Anthroposophy NYC Blog
MEETING OUR TIMES
Comet… COVID… Catharsis
Author: Jonathan Hilton
As I dig more deeply into this subject, I find that the topic is quite expansive and calling for further research. Therefore, this article will be a condensed, and, hopefully, digestible form of what is now developing as a broader and more complex project.
Comets! Even the word perhaps evokes feelings of excitement, fear, mystery, tribulation. Throughout history, the unusual arrival of a visible comet has incited dread and fears of apocalypse. The “angel of God” sent to kill the first born of the Egyptians in 1401 BC was likely a comet appearance at that time. Shakespeare describes how the seeress Calphurnia sees the comet as a bad omen for Julius Caesar, foretelling his murder. In 1665, a comet appearance preceded the Black Plague and was attributed as the cause. When the Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet during its appearance in 1910, there was a mass hysteria for fear of the end of the world. There is even a speculation in some astrological circles now that the current Comet Atlas announces the incarnation of Ahriman, called the Black Dragon. In mythological imagery, the Dragon is often associated with the comet, magically appearing, breathing fire with its long tail sweeping through the heavens.
Yet, how can we understand these extraordinary appearances in the heavens, which even astronomers agree, remain very much a mystery? As one science writer put it, “Comets are notoriously unpredictable… There are probably more theories concerning the nature and origin of comets than there are facts.” Rudolf Steiner speaks about comets in several lecture cycles, such as, The Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric, lectures to the Workmen at the Goetheanum, his astronomy course, and The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies (the Helfingfors lectures). Both Dr. Elisabeth Vreede (in Astronomical Letters) and Willi Sucher also speak of the comets. I encourage the interested reader to further explore these references for a more comprehensive understanding.
Currently, we are encountering two comets. In my early April article, The Corona World, Part II (click here to read), in which I wrote about the planetary configurations of this transformative time, I included the appearance of the comet, called Atlas 4, which was discovered entering our solar logos, our planetary cosmos, on December 28, 2019. By mid-March, it was crossing the orbit of Mars on its path towards passing behind the Sun. Astronomers were expecting a possible spectacular cometary show as it approached the Sun with perhaps naked eye visibility by mid-May. But by mid-April, the Atlas comet was fragmenting and breaking apart. Then a second comet was discovered almost immediately on April 11. It appeared in images from an observatory that were taken on March 25. This is the new and current comet, which is following the same trajectory of the fragmenting Atlas comet. This comet is named SWAN Comet, and it too is promising a possible spectacular display, even possibly becoming visible to the naked eye. The comet name, Swan, does not come from the Swan (or Cygnus) constellation, and the comet path does not pass along the stars of Cygnus. The name is simply an acronym for the stellar camera that took the images, Solar Wind Anisotropies Instrument. So there is no astronomical correlation with the constellation Cygnus.
Based on the portion of the orbit, which astronomy can track, meaning, its appearance as a ponderable material form in our solar cosmos, it was located below the ecliptic near the star Fomalhaut, in the constellation of the Sculptor, just above the stars of the Phoenix. Comets do not follow the path of the ecliptic nor the perpendicular path of the galaxy, but rather usually at about a 45 degree angle between the two star belts. Fomalhaut is the fish swimming, so-to-speak, in the outpoured water of Aquarius. During April, it traversed Aquarius.
May 3-12: It passed through Pisces, under Pegasus
May 12: Entering Aries under Andromeda (closest point to the Earth)
May 16: Into Triangulum, continuing under Andromeda
May 19-29: Through Perseus (including at Ascension on May 21)
May 27: Reaching its Perihelion, the closest point to the Sun, and arriving at its turning point on May 30, as it enters Auriga, the Sun Chariot constellation above Taurus. It then begins its return journey to the cosmic periphery.
On May 31 at Whitsun, it is at Perihelion, closest to the Sun, in Auriga.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the comets, its further path or even continuation is yet to be ascertained with certainty.
In the two images below, you can follow the backdrop of constellations, through which Comet Swan journeys to its Perihelion behind the Sun. In the first image are the pictorial images of the constellations where you can begin with Fomalhaut at the bottom of the image and on up through the other listed constellations to Auriga. The image below that is one of the projected paths of Swan, with the yellow line as the path of the ecliptic, the zodiacal path, through which the planets and Sun move. You can follow the dates to see the position on May 12 in Pisces, preparing to enter Aries, under Triangulum, and then by May 19 arriving into Perseus. Then at its perihelion or turning point just crossing into Auriga, near the star Capella.
For those who are interested, on May 27, 2020, the Virtual Telescope Project is offering online viewing of the comet. The live, free feed will run on May 27, 2020, at 19:00 UTC (2 pm Central Daylight Time in North America, 3 pm Eastern Daylight Time; translate to your time zone). To join the free feed, you need to go, at the date and time above, to Virtual Telescope’s webTV page (click here).
There is also an excellent astronomical website to track the comet (click here), showing its position on May 26, where you see it approaching the perihelion point. Various online tracking tools will show arrival at perihelion on slightly different dates. One can zoom in or out on this image and enter other dates to track it.
If we look now at the spiritual nature of the constellations, through which the comet passes, how can this shed some light on the nature of what Swan is bringing us? In this article, it will not be possible to go into depth about these constellations; I leave it to the reader to further contemplate their significance. Swan was first noticed near Fomalhaut, which swims under the water poured out by Aquarius. Aquarius is the constellation of our future age, the 6th Cultural Age, when the vernal point will enter this constellation, in which humanity should develop the Spirit Self. Aquarius pours out the cosmic living water of the divine world, the etheric life. It then passes into Pisces, the stars of our current age, where our tasks are to develop brotherhood with our earthly world and our fellow human beings, as well as with the divine world. Then it moves just into Aries, which is connected to thinking and the ego being, and, as has been presented previously, to the “reversal” of thinking that no longer descends into the brain, but begins the upward development to the new thinking, or as Willi Sucher calls it, clair-thinking. It then moves into Perseus, that figure who is a representative of Michael, who slays Medusa, the thinking that turns the human being to stone, and slays Cetus, the sea monster, the old atavistic clairvoyance. Perhaps the two are images of Ahriman (stone gaze) and Lucifer (sea monster). The entire story of Perseus is spread out above the path of Swan in the added constellations of Andromeda and Pegasus, above Aries and Pisces. Andromeda, the human soul, is saved by Perseus, and from Andromeda arises Pegasus, the white winged intelligence, the new thinking. On some star maps, the star in the wing of Pegasus is the same star as in the forehead of Andromeda. As Swan comet reaches its pinnacle, so-to-speak, nearest the Sun, at perihelion, it moves from Perseus into Auriga, the Sun Charioteer, near the star Capella. Auriga forms the shape of the pentagon in the heavens. It tells the story of the chthonic son of Hephaestus (the lame god), and in other versions the son of Hermes/Mercury, who built and drove a chariot, which was in the image of the chariot of the Sun. The star Capella in Auriga in Hindu mythology is associated with the heart of Brahma. In Greek mythology, it is associated with the goat that suckled Zeus, as well as the horn of the goat that was transformed into the Cornucopia, the horn of plenty, of abundant life. All of these imaginations are rich in content! So Comet Swan traverses the heavens through these constellations, which all in some way point to the new faculties and future of the human being, even to becoming the Sun Charioteer, which in some ways can be likened to a solar Christic ego, the one who drives the Sun Chariot.
Rudolf Steiner points out that the nature of the nucleus of the comet is quite different from that of the tail. The nucleus attracts/collects harmful, astral substance, which densifies around the nucleus as it progresses further into our physical universe, taking on material form, then carries this harmful astral substance out of our planetary system. This substance is transformed by the comet, and that which streams out in the tail is of a different composition as a result. The comet tail, according to astronomy, can be millions of miles long. For example, the Halley’s Comet tail plumed 150 million miles long, as far out from the Sun as the orbit of Mars. The unpredictable and erratic nature of the comet also applies to the tail. If the comet behaved according to physical laws of gravity, it would follow that the tail would sweep behind the comet in the direction flowing from its trajectory, much like, for example, how the wake of a boat or flow of air follows the nucleus creating it. However, the tail of the comet always points away from the Sun towards the cosmic periphery, rather than streaming behind the nucleus following its direction. That which becomes material through attraction to the comet as it sweeps more and more into the physical solar system on its path towards the sun, is burned away as densified negative astral substance and carried out of the solar system. If a comet fragments and decomposes, as Atlas Comet is doing, it has achieved its purpose. Steiner speaks of how what remains of the fragments and the transformed particles in the tail actually then becomes the substance of the meteors with their iron, which we experience in the meteor showers. Even modern astronomy confirms that the meteor showers are experienced annually when the Earth passes through the remnants of a comet from an earlier time. It is also interesting to note that comets usually traverse a path that takes them through the regions of the stars from where we have meteor showers. With Swan Comet, it passes through Aquarius, where we have the Aquarid meteor showers from April 19 to May 28, and through the stars of Perseus, from which we have the meteor showers heralding the Michael season in mid-August.
What is this “astral” substance that is attracted to the spiritual force center, materializes, and then burns away, transformed into the tail and carried out of our solar system? We know from spiritual science that in all levels of cosmic consciousness, of cosmic being, there are also regressive beings who work as a resistance to the forward movement of evolution. We also are especially aware that humanity creates destructive and harmful astral forces out of materialism, passions, wars, desires, etc., which also stream out into the cosmos from the Earth, particularly at times of solar eclipses. Thus, it is necessary that these darkening and stormy astral impulses be swept out of the cosmos in order to allow for the progress of evolution.
“If you consider human life on earth you will admit that… there arise a number of astral beings, of astral forms, which are actually harmful, hindering to life. From humans themselves stream forth continually, erroneous, base, evil thoughts; these… pass out into the astral world… Everything of a cometary or meteoric nature is ever striving to collect round itself all the harmful astral products, and to remove them out of the planetary system.” (Steiner, Helsingfors lectures)
Thus, the spiritual force center forms the nucleus of attraction, drawing to itself the harmful astrality in the cosmos, where it collects and densifies, even becoming mineral, and then is transformed and carried out of the planetary universe into the “nothingness” of the higher spiritual realms, as the comet then disappears having completed its task. Even modern astronomy calls the appearance of comets, an “apparition.”
What is that region from where it comes and to where it returns?
Based on the quantitative calculations of astronomy, comets follow a highly eccentric elliptical orbit and a wide range of orbital periods, ranging from several years to potentially several millions of years. Swan Comet is projected by astronomers to have an orbital period of 11,597 years, making it a long-period comet. Rudolf Steiner however points out that only the short periodic comets may have an actual elliptical orbit, such as Halley’s Comet. But the majority of comets do not have orbits. They originate as a non-ponderable spiritual force, pass through materiality in our universe, and then depart, returning to the higher spheres of being, the unmanifest world. They do not continue to exists as physical bodies, “out there” in cosmic space. Modern astronomy believes, though there is no evidence, that short-period comets originate in the general region of the Kuiper belt. Long-period comets, of which Swan is one, are thought to originate in the Oort cloud, the spherical cloud of “particles” extending from outside the Kuiper belt to halfway to the nearest star. They assert that long-period comets are perhaps set in motion towards the Sun from the Oort cloud, at the very edge of our universe. Below is an astronomically constructed diagram/image of the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, though very little is known about them. Take a moment to contemplate this image of the Oort cloud as the all-encompassing sphere enveloping our solar system. If one considers this not from a materialistic perspective, as composed of “particles,” but from a spiritual scientific perspective, can this “enveloping cloud,” from which the comets manifest and journey into our ponderable system, be an imagination that points us to higher spheres of consciousness-being?
If we think now of the cosmos as the macrocosmic human being, with which we as microcosm are united, then we can see in the planetary spheres ascending spheres of consciousness. Consciousness must be associated with being-ness, so these higher realms of consciousness, in which we participate, mostly completely unconsciously, are also described as realms of beings, known as the hierarchies and given names according to the cultures of various ages. Perhaps the angel being is the one with whom we have most awareness, but there are ascending realms of beings beyond the angel consciousness. Those directly involved in our human bodies and our human evolution ascend up to, what are called in our terminology, the Thrones, or Spirits of Will. They initiated our first beginnings and are the foundation of the mineral in us, our skeletal system, and are manifest in the sphere of Saturn. The outer planets have still a different relationship to our being and evolution, within the human spiritual aura, and working into the future. At our solar system periphery, we meet the great surrounding ring of the twelve of the zodiac, through which our human form is created, the expression in form of our “I”. The true I itself, according to Steiner, originates beyond the zodiac. However, there are two additional spheres of consciousness in these ranks of hierarchies that exist outside the periphery, which are called, in our terminology, the Seraphim and the Cherubim, the Spirits of Love and the Spirits of Harmony. Rudolf Steiner states in the Helsingfors lectures that the comets are governed by the Cherubim and the Seraphim, higher beings than even the stars and the planets, and that they are sent into our solar system by the Cherubim and the Seraphim on a “god-willed mission.” Their task is to purify the astral (consciousness) realm, and to bring a special impulse into human evolution. These are beings so lofty that they do not participate in our evolution, but remain in the unveiled presence of the Most Holy Trinity, able to send forth impulses that bring something new into humanity. Can we perhaps see a relationship between the sphere around us, described materialistically by astronomy as the Oort Cloud, and the spheres of these loftiest of the consciousness beings outside our solar system, our solar logos?
We can now ask, if the comets are “god-willed missions,” sent by the Cherubim and the Seraphim, what is this mission? How can a mission sent by the Spirits of Love and Harmony, become something feared as apocalyptic? This seems a paradox, that love and harmony can send apocalyptic fear and world disruption into humanity. But the word “apocalypse” means “revelation.” Of course, now as modern scientific human beings, we no longer succumb to silly superstitions like past humanity did. Or do we? Does the appearance of a comet still resonate in human souls in some way that generates expectation, fear, anticipation? Do the comets bring a revelation, a new impulse of change? Change, new impulses, can of course incite fear and foreboding. We only have to look at ourselves to know that. The same is true for humanity in general. The new is rarely welcomed. Most often, it is resisted, sometimes with terrible force and violence. The old is clung to, fought for, desperately at times. Not only in human beings, but also in the realms of spiritual existence, new impulses for spiritual progress and evolution, are fiercely opposed. The realms of opposition, which are called in spiritual terminology, the realms of Lucifer, Ahriman, and Asuras, seek a different world order, not the one that progresses humanity towards their spiritual goals.
One significant statement made by Steiner is especially relevant to these questions: “The comet will encounter the Earth just at the time when great possibilities in spiritual life will lie open to humanity!” “They are dispatched directly by the Seraphim and the Cherubim into the physical world of existence in order to effect quite definite impulses” (Elisabeth Vreede, Letter, June 1929). “Something of an elemental nature, something that stirs up, and, in a certain condition, is necessary in order to rightly maintain the progress of evolution in the cosmos — that is the nature of the comets” (Steiner, March 5, 1910).
In this sense, the comets have a unique purpose, depending on when they are sent into the evolutionary stream. One example of which Steiner speaks, from his own time, is Halley’s Comet where he points out a distinction between the short-period comets, such as Halley’s Comet, and the long–period comets that are not periodic, but appear with a specific task of sending a new impulse to bring evolution forward. With Halley’s Comet, he describes an evolution of its purpose that went from a progressive impulse in its returns, which was necessary for the further development of the “I”, to a harmful one, as it returned later and was gradually led away from its task by the adversarial beings who seek to lead evolution in a different direction. The original purpose of Halley’s Comet was to prepare the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, which dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th to 19th centuries, and led to the great developments in natural science. This Age of Reason impulse was the comet’s mission, which was to drive the ego away from a spiritual conception of the cosmos in order to understand the world in a more materialistic way. This was a progressive movement in that it was necessary for the evolution of the ego to fully engage with the physical plane in order to be able to fully grasp the Christ impulse. Steiner even goes as far as to say that the comet’s appearance enables specific organs to be developed in the physical and etheric bodies that are suited to assist in the development of new faculties for the progressing ego. New physical/etheric organs! For Halley’s Comet, these were organs to facilitate the development of the consciousness soul. In this way, we can imagine the mystery of the purpose of these comets. What might appear as terrible or destructive may actually be serving a higher evolutionary mission from the highest realms of being.
What then are the special impulses brought by Swan Comet, and Atlas Comet just preceding it?
In my Ascension article (click here to read), I spoke of how Steiner described the new reversal of the Abraham age taking place from the middle of the 20th century on into the 3rd millennium, which is now. He describes the reversal of that progress, which led the human being into a certain thinking connected with the brain and physical existence (culminating in the Age of Reason), and towards a new natural clairvoyance unfolding now, as we progress from the age of the consciousness soul towards the development of the spirit self and a new thinking-clairvoyance. As he describes it:
“We are taking the path that will lead humanity away once more from merely physical, sensible contemplation, away from the combining of physical, sensible signs… We are going along the path that allows human beings to enter into conditions of natural clairvoyance, of natural clairvoyant powers.”
If the appearance of comets creates “fine organs that are suited to the progressive evolution of the ego…” and the comet signifies that the ego “acquires such physical and etheric organs as this progressed ego can make us of,” then what does Swan Comet signify? Is it enabling the development of specific “fine organs” that will lead to the natural clairvoyance, the new thinking needed in our time to move forward in evolution out of the materialistic age? And what kind of opposition might we expect from this? What forms will it take in humanity in the activity of the opposing spiritual beings?
If one can take hold of the whole of cosmic events now occurring, as described in my articles from early April (click here to read), and place this cometary appearance within this context, perhaps we can see the significance for our time. These cosmic events include the highly rare meeting of Saturn, Jupiter, and Pluto, with several planetary configurations around that triad, and its approaching Great Conjunction of December 2020, which carries the theme of a new annunciation. However, we must also be aware that a great light creates a great shadow, and that opposition will arise ever more strongly to preserve the past, to hold back evolution towards its goals. In this sense, every change or transition in earthly life, as in human life, is accompanied by struggle, tribulation, even death in some form… or one could say, by catharsis. For what is catharsis but the painful death of the old in us and in the world in order to make way for the new to be born? Catharsis is as old as initiation itself, and a necessary part of it. The old self must die in order for the new higher self to be born. This is the path of spiritual development, the transformation of the lower astral nature into the pure vessel for the birth of the holy spirit in us. It is the path of “not I, but Christ in me.” It is the new initiation.
Does the coronavirus pandemic have any relation to these comets? Is the pandemic a medical question only, or is it an initiation question with some biological component as a catalyst? Though I am not an epidemiologist or specialist in viruses, there is an interesting parallel between what modern science says about comets and about viruses, which seems worth further research and consideration.
According to NASA, as of July 2019, there are 6,619 known comets. Another NASA site states 3,638 known comets. That number seems to be steadily increasing as more comets are discovered with the advances in astronomical technologies. However, this represents only a tiny fraction of the total potential comet population. There are likely billions of comets in the Kuiper belt and even more in the distant Oort cloud. All of the knowledge about comets, except for the very rare comets observable with the naked eye or binoculars, is based on assumptions from data thus far, not from perception. Yet, even Johannes Kepler, the great astronomer of the late 17th century, stated: “In the great universe… there are as many comets as there are fishes in the oceans; it just happens we only see a very small number of them.”
The human virome, meaning all viruses on and in the human organism, is far from being completely explored and new viruses are discovered frequently. Unlike the roughly 40 trillion bacteria in a typical human microbiome, an estimate of the number of viral particles in a healthy adult human is not yet available, although virions generally outnumber individual bacteria by 10:1 in nature (Wikipedia). This means potentially about 400 trillion viruses, looking at it from a materialistic perspective of viruses as particles. The current COVID-19 virus is an RNA virus, a collection of genetic material. For this reason, it is mutagenic or adaptogenic, meaning that it can mutate and adapt, but also that it serves to move the evolution of the host DNA material to adapt to changed Earth conditions. Adaptogenic viruses are an important component in sustaining life when environmental conditions evolve and change, as they assist the DNA in adapting to these new life conditions in human and animals. It is speculated that this adaptive quality of the virus is behind the survival of some species, and the extinction of others in the past.
Looking at the question of the “purpose” of COVID-19, based only on the physical sciences, perhaps it is possible to consider a deeper spiritual relationship. If behind all material processes, there is consciousness at work, and if we understand the spiritual consciousness and intent of comets from Rudolf Steiner, what then is the spiritual consciousness and intent of COVID-19? Is it serving the same purpose, but in a more seeming destructive form? Is it possibly an earthly shadow, or a kind of a mirror of the cometary activity (as above, so below)? Is the death and fear it brings to us, in a larger scheme, a product of a new mission in the Earth, possibly even creating, as Steiner describes the comets, “fine organs that are suited to the progressive evolution of the ego”?
These are questions that seem to arise out of the contemplation of the mission of the comet, as well as the question, I think many live with, around the greater mission of the pandemic. Whether the impulse of the comet, as well as the event of the pandemic, result in a movement forward into a new evolutionary step that is not predetermined, but, it is in how we as human beings meet these events. Will the opposing forces of the past, of old power structures, old thinking, old social forms, resist what needs to come? Yes, of course, there is no question of resistance. We are at the beginning of a long and great battle, or one could say, a humanity catharsis/initiation. In my earlier article about the Great Conjunction (click here to read), I spoke of how this Great Conjunction enters the stars of Capricorn. It will remain in Capricorn for its next three cycles after 2020 (3 x 60 years), meaning that this Great Conjunction will repeat in Capricorn, carrying the great annunciation theme in this constellation, until 2199, when it is on the boundary into Aquarius, the stars of the new Age. Capricorn is the constellation of initiation. It is also the constellation that carries the memory, and, therefore, the dynamics of the great War in Heaven, through which the beings of the Sun battled against the lower densifying beings of the Earth/Moon. It was a battle, in which the Michael forces were fully engaged. It resulted in a victory of the Sun beings, and the reunion of Sun and Earth/Moon at the end of that great cycle of evolution, called in esotericism, Ancient Moon, resulting in a cosmos of wisdom. The battle into the future will be for the long creation of the cosmos of love. My thinking is that the planetary events during this time, the current comets, and the new pandemic are all first stages in a great transition, which Steiner describes in relation to comets, as a “certain condition necessary in order to rightly maintain the progress of evolution in the cosmos,” in this particular configuration, to lead us into the 6th Cultural Age.
May 26, 2020
Jonathan Hilton is currently the President of the Council of New York City Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in America. He has been working with anthroposophy in various ways for over 40 years. His work includes a new approach to star wisdom, arising out of anthroposophy, as developed by Willi Sucher, with a particular focus on the cycle of the year as a path to the new Sun mysteries. astrosophy.com
This article is available in the PDF format for the followers of astrosophy.com.
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