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Cosmic Christianity

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The Changing Countenance of Cosmology

The revised content of eight lectures given at Hawkwood College,
Stroud, Gloucestershire, England on August 24-31, 1969.

The Origin of Occult Symbols on the Basis of Cosmic Rhythmology

With the present lectures we intend to enter, as far as this is possible given the limitations of time, the stream of the historic development of cosmology through the ages. Thus we hope to find firm foundations for a new cosmology and astrosophy, congenial to the conditions of present and future humanity. Nowadays, when we look up to the stars, they seem to be more or less familiar to us, and generally we do not realize that this was not always so for humanity. There were times when the stars were not visible to human eyes. If we go back to the ancient continent of Atlantis, to about the middle of that long period of evolution, we find that the human being was not able to see the stars because of fog, and because the heavens were shrouded in heavy water vapors. These water vapors completely occluded the view of the stars. Then in a certain moment they condensed and thereby caused the tremendous water catastrophes that eventually brought the continent of Atlantis to its downfall. This finally culminated in what is known as the last Ice Age. The water, which had condensed, covered the Earth and froze into tremendous layers of ice and glaciers, which we still find geological evidence and traces of nowadays. This was the moment and we might have to go back as far as 10,000 to 12,000 years BC when these heavy clouds or water vapors dissolved and revealed above them the heavens. Thus humanity beheld the stars for the first time. Of course, humanity was not devoid of strong inner experiences before that moment. Being limited in their sense-perception in that way, human beings were thrown back on themselves, so to speak. Combined with a natural clairvoyance, this led to an immensely rich inner experience of the divine world and of the elemental world around them. These were experiences that we can hardly imagine any longer. The vast storehouse of fairytales gives us a last glimmer of them. But then in that moment the stars became visible, and it was the Atlantean sub-race of the Akkadians, who were among those first to see the stars. They used this great discovery, for instance, for navigation and were, so to speak, the first colonizing race. They went out into the world, they navigated on the high seas, and they were able to orient themselves on their journeys with the help of the stars.

We must try to imagine that moment in the history of the human race, that experience of great joy when the stars appeared in the sky for the first time in human evolution. The stars appeared to human beings as a tremendous cosmic storybook of everything they had experienced hitherto in their inner life. They could say, Its there, its written in the heavens. What was a reality for their inner perception, so to speak, their inner dream life, was now written in the stars. Thus they learned to experience the reality of the divine world, of the divine hierarchies and their creative deeds, as though in a mirror made by the stars. They recognized ever more clearly that what, until then, they experienced as a tremendous world of clairvoyant dreams of a divine world also an elemental world was now reflected in the heavens, was written down, so to speak, in a big storybook, a big picture book of cosmic size, comprising all the stars. Thus they lived with and into that experience, and gradually they discovered more and more of that world of reflection. The rising knowledge and awareness of the world of the stars was for them the opportunity to make ever clearer that inner dream-world life that they had before. In a sense, they started to put the backbone of a sidereal mythology into those earlier experiences. Thus humanity started to go along the path of enhanced sense experience. It was particularly the sense of sight that changed the physical constitution of the human being in the course of time.

The impressions of the external world, founded on the use of the senses, gained the upper hand, and gradually humanity moved toward times during which it exposed itself increasingly to this perception of nature on the one hand and to the world of the stars on the other. Hence we can understand that as humans looked up to the stars, they realized many details. They realized, for instance, what we now call the fixed stars. These are the stars that always remain, so to speak, in the same composition in that great storybook of the heavens; or rather, more or less they remain in that position, for we know that the fixed stars move too. On the other hand these people also became aware of the world of the moving stars, of the planets. For instance, the Moon is quite a conspicuous example of that world of the wanderers in the heavens. Thus we can understand that gradually humans were able to read that great picture book.

The first impressions must have been of an almost overwhelming nature. Humans were led to discern constellations in the world of the fixed stars. They could give them names on the basis of what letters and pictures they represented in the great book of the cosmos. Likewise they also named the planets by recognizing their workings. This world became clearer and clearer through sense perception, combined with inner, clairvoyant vision. Thus we can understand that humanity gradually recognized and formulated sidereal mythologies. They connected certain groups of stars with definite experiences, even with definite divinities. Looking at a group of stars, they realized that this is an expression of Zeus, for instance, or an expression of Apollo, and so forth.

However, the more we go back in time, the more dim and nebulous do these sidereal mythologies appear. For instance, we find that Chinese and also Tibetan sidereal mythologies are of tremendous volume, comprising gigantic imaginations. But these imaginations are more connected with, one could almost say, a world of elemental beings. Dragons appear in the Chinese Zodiac, and horses, and so forth. The Chinese and Tibetan Zodiacs are quite different from ours. That humanity the Chinese, Tibetans, and Japanese, as a matter of fact the Mongolian race as such is actually more closely connected with Atlantis than is western humanity. A great part of present humanity has come over from Atlantis, one could say a leftover from Atlantis, but the Mongolian race has a stronger heritage stemming from Atlantis than the rest. Their sidereal mythologies reflect the time when humanity first, or nearly first, saw the stars in the sky. Of course, since that time we see even the constellations of the fixed stars have changed their appearances. We call them fixed stars, meaning that they are fixed in their positions. For instance, we have all seen the Great Bear in the heavens, meaning, that constellation with a body indicated by four stars forming a near rectangle, and with an indication of a tail outlined by three more stars. This group did not always look like that in ancient times, and in some thousands of years hence it will again look quite different. Even the Zodiac looked quite different to the Atlanteans. Hence, Mongolians had received a tradition differing from ours in the West. In later times, which are reflected in the sidereal mythology of the Greeks, we more or less meet the 12 constellations of the Zodiac as we now know them. The Greeks associated them with their gods, while other civilizations before them with their gods. This was not done arbitrarily. It stood on the solid ground of inner experience and the corresponding corroboration with external events. This knowledge was evolved in the great Mystery-Temple places of the ancients. Much of this has been described in The Origin of the Zodiac, by Rupert Gleadow (London: Jonathan Cape, 1968). He quotes the Roman author Manilius, who wrote about the constellations of the Zodiac and their associations with the gods of the Greeks, with Pallas Athene, Apollo, Zeus, Jove, and so forth. This Zodiac seems to have had its origin more in the western part of Asia.

Another traditional heritage was carried by the people who eventually settled in the Norse countries, such as Scandinavia and others. They recognized in the constellations, particularly of the Zodiac, the reflections and memories of the deeds and fate of their gods. They had a Zodiac that speaks of Freya, Vali, Saga, Odin, Skadi, Baldur, and so forth. The entire pantheon of Norse mythology was at one time thus recognized. Of course, they certainly did not equalize the constellations with the divinities, but they perceived the constellations only as an external expression, a kind of great chronicle. They read in the heavens the stories that much earlier on they had experienced in a dreamlike clairvoyance.

It may be that the wanderers, the planets, spoke to human beings at first more impressively, because they move much faster than the fixed stars. The movements of the fixed stars are so minute that it takes, in some cases, thousands of years to notice any change with the naked eye. With regard to the planets it was different; for instance, the Moon is a perfect example of very quick change. It moves through the heavens in front of the constellations of the Zodiac, and after about 27 to 28 days, it returns to the same configuration of fixed stars. Furthermore, we notice that it moves through phases. At certain times it rises shortly before sunrise, appearing then as a narrow crescent just above the point at which the Sun will rise. A day or two later it will have disappeared altogether. Then, after a few days we may notice it again, but this time after sunset, as a very narrow crescent above the place where the Sun has set. This means that the Moon is waxing. The crescent becomes broader and broader. Finally, there will come a moment when we see the full, round face of the Moon rising in the east as the Sun sets in the west, and this is Full Moon; after which the disc diminishes on this now waning Moon. Finally, there comes a time when it stands again just above the sunrise point as a narrow crescent, as in the beginning of our observations. We notice that this complete cycle takes between 29 and 30 days. This is a phase, or lunation, from New Moon via waxing phase to Full Moon, then through waning Moon again into the next New Moon. This is an expression of a definite rhythm, one that coincides with the rhythm of the seasons. The rhythm of the seasons, of course, goes with the year of 365 days, something that we simply notice when living with nature. People in ancient times, who didnt have printed calendars, learned to look up to the stars as a kind of living calendar. They noticed that 12 such lunations happened in one year, each Full Moon always in a different place. For instance, if one Full Moon occurred in Taurus, they knew that about 30 days later the next Full Moon would happen in the following constellation of Gemini. According to the records we have, they noticed many more things, such as Sun and Moon eclipses. They were even able to pre-calculate their recurrence. Of course, this Moon-phase calendar left a few days over in the year of 365 days. They accounted for this by inserting every third year or so, a leap month, in order to bring their calendars up to date. Thus for these ancient people the stars were something very practical, something they needed for their occupations. The farmer had to have this knowledge of the events in the heavens, because this was a calendar that was needed for sowing, reaping, and so forth.

We could go through the movements of the planets and discover similar, though longer, rhythms. The rhythms of the planets cannot be observed as easily as those of the Moon; nevertheless, by their patience, the ancients did observe the movements and rhythms of the planets in the heavens and their correlations to earthly events in nature and in the human being. And their patience rewarded them. For instance, when they observed the planet that we call Venus, they noticed that, seen from the Earth, there was a moment (Fig. 1.1) when Venus was in front of the Sun. On certain occasions they even saw it moving right across the face of the Sun as a tiny dark spot. Furthermore, they knew that this took place in front of a certain constellation of the Zodiac. Nine months later they knew that the Sun was at position B. Now they noticed that Venus had disappeared into space behind the Sun. In actual fact, they could have seen Venus between A and B on the right side of the Sun, getting smaller and smaller as it moved behind the Sun. After another nine months the Sun had arrived at C, and Venus was again in front of it. With the Sun at D, Venus had again disappeared behind the Sun. Finally Venus moved again in front of the Sun at E.



Figure 1.1


On the basis of such observations, these people must have noticed the existence of a definite regular pattern made by the conjunctions of Venus with the Sun. They must have become aware, by following its conjunctions with the Sun, that Venus draws a pentagram into the cosmos around the Earth. Furthermore, they observed that the cycle we have described so far took four years, whereas in eight years Venus had in each of the five corners (alternately after four years) an inner (inferior) and an outer (superior) conjunction with the Sun. The knowledge of this cosmic fact lies at the foundation of esoteric and occult symbology, which is known and revered in occultism as the symbol of the pentagram, the five-pointed star.

The ancient sages must have known another rhythm in connection with the planet that we call Mercury (Fig. 1.2a). In the course of one year Mercury moves three times behind the Sun. This happens in three different positions of the Zodiac, which they seem to have been able to define. Furthermore, the planet steps in the course of one year three times in front of the Sun in other words, in an inferior conjunction. Thus here we can speak of three cycles in connection with Mercury, each one leading away from an inferior conjunction (in which the planet performs a loop) into a superior conjunction, and back into another inferior conjunction. The three cycles do not actually coincide in time with the year of 365 days. One cycle (for instance, A to B to C) takes only 116 days; therefore the three cycles in one year occur in 348 days. In other words, when the planet is about to return, after the third cycle (E to F to G) to the original position, the superior conjunction G (equivalent to A) takes place about 17 to 18 days before reaching the original position.

Principally, we realize here another cosmic symbol that is well known in esoteric symbology. Mercury draws a hexagon into the Zodiac two triangles intertwined. The one triangle is connected with the inferior conjunctions in front of the Sun, the other with the superior conjunctions behind it. The fact that the corners of the two triangles constantly fall back (caused by the difference between the Mercury year of 348 days and the Sun year of 365 days) is simply an expression of an incessant rotation of the hexagon. To this we must add another fact: the triangle of the inferior conjunctions (B, D, and F) is actually much smaller in the space around the Sun. In these positions the planet is much nearer to the Earth than in the superior events (A, C, and E). We can translate this cosmic, geometric figure into a vivid imagination (Fig. l.2b): the bigger triangle can be experienced as the expression, the external countenance, of a great cosmic being. The smaller triangle can then appear as the imaginative outline of a being who lifts its hands up to the greater one, as it were, in a gesture of supplication. The smaller triangle we can depict as a being closer to the Earth, possibly on the Earth, like the human being. The greater one could be perceived as the external expression of a Divine Mother Being in the cosmos who spreads a protective cloak over the petitioner below. This is not too fantastic a picture. Our



Figure 1.2b


connection with this planet Mercury is somewhat built on this gesture, in a purely spiritual sense. A very pertinent question is: How do we imagine that the ancient people became aware of these rhythms of Mercury, since the observation of this planet is so very difficult? Yet, on the other hand, the ancients must have known it, as we conclude from their mythologies and knowledge of the working of the planetary genii. We must assume that these people, particularly the sages in the ancient temple-centers, had a power of perception that was essentially different from our present intellect-bound perception. Their still-clairvoyant insight, combined with the scant possibilities of external observation, offered them the possibility not only to be aware of the existence of Mercury but also to know its rhythms and cycles.

There is another rhythm that even in ancient times could easily be observed. It is indicated by the planet Mars (Fig. 1.3a). At certain times it is also standing behind the Sun, as we observe it from the Earth. We speak then of a conjunction of Mars with the Sun. This happens roughly every two years. In between, Mars moves into opposition to the Sun. On such occasions we see the planet at midnight in the zenith above the southern horizon, the south point. At such times Mars is especially bright, shining with a reddish light. This happens also roughly about every two years, a little more than two years. On such occasions Mars performs a loop, moving backwards, or against the direction of its ordinary progress in the Zodiac. All the planets normally move in the heavens from right to left as we look toward the south, observing them. But when the outer planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn come into opposition to the Sun they turn around and move backward (from left to right), and only after some time do they move straight forward again. In the course of this phase they make a loop, or a hairpin curve (Fig l.3b). When this takes place again after about two years, Mars will perform its loop further forward in the Zodiac. For example, in March through May 1967, it made a loop in sidereal Virgo. The opposition to the Sun was at about 205 of the ecliptic. Two years later, in April through July 1969, another loop happened in sidereal Scorpio, which saw Mars in about 250 of the ecliptic in opposition to the Sun. Thus the progress of the opposition, and loop, amounted to 45, or one eighth of the ecliptic. After this happens eight times in the course of about 15 to 16 years, this event returns to its starting point in the Zodiac. Likewise, eight conjunctions of Mars with the Sun proceed through the Zodiac and return after the eighth to the original position. They happen, approximately, opposite the point in the ecliptic in which the oppositions occur. For instance, the opposition loop in 1967 was preceded in April 1966 by a conjunction at 39 of the ecliptic.


Figure 1.3a

Figure 1.3b


Thus each set of eight events describes an octagon (Fig. 1.3a), which one can also present as two squares (Fig. 1.3c), one put into the other. This too has become an ancient symbol. It is actually used by astrology as an aspect, a certain angular relationship between two planets whose relative positions in the Zodiac form an angle of 45. This is the so-called semi-square. An ancient humanity must have observed all these facts and experienced, in these tremendous cosmic rhythms, a kind of reflection. For them, these must have been pictorial descriptions of what they met as an inner world of awareness of the divine world and also of the world of elemental beings.

Other events in the heavens are associated with the periodic conjunctions and oppositions of Saturn and Jupiter. We have now gone through the complete scale of the planets Venus, Mercury, the Moon, and Mars. They all draw patterns into the heavens, as we saw, that offer the foundations for profound occult symbols (as do Saturn and Jupiter also). Saturn is a very slow-moving planet, needing about 30 years to move once through the big circle of the Zodiac and return to the initial constellation. Jupiter is much faster, needing only about 12 years to move through the circle of the Zodiac. Thus Jupiter needs about one year to move through one constellation. All these facts the ancients could easily observe. On account of the varying speed of the two planets they meet periodically. Naturally, if two runners are running in a circular arena and one is faster then the other, the faster one catches up with the slower one periodically. The ratio of the periodic meetings of Saturn and Jupiter is very interesting. For instance, in the beginning of the 20th century they met in the course of 1901 (see Fig. 1.4). That happened in the constellation of Sagittarius. In 1921 they met again in a conjunction in the sidereal constellation of Leo. In 1940-41 another conjunction occurred, this time in the constellation of Aries. One could easily observe it. It happened actually three times, on account of the retrograde movements, the loop-movement, of the two planets. In more recent years, in 1961, another conjunction happened in sidereal Sagittarius. It had returned to approximately the same position as the conjunction in 1901. However, in 1961 it had moved further forward toward the tail of the Archer. In 1981 another conjunction happened, which linked onto the one in 1921. It had moved into sidereal Virgo, whereas the one in 1921 was still on the boundary of Leo and Virgo.

The meetings of these two planets write into the cosmos an almost equilateral triangle. This was known in ancient times as the golden triangle, and was in a certain sense regarded as a most profound occult symbol. It still appeared in occult publications of the Middle Ages, representing the Divine Trinity, or the trinity of the human being as body, soul and spirit, etc. (See, for instance, The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians in A Christian Rosenkreutz Anthology, compiled and edited by Paul M. Allen, Blauvelt: New York, Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1968.) The Greeks experienced Saturn as an expression of Omnipotent Father Chronos, Father Time, who took care that the past was never forgotten and saw to it that the threads from the past were woven into the present as destiny. Thus is Saturn an expression of the divine law, according to which the universe and humanity were created. It stands as a guardian over the continuation of the divine pattern that had been established in the very first beginnings of all evolution. The ancients realized that divine forces spoke through this planet, always calling humanity to attention if there was any attempt to deviate from the divine plan. And they also experienced that these powers brought humanity back into line, sometimes under severe punishment. Jupiter was experienced quite differently. Jupiter, or Jove, was perceived as Omnipotent Father Ether. Ether is connected with life forces in the cosmos, powers of growth and development toward the future. The planet of Jove would be heard to say, We must guard that thread of divine law through evolution, but we must also think of the future. We must take the facilities that the present offers in order to develop the future, to lead humanity toward the future. We will not be as severe as Saturn must be. We will give humanity some leeway, be jovial. Perhaps with joviality humanity shall get further. So, Jupiter was realized as a focus of forces in the cosmos that served the human being to realize ideas as much as possible in practical ways. Thus the two planets Saturn and Jupiter combine, and those conjunctions of the two have been experienced since ancient times as cosmic conferences. The forces guarding the memory of the dim past and the forces wanting to serve the progress of humanity come together in such a moment. They converse, as it were, about how to go on from a given point in history into the future. And indeed, we can realize that definite events in history are connected with all these dates of conjunctions. Just here in the British Isles and in Europe, the years 1940-41 will be very well remembered. These and all the other dates of similar cosmic events are connected with moments in history when humanity may be called upon to give an account of its conduct on the one hand and on the other hand to receive new perspectives and guidelines with regard to the future. Thus we can well understand that this triangle of the great conjunctions was often conceived in ancient times as a cosmic sign, or cosmic symbol, of the All-Seeing Eye of the Divinity, of that which saw to it that the line of evolution was safeguarded and that progress into the future was facilitated.

Thus we discover that many of the traditional symbols that are used in occultism go back ultimately to cosmic realities. This is one of the reasons why we think that a modern, spiritual cosmology is needed, in order to pave the way to a realistic and yet truly spiritual knowledge of the truths contained in esoteric tradition.

Figure 1.4



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