The constellations date back to very ancient times of Man's evolution, they relate to and are a reflection of spiritual entities in the spirit world (or devachan). Whereas currently sets of stars are grouped into defined constellations, in ancient times - when Man still had a different consciousness and natural astral clairvoyance - these constellations were seen as the origins and direction of distinct spiritual influences.
The thematic names of the constellations were choosen related to the nature of these spiritual influences, and hence have a deeper symbolic meaning. Contemporary culture and mineral science can no longer relate to this based on the current state of humanity's waking consciousness.
- evolution from astral imaginations to star constellations [not always like this, but chrystallized to starlike images, before nebulous patches .. see astral light via etheric to physical light .. noting that physical light of the stars is luciferic]
- the twelve zodiacal constellations (see Zodiac) and the 'fixed stars' constellations not belonging to zodiac
- ancient and modern constellations:
- no official master reference list has been maintained through the ages, so names and boundaries of constellations were different in various cultures. As a result, since the middle ages, different cultures (countries and languages) maintained their own listings with overlapping areas and without overall consistency. Also for example new constellations for the southern skies were created in the middle ages by voyagers travelling south of the equator. See also wikipedia: Former constellations
- In 1930 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the work of Eugene Delporte standardized eighty-eight modern constellation names and boundaries in order to remove possible astronomical ambiguities between astronomers from different countries.
- This means that many former historical western constellations are no longer widely or officialy recognised for various reasons, whereas these were traditional in one or more countries or cultures often for many centuries and beyond. These former constellations are still recognised for their classical historical value, many had complex Latinised names after objects, people, or mythological or zoological creatures. Others with unwieldy names were shortened for convenience. For example, Scutum Sobiescianum was reduced to Scutum, Mons Mensae to Mensa, and Apparatus Sculptoris to Sculptor.
- viewing the visible constellations:
- there are 88 constellations in the sky (based on the contemporary IAU standard), including both Northern and Southern hemispheres. Hence at any one time one can see approximately half, or 44, constellations in the celestial hemisphere above. However due to the rotation of the Earth constellations are continuously rising the east and setting in the west, so it is possible to see more than 44 constellations on any given night.
- asterisms are easily popularly-known and easily recognizable patterns of stars visible to the naked eye.
- Some asterisms correspond to the brighter stars in a single constellation, eg the recognizable asterism called the Big Dipper is only part of the much larger region in the sky contained within the boundaries of the constellation Ursa Major. This is valid for many asterisms as a subset of the larger constellation area.
- Others asterisms contain stars in multiple constellations. An example is the summer triangle, comprising the bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair as the brightest stars from the constellations Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila.
Lecture coverage and references
At the second stage of clairvoyance, dreams become precise and clear. The geometrical and symbolic figures employed as the sacred signs of the great religions are, properly speaking, the language of the creative Word, the living hieroglyphs of cosmic speech. Among such symbols are: the cross, the sign of life; the pentagram or five-pointed star, the sign of sound or word; the hexagram or six-pointed star (two interlaced triangles) the sign of the macrocosm reflected in the microcosm, and so forth. At the second stage of clairvoyance, these signs - which we today delineate in abstract lines - appear full of colour, life and radiance on a background of light. They are not , as yet, the garment of living beings, but they indicate, so to say, the norms and laws of creation.
These signs are the basis of the animal forms chosen by the earliest Initiates to express the passage of the Sun through the Zodiacal constellations. The Initiates translated their visions into such signs and symbols. The most ancient characters employed in Sanskrit, Egyptian, Greek and Runic scripts - every letter of which has ideographic meaning - were the expressions of heavenly ciphers.
[after sketching the four layers of the spirit world, and then arriving at the fifth:]
At this point, the Initiate passes to a sphere beyond the world of stars. He no longer reads the Akashic Records from the side of the Earth but from the side of the heavens. The Akashic Record becomes the occult script of the stars and the Initiate experiences the primal source of the universe, of the Logos.
To avoid misunderstanding I must mention that in manuals on Theosophy,
- the Elementary World is usually called the astral world;
- what we call the World of Spirit in there called the lower or rupa-devachan sphere.
- What is there called the higher or arupa-devachan sphere is here called the World of Reason.
When we pass from the World of Spirit into the World of Reason we meet with something similar to what has already been experienced if we are revealed to ourselves as beings who are mastering our temperaments and developing balance from one life to another.
Thus do we approach the boundary of the World of Spirit.
When we reach it we find spiritual facts and beings expressed as if in a cosmic clock through the movements of the planets.
- The beings are expressed in the constellations of the Zodiac,
- the facts in the planets.
[editor: thus with the boundary between the lower and higher spirit world, this statement maps the fourth layer of the spirit world to the zodiac]
But these analogies do not take us very far; we must pass on to the beings themselves — the spiritual hierarchies.
Now we should be unable to form any conception of the still higher worlds unless with clairvoyant consciousness we were to pass on to the Beings themselves-the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, and so on. In one incarnation a man may have a melancholic temperament, in another a sanguine temperament. His real being is more than either. His real being breaks through such classifications.
If we are now clear in our minds that the Beings we designate as Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, and so forth, and who express themselves in physical space in the constellations of the Zodiac - if we are clear that these Beings are more than their names designate, then we are beginning to form a true concept of this upper boundary of the Macrocosm.
A Being who confronts us in some particular clairvoyant experience, let us say as a Spirit of Wisdom, does not always remain at the same stage and therefore cannot always be denoted by the same name. For just as man develops, so do these Beings develop through different stages; hence they must be called now by one name, now by another. The Beings develop from stage to stage. The names may roughly be thought of as designations of offices. If we speak of Spirits of Will or of Spirits of Wisdom, it is rather as if here on Earth we were speaking of a councilor, privy councilor, or the like; the man may have been that to begin with and then something else. In the spiritual Hierarchies the same Being might at one time have been a Spirit of Wisdom, at another time a Spirit of Will, and so on, because the Beings develop through stages, through various ranks.
As long as we remain in the World of Spirit they reveal themselves as Seraphim or Cherubim or of whatever rank it may be. But from the moment we become acquainted with the developing Being, from the moment we proceed beyond the title of office to a conception of the actual Being himself, we have ascended into a still higher realm, into the World of Reason (Vernunftreich). The forces of this world are the builders of man's organ of intelligence.
Thus at the boundary of the World of Spirit, certain Beings touch this boundary from above and assume certain qualities; certain functions must be attributed to them.
But when we ascend to a still higher world these Beings are revealed to us now in process of living development. It is similar to what happens to man in the physical world in the course of his incarnations. Just as we only really come to know a man by following him from one incarnation to another instead of taking account merely of his present incarnation, so do we only come to know the lofty spiritual Beings if we are able to look beyond what their deeds express, to the Beings themselves. To associate with spiritual Beings and to witness their evolution means to live in the World of Reason.
As was indicated yesterday, above the World of Reason there is a yet higher world, whence come the forces which enable us actually to pass from normal consciousness into clairvoyant consciousness that is equipped with eyes and ears of spirit. Why, then, should it be surprising to say that these qualities and faculties originate in worlds higher than the World of Spirit or even than the World of Reason? When clairvoyant consciousness awakens in a man, he becomes in actual fact a participator in the higher worlds. No wonder, then, that the forces for awakening this clairvoyant consciousness come from a world whence certain higher spiritual Beings themselves derive their forces. We derive our forces from the Elementary World, the World of Spirit, the World of Reason. If these worlds are to be transcended the forces for the ascent must be derived from even higher spheres.
E. Vreede (p311):
The ancient constellations such as the Great Bear, Leo, and so on, were not added to the external stars in ancient tumes by arbitrary fantasy, but were living imaginations of the beings standing behind them.
48 in total, four groups of 12 of which the first are the zodiac .. three groups left .. re layers in spirit world
References and further reading
- Elisabeth Vreede: 'Astronomy and Spiritual Science'