Astrosophy and The Planetary Spheres — The Sublunary Sphere and the Soul World

Reading Time : 9 minutes

The crescent Moon standing out in the night sky fascinated humanity since ancient times. Its mysterious, pale silver light has always been associated with the milk of the Great Mother. And her relationship with the waters and the tides immediately recalled a feminine imagination.

In a previous post we discussed about the Earth and the Four Ethers as the representatives of the Phsycal-Etheric World. In this article we are going to continue our exploration of the Planetary Spheres. We are going to talk about the Moon in relation to the so called Sublunary Sphere. And we’re also going to introduce the higher reality of the Soul World (or Astral World) as described by Rudolf Steiner.

Sublunary Sphere divided in 4 layers

But before jumping into this topic we need to introduce the concept of the Planetary Spheres. This because from a spiritual perspective a “Planet” is something very different from what in Astronomy usually means. This fundamental misunderstanding brought a lot of confusion concerning the way we view today the ancient conception on the Planets.

So let’s first and foremost introduce this concept that is going to accompany us through out all this series of articles.

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Astrosophy and The Planetary Spheres — The Earth and the Four Ethers

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“Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the Universe”
—Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (1924)

One of the goals of Astrosophy is to create a bridge between the world of the stars and the spiritual realities dwelling behind them. Being part of the Anthroposophical current, these efforts definitely fall under Steiner’s definition reported in the opening quote. Indeed, one of the tasks of Anthroposophy as a path of knowledge is to provide an image of the higher worlds—the spiritual realities beyond the world of the senses.

In this regard we want to consider Astrosophy as a complementary discipline to Astrology. The latter studies the dynamic relationships between the stars, providing a traditional wealth of knowledge to observe and identify the Archetypes at play in the physical world. The former deepens the spiritual realities at the very foundation of this tradition.

Vulcano Eruption as a symbol of the Four Elements and Four Ethers

In this series of articles we are going to talk about the three worlds described by Anthroposophy that we sometimes mentioned in previous posts. In particular, we are going to relate them to the planetary spheres in order to have a physical reference for them. This is going to allow us to expand our representations of the traditional astrological planets as well.

So let’s start with the our planet, the Earth, and the Physical World.

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Astrosophy — The Three Zodiacs, Expression of the Same Archetype

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In a previous article we talked about the Platonic Year and how it represents the relationship between the Sidereal Zodiac and the Tropical Zodiac. In this article we are going to add another one to our considerations, for a total of Three Zodiacs. We are also going to see how they relate to each other, highlighting a beautiful symmetry in the relationship between the three of them.

This post is part of a series of articles. Please note that the spirit of this series is to give the different Zodiacs a context. My intention is not to de-legitimize one astrological approach over another. In other words, I’m not saying that you should use one Zodiac—such as the Sidereal for example—rather than the Tropical. On the contrary, we want to abandon any one-sided approach on this matter.

So please consider this article as a contribution, an impulse that goes in the direction of integrating Astrology with an Anthroposophical understanding of the Cosmos.

The Three Zodiacs outlined over a starry background

The Three Zodiacs

At the end of our previous article we presented the following schema. We want to start from there, so check it out if you want to know more about the rationale behind it:

  • The Spiritual World corresponds to the Sidereal Zodiac
  • The Soul World corresponds to the Tropical Zodiac
  • The Physical World corresponds to a third specific Zodiac

So what’s this Third Zodiac? And why would it correspond to the Physical World? With Willi Sucher—pioneer of Astrosophy—I am going to refer to the Astrological Houses as a Third Zodiac (you can check out his book Cosmic Christianity available here for free).

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Astrosophy — The Platonic Year as the Relationship Between the Sidereal and Tropical Zodiac

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Different astrological traditions have different approaches to Astrology. Among the differences that we can find between them, the main one definitely concerns which is the “right Zodiac” to use. Some of them use the Tropical Zodiac, others the Sidereal.

In general, the dispute tends to polarize the question. The underlying premise is that if one Zodiac “works” the other must be wrong. This one-sided approach usually leads to rejecting one Zodiac in favor of the other. Or to pass from one system to the other as if it were a sort of religious conversion.

In this article we are going to take into account the communications coming from Anthroposophy—the Spiritual Science founded by Rudolf Steiner—in order to find a middle ground. Instead of rejecting one Zodiac or the other, we are going to be looking at a bigger picture in order to understand not only their differences but also where they stand.

In this sense, please note that I’m not taking a side in favor of one system. On the contrary, I invite you to take this post as a humble contribution for deepening the understanding of our cosmos, which in my opinion seems to have enough room for both the Zodiacs.

A starry night reflecting on a mountain lake

Let’s start by noting a very simple fact. We can have a direct experience of both the Zodiacs. On one hand, we can look at the stars at night. They are out there to contemplate, forming the constellations of the Sidereal Zodiac. On the other, we can observe the changes through the seasons as a direct expression of the Tropical Zodiac.

Now, a lot of issues usually come up at this point. Who established the division from one constellation to the other? How can we deal with the reversal of the seasons between the two hemispheres? These are all important questions. But for the sake of the longevity of this article we are not going to tackle them.

Instead, we are just going to observe the two systems in their simplest form to better understand them.

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Attuning with The Moon Energy

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In astrology, the Moon represents emotions. In this article we are going to talk about how we can attune with this planetary energy, in order to better understand them; we are also going to see how to find out our unmet needs through their help.

First of all, most people consider emotions as a pain in the neck. They think that if anxiety, anger, fear, etc. didn’t exist the world would be a better place. They would like to switch them off, so they believe they can “get back to normal”—whatever it means. Substance abuse is the new “don’t think about it”, and it has become the main cause of emotional illiteracy in the western world. Instead of looking at emotions as a resource, we anesthetize them—throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Why? Because they carry precious information we should at least consider; because emotions are on our side and are trying to tell us something; because they are like a second brain, thinking for us for free (interestingly enough, the Moon rules both the stomach and the brain).

The Emotional Message

Let’s have a look at the top three unpleasant emotions that usually go unheard, and let’s see what they are trying to say.

Anxiety Anxiety is telling us that something bad might happen. If your second brain intuitively perceives a threat maybe it’s right. Maybe you should pay attention and check it out. Sometimes you are right—there is nothing to be afraid of. But other times—unlike you—your second brain gets the bigger picture, so it is rightfully trying to warn you. Learn to trust your gut.
Anger Anger is the emotion of injustice. It’s telling you that “this should not be happening” or “that’s not right”. This is definitely the best emotion we’ve got to explore our belief system. Basically, by paying attention to your anger you can discover your unconscious morals and ethics (what’s right/wrong for you) which have been encoded by your education. Anger can become a way to know yourself.
Anguish Anguish is a form of suffering, grief, or pain. Some people use it as a synonym for anxiety—I personally don’t. I think that anxiety is mainly anticipatory (the possible danger is lying ahead). On the contrary, we grief for something that has already happened. In my opinion, anguish is the emotional perception of death—which is essentially change. Anguish is telling us that things have changed: what gave us life once, no longer exists. It’s a request to go on—turn the page—and start looking for that life we have lost, but elsewhere.

As you can see each emotion bears a message—they always do. If you listen to them you can use them to your advantage; if you don’t—well—you risk to go to war with yourself. Emotions are just like a sonar—or a litmus paper: they enable you to perceive the world on a deeper level. But if you pay them no attention they are going to increase the volume.

It is literally like having to do with a baby: the only thing they can do is to cry louder until you don’t understand what they want. In other words the archetype of your inner child—again, the Moon—has been triggered. This is critical, especially for emotional people.

Meeting your needs

The word emotion comes from the Latin emovere, “to move out”. This means that emotions require you to do something about it. Once you have understood their message most of the work is done. You now know what you have to do to meet your needs. Anxiety is asking for caution; anger is asking for justice (balance); anguish, that you need time to grief and to move on, and so on.

They are always a request of some kind—I can’t stress this enough. Mastering emotions is a long journey and sometimes is difficult to understand them. But in the end I think it is the only way to fully achieve happiness in life. In fact if you leave behind the weakest and most sensitive parts of yourself—your inner child—you will never feel truly complete.

Balancing the Elements

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In this article we are going to talk about the Elements within the human psyche, and their correspondences to the four temperaments. Mainly, we are interested in deepening the way we can balance them in order to achieve a healthy equilibrium in our personality. We are going to consider their imbalances as well, to better understand how each element is able to lead us astray.

As you may know, in ancient medicine illness was caused by the imbalance of the humors—fluids of the human body which carry specific qualities. In Western medicine, they were related to the four elements: yellow bile carries fire; the blood, air; phlegm carries water; black bile, earth. According to this school of thought, the excess of each humor in the body determines a different temperament in the psyche.

So, what is a temperament? We can think of it as a basic personality type which is able to connect the psyche to the body. In fact humors affect not only the physical body but also the ancestral part of the psyche—the part connected to our basal instincts—through hormones and other psychosomatic mechanisms. In other words it is the foundation of the personality on which everything else is built. In this way, a dominant temperament is determined.

We can say that every person has a dominant temperament, and a possible secondary temperament. Reading this list you are probably going to easily recognize yours:

temp_fireCholeric It’s the temperament produced by yellow bile, related to the fire element. Choleric people are strong, fiery, proud, prone to anger, easily provoked, stubborn, cocky, reactive, loyal, and generous; they always speak their mind, they are natural leaders, and they want things to go their way.
temp_airSanguine It’s the temperament produced by the blood, related to the air element. Sanguine people are lively, funny, sociable, talkative, always smiling, carefree, fickle, prone to laugh, joke and gossip. They get bored easily, so they are always looking for new ideas and stimuli.
temp_waterPhlegmatic It’s the temperament produced by phlegm, related to the water element. Phlegmatic people are good hearted, calm, compassionate, sensitive, emotional, patient, silent, good listeners, lazy; they love to stay in their comfort zone, enjoying good food and company; they are creatures of habit.
temp_earthMelancholic It’s the temperament produced by black bile, related to the earth element. Melancholic people are serious, responsible, pessimistic, realistic, negative, cautious, reliable, efficient, and steady. They are easily discouraged and they tend to be conservative.

Too much, too little

Problems come when we’ve got too much, or too little, of an element. The point is that you can’t have too much fire without having too little water; and you can’t have too much air without having too little earth (and vice versa). This because opposite elements naturally balance each other.

Since we talked about temperaments as the result of a natural excess of an element in the body, we are going to discuss the matter from this perspective. This means that choleric people are mainly going to face issues coming from an excess of Fire; Sanguine people, from an excess of Air, and so on.

Also consider the other side of the coin: choleric people tend to lack water; sanguine people, earth; phlegmatic people lack fire; melancholic people, air. In addition, your secondary temperament might naturally balance the main one.

el_fireAnger Too much Fire leads to anger issues. The dominant thought here is: “nothing is as it should be”. You are easily irritated, and you are not able to restrain yourself. The result is a cocky temper which is unable to relate peacefully with others. You may also experience heartburn and blurred vision.
el_airAnxiety Too much Air causes anxiety. Your thoughts are chaotic and you bounce around from one thing to another. You are overstimulated and stressed—you can’t catch your breath. This slowly wears you down until you burn out. You may experience anxiety attacks or worse: panic attacks.
el_waterApathy Too much Water leads to apathy. You don’t feel like doing anything, and nothing really interests you. You feel stuck and isolated in this stagnant and boring feeling. You passively contemplate the world around you with a hypnotized gaze. You feel like a zombie and nothing really makes sense.
el_earth_Melancholy Too much Earth causes “melancholy”. It is a sad feeling of being trapped in a world of duty and responsibility. You are efficient—you do our job—but you are not able to find joy in life anymore. You feel like a robot: you work rather than live. Together, apathy and melancholy leads to depression.

Let’s see now what we can do to balance the elements within.

Tempering the Temperament

First of all, you can’t simply get rid of an element. Statements such as “don’t be angry!” or “cheer up!” are useless—they are only proving that people around you don’t understand how you feel. Actually they are a form of denial; we don’t want to go that way. Instead we want to recognize our dysfunctional mood as a form of elemental imbalance.

Let’s say for example you have a sanguine temperament and you face anxiety on a regular basis. This means you are not able to balance the air element. Actually you have so much air energy that even your body inhales much more (physical) air than it exhales (hyperventilation is an interesting physiological reaction related to air and anxiety issues).

The first thing you want to do is to “consume” the element in excess; then—and only then—you can proceed by introducing balancing activities related to the opposite element.

So, in the case of anxiety you want to use your air, to consume it. A good way to do that is to go outside, hang out with your friends, chatting and laughing (social interaction belongs to the air element). This is going to dispel the air in excess. Instead, sitting still at home is only going to bring that air energy totally in the head—as a result you are going to be overwhelmed by thoughts. Don’t even try to say to yourself “don’t think about it” because that air energy has to go somewhere. If you can’t go outside you may want to consider Mantra Repetition, which is also a good way to dispel that kind of energy.

The opposite element of air is earth, so any grounding activity will work. In fact, many people instinctively overeat or work hard to overcome their anxiety. Instead of doing that unconsciously, you can choose the grounding technique you prefer.

Here’s a list of consuming and balancing activities related to each element. Obviously any balancing activity will be element-consuming for the opposite one, and vice versa:

 

el_fire

Fire / Choleric / Anger

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Sports / Going to the gym
  • Sunbathing
  • Challenges
  • Making Love
  • Spiritual Development
  • Sleeping / Resting
  • Cocooning
  • Intimacy / Emotional interaction
  • Arts / Crafts
  • Escapism

el_air

Air / Sanguine / Anxiety

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Shopping
  • Chatting / Social interaction
  • News / Social Media
  • Reading / Writing
  • Laughing
  • Gardening
  • Walking in Nature
  • Eating
  • Manual labor
  • Planning

el_water

Water / Phlegmatic / Apathy

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Sleeping / Resting
  • Cocooning
  • Intimacy / Emotional interaction
  • Arts / Crafts
  • Escapism
  • Sports / Going to the gym
  • Sunbathing
  • Challenges
  • Making Love
  • Spiritual Development

el_earth_

Earth / Melancholic / Melancholy

Element-consuming activities Balancing activities
  • Gardening
  • Walking in Nature
  • Eating
  • Manual labor
  • Planning
  • Shopping
  • Chatting / Social interaction
  • News / Social Media
  • Reading / Writing
  • Laughing

Usually we tend to naturally express our temperament, so we find it hard to behave according to the opposite one. Choleric people for example are not able to rest: they have so much fire energy to funnel in their projects that they simply forget to do it, they even forget to eat sometimes! On the other hand, for phlegmatic people competitions or challenges are a pain in the neck. In the end it’s just a matter of perspectives: we can evolve only if we learn to look at things from another point of view.

The Seven-Pointed Star

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This article will deepen the symbolic meaning of the seven-pointed star from the astrological point of view. As you may know the number seven carries several esoteric symbologies: the seven colors of the rainbow, the seven notes of the major scale, the seven deadly sins, the seven days of Creation, etc. We are going to see how the seven planets of the classical septenary relate to one another when they are arranged according to this sacred-geometry shape.

The first thing we want to do, is to build the seven-pointed star. Let’s take the seven planets, from the fastest to the slowest, placing them evenly along a circle. We will have: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. This was also the sequence of the celestial spheres according to the Ptolemaic system. By connecting a point every three—another number full of meanings—we have the seven-pointed star.

stbluebr

Now, let’s see what we have found here. If you go through the star—starting from the Sun, going down left to the Moon—you’ll get another sequence: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. You may not recognize it immediately, but this is the sequence of the days of the week: Sunday, day of the Sun; Monday, day of the Moon; Tuesday, day of Týr—germanic god of war (Mars); Wednesday, day of Wodan—which corresponds to Mercury for his trickster aspect; Thursday, day of Thor—germanic god of thunder (Jupiter); Friday, day of Freya—germanic goddess of love (Venus); Saturday, day of Saturn. Please note that in Latin, these correspondences are far more obvious since each day is dedicated to a god who bears the name of the planet.

So the first thing we can say about the seven-pointed star is that—from the astrological perspective—it is the esoteric foundation of the weekly cycle, that we can also call the Wheel of the Week.

The Wheel of the Week

The Wheel of the Year is a well known concept, especially in neo-paganism. But what we call here the Wheel of the Week is a pattern which is followed unconsciously and ritually by practically the whole world. We all go around and around, endlessly following this circle without knowing its meaning.

So, how does this sequence make sense? Let’s see now how the planetary forces connect to each other, to better understand the astral pattern we are going through on a weekly basis (click on the planet name for further details).

s4_featThe Sun The Sun is the beginning and the end of every life cycle. It represents our spiritual homeland, the place where we belong. When we attune to this force we can experience Love as an expression of our higher self. Here, we are golden. We feel invincible, and for this reason we are able to completely give ourselves to others, without expectation. Every person in need is like our child.
m1_featThe Moon But sometimes we are that needy person. The Moon represents indeed our inner child, the part of us humble enough to receive love and help from others. The Sun is the source of that love. By reflecting its rays, the Moon shares it with other people. But what happens when that love is denied us? What if our needs are not met? Emotions arise, and with them the impulse to action.
m5_featMars This is when Mars—the warrior within—kicks in. It is the force of our self-affirmation that not only makes us do something to get what we need, but also enables us to achieve our goals. It is the burning matrix of our desires and the source of our willpower. But you don’t always have to start a war, so to speak: the simplest way to affirm yourself is to speak your mind.
m2_featMercury Mercury is the lord of communication and eloquence. It represents both the way we speak and think: it is the force which builds our mindset. We can say it is the mind itself—our most dangerous weapon. We can use it to our advantage or to harm us, it is both misleading and clarifying. Mercury enables us to solve concrete problems but also to enter the world of intellectual speculation.
j6_featJupiter Obviously this world belongs to Jupiter—our inner philosopher. It is the part of us that wants us to grow and mature by making experiences. It guides us through life with powerful ideals which—from the spiritual perspective—are what we value most. That’s why in ancient times it was called Fortuna Major, whereas Venus was known as Fortuna Minor.
v3_featVenus Venus represents indeed what we value generally speaking: usually what gives us pleasure and satisfaction. It doesn’t necessarily have to be spiritual or elevated. On the contrary, Venus’ task is to seek balance in all forms, especially between the spiritual realms and the world of the senses (Saturn). Art is one of the her ways, as well as Justice.
s7_featSaturn Saturn is the cold force that structures and consolidates the material world, based on the balance of opposites achieved by Venus. Basically, it is the down-to-earth part of us that enables us to be alone and responsible—both qualities we need in order to be independent. Saturn makes us strong, tenacious and steady. When you stop thinking only for yourself, when you become a solid foundation for others, the Sun starts to dawn in your soul.

The Four Levels

In addition to the circular pattern (planetary sequence according to their speed; the celestial spheres order) and that of the seven-pointed star, we have a third pattern based on four levels. Starting from the bottom of the star we rise from the lower to the higher instincts, getting closer and closer to our spiritual homeland (the Sun).

ptstarlv


m1_feats7_feat
To Survive
Together, Saturn and the Moon represents fear and survival. At this level the main goal is to stay alive or, in another words, to preserve your physical body. For this reason this is the lower level of the star—its foundation. Building boundaries (Saturn), finding a place to rest and feeling safe (Moon) is key.
m2_featj6_feat
To Feed
When you are feeling safe you can move on to the next level. Here, the joined effect of Mercury and Jupiter represents the way you process (Mercury) and introject (Jupiter) things into your system. In other words the way you feed on a physical level (nutrition), psychological level (social interaction) and spiritual level (education).
v3_featm5_feat
To Reproduce
Mars and Venus represents reproduction. When an organism feels safe, rested and satiated it has the urge to reproduce itself. They not only represents reproduction on a physical level (sex, having children), but also on a psychological (making love, intimacy) and spiritual level (teaching, disciple-master relationship).
s4_featTo Rise When all previous levels have been attained, the ultimate need is “to rise”. This means achieving a totally new level of awareness, action and meaning in life. It is what they call enlightenment or reintegration in the spiritual realms: Life and Death become two doors that we can cross freely, acting by a higher plane of existence.

In conclusion, we can say that the seven-pointed star is a symbol so rich that it can be considered as a stand-alone tool for self-knowledge. It is also a valid alternative to the eastern chakra system, without necessarily relate each planet to a body part (if you want to do it, follow the planet-organ correspondences). It can also be compared to the Enneagram by matching each planet with a psychological type—and this without even considering the zodiac. In another article we will explain how it can be used as a compass to consciously navigate through the psyche.