Eclipse are cosmic processes that are experienced as physical events on earth, behind which there lie significant spiritual realities.
In ancient times the spiritual meaning of the physical eclipses gave rise to simple superstition, whereas they should be understood in a spiritual scientific way.
During a solar eclipse,
- something totally different takes place in the part of the earth affected from what is happening when there is no eclipse.
- the forces of will, all the unbridled impulses and instincts of humanity surge unhindered out into cosmos space
- opportunity is given for the evil which is willed on earth to spread over the cosmos
- it acts as a safety-valve that serves the purpose of carrying out the evil on earth out into space in a Luciferic way, so this evil may work havoc in a less concentrated way in a wider sphere
During a lunar eclipse,
- thoughts stream through darkness down upon the earth; which have a closer relationship with subconscious than with conscious life of Man
- the lunar eclipse opens the gate for people who have a desire to receive and get hold of evil, diabolical thoughts
- it acts as a safety-valve that serves the purpose of allowing the evil thoughts which are present in the cosmos to approach those human beings who are desirous of being possessed by them.
Lecture coverage and references
"Like sleep, like darkness of the being of nature, appears to us the time in which the Christmas festival is established. Quite the opposite to external nature is the experience of the human soul. Whereas the beings of nature descend into darkness and the human soul accompanies them into this realm of eclipse of the Sun, in the human soul it becomes brighter - or can at least become so. It can, through the natural course of events, which we have frequently indicated as a certain inherited clairvoyance, or through trained clairvoyance, plunge into the clearest spiritual world where the secrets of the spirit then dawn upon it, the secrets that lie hidden behind the external physical things. And just as a regular law underlies this descent of the plant world at the time of winter, so also a similar law underlies the spiritual blossoming of man, so that its clear luminosity coincides with the darkness of nature into which the Christmas festival is placed." (GA 158 Introductory Words to 'Olaf Asteson', lecture of 1/1/1912.)
1922-06-25-GA213 is called 'Sunlight and Moonlight, Solar and Lunar Eclipses and their Relation to Man's Life of Soul'
In addition to all this, a man who has had these experiences learns to measure the true significance of certain transitory phenomena which stand, as it were, midway between processes regarded as physical and cosmic in their nature, and those which are cosmic and spiritual. The man of today, owing largely to his materialistic education, describes everything from the physical point of view. He says: “An eclipse of the sun is due to the fact that the moon comes between the sun and the earth, cutting off the rays of the sun.” This is a physical explanation, built up from physical observation and as obvious as if we were to say: “Here is a light, and there an eye. If I place my hand in front of the eye, the light will be darkened.” As you see, it is a purely physical, spatial explanation, and that is as far as modern consciousness goes.
We must strive once more for a true knowledge of such phenomena. They are not of everyday occurrence, and on the comparatively rare occasions of their appearance they should be studied not only from their physical but also from their spiritual aspect.
At the time of a solar eclipse, for instance, something totally different takes place in the part of the earth affected from what is happening when there is no eclipse. When we know that
- on the one hand the rays of the sun penetrate down to the earth and
- on the other hand the forces or rays of will stream out to meet the sun,
it is possible to form some idea of how a solar eclipse can affect these radiations of will which are altogether spiritual in their nature. The sunlight is blocked by the moon; that is a purely physical process. But physical matter — in this case the body of the moon — is no obstacle to the forces streaming out from the will. These forces radiate into the darkness, and there ensues a period of time, short though it may be, in which all that is of the nature of will upon the earth flows out into universal space in an abnormal way. It is different altogether from what takes place when there is no eclipse. Ordinarily, the physical sunlight unites with the radiations of will streaming towards it. When there is an eclipse, the forces of will flow unhindered into cosmic space.
The old initiates knew these things. They saw that at such a moment all the unbridled impulses and instincts of humanity surge out into the cosmos. And they gave their pupils the following explanation. They said:
Under normal conditions the evil impulses of will which are sent out into the cosmos by human beings are, as it were, burned up and consumed by the rays of the sun, so that they can injure only man himself, but can do no universal harm. When, however, there is an eclipse of the sun, opportunity is given for the evil which is willed on earth to spread over the cosmos. An eclipse is a physical event behind which there lies a significant spiritual reality.
And again, when there is an eclipse of the moon, the man of today merely says: “Now the earth comes between the sun and the moon; hence we see the shadow cast upon the moon by the earth.” That is the physical explanation.
But in this case also the old initiate knew that a spiritual reality was behind the physical fact. He knew that when there is an eclipse of the moon, thoughts stream through darkness down upon the earth; and that such thoughts have a closer relationship with the subconscious life than with the conscious life of the human being.
[editor note: re Hieroglyph cycle and 18 year Saros period link with 18y periods in a Man’s life]
The old initiates often made use of a certain simile when speaking to their pupils. It is, of course, necessary to translate their words into modern language, but this is the gist of what they said:
“Visionaries and dreamers love to go for rambles by moonlight, when the moon is full. There are, however, certain people who have no wish to receive the good thoughts coming to them from the cosmos, but who, on the contrary, are desirous of getting hold of evil, diabolical thoughts. Such people will choose the moment of a lunar eclipse for their nocturnal wanderings.”
Here again we approach a spiritual reality in a physical event. Today we must not absorb such teaching in its old form. Were we to do so, we should be led into superstition. But it is very necessary to reach a point at which we are able once more to perceive the spiritual which permeates all cosmic processes.
[Eclipses as safety-valves]
Eclipses of the sun and moon, recurring as they do in the course of every year, may really be looked upon as “safety-valves.” A safety-valve is there to avert danger, to provide an outlet for something or other — steam, for instance — at the right moment.
- One of the safety-valves which makes its appearance in the cosmos and to which we give the name of a solar eclipse, serves the purpose of carrying out into space in a Luciferic way, the evil that spreads over the earth, in order that evil may work havoc in a wider, less concentrated sphere.
- The other safety-valve, the lunar eclipse, exists for the purpose of allowing the evil thoughts which are present in the cosmos to approach those human beings who are desirous of being possessed by them.
In matters of this kind people do not, as a rule, act in full consciousness, but the facts are nevertheless real - just as real as the attraction of a magnet for small particles of iron. Such are the forces at work, in the cosmos - forces no less potent than the forces we analyse and investigate today in our chemical laboratories.
Man will not be able to free himself from the forces in his being which tend to drag him downwards until he develops in himself a certain feeling for spiritual concepts such as these. Then only will the path leading to a true comprehension of birth and death be opened up to humanity. And such a comprehension and understanding is sorely needed by humanity today, when men are plunged in spiritual darkness.
I had also noted down the question: 'What is the meaning of the Apocalyptic phrase: "When the moon became as blood"?' (Rev. 6,12).
Rudolf Steiner said in a most serious manner: 'That is a very deep saying which you have quoted!'
I: 'Does it mean that the dark moon slag begins to shine when the red light shines through it from within—or does a red glow shine from the visible sun towards the moon?'
Rudolf Steiner: 'The first statement is correct, not the second. The latter is incorrect. The moon is illuminated from within—you see, it is like an egg: the yolk is the moon through which shines the red light.'
- slag: stony waste matter separated from metals during the smelting or refining of ore, also: stony material ejected by a volcano
- yolk: the yellow internal part of a bird's egg, which is surrounded by the white, is rich in protein and fat, and nourishes the developing embryo
this means the moon is illuminated from within, we can compare the moon with an egg and the red light shines from within.
Mineral science states: During a total lunar eclipse, Earth completely blocks direct sunlight from reaching the Moon. The only light reflected from the lunar surface has been refracted by Earth's atmosphere. This light appears reddish for the same reason that a sunset or sunrise does: the Rayleigh scattering of bluer light.
The Danjon scale is used to describe the lunar eclipse brightness on a scale from 0 to 4]
Death of Herod timed with mention of lunar eclipse
Re: Greub, Ormond Edwards, Powell Josephus maintains that Herod the Great died between a lunar eclipse and a following Passover. Of the lunar eclipses visible in Jerusalem, the two in contention are those of March 13 in 4 BC and January 10 in 1 BC. Following Luke (1:5 ff), Herod was still alive at least 15 months before the birth of the Luke-Nathan Jesus. In that case Herod must have died between the eclipse and the Passover of 1 BC. It is not at all certain that the "infanticide" happened 4 BC or earlier; it might have been as late as 1 BC.
References and further reading
- Elisabeth Vreede: 'Astronomy and Spiritual Science' (1927-28)
- Letter 9 - Eclipses of the Sun and Moon: Whitsuntide [Pentecost]
- Letter 10 - More About Eclipses: The Saros Period