In a previous article about Astrosophy we discussed about the spiritual origins of the Sidereal Zodiac. In this post, we are going to continue this series that focuses on the Three Zodiacs. We are going to be talking specifically about the Tropical Zodiac, and its relationship with the spiritual hierarchies and the Soul World.
In this way, not only we are going to better understand its genesis as we have done for the Sidereal. But we are also going to deepen its relationship with the Soul World and the planetary spheres.
All this, to develop further the impulse for an integrated form of Astrology that takes into account the Zodiac Archetype on all its levels of manifestation: Spiritual, Soul and Physical.
Again, let’s start from the general scheme of the Three Zodiacs. As we know, the Zodiac Archetype unfolds on three levels, manifesting itself into the:
- Spiritual World as the Sidereal Zodiac;
- Soul World as the Tropical Zodiac;
- Physical World as the Astrological Houses.
As we have done for the Sidereal, we can ask ourselves: where does the Tropical Zodiac come from? While the Sidereal is ancient as the stars in the sky, we are going to see that the Tropical is way much younger.
The Birth of the Tropical Zodiac
The Tropical Zodiac is determined by the relationship between the Sun and the Earth. We discussed about it in the article on the Three Zodiacs, so check it out if this concept is new to you.
In a nutshell, the Tropical Zodiac always starts with the Spring Equinox. So that the Vernal Point coincides with 0° tropical Aries which, as you may know, it’s not aligned anymore with the constellation of the Ram.
This being said, let’s now tackle the birth of the Tropical Zodiac. In order to do so, I’d like to point out one thing first—even though it might seem obvious. If we didn’t have the Earth and the Sun as separate celestial bodies, we couldn’t possibly talk about a Tropical Zodiac!
In fact we wouldn’t have the seasons, nor the Vernal Point. This means that only when the Earth separated from the Sun the Tropical Zodiac came into being.
From the point of view of modern Astronomy, the separation of the Earth from the Sun is a plausible hypothesis concerning the evolution of the Solar System. And according to Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual scientific inquiry, this event really took place during the so called Hyperborean Epoch.
In Anthroposophy, the history of the Solar System is divided in various periods and sub-periods. The Hyperborean Epoch is indeed characterized by this grandiose event of the Sun separating from the Earth. From that moment, we can start talking about a Tropical Zodiac.
The Separation of the Earth from the Sun
The separation of the Earth from the Sun might seem a little bit weird, if this is the first time you have heard of it. So why did the Earth separate from the Sun in the first place? In the previous post, we mentioned the three stages of evolution that any cosmic system goes through: Planet, Sun (or Star) and Zodiac.
We saw how the separation of the planets from the Sun is a fundamental step to allow it to ignite itself into a Star, and moving further in its evolution. This step is the intermediate stage between being a planet (as it was before starting to shine) and becoming a Zodiac.
In the Occult Science (G.A. 13) Steiner explains that this separation was required. It was the only way for both mankind on the Earth, and the higher beings on the Sun, to develop further on their evolution. For similar reasons, it was not only the Earth that separated from the Sun at that time, but also the planets Mercury and Venus.
This separation allowed the creation of an intermediate sphere between the Earth (matter) and the Stars (spirit). In fact, the space existing between the Earth and the Sun, are made of the regions of the Soul World. And as we know, the Soul World is a sort of Middle Earth. So we can say that:
- On the Earth we have the life in the Physical World;
- Between the Earth and the Sun we have the life of the Soul in the Soul World;
- Beyond the Sun we have the life of the Spirit in the Spiritual World.
Standing between the Earth and the Sun, the Tropical Zodiac can rightfully be called the Zodiac of the Soul World.
In other words, it’s the manifestation of the Zodiac Archetype in the Soul World itself. It is an echo, a reflection, or a condensation of the Sidereal Zodiac, which dwells in the higher regions of the Spiritual World, down into the Soul World.
Later on, we are going to see how the Tropical Zodiac is basically an emanation of the spiritual activity of the Solar Spirits. If you are interested in the relationship between the Sidereal and the Tropical Zodiacs, you can check my article on the Platonic Year.
The Second Hierarchy and the Planets
As we have seen, the separation of the planets from the Sun is part of the evolution process of any cosmic system. But how does it work? How does a planet come into being from a spiritual perspective?
I am going now to deepen the question because it will help us to understand how the Tropical Zodiac is an emanation of the Solar Sphere. And to do this, we must first understand the relationship between the Sun and the Planets.
In fact, theirs is not a mere material separation. Behind it, we can find powerful spiritual activities which involves the beings of the so called Second Hierarchy.
As we have already seen, 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.
Let’s focus now on the spiritual beings of the Second Hierarchy. In Anthroposophy they are called Spirits of Wisdom (Dominations), Spirits of Movement (Virtues) and Spirits of Form (Powers or Elohim).
To understand how a planet is born, we are now going to talk specifically about the Spirits of Form and the Spirits of Movement.
The Council of the Spirits of Form
The Spirits of Form are a synod or council of mainly Seven Spirits, having its seat in the Sun. In particular, six of them have their center on the Sun itself, from which they radiate their activity. One instead, remained behind with the Earth, transferring its center of activity on the Moon. It was them who separated the Sun from the Earth, so they could move on with their evolution.
But how do the Spirits of Form relate to a physical planet? In order to answer to this question, we need to understand that in general terms, their activity has always to do with an individuation process, which requires the formation of boundaries.
This is an action we see them doing over and over again, during the overall evolution of the Solar System. They confine and divide, and by doing so they give a form—a limit—to something. Hence the name of Spirits of Form.
But in regards to the planets, what do they limit? What are the boundaries they are setting? The short answer, is that the boundaries they are setting are the orbits of the planets which move around the Sun.
For example we can say that, acting from the Sun, the Saturn Spirit of Form is setting the boundary of the orbit of the planet Saturn around the Sun. In the same way, the Spirit of Jupiter is setting the boundary of the orbit of planet Jupiter—and so on. So the boundaries they are setting are the orbit of the planets themselves.
But what are they limiting with these boundaries? As we mentioned in previous articles, from an esoteric perspective a planet is not only the physical object moving in outer space. A planet is something way much bigger, and we need a stretch of the imagination to picture it.
A Planet from a Spiritual Perspective
Try to imagine the whole orbit of Saturn completely filled by a thin, spiritual, etheric substance. Imagine this substance, which is contained inside that huge orbit, being not spherical—but of a stretched, lenticular shape.
All this etheric substance contained in the orbit of Saturn, is called “occult Saturn” and it’s an integral part of the planet from the spiritual perspective.
Think now about the orbit of planet Jupiter. This orbit is contained inside the orbit of Saturn, since Saturn is further from the Sun. Imagine it filled again by another etheric substance, contained by the orbit of planet Jupiter.
You’ll have two lenticular shapes, one into the other, with the second being more dense than the first.
Think now the other planets in the same fashion, as a series of concentric lenticular shapes which compenetrate one into the other like a sort of onion.
The Spirit of Form set the orbit of the planets as boundaries, through which they limit the particular etheric substance contained inside of it.
The Luciferic Spirits of Form and the Physical Planets
We can now finally understand how a physical planet is born, from a spiritual point of view. This because the activity of the Spirits of Form we’ve just described in the previous paragraph is being challenged by another activity. In Steiner’s Words:
Let us suppose that we had at point S the centre-point of the spiritual Council of the Spirits of Form; the Spirit of Form working upon Saturn would call forth this etheric globe, so that by the agency of this Spirit of Form a flattened globe would arise, as in the diagram. At an outermost point of this etheric globe, in opposition to the Spirit of Form working from the centre of the Sun works the rebel, the Luciferic Spirit of Form. He works from without inwards; opposingly.
Thus we have the normal Spirit of Form working outwards from the Sun, centrifugally; he brings about the occult Saturn, which is then to be seen as a mighty etheric globe with its centre-point in the Sun. At the periphery, working inwards from cosmic space, is an abnormal Spirit of Form who has cut himself off from the normal evolution of the others; and at point (a) through the combined working of the forces working inwards from cosmic space, and those others working outwards from the sun, there occurs an “inturning,” which finally becomes detached, and that is the physical planet Saturn.
Thus we have to imagine that where our physical eyes ace the planet Saturn, there are two forces working together; the one, the, normal force of the Spirit of Form working outward from the Sun; and at a definite point in opposition works the detached Spirit of Form. This produces an “in-turned” structure; the ether is notched, and this notch appears to the physical eye as the physical planet Saturn. Just the same occurs with the physical Jupiter, and with the physical Mars.The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature — Helsinki, April 8, 1912
From the sixth lecture of The Mission of Folk-Souls (G.A. 121, Oslo 1910) we know that these Luciferic Spirits of Form are Spirits of Movement who have fallen behind in their evolution. Basically, they remained at the lower level, the level of a Spirit of Form, rather than evolving into regular Spirits of Movement.
All this because, in the economy of the Universe, there is a need for one part to remain behind in order to serve specific tasks. So we don’t have to make the mistake of thinking these Spirits of Form as “bad” or “demonic”.
But what does all this have to do with the Tropical Zodiac? We have introduced the formation of a planet from a spiritual point of view, because it is a fundamental step to understand how actually the Tropical Zodiac is an emanation of the Solar Sphere. Let’s see now what I mean with the term emanation.
The Solar Sphere and the Tropical Zodiac
Please note that this article is the result of my personal research on the Tropical Zodiac, in the light of Anthroposophy. By no means do I consider it as a definitive truth on the matter. On the contrary, it wants to be a contribution towards a clearer understanding of the Tropical Zodiac.
This being said, I’d like now to focus on what Steiner said about the lenticular etheric globes, having their center-points in the Sun, later in the same conference:
For in truth here we have actually to do with a turning in, and to be really accurate the matter must in the first place be described as: the Spirits of form working from the Sun extended the etheric substance to a certain distance; there worked the abnormal Spirits of Form in opposition, and caved the substance in, so that in reality a hollow was made in the etheric substance.The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature — Helsinki, April 8, 1912
So not only the Spirits of Form limit the lenticular etheric globes. But they also extend the etheric substance they are made of, from the center of the Sun outwards, filling with it each planetary orbit. This is what in hermetic, neoplatonic terms I call an emanation.
And what’s interesting, is that this emanation concerns not only the etheric substance, but also something way more obvious: sunlight itself.
The Cherubim and Seraphim are those hierarchies which just as much take part in the whole working of the forces, as do the Spirits of Form. They have the task of bearing the power of light outwards from the center-point of the planetary system, from the center of the Sun. Inasmuch as the beings of the higher hierarchies, the Seraphim and Cherubim, become the bearers of light, they have now the same relation to the light as the forces of the Spirits of Form to the etheric substance.The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature — Helsinki, April 8, 1912
The light is carried out of the Solar Sphere by entities of the First Hierarchy we introduced in the previous article: the Seraphim and the Cherubim. Their task is similar to that of the Spirits of Form, but instead of working on the etheric substance, they work on the light.
The emanation of the Solar Sphere then consists of:
- Etheric Substance carried by the Spirits of Form;
- Sunlight carried by the Seraphim and Cherubim.
And, as we find Luciferic Spirits of Form, shaping the physical planets by opposing the regular ones, so we have Luciferic Seraphim and Luciferic Cherubim as well. What they do, is preserving the light of a Planet all inside of it—for its benefit only.
In fact those celestial bodies are planets, not Stars like the Sun. And as we saw in the previous article they are in a lower stage of evolution where they are able to only take, and not give. The light coming from the Sun is reflected back by the planets, affecting with its influence the entire Solar System.
Finally, here’s how in my opinion the Tropical Zodiac is part of this emanation.
The twelve-fold nature of the spiritual beings of the First Hierarchy—the Cherubim and the Seraphim—gets impressed through the light in the etheric substance, shaped by the Spirits of Form. In fact we know from the descriptions of Ancient Sun about the substantial relationship between the Etheric, Light (light ether), and the Air Element.
The result is an impression of the Zodiac Archetype, like a sort of wax cast, down on the Soul World. But in order to understand how the Soul World is involved, we need to talk about the crucial relationship that exists between Etheric substance and Soul substance. This is going to allow us to consider the Tropical Zodiac, the Zodiac of the Soul World, as an emanation of the Solar Sphere.
The Relationship between
Etheric Substance and Soul Substance
The relationship between the etheric substance and the soul substance is one of the most complex things I ever came across, studying Anthroposophy. Are they different, or are they the same? And if they are different, how do they interact with each other?
It is a complicated issue because we have to pass from the ternary system of Body, Soul and Spirit to the quaternary system of Physical Body, Etheric Body, Astral Body and I. To deepen the question you can read the book Theosophy, where Steiner elegantly transition from one system to the other.
Ironically, Steiner gave the solution to this substances riddle very explicitly in one of his books. But as always we can get lost very easily if we don’t put together all the pieces of the puzzle.
It is seen from Theosophy and Occult Science that soon after the detachment of the physical body from the soul at death, there is also detached from the soul that which in this book is called the etheric body. The soul then lives for a while in the entity which is here called the astral body. The etheric body, after being detached from the soul, is transformed within the elemental world. It passes into the beings forming that world. When this transformation of the etheric body takes place, the soul which had lived in it is no longer there.
The soul, however, experiences as its outer world after death the processes of the elemental world. This experience of the elemental world “from without” is described in Theosophy and Occult Science as the passage of the soul through the “soul-world.” It must therefore be realised that this soul-world is identical with that which, from the standpoint of clairvoyant consciousness, is in this book called the elemental world.The Threshold of the Spiritual World (G.A. 17)
It was very surprising for me finding out that etheric substance and soul substance are basically the same thing, but from two different perspectives. The soul substance is such, when it is experienced inwardly by the human Soul that is crossed by it. But on the other hand, it’s called etheric substance when we are considering it “from without” as an object of spiritual observation.
More specifically, the ether substance can be considered as a compressed, or condensed, version of the soul substance itself. This is particularly evident if we remember that on Ancient Saturn the Will of the Thrones (soul substance) was compressed or “breathed out” into the so called warmth ether.
We can find another confirmation of this hypothesis if we take into account the Soul Body. In Theosophy, it’s described on one hand as a thinner extension of the Etheric Body. On the other, together with the sentient soul (the lowest limb of the Soul) it forms the Astral Body.
So as you can see in the concept of the Astral Body itself we find both the components—the etheric and the soul.
In conclusion, we can say that the First Hierarchy is always the bearer of the twelve-fold nature of the Zodiac Archetype. It was its intervention on a lower level that gave birth to the Tropical Zodiac.
In order to imprint the Zodiac Archetype on this level, the Soul World level, the work of the Spirits of Form (Elohim) was also required. In fact the Zodiac Archetype is impressed in the ethers, radiating from the Sun Sphere together with the light.
Hence, the Tropical Zodiac manifests itself through sunlight across the wheel of the year, according to the principles of Time and Light (light ether). In this regard, in Anthroposophy we talk about “The Twelve Moods” or “The Twelve Suns”.
In the sense we’ve described in this article, the Spirits of Form can be rightfully called the Spirits of the Planets. The most interesting aspect of their intervention, being them involved in the formation of the Tropical Zodiac, is that the ancient astrological concept of Planetary Rulership can be revisited and understood in a new light. We are going to develop it further in a future post.
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 future posts about the Three Zodiacs. Thanks again and have a good week.
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.