A Response to the 2010 Journal for Star Wisdom
By Jonathan Hilton for the Board of the Astrosophy Research Center
This article is in response to the recently published 2010 Journal for Star Wisdom, with an editorial board including Robert Powell and members of the StarFire Research Group. It is written to address the article “In Memory of Willi Sucher”, by Robert Powell and to clarify that the approach to astrosophy as presented in this Journal is fundamentally different from the astrosophy developed by Willi Sucher over the course of his life. Robert Powell claims in the Journal that this work is a “continuation” of and in the “line of succession” to Willi Sucher’s work. This is not the case and the present article summarizes why.
This article is not written to disparage the approach of Robert Powell, but to inform readers of its significant divergence from the star wisdom of Willi Sucher. Willi Sucher’s work is founded on the work of Rudolf Steiner and began with Willi’s working partnership with Dr. Elisabeth Vreede (1879–1943), whom Steiner chose to be the first leader of the Mathematical–Astronomical Section of the School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.
Willi founded the Astrosophy Research Center in February 1984, just one year before his death in May 1985, as the body entrusted with maintaining and continuing his work. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Astrosophy Research Center, I have been asked to clarify the important distinctions between his astrosophy and the approach to the stars as represented in the 2010 Journal.
The first section of this article will present three fundamental differences between the approach represented in the Journal and the work of Willi Sucher. The latter part of the article will address several inaccurate and/or misleading statements made in the Journal, in the article “In Memory of Willi Sucher” by Powell.
Three fundamental differences:
1.) As stated in the Editorial Foreword to the Journal, Powell has adopted the Christology of a German nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), who experienced “clairvoyant visions of the daily activities, thoughts, and feelings of the great teacher Christ Jesus, as well as Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist, and others.” Powell has taken these visions and calculated specific dates and times for the events in the daily life of Christ.
Also in the Editorial Foreword to the Journal, Powell states in Footnote 1: “in Astrosophy there are different chronologies of the life of Christ, and the chronology that forms the basis of the approach followed in the Journal for Star Wisdom is set forth in my (Powell) book ‘Chronicle of the Living Christ.’”
This is not the Christology on which Willi Sucher’s astrosophy is based, as presented in his book Cosmic Christianity. For Willi, the changed relationship of the human being to the cosmos of the stars since the Mystery of Golgotha and the union of the Christ with the Earth is central to a new Christology of the stars. In Cosmic Christianity, Willi works with the rhythms and geocentric “gestures” of the planets during the time of Christ’s incarnation and on through the event of Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus. He then shows how these recurring rhythms and gestures serve as archetypes for how human beings today can take the deeds of Christ and work toward their further fulfillment for the Earth. For example, the geocentric rhythms of Venus during the Three Years create a five–pointed star or double pentagram around the Earth. Willi corresponds these five points to important deeds by Christ. This star/pentagram form of Venus remains in the heavens as the image of Venus, yet the five corners gradually rotate around the zodiac of the stars so that each corner can be realized in relation to each constellation of the zodiac by human beings who strive to unite themselves with the Christ impulse on Earth. Willi always presented these imaginations in a way that left each person free to discover his or her own relationship to these “questions” posed by Venus and the other planets in relation to the Christ events. Willi always encouraged his students to understand how the cosmos of the stars stands waiting for humanity to begin to “speak to the stars” and gradually transform the cosmos as co–creators with the gods.
2.) A second fundamental divergence from the astrosophy of Willi Sucher is in the zodiac used in Powell’s approach. In the Editorial Foreword, Powell writes, “There are many different approaches to Astrosophy and not all use the equal–division zodiac that forms the basis of the approach followed in the Journal for Star Wisdom. All references to the zodiac and to the planetary positions in the zodiac in the Journal for Star Wisdom are in terms of the sidereal zodiac as defined in my book History of the Zodiac.” This zodiac is defined as follows: “The basis of our style of astrology was first pioneered by the great teacher Zarathustra who mapped out the heavens into twelve zodiacal signs thousands of years ago. These twelve signs are equal 30 degree signs.”
Willi Sucher never worked from the Babylonian zodiac of twelve equal signs. Through his research and his effort to bring astrosophy into modern times, Willi worked with the sidereal zodiac of the actual fixed–star constellations, with the accepted degrees of demarcation in use by modern astronomy. This zodiac is based on the actual observable constellations of the zodiac, not on equal thirty degree signs. They are unequal in length. For example, the fixed stars of the Crab (Cancer) are a smaller constellation extending from 117 degrees of the ecliptic to 138 degrees (only 21 degrees), whereas the constellation of the Virgin (Virgo) extends from 173 degrees to 219 degrees (46 degrees).
In the Editorial Foreword to the Journal, Powell “encourages the reader to engage in the practice of star–gazing”, stating: “One of the foundations of Astrosophy lies in the science of astronomy, providing the new star wisdom with a secure scientific foundation, which moreover, can be brought into the realm of experience through the practice of star gazing.” Yet this star–gazing would not lead an observer to the Babylon zodiac of equal 30 degree signs. For example, if one is gazing at the planet Venus on the backdrop of the actual constellations, Venus will often be in a constellation that does not correspond to the Babylonian signs. It might be, according to the Babylonian zodiac, in the sign of Libra, when in reality it is in the constellation of Virgo.
Additionally, Willi was careful not to throw out the Greek tropical zodiac but left open the possibility that this zodiac might have a certain validity from another perspective. Just as the sidereal zodiac of the actual stars might be seen as a window to the astral realities (astral = star), so might the tropical zodiac used by the Greeks, which is based on the location of the vernal point or spring equinox and therefore to the seasonal “life” of the Earth, be related to the life realm of the Earth and the cycle of the year. Likewise, perhaps the so–called zodiac of the Houses, which is based on the horizon at the moment of birth (i.e. the physical plane of the Earth), might be related more to the physical realm. These were all questions explored and left open by Willi as encouragement for the research of others.
3.) One final point to be made about the distinction between the work of Willi Sucher and that of Robert Powell and the StarFire Research Group is on the practice of setting up a business of star wisdom and of reading charts. Willi Sucher offered workshops, lectures and private consultations over many years. Yet he never charged a fee for his work. Rather he offered his work freely, relying on donations which were frequently made by those who valued his work.
In 1978 at an Astrosophy Conference held at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland (to see the full minutes, click here), with members of the Mathematical–Astronomical Section of the Goetheanum, a statement was agreed upon concerning the “business” of astrosophy. The minutes of that meeting state:
“The idea of setting up a “practice” to council and give advice was rejected by those present as not appropriate to our modern age. This does not place a taboo on charts, just that one should not make a business of Astrosophy. Dr. Unger reminded us all at this point of a statement made by Rudolf Steiner in reference to the dangers one faces when working with another’s stars. He said, it is possible to interfere with a person’s Karma when using Astrology. This statement applies all the more to the New Star Wisdom and should be taken very soberly and seriously by anyone who looks into the stars of someone else.”
The offerings on the website of the StarFire Research Group do not abide by the decision that was agreed upon by those present at the Astrosophy Conference in Dornach.
On the article, In Memory of Willi Sucher:
The star wisdom represented by Robert Powell in the Journal has for many years diverged significantly from the work of Willi Sucher. This has been addressed frequently in correspondence and conversations among members of the StarFire Research Group and Board members of the Astrosophy Research Center, which includes Hazel Straker who joined Willi in the development of astrosophy in 1945 in England, lived in the Sucher’s home working with Willi for nearly 30 years and currently continues his work in Wales.
In August 2002, the Board of the Astrosophy Research Center wrote a letter to the General Council of the Anthroposophical Society and other anthroposophical institutions in America to clarify this divergence and to make clear that the work of the StarFire Group was independent of any association with the Astrosophy Research Center and the work of Willi Sucher.