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Steiner's tropical astrological esoteric reference

Foundation Stone parchment, 20th September 1913
Rudolf Steiner.

Though Rudolf Steiner makes numerous references to astrological and cosmological considerations and events, these are generally of a form that could easily be understood either tropically or sidereally.

There is one key and significant document that cannot, however, be ambiguously understood in relation to Steiner's own tropical usage, and of direct esoteric import: the Foundation Stone document parchment drawn by Steiner's hand, spoken aloud by Steiner on the evening of the ceremony of the foundation for the first Goetheanum, itself then intered into the copper double dodecahedra.

Steiner would have been aware of various esoteric groups, inclusive of members of the Theosophical Society and members of derivative orders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, that preferenced sidereal astrology. Similarly, he would have at the very least have been made aware of Hindu sidereal astrology that was already making new inroads in Western Europe before and around that time. What here follows does not, of course, negate the importance nor the significance of appropriate sidereal usage: rather, it merely alludes to the question as to Steiner's own use with specific and sole regard for esoteric work undertaken around the time of the foundation of the first Goetheanum - a time during which, incidentally, the Memphis-Misraïm Masonic rite Steiner practiced was still in use (as also evidenced by other considerations from both this parchment and records of the ceremony).

On the evening of the 20th of September 1913, the parchment (depicted above) was signed by the attendees, read out by Steiner, and then intered within the submerged double copper-sheet dodecahedra. The short-hand notes from the time record Steiner reading the various inscriptions upon the document, inclusive of the all important references to the angelic hierarchies and the Rosicrucian tripartite E.D.N.; J.C.M.; P.S.S.R., followed by the following statement:

This Stone we lower into the kingdom of the condensed elements as symbol of the force for which we endeavour to strive through 3, 5, 7, 12, laid by the Johannes-Bau Verein, Dornach, on the 20th day of September 1880 after the Mystery of Golgotha, that is 1913 after the birth of Christ, when Mercury as the evening star stood in Libra.

The term 'condensed elements' is here reminiscent of Schiller in his Letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man, a short work that Steiner characterises as being of the highest philosophical significance.

The importance and significance that Steiner placed on the laying of this foundation stone, as well as the significance of the document and each part of its content, cannot be underestimated. It is also of high significance that here Steiner refers to Mercury as the evening star - again an indication (for another time) as to the so-called 'interchange' between Venus and Mercury.

It is for us a very simple matter to ascertain the sidereal and tropical locations of Mercury and Venus (just to be sure, to be sure, that it was indeed to Mercury to which Steiner actually referred!).

side consideration of the 'when' of Steiner's statement:

We need to briefly comment on the 'when' of 'when Mercury as the evening star stood in Libra', for it could of course (at least in the English translation) be construed as referring to any of three events: either the mystery of Golgotha (ie., the crucifixion); or to the birth of Jesus; or as more common-sensibly implied, to the time of the event referred to with the laying of the foundation stone itself. If we mistakenly assume the Mystery of Golgotha as the referrent, and, for convenience, adopt the date provided by Robert Powell in his Chronicle of the Living Christ (Cf Chart 6 on page 151), we find that Mercury was not at that time in Libra: sidereally it was in Capricorn (and tropically in Sagittarius). Of the sidereal and tropical birth charts of the Solomon Jesus and the Nathan Jesus, the sidereal birth chart of the Nathan Jesus is the only one that does yield a Libran Mercury (sidereally, according to the same reference, Chart 4, p 149). I would suggest that the 'when' nonetheless sensibly refers the time of the laying of the foundation stone itself... as to be expected.

It is clear and unambiguous that, in this important astrological reference, Steiner referred to Mercury according to its tropical position, this latter having just entered the sign of, and thus being in, (tropical) Libra. Mercury (and only Mercury as tropically considered) had that very day entered (and was at just under 1°) Libra.

On the 20th of September 1913, at approximately 20:00 (the ceremony was due to start at 7:00 pm but was delayed a little, and in any case only a tiny change of 8' of arc occurs between 7 and 9 pm), the positions of Mercury and of Venus stood as follows, again clearly indicating a determination of the tropical position of Mercury:

Mercury at 8 pm 20th Sept. 1913


Venus at 8 pm 20th Sept. 1913

00:40 Libra (tropical)

07:08 Virgo (sidereal)

22:56 Leo (tropical)

29:24 Cancer (sidereal)

Sidereal reference

Though the above reference clearly points to tropical usage, it should nonetheless be pointed out that in the context of biodynamic farming, in response to a question, Steiner also pointed - again clearly - to sidereal consideration. In the Agriculture Course, during the discussion that followed Lecture 6 (in Koberwitz on the 14th of June, 1924), Steiner responded to the question 'What "constellation of Venus with Scorpio?"' - this was in reference to the suggestion he made with young mice skin given in the lecture to which various references were made to obtaining the pepper preparation when Venus is in Scorpio - to which Steiner replied: 'Whenever Venus is visible in the sky with the Scorpio constellation in the background'. Clearly a sidereal clarification for the listeners at that time, as farmers, encouraged to observe phenomenologically their environment!