1978 - A Report on Astrosophy Conference in Dornach
The Easter Astrosophy Conference held at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, marked the inauguration of many new relations between those who are working and interested in the development of a New Star Wisdom, and the Mathematical-Astronomical Section of the Goetheanum. It was the first such meeting held and sponsored by the Astronomical Section in which the work of Willi Sucher and others began to be looked into in depth. It was also the first time several key questions concerning the relation of the New Star Wisdom to the Goetheanum could be asked and answered by responsible people. For most participants it was the first meeting they had with others who are active in this field. The following is a brief description of those who attended and the main topics of discussion and some results of those discussions.
We were fourteen in number from many parts of the world. Dr. Georg Unger hosted the meetings and represented the Astronomical-Mathematical Section of which he is the current leader. Present also from the section were two co-workers; Peter Gschwind from Basel, Switzerland, and Wim Vierson from Dornach. We were all very pleased that Jörgen Smit, a Vorstand member and the current leader of the Section for the Youth was able to attend all our meetings. He showed a keen interest in our discussions and expressed a desire to keep in contact with the progress of the New Star Wisdom in the future. Other middle Europeans at the talks were Thilde von Eiff, a Waldorf school teacher from Stuttgart, Germany. Suso Vetter, also a Waldorf teacher and long time co-worker of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section was part of the group, he is responsible for the Star Calendar which is put out by the Astronomical Section. Leo de la Houssaye from Zeist, Holland is doing practical work with Astrosophy in connection with backward children, and was an active participant of our talks.
From east Europe, Poland to be exact, we were pleased to share our talks with Dr. Konrad Rudnicki. He is a professional Astronomer studying at the Goetheanum. He always added an element of warmth and sincerity to our talks and his open attitude was most appreciated.
From England came Hazel Straker, a long time co-worker of Willi Sucher and devoted teacher of the new relation of man to the Stars. Her long experience in this field was always in evidence when she spoke, and her sincere good will helped bridge some tense moments. With her came Peter Treadgold. His house has served for years as a gathering place for star meetings in England. Robert Powell was also in attendance. He is the editor of the “Mercury Star Journal.” John Meeks is currently teaching astronomy at Emerson College, Sussex, England. He was at one time a co-worker of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section and served as translator during the conference.
From North America came William Bento, an American living in Canada. He is a long-time student of Astrology and a personal friend of many of the leading Astrologers of our time. He expressed concern about the trends in Astrology today and how Spiritual Science can turn a genuine interest in the stars, shown by the upsurge of popularity in Astrology, on to a path leading to Michael and not to Lucifer. I myself went as representative for the Foundation and also for Willi Sucher. My interest was to present Willi’s point of view and also to gain answers to what I saw as key questions concerning the relation of the work to the Mathematical-Astronomical Section as it has been in the past and might be in the future. The highlights of our meeting form what follows.
Dr. Unger’s opening comments came in the form of two questions which served to set the mood and direction of our discussions. The two main questions which were of prime importance were, how far have we come in achieving results in the New Star Wisdom, and how can we work with individual horoscopes?
The first question, how far have we come, is of course a fair one. It was generally acknowledged that as soon as one begins to speak of a New Star Wisdom or a renewal of Astrology one very quickly comes primarily to the work of Willi Sucher. This work is the main body of research in this field. Of course that does not imply that others have not also begun to work towards the renewal of Astrology, but as far as the amount of work and depth of understanding, Willi Sucher is essentially alone. Thus the conference rapidly became a discussion of the work of Willi Sucher. In trying to answer the question, how far have we come, the specific details of the existing body of knowledge were discussed.
We started our discussions with the Heliocentric or Sun-centered world picture. From the start the group met with great questions and concerns over this approach. It was felt by some that the work went far beyond reasonable support out of Spiritual Science. The understanding for this approach was generally lacking among our group. I was given the task of leading a discussion on the Heliocentric world view during one of our evening sessions. Together with those who had some understanding of the approach, particularly Hazel Straker, we tried to explain why we felt this approach to be vital as a world view, even needed by modern man. I gave specific details of the indications given by Rudolf Steiner and tried to show the connections between those suggestions and the development of the Heliocentric world view (in subsequent newsletters those thoughts will be presented). Some progress was made, at least we could all see that the idea of maintaining a Heliocentric picture is indicated in the work of Rudolf Steiner, and that it does serve modern man in the present stage of evolution. We could not all see the therapeutic value of such an approach, and questions like these will have to be gone into in future meetings.
The Geocentric picture of the universe (Earth-centered) was, on the other hand, met with much more of a wide-spread acceptance. The basis for this approach had been set forth in detail by Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Elisabeth Vreede. Willi Sucher continued these beginnings and put them to practical use. As the acceptance was generally acknowledged we did not spend a great deal of time on this world conception but simply outlined the subjects which it is felt can be served in a direct way through this approach to the stars. The subjects are Eurythmy, Medicine, Agriculture, Curative Education and Anthroposophical Cosmology and Astronomy.
During one of our evening discussion groups we tried to come to a deeper understanding of the term “Astrosophy.” From the lecture cycle on “Pastoral Medicine” Rudolf Steiner gives a clear progression leading ultimately to the stage of direct contact with living Spiritual Beings and the highest step of initiation. This stage of Intuition is what Rudolf Steiner refers to as Astrosophy. The seriousness of this fact makes the use of the term Astrosophy as an everyday word questionable and it was suggested by Dr. Unger that as a more common every day term “New Star Wisdom” was more appropriate.
Finally let us look at the second question Dr. Unger raised. In reference to individual charts it was felt by all that each request had to be dealt with on a personal basis. 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. In this connection, it was agreed that asterograms (charts) should whenever possible be done in collaboration with a physician, curative educator or teacher. These thoughts are guidelines for conduct proper to this vital work, but should not be seen as hard and fast rules or dogma.
(Note: Willi did many charts in collaboration with doctors that dealt with a range of illnesses, such as eye diseases, MS, etc., as well as those of the special needs people. The charts he did on these adults and children were heliocentric, and he mentions that in several places in his publications. For example, in The Changing Countenance of Cosmology, chapter 3, Roads to a Modern Cosmology and Astrosophy, he writes: “…another discovery, which was reported in a German periodical… concerns down-syndrome children, a special category of special needs children. A medical doctor in Czechoslovakia, who was originally very skeptical toward the whole idea, eventually decided to cooperate with an astrologer. They worked out the birth charts of 50 down-syndrome children and 150 of their brothers and sisters who had the same mothers. First, the geocentric approach gave hardly any clues, but in employing the heliocentric approach, they were stunned by the results. They discovered that in all 50 of the charts of the down-syndrome children Mercury was in “bad” aspects, according to astrological concepts, for instance, in square (90° distance) to Venus.”)
2002 Letter to General Secretary of Anthroposophical Society
Dear General Secretary:
As concerned members of the Board of Directors of the Astrosophy Research Center, we are writing to clarify the position of the Astrosophy Research Center with regard to the work of astrosophy. This seems necessary at present due to some recent activities by other practitioners of astrosophy, which have been called to our attention.
The purpose of the Astrosophy Research Center is to develop and maintain the work of Willi Sucher, which he called astrosophy based on the indications given by Rudolf Steiner, through his association with Dr. Elizabeth Vreede, and through his deeply earnest lifetime study of anthroposophy. Willi Sucher founded the Center in February 1984, prior to his death in May 1985, as the vehicle to maintain and continue his work. As the directors of the Center, we recognize that the work of astrosophy must be available to anyone who has a desire to study and work with it. But, as is also true with anthroposophy, individuals may take the content of what has been developed and use it for many purposes that may or may not be true to its fundamental spiritual intent. As an organization devoted to protecting and further researching astrosophy as developed by Willi Sucher, we can be saddened by the use of astrosophy in astrological-type forecasting, which is not true to the purpose of astrosophy, but we also recognize that this is part of the risk when spiritual knowledge is made open and accessible to all.
The Astrosophy Research Center holds that a healthy development of all research and work out of astrosophy, among other core values, must first and foremost promote and serve the freedom of the individual and never serve as a means of directing people in their lives through the use of “star charts” or in any way predicting future life events. Though Willi Sucher did research individual star charts, he never advised people on what choices to make or what directions to take in their lives. Rather, he would present the content of his understanding of the stars in the context of the new Christ impulse brought to the cosmos of the stars at the turning point of time. An individual could then draw their own inspiration for how to develop this Christ impulse within themselves in the context of their own star chart and their own unique biography.
A new astrosophy should in no way draw the human being into an earlier form of spiritual dependence on the external stars or individuals claiming to read the guidance of the stars. Rather, any new developments of astrosophy should work to fulfill the words of the verse given by Rudolf Steiner, “Stars once spoke to man…”, striving to fulfill the task of preparing the human being to “speak to the stars” in order to bring transformation into the cosmic world and to become co-creators with the Christ in human evolution. To this end Willi Sucher devoted his life and work with the stars and this is the continued purpose of the Astrosophy Research Center.
We intend this letter to serve as a formal statement by the Astrosophy Research Center that we neither support nor align our work with any use of astrosophy to serve astrological forecasting or to in any way influence the freedom of the individual. We also stand committed to the principle agreed upon at the Astrosophy Conference held at the Goetheanum in 1978 (which was attended by William Bento, one of the individuals currently using astrosophy in a manner not acceptable by the Research Center) and recorded in the minutes of this conference: “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.”Anyone using the term astrosophy for this kind of work does so independently from the work as developed by Willi Sucher and as maintained by the Astrosophy Research Center.
Board of Directors:
Jonathan HiltonHazel StrakerDarlys TurnerNan ShawPatty Kughl
Cc: THE GEOTHEANUM: Dr. Virginia Sease, 4143 Dornach, Switzerland,EASTERN REGION: Marsha Post, c/o New York Branch, 138 W. 15th St., NY 10011,CENTRAL REGION: Susan Stevenson, 4535 N. Hamilton Ave., Apt. 3W, Chicago, IL 60625,WESTERN REGION: Joan Treadaway, 1920 Thumb Butte Rd., Prescott, AZ 86301,RUDOLF STEINER COLLEGE: Brian Gray, 9200 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks, CA 95628,SUNBRIDGE COLLEGE: Signe Schaefer, 260 Hungry Hollow Rd., Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977,ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOCIETY OF GREAT BRITIAN: General Secretary, 35 Park Road, London NW1 6XT, UK
A Response to 2010 Journal for StarWisdom
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.
©Astrosophy Research Center 2015 All rights reserved. These letters are for private use, study, and research only and are not to be reprinted for any other purpose without the written permission of the Astrosophy Research Center.