Astronomy or Astrology?

Signs or Constellations?

There are two questions addressed in this article - Is Biodynamics use of the cosmic script astronomy or astrology? and What is the difference between the signs or the constellations of the zodiac? These questions have continually surfaced over the years in Biodynamic discussions and farming practices with no real satisfactory conclusion being established. So to add to the discussion we offer the following.

The first question is more "Is Biodynamics use of cosmic, galactic and planetary information, used for example in the planting and sowing calendar, prep. making and in the philosophic aspects of Biodynamics, astronomy or astrology?

We have noted the Associations most prominent speakers assert, all use of this information and the activities it is applied to is - astronomy.

The Encyclopaedia Britannia suggests otherwise.
"Astrology - Interpreting the influence of planets and stars on earthly affairs."
(P 654, Micropedia Ready Reference, Book 1, 15th edition , 1985 )

Dr Elizabeth Vreede writes (2a) " Where the actual working of the heavenly bodies is considered, and not merely their existence as such, there we have Astrology."

Our collective fifty years of research into these subjects agrees with these standpoints.

Astronomy is the pure science of the observation of cosmic phenomena. Astrology begins as soon as this pure information is applied or associated to any life process.

The BD calendar itself is indeed astronomically correct as it is based on the planets moving through the constellations. However, the inference and material supplied in the calendar suggesting it has application for plant growth moves biodynamic planting and sowing into an astrological activity. Based on this definition the deeper descriptions Rudolf Steiner gives of Biodynamics and all other aspects of Biodynamic thought and practice falls squarely into being Astrological activities as well.

The second question is the one which comes to the surface most often. This is due to a glaring difference between the NZBDA calendar and every other planting or astrological calendar in New Zealand.

What is the difference between
the Signs and The Constellations?

The signs and the constellations are different to each other, yet they are related. The essential difference is that the constellations are a twelvefold division of the stars seen behind the path of the sun, The ecliptic. Hence the constellations are a galactic based phenomena.

The constellations are an astronomical reality , and have been shown (2) to have direct influence upon plants and are correctly used in the biodynamic astrological moon planting techniques.

The signs of the zodiac are a twelve fold division of the suns path around the earth which starts each year at the northern hemispheres spring equinox. This makes the signs, a solar system based phenomena with special reference to the earth's seasons.

The signs are a division of the suns ecliptic with no concern for the stars behind it. They are based on our local star, the sun and not on the cosmic stars of the galaxy. (1)

Astrological Abstractions

Signs of the zodiacThe signs of the zodiac are not an astronomical reality. They are an astrological abstraction. Astrological abstractions occur when a astronomical law, - such as there being twelve primary constellations - is taken and applied to some other aspect of creation. In the case of the signs, the twelve fold `law' of the constellations is applied to the earth's seasons of the year, starting with the northern hemisphere Spring Equinox.

This 'archetypal' processing of creation is a very common practice within astrology and used expertly by Rudolf Steiner as well. Interested readers might like to explore the astronomical reality of Steiners sevenfold planetary formulas used in his evolution theory, social development work and BD preparations, as examples of abstractions having practical applications. (3)

From working with astrological abstractions - birth charts, progressed charts, composite charts, Biodynamics and Anthroposophy - over many years we have come to coin the following `law'.

The relationship of an archetypal phenomena

to its astronomical reality will describe

how and where it will be effective.

The relationship of the signs to the astronomical reality of the constellations describes how they are to be used and to which aspects of life they can be applied. From the constellations to the signs we take (4) four steps from `reality'.

The big reality for us is the galaxy. The constellations are a 12 fold division of the galactic background of the Sun. Step one is to divide the constellations into 12. This establishes the archetype according to the Solar number 12 as opposed to the Lunar number 13, hence orientating us on the Spirit and consciousness rather than the unconscious instinctual aspect of life governed by the Moon.

Step 2 is to move our attention from the galaxy to the sun. The sun is a member of the galaxy, hence one part of the collective creative formative force / spirit sphere of the Galaxy. Moving to the Sun changes our focus away from the collective spirit area to the localised spirit sphere. This is an image which is synonymous with incarnation of the Ego ( personal spirit ) into the Human. In making this shift we are personalising an otherwise collective spiritual impulse.

Interestingly the signs gained popular recognition with Ptolemy in 200AD, while the incarnation of the Ego began strongly with the Christ 200 years earlier. Cosmically speaking this is very close timing. The incarnation of the Ego or higher self - which has only occurred for the human kingdom - has lead to the development of thinking and a more conscious reflection upon our psychological processes along with a much needed ability to overcome blood and tribal ties. (5)

Step 3 which is common to both the Signs and Constellations is to see we are experiencing both these 12 fold divisions from the Earth not the Sun. This move suggests we are looking at life on Earth.

The fourth step is to orientate the Earth according to the seasons of the northern hemisphere. From here we mark of a twelve fold division. This act specifically `earth's the cosmic impulse of the constellation further, by starting the division at the earth's northern spring equinox.

A short interpretation of this is,
the signs of the zodiac find their use in the description
of the Ego / higher selves influence upon human psychology
and its physical manifestation in life events on Earth.

Steiner and the Signs

Contrary to common belief, Dr Steiner and Dr Vreede did use the signs of the Zodiac. In the "Curative Education" course, when discussing the cases of two albino sisters Steiner says " In the case of the elder sister we saw that mars was standing in opposition to the moon which was at the time standing in Libra." (Pg 196 ) Based on the dates supplied in earlier lectures ( charts supplied, 6 ) it can be seen that the Moon was standing in the front of the Sign of Libra. Dr Steiners interpretation of this information is a wonderful example of how these planetary forces play into creation and a excellent picture of the working of Sulphur .( see footnote 4 regarding peppering dates ) Once the planets are bought into the discussion another layer of influences are added. This is beyond the scope of this present discussion.

The Signs and Nature

Land, plants and animals have not incarnated the Ego - therefore they have not internalised the galaxy - and so stand at a less developed stage of evolution than Humans. This leaves them to be directly influenced by the cosmic forces coming from the stars. Due to Humans incarnating or internalising the Ego\ Spirit ( over the last 2000 years ) we can find a different and freer relationship to the constellations. Hence our orientation as Humans has moved from the galaxy or cosmic suns to our personal sun. In turn a system of Astrology - using the sun based signs - has developed in the exact same time frame, as this Ego \ Spirit incarnation event has occurred. This has occurred to such a degree that the Signs are now the most unconsciously used and recognised system in our culture.

Many aspects of Human life continue to be influenced by the constellations. It appears they still function with many of our organic rhythms as well as yet to be incarnated aspects of our Spiritual selves.

The signs and the charts drawn from them are much more Earth based than those drawn using the constellations. They describe the course of our general Human life on Earth, which is why they are so popular.

Precession of the Equinoxes

The signs and the constellations are now at different places in the sky. (7) This is due to the spring equinox of the earth's relationship to the starry background moves backwards through the sky at the rate of 1 degree every 72 years. In the 1800 or so years since the signs gained 'recent' popular acceptance by Ptolemy, this Equinox point has moved backwards, from 0 degrees of the constellation of Aries - where it just happened to be at the time -, to be approximately 4 degrees of the ( equally divided ) constellation of Pisces now.

The basis for starting and dividing the constellations has been one of dispute through the ages - there are three constellational Zodiacs we know of. Hence some debate can be put forward for the exact constellational placement of the spring equinox. The constellational division used in the BD calendar is an unequal division of the constellations and appears the most appropriate for plant growth. It would therefore be more appropriate in BD forums to use the Equinox position based on the unequal constellations. This is presently at 6 degrees of the constellation of Pisces.

From this information we suggest that while the constellations may be most appropriate for agricultural purposes, the Signs of the Zodiac do have a place - albeit in a Human context - and should be honoured accordingly.

We trust this offering will go some way to beginning a debate for establishing an answer to these questions for the future.


1: The potential for theorising over the significant Astrological and philosophical differences and meanings of these 'Astronomical' facts is enormous. Glen has covered this in a previous article in the BD newsletter ( date forgotten ) and more recently in his essay the "How to use the birth chart". Many of the deeper background reasons for some of the following direct statements can be found in this essay.

2 Agnes Fyfe - Moon & Plant

Maria Thun - Working with the constellations

2a Astronomical Letters - 2nd paragraph 2nd letter 2nd year, October 1928 - The Nature of Astrology

3 Occult Science - Rudolf Steiner


B Lievegeod 1954

4 In the second question of discussion four of Agriculture Dr Vreede answered a question about the right dates for peppering for 1924. She did say the dates needed to be checked and gave a period between 16th Nov & 16 Dec 1924. Looking at it on my Astrology software from a geocentric BD constellational basis on

Nov 16th Venus was at 23 degrees into Virgo while the Sun was at 14 degrees into Libra. On Dec 16 1924 Venus was at 13 degrees into Libra and the Sun was 24 degrees into Scorpio

Interestingly Venus was in the SIGN of Scorpio during this time being at 17 degree Virgo at the Nov 16 and 23 degrees Scorpio on the Dec 16th.So if we take the high conjunction to mean Venus at 15 degree -this would have occurred on 9th Dec 1924.

5 See Hermetic Astrology by Robert Powell pages 209 - 215

6 Charts for dates given on Pg 183 Curative Education.see page 10

In the older sisters chart, the moon is in the last degree of Virgo. In one hour it would be in Libra. Such minor calculation errors were common prior to computers. If these charts where drawn for constellations then the moons would be in very early Virgo.

This essay was submitted to Harvests however has never been published for unspecified reasons. The premise put forward here is known to challenge the Proctor/Mulder belief that Biodynamics is only Astronomically based and not Astrologically based as surmised here.

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