Introduction - Conception (Epoch) Chart

The incarnating human being influences (inspires) the future parents to come together to provide the physical body needed for the approaching incarnation. When the egg is fertilized in the mother's womb, the human being sends down the spirit seed to unite with the fertilized egg. "The spiritual germ woven by ourselves is lost at the moment when the physical germ, which we shall have to assume on Earth, is engendered through the act of conception" (Rudolf Steiner). In ancient times the sending down of the spirit seed to unite with the fertilized egg was seen clairvoyantly as the "descent of the stork," since the spirit seed appears to clairvoyant perception like a stork. When the stork was seen, it was known that a child was on its way.

In terms of the epoch (conception) chart, the moment of the sending down of the spirit seed is computed using the hermetic rule retrogressively from the birth chart, utilizing the interchange of the position of the Moon and the Ascendant or its opposite.1 Hermetic astrology, so-called because it is based on the application of the ancient Egyptian hermetic rule for determining the horoscope of conception, consciously includes - in addition to the birth - the moment of conception (epoch) as an important part of the process of incarnation. At this moment there begins the building up of the etheric body from the cosmic ether, and the weaving of the "karmic cross" into the etheric body, as described in detail in Hermetic Astrology, volume II.

 The epoch chart gives a picture of the structure of the etheric body, containing the basic life force. Research shows that the moment of death is often indicated by transits to the epoch chart. This discovery highlights the significance of the epoch chart in hermetic astrology. For example, in the case of the German Romantic poet Novalis (1772-1801):

Death g-Saturn (25 Cancer) - conjunct - Epoch Sun (25 Cancer)

And in the case of the Austrian spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925);

Death g-Saturn (19 Libra) - conjunct - Epoch Moon (19 Libra)2

These are just two examples illustrating the research finding that the moment of death is often indicated by transits to the epoch/conception chart.

 All this goes to show that the conception (epoch) chart, which is central to hermetic astrology, is highly significant. It has been largely neglected in the history of astrology, although working with the conception chart was a part of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian astrology. As Ptolemy states in the Tetrabiblos:

Since the chronological starting-point of human nativities is naturally the very time of conception, but potentially and accidentally the moment of birth, in cases in which the very time of conception is known either by chance or by observation, it is more fitting that we should follow it in determining the special nature of body and soul, examining the effective power of the configuration of the stars at that time.3

One of the reasons for the neglect of the conception horoscope in astrology is that the application of the hermetic rule to find the epoch from the birth chart is complex and open-ended. Now, through the Astrofire computer program developed by Peter Treadgold, the various possibilities for the epoch can be seen at a glance, and with a little practice and experience it is relatively easy to determine the actual conception horoscope.4 This opens - or rather re-opens - a vast new realm of research intrinsic to the roots of astrology.

 To summarize: the moment of the epoch is the time when the archetype of the physical body known as the spirit seed is sent down to unite with the fertilized egg in the mother's womb. At this moment the soul feels a great sense of loss, amounting to bereavement.

The spiritual germ of the physical body has already descended to Earth, whereas we still dwell in the spiritual world. And now a vehement feeling of bereavement sets in. We have lost the spiritual germ of the physical body. This has already arrived below and united itself with the last of those successive generations, which we have watched. We ourselves, however, are still above. The feeling of bereavement becomes violent. And now this feeling of bereavement draws out of the universe the needful ingredients of the world ether. Having sent the spiritual germ of the physical body down to Earth and remained behind?we draw etheric substance out of the world ether and form our own etheric body.5

Out of this sense of loss begins the weaving of the etheric body from the cosmic ether, parallel to the formation of the physical body (embryo) in the mother's womb. This is the key significance of the epoch chart: it indicates the start of life, the beginning of the formation of both the physical body (through the spirit seed) and the etheric body (in relation to the Moon's orbit of the sidereal zodiac). Against this background it can be understood why transits to the epoch chart might be significant at the moment of death, which is the moment the etheric body withdraws from the physical body. In the course of further research into these hitherto hidden and mysterious connections, it became evident that the two epoch charts (hermetic and geocentric) relate to the physical and etheric bodies, respectively. At conception the hermetic chart - related to the level of the Sun - gives a picture of the spirit seed of the physical body, and the geocentric chart gives a picture of the primary impulse from the surrounding etheric cosmos on the building up of the etheric body.

Similarly the two birth charts (hermetic and geocentric) relate to the "I" and astral body of the human being. At birth the hermetic chart, which is connected with the level of the Sun, reveals the goal of the incarnating human being as an "I" coming into a new incarnation upon the Earth in order to fulfill a destiny. And the geocentric chart at birth, which is the traditional astrological chart, has always been called the "map of the soul" - this clearly relating to the level of the astral body, which is the bearer of the soul (sometimes called the soul body).

 Against this background it is evident that every human being has four horoscopes, relating to the four levels of the human being:

 hermetic conception horoscope              physical body

 geocentric conception horoscope           etheric body

 geocentric birth horoscope                       astral body

 hermetic birth horoscope                           "I"

The hermetic horoscope, also known as the Tychonic chart (after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, 1546-1601), is the same as the geocentric horoscope except that the planetary positions are heliocentric rather than geocentric - click here to order, and see the section Horoscopes Old and New (click here) for further clarification and for instructions as to how these four horoscopes relate to the four levels of the human being.

1 Robert Powell, Hermetic Astrology, volume I, Appendix 1, describes the hermetic rule and its historical background.

2 According to the hermetic rule, the Moon at epoch is the same as the Ascendant at birth, which in the case of Rudolf Steiner was 19 Libra.

3 Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos III. 1 (trsl. F.E. Robbins, pp. 223-225).

4 See details of the Astrofire program in the Astrofire section of this website.

5 Rudolf Steiner, Man's Being, His Destiny, and World Evolution, p. 32.

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