The regular movement of the Sun through the zodiac signs in 25920 years or some 2160 years per sign, can be regarded as a cosmic clock for the cultural ages. This is related to the precession of the equinoxes and the movement of the apsides (re Vreede in references below)
Our solar system may be conceived as a great cosmic clock, that can be regarded as the expression of spiritual happenings and of the activity of spiritual beings behind it. What is happening in the Spirit World can be expressed by contemplating the movements and relative positions of the planets in front of the various constellations (1910-03-26-GA119)
- see also Zarathustra's great cosmic year of 12.000 year - as described by Rudolf Steiner and Sri Yukteswar, see Sun
- the way how the Sun's journey through the zodiac signs corresponds to the forming of the Human physical body, see Zodiac man
Schema FMC00.029 provides a schema of the Zodiac world clock, showing the last ages of the Atlantean epoc upto the grey line, followed by the cultural ages of the current epoch.
Schema FMC00.029A illustrates with references from the original lectures, of which FMC00.029 provides a clean digital version.
Schema FMC00.263 shows the various configurations and vernal equinoxes, as mapped to the ages and epochs, as per E. Vreede (1930).
See also 1910-12-31-GA126 below.
Schema FMC00.264 shows Wachsmuth's three main prototypes, as mapped to the ages and epochs (see references below).
Lecture coverage and references
The concept of the zodiac clock goes back from very ancient times:
- excerpt from in 1907-04-22-GA104A
We determine time according to the movement of the heavenly bodies. Was the method for calculating time always the same as today's? Important things have changed. If we look into the past a little we see the Atlantean culture before the great flood on earth. The Lemurian age preceded it.
If we go even further back into the past the earth, sun, and moon are still united in a single body. Back then time had to he determined differently than today. Day and night were entirely different. In Lemuria, conditions for the whole earth were the same as it is today at the north pole, half a year day and half a year night. When sun, moon, and earth were still one this unified mass moved through space. Already back then this movement was calculated by occult wisdom, just as today one calculates time according to the sun which moves across the sky through the signs of the zodiac. Eight hundred years before Christ the sun stood in the sign of Aries. Christ was originally worshiped under the sign of the cross, with a lamb lying at the foot of the cross. The cross with Christ upon it appeared only in the sixth century. Before that the Bull, Taurus, was worshiped when the sun stood in its sign. Earlier, it was the Twin, Gemini, that was worshiped in Persia. The team of goats that pulled Thor's chariot had the same significance. Before that the Crab, Cancer, was worshiped, and so forth. Before the Lemurian age the sun, moon, and earth, united in one body, moved forward in terms of the zodiac. Time was measured following this movement. For this reason, the twelve signs of the zodiac are characterized as the heavenly clock and drawn as such
- and again a few days later on 1907-04-27-GA096
In the distant past, time could not yet be measured by external methods based on the way the sun moves around the earth. Early occultists thought of special regents for the orbit of the sun, and they were right in their thinking. The whole system was orbiting, and time was determined in relation to the twelve signs of the zodiac—Ram, Bull, Twins, Crab, Lion, Virgin, Scales, and so on. As you know, one cycle in the evolution of a cosmic system is called a manvantara, and this is always followed by a pralaya, a state of rest. They alternate like day and night, with both night and day of 12 hours duration. Those 12 hours correspond to the vast periods of time in the cosmic day that were regulated by the ancient rulers of the circling of the zodiac. I would need to draw 24 masters of rotations around this sign. If I were to draw it for you, you'd have the heptagon here (Fig. 21), then the seven eyes for the seven stars, and the 24 ancient rulers, 12 for the night and 12 for the day.
.. our solar system may be conceived as a great cosmic clock or timepiece. Just as we infer from the position of the hands of a clock that something is happening, we can do the same from the relative positions of the heavenly bodies. Anyone looking at a clock is naturally not interested in the hands or their position per se, but in what this indicates in the outer world. The hands of a clock indicate, for example, what is happening here in Vienna or somewhere in the world at this moment. A man who has to go to his daily work looks at the clock to see if it is time to start. The position of the hands is therefore the expression of something lying behind. And so it is in the case of the solar system. This great cosmic clock can be regarded as the expression of spiritual happenings and of the activity of spiritual beings behind it.
At this stage the candidate for the Initiation we have been describing comes to know the spiritual beings and facts. He comes to know the World of Spirit and realises that this World of Spirit can best be understood by applying to it the designations used in connection with our solar system; for there we have an outer symbol of this World of Spirit. For the Elementary World the similes are taken from the qualities of earthly things — solid, liquid, airy, fiery. But for the World of Spirit other similes must be used, similes drawn from the starry heavens.
And now we can realise that the comparison with a clock is by no means far fetched. We relate the heavenly bodies of our solar system to the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, and we can find our bearings in the World of Spirit only by viewing it in such a way as to be able to assert that spiritual Beings and events are realities;
- we compare the facts with the courses of the planets
- but the spiritual Beings with the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.
If we contemplate the planets in space and the zodiacal constellations, if we conceive the movements and relative positions of the planets in front of the various constellations to be manifestations of the activities of the spiritual Beings and the twelve constellations of the Zodiac as the spiritual Beings themselves, then it is possible to express by such an analogy what is happening in the World of Spirit.
We distinguish seven planets moving and performing deeds, and twelve zodiacal constellations at rest behind them. We conceive that the spiritual facts — the courses of the planets — are brought about by twelve Beings. Only in this way is it possible to speak truly of the World of Spirit lying behind the Elementary World. We must picture not merely twelve zodiacal constellations, but Beings, actually categories of Beings, and not merely seven planets, but spiritual facts.
Twelve Beings are acting, are entering into relationship with one another and if we describe their actions this will show what is coming to pass in the World of Spirit. Accordingly,
- whatever has reference to the Beings must be related in some way to the number twelve;
- whatever has reference to the facts must be related to the number seven.
Only instead of the names of the zodiacal constellations we need to have the names of the corresponding Beings. In Spiritual Science these names have always been known. At the beginning of the Christian era there was an esoteric School which adopted the following names for the Spiritual Beings corresponding to the zodiacal constellations: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Kyriotetes, Dynameis, Exusiai, then Archai (Primal Beginnings or Spirits of Personality), then Archangels and Angels. The tenth category is Man himself at his present stage of evolution. These names denote ten ranks. Man, however, develops onwards and subsequently reaches stages already attained by other Beings. Therefore one day he will also be instrumental in forming an eleventh and a twelfth category. In this sense we must think of twelve spiritual Beings.
If we wanted to describe the World of Spirit we should have to attribute the origin of the spiritual universe to the co-operation among these twelve categories of Beings. Any description of what they do would have to deal with the planetary bodies and their movements. Let us assume that the Spirits of Will (the Thrones) co-operate with the Spirits of Personality (Archai) or with other Beings — and Old Saturn comes into existence. Through the co-operation of other Spirits the planetary bodies we call Old Sun and Old Moon come into existence.
[editor: see Schema FMC00.077A]
We are speaking here of the deeds of these spiritual Beings. A description of the World of Spirit must include the Elementary World, for that is the last manifestation before the physical world; fire, air, water, earth, must also be considered. On Old Saturn, everything was fire or warmth; during the Old Sun evolution, air was added; during the Old Moon evolution, water.
In describing the World of Spirit we must begin with the Beings. We call them the Hierarchies and pass on to their deeds which come to expression through the planets in their courses. And to have a picture of how all this manifests in the Elementary World we must describe it by using terms derived from this world. Only in this way is it possible to give a picture of the World of Spirit lying behind the Elementary World and our physical world of sense.
1920-12-23-GA202 offers a description to help our imagination contemplating the zodiac
[2nd cultural age] There is an old way of depicting the heavenly spheres, which existed already amongst the Persian magi. They gazed up to heaven and saw the actual zodiac constellation we know as Virgo, but looking into it they spiritually perceived what can only be physically seen in the constellation of Gemini. This wisdom was one that lived in people's abillity to hear or perceive a harmony between the constellation of Virgo and that of Gemini at right angles to it, in the quadrant position. Thus in place of the constellation of Virgo, the virgin was depicted with two earns of corn, yet also with the child – as representative of the twins (Gemini) and of the two Jesus children. This was an astrological perception particularly in ancient Persian times
[3rd cultural age] In Egypto-Chaldean times, people gazed up to the constellation of Leo in the same way as Persians had looked towards Virgo. But now, in the quadrant position to Leo was Taurus, and thus arose the Mithraic religion, bull worship, due to spiritually perceiving the constellation of Taurus in the physical constellation of Leo.
[4th cultural age] In Graeco-Roman times Cancer played the role that Virgo has played for the Persians; and now, gazing at the Cancer constellation, people spiritually saw the constellation in the quadrant position, that of Aries. Then came the inversion and things took a different course.
Until Graeco-Roman times, until the Mystery of Golgotha, astronomy was something that could be developed as an outward science of discipline. In those times, human cognition was such that one could look into space and discover the secrets of the starry worlds, the secrets of time and space, and likewise one could live one's way into the human interior, and arrive at perception of inner secrets through piety of heart.
In Graeco-Roman times this turned around so what was formerly experienced inwardly now increasingly had to be experienced in perception of nature around us.
Concept of time as we know it today
- When can we say that 'time as we know it now' start? Only when an equilibrium was found between the Sun, Moon and Earth. Given the extraction of Sun and Moon bodies in the Hyperborean and Lemurian epoch, it does not speak sense of time as we know it today for periods before.
- As referenced by Walther Cloos in 'The Living Earth':
In this connection Rudolf Steiner repeatedly observed that vital turning points in evolution, such as when 'time' in the modern sense of calculable rhythms began, are always 'connected with certain positions of the heavenly bodies' (1911-12-31-GA134).
- Dr. Albert Richard Riedel (1911-1984) also known as Frater Albertus, put the start of time at the start of the third atlantean cultural age. He states in both his books 'QBL' and 'Men and the Cycles of the universe'
The beginning of this cycle is given at 19.717 BC. A point of utmost importance must be stressed here: time is only a man-made concept, as such it has no foundation in reality. Time, as a duration of consciousness, represents a mode of relating to passing occurences. Therefore, a date has meaning only when in conformity with accepted precepts. ... .. The date given here has proven itself with a great degree of accuracy in our investigations and tests.
Precession of the equinoxes and Spirits of Form
C.G. Harrison (1855-1936) links the cycles to the hierarchies, and makes the connection to the precession of the equinoxes and the ice ages. In the last of his six lectures delivered in 1893, he describes the 'law of cataclysms', that is .. why each (root race) epoch cyclically ends in a major discontinuity:
.. they occur at the end of every 'root race' [epoch] because the Principalities (or angels of periods) (editor: (SoM or) Spirits of Time, in Steiner's nomenclature) of the succeeding one are then evolving at their minimum rate, having completed one-half of their minor cycle.
At such times, the centripetal resistance to the attraction of the Eight Sphere is at its weakest.
These periods coincide with the precession of the equinoxes, the last was the end of the glacial epoch in the northern hemisphere, and is preserved in the memory of a universal flood in the traditions of all nations
1910-12-31-GA126 discusses the law of evolution related to the eigenperiod of the Spirits of Form, and the fact that in the year 1250 there was the strongest possible penetration into the souls of men, whereas during the Atlantean catastrophe the SoF worked more on the Earth and little into the souls of men (so that the younger hierarchies held the field).
[The impact of the SoF]
The Spirits of Form manifest in a different way.
They manifest from below upwards as far more powerful Spirits who are not dependent upon using man merely as an instrument; they manifest in the kingdoms of Nature around us, in the configuration of the beings of the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms. And if man would recognise the Spirits of Form in their manifestation, he must direct his gaze outwards, he must observe Nature and investigate what has been woven into her by the Spirits of Form.
Consequently in the Greek epoch, when the paramount manifestation is that of the Spirits of Form, man does not receive any direct influence as an inspiration.
The influence of the Spirits of Form works far rather in such a way that man is allured by the outer world of sense; his senses are directed with joy and delight towards everything spread out around him, and he tries to elaborate and perfect it. Thus the Spirits of Form attract him from without.
And one of the chief Spirits of Form is the Being designated as Jehovah. Although there are seven Spirits of Form and they work in the different kingdoms of Nature, men of the present age have a faculty of perception only for the one Spirit, Jehovah.
If we reflect on all this, it will be intelligible to us that with the approach of the fourth epoch, man is more or less forsaken by these inner Guiding-Powers, by the Angels, Archangels and Spirits of Personality, and that he turn his gaze entirely to the external world, to the physical horizon where the Spirits of Form are in manifestation. They were of course already present behind the physical world in earlier times, but they had not as it were yielded themselves to human recognition. In the period immediately following the Atlantean catastrophe, the Spirits of Form had been at work; they had been at work in the kingdoms of Nature, in the laws governing wind and weather, in the laws of the plants, animals and minerals. They had also worked in times more ancient still. But man did not direct his gaze to what then came to meet him externally, for he was inwardly inspired by the other Spirits. His attention was diverted from the outer world.
How is this to be explained? In what sense are we to understand the fact that these other Hierarchies, who are of a lower rank than the Spirits of Form, asserted their influence so dominantly over against the already existing activity of the Spirits of Form?
This is connected with a definite period in the evolution of the earth as a whole. To the clairvoyant vision which with the help of the Akasha Chronicle looks back into the past, these things present an appearance entirely different from the speculative pictures based on the geological data of the present day.
[Atlantean catastrophe <-> precession equinoxes]
When we go back before the activity of the Archai in the Chaldean epoch, before that of the Archangels in the ancient Persian and of the Angels in the ancient Indian epoch, we come to the period when the Atlantean cataclysm was at the height of its fury. We find our way gradually into the conditions then prevailing. This is the time to which the legends of the Deluge existing among the different peoples refer, but their picture of it was very different from that drawn by the hypotheses of modern geology. In still earlier Atlantean times, the picture was again quite different. Man was a being capable of transformation. Before this catastrophe the whole face of the earth was different from anything that can be imagined today. You can well conceive that at that time spiritual hierarchies worked into the earth still more strongly.
Between the old influences in the Atlantean epoch and those in the Post-Atlantean, there was a boundary-period filled by the Atlantean catastrophe — by those events whereby the face of the earth was totally changed in regard to the distribution of water and land. Such periods and changes consequent upon them are connected with mighty processes in the constellation, position and movement of the cosmic bodies connected with the sun. In fact, such periods in the earth's evolution are determined and directed from macrocosmic space.
It would lead too far if I were to attempt to describe to you how these successive periods are directed and regulated by what is called in modern astronomy the precession of the equinoxes.
This is connected with the position of the earth's axis in relation to the axis of the ecliptic, with mighty processes in the constellation of neighbouring celestial bodies; and there are definite times when, on account of the particular position of the earth's axis in relation to these other bodies of the cosmic system, the distribution of warmth and cold on our earth is radically changed.
This position of the earth's axis in relation to the neighbouring stars causes the climatic conditions to change. In the course of something over 25,000 years, the axis of the earth describes a kind of conical or spherical movement, so that conditions undergone by the earth at a certain time are undergone again, in a different form and indeed at a higher stage, after 25,000 to 26,000 years. But between these great periods of time there are always shorter periods.
The process does not go forward in absolute, unvarying continuity, but in such a way that certain years are crucial points, deeply incisive times in which momentous happenings take place.
And here, because it is of essential significance in the whole historical development of earthly humanity, we may point particularly to the fact that in the seventh millennium before Christ there was a very specially important astronomical epoch — important because, on account of the constellation brought about by the relative position of the earth's axis to the neighbouring stars, the climatic conditions on earth culminated in the Atlantean cataclysm. This happened six to eight thousand years before our era, and the effects of it continued for long ages.
Here we can only emphasise what is correct, as opposed to the fantastic periods of time that are mentioned, for these happenings lie much less far behind us than is generally believed. During this period the macrocosmic conditions worked into the physical in such a way as to bring about the mighty physical upheavals of the Atlantean cataclysm, which completely changed the face of the earth. This was the greatest physical transformation of all, the most drastic action of the macrocosm upon the physical earth.
-> Hence the influence from the macrocosm upon the spirit of man at that time was at its lowest; this epoch therefore provided an opportunity for the less powerful Beings of the Hierarchies to begin to exercise on man a potent influence, which then ebbed gradually away.
Thus when the Spirits of Form were working powerfully to revolutionise the physical, they had less time to work also upon the spirit of man, with the result that the physical vanished as it were from under man's feet. But an the other hand it was precisely during the time of the Atlantean catastrophe that men were transported most completely into spiritual realms and only gradually found their way again into the physical world in the Post-Atlantean epoch.
Now when you picture that at this time — six to eight thousand years before the Christian era — the least influence was exercised upon the human spirit and the strongest influence on the physical conditions of the earth, it will not be difficult for you to conceive that there may be another point of time when the opposite situation comes about: when those who are cognisant of such a matter experience the reverse of these conditions — namely, the least influence upon the physical and the greatest influence, precisely of the Spirits of Form, upon the human spirit. Hypothetically you can conceive that there may he a point in history where the reverse of the great Atlantean catastrophe applies. Of course it will not be so easily noticeable, for the Atlantean catastrophe, when parts of the very earth were blotted out, is bound to be a very striking event for people of our Post-Atlantean epoch, with their strong leanings to the physical.
[section on 1250]
When the Spirits of Form are exercising a powerful influence on the human personality and have only a little influence upon what is taking place in the external world, the impression will be less vivid. The point of time when this condition — in the nature of things, less perceptible to men — set in, was the year A.D. 1250 This year 1250 is of momentous importance in history.
- The zodiac clock topic and the differences it causes for humanity that the zodiacal influences come from different orientations, as well as the start of time as we know it, were explored in early documents by DL called 'Qualitative patterns in the different phases of evolution' and 'The limits of sensible scope' available in the Essay section.
- Note in the GA104a drawing of the Mystical Lamb the 'ancient rules of the circling of the zodiac' were drawn, in the GA096 these were referenced but not drawn. Reference is made in 1907-04-27-GA096 to 24 masters of rotation of time, 12 for the night and 12 for the day. However these days and nights were linked to the (planetary - my interpretation) stages of a cosmic system (solar system - my interpretation). This could be interpreted as planetary stages in the evolution of solar system (especially because of the use of the terms pralaya/manvantara), but on the other hand the zodiac clock shows each period to correspond to a cultural age.
- Relevant extract from 1907-04-27-GA096:
As you know, one cycle in the evolution of a cosmic system is called a manvantara, and this is always followed by a pralaya, a state of rest. They alternate like day and night, with both night and day of 12 hours duration. Those 12 hours correspond to the vast periods of time in the cosmic day that were regulated by the ancient rulers of the circling of the zodiac
- Relevant extract from 1907-04-27-GA096:
References and further reading
- Elisabeth Vreede: Astronomy and spiritual science (essays from 1927-1930 published as newsletter, re-published in 1954 in DE and 1980 and 2001, modern EN version 2007)
- Gunther Wachsmuth: The evolution of mankind (1953, in EN 1961)