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Cosmic Christianity

On-line since: 25th August, 1969

The Development of Cosmology in History


Lately, definite proof has been established of the connection of those great stone circles of the ancient Celtic areas with the stars. The single stones in the circles indicated rising points, for instance, of the Sun at certain seasons and many other astronomical facts that modern humanity has rediscovered only with the help of telescopes and computers. Ancient humanity certainly did not have any of the modern contrivances, yet, it was able to do all this with mental capacities that present humanity has lost completely. This is particularly evident in the ancient monuments in Ireland, at New Grange, the Hill of Tara, and others. Humanity in the East and Near East also had a close connection with the world of the stars until rather late, chiefly in Mesopotamia. We have definite proof of these correlations by the discoveries and unraveling of the riddles of the so-called ziggurats in the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris. They were tremendous buildings, resembling pyramids, but terraced, as it were. They carried at the top something like a small sanctuary. This was obviously the observatory of a priest who had been delegated and who was able to follow the courses of the stars. This was not done just for curiositys sake, but for definite purposes. We have proof of this in certain documents of a king who had it written down: Today I went to the temple of Ishtar (that is, the temple of Venus), and she told me to do this and that, which we would now call matters of foreign affairs of state. Obviously, he had consulted, through his priest, the genii of the stars. Entire communities were thus guided by this knowledge of the movements of the stars, by the rhythms of the planets about which we spoke in the last chapter. The steps of the terraces of these pyramids were painted with colors assigned in those days to the planets. Thus those monuments in Mesopotamia are proof of humanity's connection with the stars in an un-egotistical sense. This knowledge was used for the guidance of the nations, right down into the sphere of agriculture, and so on.

In Egypt we discover similar traces. The sanctuaries were built along long axes. There was first the alley of sphinxlike statues. Then one entered a kind of forecourt, after that an inner court, and finally the temple itself. At the far end of the temple was the sanctuary, the chapel that contained the effigies of the deity to which the temple was dedicated. It is an established fact that these long temple axes were oriented toward the rising point of Canopus in the constellation of Argo, which was called the Star of Osiris. The long passage of darkness, the halls, and the courts acted like a telescope. The pyramids had shafts leading from the chambers deep down at the base out into the open. These shafts were not meant to be used as passages, because they are oblique. One could not have walked through them. They were also oriented toward the daily orbits of certain stars in the heavens. In these pyramid chambers, initiations were obviously performed. For three days the neophyte was put into a deathlike, trance condition and was even laid into a sarcophagus, deep down under the pyramid in such a position that upon awakening the neophyte first looked through that long shaft into the external world and saw that star in the heavens. This must have been a tremendous experience.

Then there came a time, which happened just in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Chaldea, when awareness of the self-awakened. This is described in the story of Gilgamesh and his friend Eabani, or Enkidu. The two, so the story tells, had killed the Bull that belonged to the Goddess Ishtar. These are profound Temple Mysteries. This Bull of Ishtar was really connected with the constellation of Taurus, the Bull. Ishtar was the same as Venus. Venus, as one says sometimes in traditional astrology so glibly, is at home in the sign of the Bull. Why is it just the Bull, and why the connection with Ishtar-Venus? Connected with this were experiences of an earlier humanity, which led to the far distant past of Creation. The Bull, which that humanity experienced in the heavens, appeared to them as an image of the Creative Word, of the Logos that permeated the world and created the physical object world around us. Now, we hear in this story that Gilgamesh and Enkidu had killed that Bull. What does this mean? They withdrew into their selves, at the cost of their waning awareness of the presence of the divine in nature. Egotism was rising up. It had to rise for the sake of the inner freedom of the human being. Humans began to sever their relationships to the divine intelligences in the world of the stars. Thus the gods eventually died in the consciousness of humanity.

In this sense we can understand when we hear Gilgamesh say, As for you Ishtar, I shall bring you down also. I shall treat you as I have treated the Bull. This is an imaginative description of the moving away from that ancient consciousness that eventually led to the expression we have heard in modern times: God is dead. He died in these peoples awareness only. After Gilgamesh had spoken those words, which on the surface sound like terrible blasphemy, Ishtar did not leave it at that. She complained to the highest divinity, and Enkidu, the friend of Gilgamesh, died soon after this incident. Gilgamesh was deeply shattered. He had attained the very first trace of egotistical selfhood. He experienced death as something that meets the individual. An earlier humanity was still well aware that when a human being died only the physical body was put aside, that the soul was all the more alive and was residing in the divine world. To tell human beings in those ages about life after death or about reincarnation would have been futile. They would have replied that they knew that anyway, that it was a reality of inner experience for them. But Gilgamesh experienced, after his friend had died, death as fate, as individual fate. Fate was hitting hard, so to speak, at this man who had taken the first steps of emancipation from the divine world. And so we hear then in the story how Gilgamesh sets out to seek his friend. He is led through many adventures, and we become aware in the descriptions that he goes out into the cosmic world. But he meets there terrible monsters; it is a fearful world. There are scorpions and lions and all kinds of terrible creatures that threaten him. Thus the cosmic world is now already far away from him, a world that is strange, even terrible and fateful. The story of Gilgamesh and Eabani describes the attitude out of which astrology slowly grew as it came down to us. It is that astrology which spoke of the connection of human beings with the world of the stars as a complex that inexorably causes their fate and holds them in pitiless dependence.

In other parts of the world, particularly in the West, the ancient connections with the stars were still carried on right into the first millennium AD. Even in the second millennium one can still find traces. This is depicted in the story of King Arthur of the Round Table. The childhood of Arthur is described in mighty cosmological terms. (See Fiona Macleod.) The boy Arthur was invited to ascend a huge staircase up to the heavens. He arrived at the seven stars that make up the effigy of the Plough or the Great Bear. There he was met by seven kings. They took him into their midst and educated and initiated him into the cosmic secrets of the Round Table, which is a vivid imagination of the Zodiac. After this experience, he descended again and as King Arthur inaugurated the Round Table on the Earth. We hear then the stories of King Arthur and his knights. They were sent out into the world to help wherever help was required, to protect people who were in danger, and so forth. We see in this a perfect realization of that which was in the heavens as the great and wonderful cosmic order. It was realized on the Earth in quite practical affairs, which concerned the entire human community. King Arthur was also called the Ploughman, because he was deeply associated through his initiation with the mysteries of the Great Bear or Plough. As the king he had to see to it that his people were properly fed. This meant that they had to be educated in the ways of an efficient agriculture, an agriculture that still lived and worked in full harmony with the cosmic rhythms that play into the rhythms of the plant life on the Earth. Therefore it was recognized as a prime necessity to have perfect knowledge of the correlations between cosmos and Earth. The name Arthur seems to have its origin in the Welsh words, Arth Uthyr, which simply means Great Bear. Therefore Arthur was probably not a name. It was originally a title, a degree of initiation, in this case into the mystic secrets of the Great Bear or the cosmic Plough.

This happened in the West. In the East the star wisdom had traveled a different way. It was taken hold of in the end by the egotism of the human being. Individuals wanted to know from the stars their personal fate. They would ask: How does this or that which happens in the heavens concern me? What will they do to me? Of course, this attitude developed slowly, but in the course of time it became more and more dramatic. All too often one is met head-on in present humanity by this question: What will the stars do to me, what do the star agencies have in store for me? Unfortunately, this can deteriorate into an attitude of utter fear and helplessness. This was, however, not the end of humanitys relationship to the cosmos. Times moved on and there came the age of Copernicus. Copernicus, who lived during the 15th and 16th centuries, proposed heliocentric astronomy, but he didnt really work it out in detail. The Sun, no longer the Earth, was considered to stand in the center of the solar system. Those who came after him worked this out in detail, people such as Kepler, Newton, and many others. This step was, in a certain sense, a consequence of that egotism which took hold of the star wisdom in Egypt, etc., which had become astrology. Through Copernican astronomy, humanity moved still further away from the stars until the cosmos was finally regarded as a big mechanism, or computer. With all due reservation, one can say that Copernicanism is a kind of modified Egyptian star wisdom. Of course, in time it radically discarded astrology as sheer folly. But the concept of fate rose to extreme proportions. The Earth was now dethroned. It was considered to be no more than a tiny little planet racing around the mighty Sun.

One can say, of course, that this happened then and in astronomy, but it need not affect us in practical life. Whether the Sun is in the center, or the Earth, this is a matter for the scientists, for the astronomers in their observatories, and it need not concern us practically. However, this is not so. Copernicanism has deeply worked into the social formations and foundations that have developed since. In ancient times we hear of King Arthurs Round Table, of the mighty temple towers in Mesopotamia. There cosmology, or star wisdom, played directly into social life. Entire communities were directed according to that star knowledge. Yet, the same consciousness that formulated Copernicanism also formed the social life of modern humanity. Machiavelli, a contemporary of Copernicus in the beginning of the 16th century, wrote the book Il Principe. There the monarch is described as someone who should have absolute and unrestricted power. Whatever he does must be correct. He is responsible only to himself and to nobody else. Why should this have any connection with the astronomical world conception that came into being at the same time? The King was regarded in ancient times as an earthly representative of the Sun in the heavens. Yet, in all its splendor the Sun was not considered to be the center of the universe, nor was its representative the King. Thus the very form of the Round Table was also a picture of the denial of prerogatives. Arthur was one of the Knighthoods at the Table.

Figure 2.1

To this, one can object that already long before Christ, oriental despotism had gained great momentum. The truth is that the secret teachings of the ancient temple mysteries had already proclaimed heliocentric cosmologies, whereas in popular conceptions geocentric views were fostered. Evidence exists that this was actually the case, for instance, in Egypt. Because the kings, pharaohs, and so on, were originally initiates of the mysteries, there arose tendencies to build the earthly social orders according to the archetypes of cosmic, heliocentric Orders, as king, or pharaoh, centered communities. And now, simultaneously with the popularization of the heliocentric view by Copernicanism, we witness the fact that Machiavelli creates the philosophical concept of the monarch as the absolute and indisputable center of any social order. And indeed, soon enough, Louis XIV, the French king, entered the historic scene and proclaimed: Ltat cest moi, I am the State, I, the King. The Sun, in a social sense, had stepped into the center. He and all the monarchs in Europe who could afford it followed his example and built their palaces in a form that was perfectly heliocentric. Usually these palaces were built in such a fashion that there was a central round tower, or a similar structure with wings on either side (Fig. 2.1). All the roads and city streets radiated from this central point into the environment like the rays of a Sun. One can still see many of those palaces in European capitals. This was Copernicanism, or the

Modern humanity has changed all this considerably. We are now facing something like an atomic explosion in the place of the old universe. By the increasing perfection and power of the telescope, we have penetrated into the depths of space. Fantastic distances and worlds beyond our own solar system have been discovered. Our own solar world has shrunk into insignificance. The greater universe has grown more and more immense in concept. In fact, it was, and still is, difficult to form an idea of how big this universe is. We dont know whether it is finite or infinite. The concept of infinity is painful to a science built up on quantity. We have discovered solar systems that are supposed to be much bigger than our own. The central suns of these systems are, according to the calculations, moving at tremendous speeds. Furthermore, they are moving away from a kind of center in greater cosmic space with tremendous velocities, unimaginable by an ordinary human mind. Thus the greater universe indeed looks like an atomic explosion.

A human mentality that has been led to think in such cosmological terms has had corresponding impacts on modern social life. If we look at it objectively, we must admit that the forms of social life, institutions, and so on, of all descriptions are also constantly facing the danger of atomization. What is the solution? Western humanity is easily inclined to think that complete mechanization and computerization is the answer. Again, this seems to coincide with the concepts of modern cosmology that the universe is a vast mechanism. And the suggestion can easily arise from this that the best and most expedient solution in human life and in the community is the complete mechanization and computerization of all concerns and institutions.

This is a road that does not lead to solutions but to the surrender and abdication of the human race. We cannot possibly expect that all humanity will accept this, and therein also lies some hope. Especially the East, that is, western and eastern Asia, cannot follow this trend, and in this fact many of the problems are rooted that have arisen between East and West. The East lives with the dim shadows of a glorious past that speaks, however faintly, in images of the spirit in the cosmos, in the human being, in the kingdoms of nature. If we in the West intend to establish a healthy relationship with the East, we must not imagine that we can do it by the imposition of commercialism and technology. We can do it only by presenting ourselves to the East, to global humanity, as a humanity of spiritual dignity and integrity. And we can attain the means to do it. If we are looking for an archetype for this we must go in quest of the Grail. We will then realize that Parsifal, who is seeking the Grail, is our own image. Parsifal is led to the Castle of the Grail. He witnesses all the mysterious events but he does not ask what they mean. Consequently he is ejected from the castle. This is the image of the modern human being who is, just in this age of science, confronted with the riddles of the universe, of the Earth, of itself. But we do not ask, like Parsifal who wanders for years through the world in deep despair and hopelessness. Finally he meets Trevrizent, who brings the Quest of the Grail back into his consciousness. Then he enters the castle a second time and can reach out to the new mysteries, to answers concerning the spiritual nature of humanity, its task within the setting of the entire universe, and so on. For this is the vessel and spirit-content of the Grail. During the sixties and seventies, of the present century, western humanity passed through the deep dark valley created by its own deeds in science and technology. But therein also lies the hope that we may break through, if we can look toward the archetypal meaning of the figure of Parsifal.

As far as we are concerned with our present studies, the modern consequences of Copernicanism constitute just such a deep, dark valley. Yet, it would help nobody to go back to the old good ways of the geocentric world view, such as those of the Celts or of Ptolemy. We must go through the valley and find new portals and roads to spiritual concepts of the universe. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that in the original Rosicrucian schools of the Middle Ages the pupil was first taught the geocentric perspective of the universe. Afterward he was told that this is how it should be, but that in reality it is not so. On account of the great sin of the Earth and its inhabitants we may think of the Fall in Paradise the Earth lost its central position. Only after long and strenuous efforts will the Earth, in the dim future, again be brought into its rightful position. This will be possible only by the acceptance of the Christ impulse. The Christ entered the earthly realm as the representative of the entire solar system. Even as a human being carries in its bodily being an ego that gives meaning and guidance to existence, so is the solar universe permeated by an Ego, and this Ego is the Christ Being. At Golgotha He united with the Earth, so that the Earth may become a Sun in the far future. In this process all humanity is involved, regardless of race, nation, religion, and so on.

Hence this viewpoint of the Earth in the center is a perspective that must be realized by inner development, by suffering, by rising to the power of the greater, cosmic self. In order to achieve this, we must not hesitate to move through the dark valley of Copernicanism. We must break through it to new spiritual vistas. Copernicanism and modern astronomy have given us, after all, a precise mathematical knowledge of the heavens in modern terms. We can calculate the movements of the planets, and theoretically many other phenomena, thousands of years ahead or back into the past. This is one of the achievements of modern astronomy. It has discovered many details of the movements of the planets that an earlier humanity had comprehended in a kind of clairvoyant, almost dreamlike perception. Previously such knowledge was preserved in the secrets of the mystery temples and was not open to all people. In contrast, modern astronomy is a science that is open to anyone who makes the effort to study it. And this very astronomy, although mathematically founded, can give us the means of looking eventually at the solar universe in new and even in spiritual concepts. In ancient times, still in Greece, humanity was able to look up, by clairvoyant perception, to the cosmos and see not only the visible planets but also the spheres of the planets. The Greeks did not experience the planet as a moving entity but as fixed, so to speak, onto a global sphere that was indicated by the orbit of the planet. All these spheres of the planets were conceived of as being concentrically arranged around the Earth. They were rotated by the divine beings who worked in them, and thus also the planets were moved along their orbits. Movement in the cosmos was caused by divine beings, according to this view.

We have completely lost this, because we have lost the concept of the spheres. No modern astronomer mentions the spheres any longer. Movement is caused, according to modern views, by purely mechanical factors in the universe. However, it is just with the help of modern astronomy that we can break through to new concepts of the spheres which offer great possibilities. The orbits of the planets are not arranged in perfect circles, nor do they lie exactly on the common, or ecliptical, plane of the solar system. First of all, we have the Sun in the center according to Copernicanism; but it was Kepler who discovered that the planets do not move in circles but in ellipses around the Sun (see Fig. 2.2). This elliptical path brings the planet at one time into the so-called perihelion and at other times into the aphelion. These elements, as they are called, are the means to assess the inner life of the sphere. As the planet moves along its orbit, it eventually steps into its perihelion, which means that it will be closest to the Sun; whereas when it steps into its aphelion, it will be farthest away from the Sun. These positions indicate the condition in which the entire sphere lives at a given time. The visible planets are then like moons that reflect the life of the spheres. (The spheres are the space volume inside the orbits.) At the perihelion the planet has a close relationship to the Sun and, thereby, an affirmative connection with the entire solar system. At the aphelion it expresses, so to speak, the desire to dissociate from the Sun, to fly away from it into outer space, though it cannot really achieve this because the Sun, even so, holds the family of planets together. Thereby we can break through to new concepts of a living universe. Just that which seemed to promote the idea of a purely mechanical cosmos offers a hand to get into new vistas in cosmology.

There are other aspects that have been discovered by modern astronomy. These constitute other elements of the planets. They have been established very precisely with the help of modern computation methods. We take again the Sun in the center (Fig. 2.3). We see the planets move around it, together with the Earth. In the diagram we have inserted the orbit of the Earth, and that of another planet.


If we take the planes on which these orbits lie, it may at first look as if they were identical. They seem to move on a common plate, as it were. However, a closer inspection reveals that there are slight angular differences. In other words, the orbits of the planets are all inclined, one against the other. We can now take the plane on which the Earth moves in the course of one year and investigate the inclinations of the other planetary planes in relation to the first. Thus we get crossing-points, or cutting lines between these planes. These are the nodes of the planets with the Earth orbit, or ecliptic plane. Each planet thus establishes an ascending and a descending node. The ascending node is the place related to the Zodiac where the planet ascends above the ecliptic plane and the descending node where it descends below. (We have used the symbols that astronomy commonly employs for the nodes.) Of course, these are only mathematical points. We cannot see them. Neither can we see the perihelions and aphelions of the planets; we can only calculate them. Nevertheless they are realities of great significance, which refer to the life of the spheres in relationship to the Earth. They indicate that in these places the spheres have the possibility of contact with the Earth and its inhabitants. Therefore modern Copernicanism offers us once again the means to come to the concept of a living universe. We can get astronomical tables that give us the precise positions of the nodes, the precise positions of the perihelion-aphelion lines, and so forth. By working and living with these elements together with certain amplifications that the geocentric view can provide we can eventually redeem the Copernican system, the heliocentric system, because we can introduce into it an element of life as against the aspects of the universe as a big machine. And this will become an urgent necessity.

We have investigated the possibilities that are offered by the facts of the nodal and perihelion-aphelion lines (lines of the apsides) very thoroughly. And we have indeed found that at the times when the planets step into these lines, the characteristic workings of the planetary spheres and their beings can be well discerned in earthly matters and historic events. However, we should like to emphasize also that on such occasions it is entirely a matter of conscious human awareness and participation whether these events can be employed on Earth constructively, or whether, on account of neglect or rejection, they will work reproachfully and destructively. This is also part, and not the least, of the new comprehension and relationship of humanity to the cosmic world.


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