As one begins to live with a consciousness of the starry worlds surrounding the earth and expand one’s awareness of the greater cosmos, a beginning practice can be developed of simply becoming aware of the planets and constellations which are rising and setting daily around us. In these ongoing articles, we will take one or two current planetary configurations and elaborate on their deeper perspective out of astrosophy. In this way, students of astrosophy can build a deeper spiritual understanding of the stars.
Above is an image of the fixed stars of the Virgin in the third week of January, 2016. If one goes out before sunrise (optimally about 45 minutes before) between January 20 through the first week of February, one can observe these stars of Virgin with the bright planet Jupiter at her head and the planet Mars in the region just below her feet, high in the western sky. From about January 20 thru February 20 all five of the visible planets are spread out across the sky before dawn. Because of Mercury's close proximity to the Sun and is usually subsumed in its light, so the best days to see Mercury are the last days of January and the first week of February. This sweep of the planets above can be awe inspiring. Look to the southeast and you will see bright Venus, now as the morning star, above the horizon. Mercury will be nearer the horizon a bit below Venus. Follow your gaze up from Venus to Saturn above the star Antares (the heart of the Scorpion). Looking about due south, you will see Mars, with its slightly reddish glow. Following the arc west stands Spica, the sheaf of wheat in the Virgin’s hand and on to a brilliant Jupiter high in the southwest. You can see how long the constellation Virgin stretches across the sky. The waning moon can help locate the stars as well. It is near Jupiter on January 27, Mars on February 1, Saturn on February 3, Venus on February 5, and above Mercury on February 6 before it conjuncts the Sun in new moon on February 8. These planets were last all visible together in the sky at the end of December, 2004. (With the advent of smartphones a range of apps offer real time views of the stars. The photo above is downloaded from the app SkyView.)
With this awareness of the actual stars and planets in the sky around us, and in this instance the ability to view them spread out over four of the fixed star constellations of the zodiac, how can we apply the insights of a spiritual scientific astrosophy to gain a deeper understanding of these stars and learn what it means to “speak” to these stars?
Much could be written about Saturn conjunct the fixed star Antares, the heart of the Scorpion, and Venus and Mercury in the Archer (Mercury retrograde in January and therefore in inferior conjunction with the Sun on 1/14), as well as the other planets. However, in order to keep these articles short, I will focus now on the Virgin with Jupiter just above her head and Mars around her feet. I encourage readers to refer to the footnotes for expanded understanding. Let us start by looking at each aspect of this configuration separately.
The image of the Virgin as depicted above by SkyView is a traditional image often seen in astrology, representing Ceres/Demeter, the Goddess of the Earth, with the symbols of the harvest, holding the grains in her hands. The myth of Ceres includes the imagination of her daughter Persephone who was captured by Pluto and taken into the underworld. We will not explore this star myth in this article though it is full of symbolic meaning. Virgo is the constellation in which the Sun stands during harvest time and upon leaving Virgo, makes its descent into the lower regions or underworld of the zodiac during the darker times of the year in its annual journey. In the tropical zodiac, used by the Greeks/Romans and in current astrology, the Sun enters the sign of the Virgin on August 23rd. In the astronomical zodiac, used by Willi Sucher, the Sun currently enters the Virgin on September 17th and because Virgin is the largest of the unequal fixed star constellations, the Sun leaves Virgin on October 30th.
There is another image of the Virgin of which this constellation speaks. That is the image of Isis Sophia, the Queen of Heaven, revered by the Egyptians as Isis, the great Wisdom of the Cosmos. She is also often depicted as the Divine Mary, Mother of God.
One could go into profound depths with this constellation and the imaginations associated with it, but we will here focus on the imagination of the Isis Sophia. She is often shown with a crown of twelve stars around her head, which is where Jupiter is currently located. She is also depicted standing on the Moon (often also shown as a crescent moon), where Mars is currently located. Since Jupiter is slow moving, and particularly now since it went retrograde on January 8th, it has hovered over the head of Virgo during December, the Holy Nights and thru February as it apparently turns back towards the Lion. Once it returns in forward movement it will again come into this region of Virgo. Thus Jupiter will for some time remain in this region of Virgo. Mars is just leaving the feet of the Virgin, crossing into the astronomical Scales around January 17th.
What is the deeper meaning in this configuration? Due to our current consciousness, which is bound to the senses and the brain, we observe a planetary body in the sky, but this body is merely there to direct us to activity in the entire planetary sphere. When we go on to a future study of the heliocentric perspective, we will look more closely at these planetary spheres. Each planetary sphere is an expression of the activity of a rank of spiritual beings. The planet Jupiter in the crown of stars over the head of Sophia is informing us about the nature of the current activity of the beings within the sphere of Jupiter. These are the Kyriotetes, or Spirits of Wisdom. [i] From Rudolf Steiner we know that the Kyriotetes were of primary importance during the evolutionary cycle of Ancient Sun, when they endowed the human being with the etheric or life body. Rudolf Steiner also describes the journey of the human being in the life after death through the sphere of Jupiter as a time when one encounters the archetypes of life, not as experienced on earth as split up into separate beings, but as one flowing unity of thought.[ii] The wisdom of Jupiter is the creative living thinking that wants to be realized in the human being. It is a thinking such as developed through a path described in Rudolf Steiner’s Knowledge of Higher Worlds which can penetrate to the spiritual realities of existance. Jupiter is connected to the two-petalled chakra between the eyes, the so called “third eye”, organ of higher thought and perception. Willi Sucher used to described this new etheric thinking associated with Jupiter as clair-thinking to distinguish it from the old forms of clairvoyance. Jupiter is also the sphere which seeks to expand towards the future, envisioning the future of humanity and our capacity to realize on earth new ideas based on a true knowledge of spiritual realities. As Jupiter hovers in the crown of stars around the head of the Sophia, we can consider how we can help prepare for this future through developing clair-thinking, perhaps even the possibility to bring into reality a new Sophia of the stars. A clear observation of the world today can reveal already this struggle to awaken to our higher calling as human beings.
Mars under the feet of the Virgin presents a different, even polar, imagination. As Jupiter is connected with the second region of Spiritland, Mars is connected with the first region of Spiritland where the human being is “in the thought workshop in which earthly things are formed and fashioned”.[iii] The sphere of Mars “endows the human being with the capacity to stand as a conscious being, face to face with the object”.[iv] This capacity is why Mars is associated with confrontation, even an aggressive or war-like quality. Through Mars, the human being handles the physical material world, comes into contact, even confrontation with the objects of the world, which also includes with other human egos. It is this process that enables the human being to become an earthly “I” and build a consciousness of Self. A toddler bumps the table and becomes aware, “I am not that.” And so it goes throughout a persons earthly development. We awaken to the separate self by defining that self by what it is NOT. We become the center of our world. This can of course become over developed, and lead to an unhealthy egotism which only seeks its own needs. The self can become a tyrant. Thus Mars can manifest in an aggressive, confrontational, unruly way when the ability to move past the self as center is not developed. In esotericism, the first half of Earth evolution is the Mars half. The second, and current half, is the Venus half of earth evolution, which calls for a transformation of the Mars self. In Mars we can see the development of a consciousness that has brought the wonders of natural science, the mastery of the material world, and a separation from the divine that has enabled the human being to stand independent. This Mars now stands where is the moon under the feet of the Isis Sophia. This moon under Her feet is an imagination of the untransformed astral nature of the human being; that in us which has not been purified, which the Divine Sophia has transformed. The constellation of the Virgin represents, both within the body as well as in the soul, this process of transformation, even transubstantiation. Mars now standing in the region of the Moon under her feet can remind us of the need to take up our Mars challenge, both in the individual and in the world. Here we only touch on the expression of the sphere of Mars in humanity. For further reading, see Rudolf Steiner on the mission of the Buddha on Mars.[v] In this position of Mars we have an opportunity to recognize the need to put the earthly self at the service of divine wisdom and the challenge of transformation called on in order to truly heed the call of Jupiter for a higher perspective on the task and goals of humanity; to transform that in us that seeks “MY way!” and realize the words of the apostle Paul, “Not I, but Christ in me.”
This article has been only a very beginning exploration of the profound imaginations contained in this star configuration of the Virgin with Jupiter in her crown and Mars below her feet. It can serve as an inspiration to follow a path of inner transformation in order to build the truly new in humanity, which has been made possible through the deed of Christ in the Earth. In this way, the Sophia, once living in the cosmos of stars, can come to new life within human beings. Through allowing such spiritual imaginations to reverberate inwardly through contemplation, they can become true inner substance of life and offer a way to know the stars and even to speak to the stars. This verse given by Rudolf Steiner is another expression of this star imagination of Virgo.
Isis-Sophia, Wisdom of the Godhead,
Lucifer has slain you,
and on the wings of world wide forces
carried you hence into widths of space.
Christ Will working in the human being
shall free you from the bonds of Lucifer
and on the boats of Spirit-knowledge
awaken you to new life in human souls.
Isis Sophia, Wisdom of the Godhead.[vi]
Article by: Jonathan Hilton
[i] Willi Sucher, Isis Sophia II, pp. 82-85
[ii] Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy, Chapter III: The Three Worlds
[iv] Willi Sucher, Isis Sophia II, pp. 85-88
[v] Rudolf Steiner, The Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz, Chapter VII: The Mission of Gautama Buddha on Mars