul and physical. The understanding of the Three Zodiacs in fact is the foundation for an integrated form of Astrology, able to consider all three points of view.

In this article we are going to develop this impulse further, talking specifically about the Spiritual Origins of the Sidereal Zodiac in the light of Astrosophy. And we are also going to understand the way the Sidereal Zodiac became the manifestation of this high Archetype.

We want to start from the description of the Zodiac Archetype we have given in the previous article, which articulates in three different expressions. The Archetype of the Zodiac manifests itself in the:

  • Spiritual World as the Sidereal Zodiac;
  • Soul World as the Tropical Zodiac;
  • Physical World as the Astrological Houses.

So let’s first of all trying to understand the Zodiac Archetype itself, according to Astrosophy and Spiritual Science. In fact we need to understand it better, before moving on to the Sidereal Zodiac—subject of this article.

The Spiritual Origins of the Sidereal Zodiac

The Archetype of the Zodiac is in its essence purely spiritual. For this reason we can think of its three levels of manifestation as a progressive descent into matter. So even before considering the constellations of the Sidereal Zodiac, we have to understand what the Archetype of the Zodiac really is.

To do this, the Spiritual Scientific inquiry requires the development of the highest clairvoyant faculties. Or in other words what in Anthroposophy we call Intuition, a degree of higher knowledge that follows Inspiration and Imagination. The description of the stages of higher knowledge goes beyond the scope of this article. If you are interested you can find out more here. For now, just keep in mind that we are talking about extremely high spiritual experiences.

To Intuitive Knowledge, the Archetype of the Zodiac reveals itself as a community of Twelve sublime Spiritual Entities. In Anthroposophy these entities are called Spirits of Harmony. But we also find them in the Western Esoteric Tradition under the name of Cherubim.

As we will see later, this is a simplification since more spiritual entities are involved. But for now let’s say that the Archetype of the Zodiac corresponds to the sphere of the Cherubim. Let’s see it now into more detail.

The Bull, the Lion, the Eagle and the Man

Our forefathers who, through their traditions, were still conscious of these most important facts, represented the Cherubim as those strangely winged animals with differently formed heads — the winged Lion, winged Eagle, winged Bull, winged Man. The fact is, that the Cherubim made their approach from four sides, in forms afterwards represented in the way the Cherubim are known to us. In the schools of the first post-Atlantean Initiates, these Cherubim, approaching the Ancient Sun on four sides, were given names, which later became the names, Bull, Lion, Eagle, Man.

The Spiritual Hierarchies – GA 110, Dusseldorf, April 13, 1909

In this passage Steiner is describing what we usually call the four Fixed Signs, which correspond to the Constellations of the Bull (Taurus), the Lion (Leo), the Eagle (Scorpio) and the Man (Aquarius). Please note that the signs refer to the Tropical Zodiac. Whereas the constellations, that we are taking into account here, to the Sidereal.

You may have noticed that two of them have different names: the Eagle and the Man. As he is going to explain later on, the Eagle was renamed as Scorpio. As well as the Man, which was then called Aquarius—the Water-man.

The change of those names concerns complex cosmic processes. But for those familiar with the Anthroposophical cosmogony, the Eagle was named Scorpio because from this constellation took place the process of death which manifested for the first time on the Ancient Sun, right below it. The Aquarius instead, was an expression of the condensation of the elements in the liquid state (Water) which happened during the Ancient Moon, again right below this constellation.

Wheel of the Zodiac, icon

The Twelve Constellations

So far we mentioned just four constellations. But what about the others? We said that the community of the Cherubim includes twelve spiritual beings in total. Later on in the same conference Steiner explained how to consider the others:

It may strike you that we have mentioned only four names of the Zodiac. These are the principal expressions for the Cherubim; for in reality each of those Cherubic forms has to left and to right a sort of follower or companion. Think of the form of each Cherubim having two companions and you will have twelve forces and powers encircling the Sun, certain indications of which already existed on the Ancient Saturn. We have twelve such powers, belonging to the kingdom of the Cherubim, who have to perform their task in the Universe in the way we have just described.

The Spiritual Hierarchies – GA 110, Dusseldorf, April 13, 1909

So each of the four Cherubim has two companions, so to speak. One to the right and one to the left. Using the English terms for the constellations, and the latin terms for the signs, we can say that:

  • The Bull has the Ram (Aries) and the Twins (Gemini) as companions;
  • The Lion has the Crab (Cancer) and the Virgin (Virgo) as companions;
  • The Eagle (Scorpio) has the Scales (Libra) and the Archer (Sagittarius) as companions;
  • The Water-Man (Aquarius) has the Goat (Capricorn) and the Fishes (Pisces) as companions.

The Cherubim in the Scriptures

The companions to the right and left of each central Cherub are represented by two wings. We have then the winged Bull, the winged Lion, the Eagle and the Angel (winged man) that Steiner described in the first quote we have reported.

In the Old Testament they are the four Hayyoth (Living Creatures) of Ezekiel’s vision, where each Cherub has four faces: that of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle. In the New Testament instead, they appear in the book of Revelation 4:6–8 with three pairs of wings each, covered with eyes.

Christ in majesty in A MANDORLA, surrounded by emblems of the evangelists
13TH-CENTURY IVORY CARVING – Musée de Cluny, Paris.

In sacred art they were represented in a tetramorph—a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements. Most of the times they refer to the four evangelists, such as in the 13th century carving above. The winged bull represents Luke, the winged Lion Mark, the eagle John and the angel Matthew. They are the four perspectives from which we can understand the mystery of Golgotha.

What’s interesting about the four Living Creatures is that in the scriptures they appear in different forms. The way they appear in the book of Revelation, is particularly interesting. As we said, they are described as covered with eyes and having six wings. But usually we find these traits associated to the Seraphim, not to the Cherubim. So are they really Cherubim or rather Seraphim?

At the beginning of this article we mentioned that considering the Zodiac as a community of twelve Cherubim was a simplification. This because in general, the Zodiac is a community that includes not only the Cherubim, but all the spiritual beings of the so called First Hierarchy.

Triangolo Superno, icona

The First Hierarchy as the Spiritual Zodiac

Even if you might not be familiar with the concept of Spiritual Hierarchies, you have surely heard of the angelic choirs. According to this view, the earth is surrounded by nine angelic choirs, ranging from the lowest to the highest heaven. We can find this image everywhere throughout all the Western Spiritual Tradition. The nine angelic choirs are dived in three orders or hierarchies:

  • First Hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones;
  • Second Hierarchy: Dominations, Virtues, Powers;
  • Third Hierarchy: Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

In this article we are not going to cover the very complex topic of the Spiritual Hierarchies. What we want to take into account, is that the Spiritual Zodiac is not only formed by the Cherubim, but also by the choirs of the Seraphim and the Thrones. In fact all the spiritual beings of the First Hierarchy belong to the Spiritual Zodiac.

Thus, around ancient Saturn we must think of the Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim wielding their power, and they are to us, in the spiritual sense, the Zodiacal circle. […]

Suppose that you wanted to indicate the direction in which certain Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim are to be found. They are not all alike; but each one is very distinctly different from the other, they are all individualised, so that one indicates different Beings when one points with the finger to different places. And to be able to indicate the right Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, one marks the spot by a certain constellation of stars. This is then a mark or sign. In this direction one would say are the Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, called Gemini, in another those called Leo, and so on.

The Spiritual Hierarchies – GA 110, Dusseldorf, April 17, 1909

Traditionally, the central choir of the Cherubim is the most representative when we talk about the Spiritual Zodiac. We can understand this better if we look at the tasks of each choir:

  • The Seraphim receive the higher purpose of the cosmic system that the Zodiac embraces, directly from the Divine Trinity;
  • The Cherubim develop the higher purpose in perfect wisdom and harmony, translating it in executable plans;
  • The Thrones bring those plans into reality, executing them in creation.

So if the Seraphim are closer to God, and the Thrones are immersed in the creation, the Cherubim themselves represent at best the Spiritual Zodiac and its inherent harmony. Hence the name of Spirits of Harmony.

Star in Triangle, icon

Planet, Sun and Zodiac as Three Stages of Evolution

Now that we have a clear understanding of the Archetype of the Zodiac as a spiritual reality, we can ask ourselves: where does it come from? Where did the Zodiac—or rather a Zodiac—originate from? A Zodiac is always the result of a previous cosmic system, that goes through distinct stages of evolution.

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 – GA 102, Berlin, Jan 27, 1908

Let’s brake this quote down, in order to understand it better. Any cosmic system, such as the Solar System, goes through three distinct stages of evolution. They are:

  1. Planet: the spiritual beings part of the community belonging to a Planet receives love, support and spiritual substance by the star (or stars) of the System and by the Zodiac. It is the lowest stage, since here they mainly receive, and are not able to give yet.
  2. Star (or Sun): a planet evolves into a state where it is able not only to receive, but also to give. It becomes a star, and it contributes to the life of the other planets. However, a Sun has also to receive because it still depends from the Zodiac. Since it both gives and receives, it’s in an intermediate level of evolution.
  3. Zodiac: in this level, the Sun absorbs in itself all the other planets, integrating them in its sphere. Reaching this point it explodes, irradiating out in the cosmos its essence. By doing this it creates—through its own sacrifice—a whole new Zodiac. This is the final stage of evolution of any cosmic system.

Ascending or Descending Sequences

The sequence we have just described is an ascending (or evolutionary) sequence: from the lowest to the highest [Planet → Sun → Zodiac]. However, this is the matter from our perspective—the perspective of creation. But we can also understand it the other way around, by looking at the descending (or manifesting) sequence [Zodiac → Sun → Planet]. That’s the perspective of the creators.

Starting from the Spiritual Zodiac, we find the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones sacrificing themselves. They create a new cosmic system, streaming down their spiritual essence and substance in an empty and lenticular “space”.

The newly created system continues its development, condensing itself more and more. You can imagine it shrinking gradually, and by doing so leaving behind all the planets. Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and so on—all the planets are gradually left behind.

This until it manages to ignite itself into a Sun, reaching the second stage of evolution. Here the forces begin to ascend back towards the Zodiac, shining above the expelled planets.

As we mentioned, the final step·—which our system has yet to begin—will consist in gradually reintegrate inside the Sun-Star all the ejected planets. By doing so, the Star will eventually explode into what’s going to form a new Spiritual Zodiac.

This constitutes the birth of something completely new within the Universe as a result of a cosmic process. If you are wondering, the goal of our cosmic system was to create Mankind—a new Spiritual Hierarchy of Love and Freedom.

The Sidereal Zodiac
The Stars as Bodies of the Gods

On one hand the Sidereal Zodiac is the direct manifestation or expression of the spiritual Archetype of the Zodiac itself. But on the other, it is actually made of stars—physical stars—grouped in constellations that we can actually see.

So we can ask ourselves: what’s the relationship between the spiritual beings and the actual physical stars? We can look at the stars as the physical bodies of the spiritual beings themselves—the bodies of the Gods.

What has gone forth into space from the bodies of the gods has become star. Looking up into the starry worlds, this is how the Greek saw the planets and the fixed stars. He said to himself: “The spiritual beings whom we revere as gods were once upon a time out there in space. They have undergone development. When they reached that point which for them corresponds with what for man during earthly existence is death, then their physical substance left them and became star. Stars are the bodies of gods, gods whose souls work on in the world in another way, independently of those bodies“.

Wonders of the World – GA 129 – August 21, 1911

We can understand from this quote that a star is not only a physical manifestation of a spiritual being. It is the result of a spiritual process that they have overcome. They moved on. As always the Physical World is the “inertia of the Spirit”—it’s what the Spirit left behind.

When we look up at the sky, and contemplate the vastness of the stellar worlds, we see the result of ancient cosmic processes from which the Gods have now withdrawn. Their activity continues to work in the world in another way, but the trace of their past work is still there, acting on the earth through the light of the stars.

This is why we can look at the Sidereal Zodiac as the condensed bodies of the First Hierarchy, the true Spiritual Zodiac.

In Conclusion

The First Hierarchy and the spiritual origins of the Sidereal Zodiac are both very complex topics. We can summarize what we have described in this article by saying that:

  • The Zodiac Archetype (or Spiritual Zodiac) corresponds to the spiritual beings of the First Hierarchy, with the Cherubim as its representatives;
  • The Spiritual Zodiac is the result of the evolution of previous cosmic systems;
  • The stars are the bodies of the Gods, and they are a trace of spiritual processes of the past;
  • The twelve constellations of the Sidereal Zodiac are the condensed bodies of the First Hierarchy, the true Spiritual Zodiac.

Thanks for reading, as always if you enjoyed this article please subscribe to the Astronomicon Newsletter with the bar at the top of the website to receive weekly updates, and not to miss the future posts about the Three Zodiacs. Thanks again, and have a good week.

5 comments

  1. This is quite beautifully developed, I didn’t think it was possible to condense such complexity with such clarity but here it has been accomplished. The images are unique and carefully constructed to support that clarity – I truly have not come across anything like them. I am deeply appreciative of your work.

  2. Hey Charo, thanks to you! Trying my best to process Steiner’s work to connect and develop more and more the impulse of Astrosophy :)

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