Category Archives: Early Christian

Wulfila and the Conversion of the ‘Barbaric’ Northern Tribes to Arian-Christianity

Ulfilas (Wulfila in Germanic), A.D. 311–383, missionary to the West-Goths in the Balkan region; founder of Arianic-Germanic Christendom, who translated the Bible into Gothic.

Page of the Codex Argenteus

Codex Argenteus

location: Uppsala, Universitetsbibliotek [Sign. DG. 1]
size: 187 leaves (originally 336 leaves)
content: Parts of the Gospels in the order Matthew, John, Luke, Mark.

Splendid manuscript written in silver and gold ink on purple parchment, also known as the Silver Bible (Swedish Silverbibeln). Presumably written in Italy in the early 6th century. First discovered in the sixteenth century in the monastery of Werden (Germany). Subsequently taken to Prague (Rudolf II), captured by the Swedes (1648) and brought to Stockholm, taken to Holland by Isaac Vossius and finally bought by Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, who donated the manuscript to the University of Uppsala (1669).

Anyone who follows the spread of Eastern Christianity and the spread of Arianism can see a Mithras element in it, even though in already quite weakened form. Any translation of the Ulfilas-Bible into modern languages remains imperfect if one is unaware that Mithras elements still play into the terminology of Ulfilas (or Wulfila). But who pays heed nowadays to these deeper relationships in the linguistic element? As late as in the fourth century, there were philosophers in Greece who worked on bringing the ancient etheric astronomy into harmony with Christianity. From this effort then arose the true Gnosis, which was thoroughly eradicated by later Christianity, so that only a few fragments of the literary samples of this Gnosis have remained.

What do people really know today about the Gnosis, of which they say in their ignorance that our anthroposophy is a warmed-over version? Even if this were true, such people would not be able to know about it, for they are familiar only with those parts of the Gnosis that are found in the critical, Occidental-Christian texts dealing with the Gnosis. They know the quotes from Gnostic texts left behind by the opponents of the Gnosis. There is hardly anything left of the Gnosis except what could be described by the following comparison. Imagine that Herr von Gleich would be successful in rooting out the whole of anthroposophical literature and nothing would remain except his quotations. Then, later on, somebody would attempt to reconstruct anthroposophy based on these quotes; then, it would be about the same procedure in the West as that which was applied to the Gnosis. Therefore, if people say that modern anthroposophy imitates the Gnosis, they would not know it even if it were the case, because they are unfamiliar with the Gnosis, knowing of it only through its opponents.

So, particularly in Athens, a school of wisdom existed well into the fourth century, and indeed even longer, that endeavored to bring the ancient etheric astronomy into harmony with Christianity. The last remnants of this view — man’s entering from higher worlds through the planetary sphere into the earth sphere — still illuminate the writings of Origen; they even shine through the texts of the Greek Church Fathers. Everywhere one can see it shimmer through. It shines through particularly in the writings of the genuine Dionysius the Areopagite. This Dionysius left behind a teaching that was a pure synthesis of the etheric astronomy and the element dwelling in Christianity. He taught that the forces localized, as it were, astronomically and cosmically in the sun entered into the earth sphere in Christ through the man Jesus of Nazareth and that thereby a certain previously nonexistent relationship came into being between the earth and all the higher hierarchies, the hierarchies of the Angels, of Wisdom, the hierarchies of the Thrones and the Seraphim, and so on. It was a penetration of this teaching of the hierarchies with etheric astronomy that could be found in the original Dionysius the Areopagite.” — Rudolf Steiner, Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy, lecture 4, 15Apr1921, Dornach, GA 204

We must realise the importance of this world-historic event. Ancient culture is still alive in Augustine’s environment, but it is already decadent, has passed into its period of decline. He struggles bitterly, but to no purpose, with the last remnants of this culture surviving in Manichæism and Neoplatonism. His mind is steeped in what this wisdom, even in its decadence, has to offer, and, to begin with, he cannot accept Christianity. He stands there, an eminent rhetorician and Neoplatonist, but torn with gnawing doubt. And what happens? Just when he has reached the point of doubting truth itself, of losing his bearings altogether along the tortuous paths of the decadent learning of antiquity in the fourth century of our era, when innumerable questions are hurtling through his mind, he thinks he hears the voice of a child calling to him from the next garden: ‘Take and read! Take and read!’ And he turns to the New Testament, to the Epistles of St. Paul, and is led through the voice of the child to Roman Catholicism.

The mind of Augustine is laden with the oriental wisdom which had now become decadent in the West. He is a typical representative of this learning and then, suddenly, through the voice of a child, he becomes the paramount influence in subsequent centuries. No actual break occurs until the fifteenth century and it may truly be said that the ultimate outcome of this break appears as the change that took place in the life of thought in the middle of the nineteenth century.

And so, in this fourth century of our era, we find the human mind involved in the complicated network of Western culture but also in an element which constitutes the starting-point of a new impulse. It is an impulse that mingles with what has come over from the East and from the seemingly barbarian peoples by whom Roman civilisation was gradually superseded, but whose instructors, after they had mingled with the peasantry and the landowning classes, were the priests of the Roman Church. In the depths, however, there is something else at work. Out of the raw, unpolished soul of these peoples there emerges an element of lofty, archaic spirituality. There could be no more striking example of this than the bock that has remained as a memorial of the ancient Goths — Wulfila’s translation of the Bible. We must try to unfold a sensitive understanding of the language used in this translation of the Bible. The Lord’s Prayer, to take one example, is built up, fragment by fragment, out of the confusion of thought of which Augustine was so typical a representative. Wulfila’s translation of the Bible is the offspring of an archaic form of thought, of Arian Christianity as opposed to the Athanasian Christianity of Augustine.

Perhaps more strongly than anywhere else, we can feel in Wulfila’s translation of the Bible how deeply the pagan thought of antiquity is permeated with Arian Christianity. Something that is pregnant with inner life echoes down to us from these barbarian peoples and their culture, to which the civilisation of ancient Rome was giving place. The Lord’s Prayer rendered by Wulfila, is as follows:

Atta unsar thu in himinam,
Veihnai namo thein;
Quimai thiudinassus theins.
Vairthai vilja theins, sve in himina, jah ana aerthai.
Hlaif unsarana thana sinteinan, gif uns himma daga.
Jah aflet uns, thatei skulans sijaima, svasve jah veis afletam thaim skulam unsaraim.
Jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai, ak lausei uns af thamma ubilin.
Unte theina ist thiu dangardi, jah mahts, jah vulthus in aivius. Amen.

Atta unsarthu in himinam, veihnainamo thein; Quimaithiudinassustheins. Vairthai viljatheins, sve in himina, jah ana aerthai. — The words of this wonderful prayer cannot really be translated literally into our modern language, but they may be rendered thus:

We feel Thee above in the Spirit-Heights, All Father of men.
May Thy Name be hallowed.
May Thy Kingdom come to us.
May Thy Will be supreme, an the Earth even as it is in Heaven.

— We must be able to feel what these words express. Men were aware of the existence of a primordial Being, of the All-sustaining Father of humanity in the heights of spiritual existence. They pictured Hirn with their faculties of ancient clairvoyance as the invisible, super-sensible King who rules His Kingdom as no earthly King. Among the Goths this Being was venerated as King and their veneration was proclaimed in the words : Atta unsarthu in himinam.

This primordial Being was venerated in His three aspects: May Thy Name be hallowed. ‘Name’ — as a study of Sanscrit will show — implied the outer manifestation or revelation of the Being, as a man reveals himself in his body. ‘Kingdom’ was the supreme Power: Veihnainamothein; Quimaithiudinassustheins, Vairthai viljatheins, sve in himina, jah ana aerthai.

‘Will’ indicated the Spirit shining through the Power and the Name. — Thus as they gazed upwards, men beheld the Spirit of the super-sensible worlds in His three-fold aspect. To this Spirit they paid veneration in the words :

Jah ana aerthai.
Hlaif unsarana thana sinteinan, gif uns himma daga.

— So may it be on Earth. Even as Thy Name, the form in which Thou art outwardly manifest, shall be holy, so may that which in us becomes outwardly manifest and must daily be renewed, be radiant with spiritual light. We must try to understand the meaning of the Gothic word Hlaif, from which Leib (Leib=body) is derived. In saying the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we have no feeling for what the word Hlaif denoted here: — Even as Thy ‘Name’ denotes thy body, so too may our body be spiritualised, subsisting as it does through the food which it receives and transmutes.

The prayer speaks then of the ‘Kingdom’ that is to reign supreme from the super-sensible worlds, and so leads on to the social order among men. In this super-sensible ‘Kingdom’ men are not debtors one of another. The word debt among the Goths means debt in the moral as well as in the physical, social life.

And so the prayer passes from the ‘Name’ to the ‘Kingdom’, from the bodily manifestation in the Spirit, to the ‘Kingdom’. And then from the outer, physical nature of the body to the element of soul in the social life and thence to the Spiritual.—

Jah aflet uns, thatei skulans sijaima, svasve jah
veis afletam thaim skulam unsaraim.

— May we not succumb to those forces which, proceeding from the body, lead the Spirit into darkness; deliver us from the evils by which the Spirit is cast into darkness. Jah nibriggaisuns in fraistubnjai, aklauseiunsafthammaubilin. — Deliver us from the evils arising when the Spirit sinks too deeply into the bodily nature.

Thus the second part of the prayer declares that the order reigning in the spiritual heights must be implicit in the social life upon Earth. And this is confirmed in the words : We will recognise this spiritual Order upon Earth.

Unte theina ist thiu dangardi, jah mahts, jah vulthus in aivius. Amen.

— All-Father, whose Name betokens the out er manifestation of the Spirit, whose Kingdom we will recognise, whose Will shall reign: May earthly nature too be full of Thee, and our body daily renewed through earthly nourishment. In our social life may we not be debtors one of another, but live as equals. May we stand firm in spirit and in body, and may the trinity in the social life of Earth be linked with the super-earthly Trinity. For the Supersensible shall reign, shall be Emperor and King. The Supersensible — not the material, not the personal — shall reign.

Unte theina ist thiu dangardi, jah mahts, jah vulthus in avius. Amen.

— For on Earth there is no thing, no being over which the rulership is not Thine. — Thine is the Power and the Light and the Glory, and the all-supreme Love between men in the social life.

The Trinity in the super-sensible world is thus to penetrate into and find expression in the social order of the Material world. And again, at the end, there is the confirmation: Yea, verily, we desire that this threefold order shall reign in the social life as it reigns with Thee in the heights: For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the revealed Glory. — Theinaistthiudangardi, jahmahts, jahvulthus in aivius. Amen.

Such was the impulse living among the Goths. It mingled with those peasant peoples whose mental life is regarded by history as being almost negligible. But this impulse unfolded with increasing rapidity as we reach the time of the nineteenth century. It finally came to a climax and led on then to the fundamental change in thought and outlook of which we have heard in this lecture.

Such are the connections. — I have given only one example of how, without in any way distorting the facts, but rather drawing the real threads that bind them together, we can realise in history the existence of law higher than natural law can ever be. I wanted, in the first place, to describe the facts from the exoteric point of view. Later on we will consider their esoteric connections, for this will show us how events have shaped themselves in this period which stretches from the fourth century A.D. to our own age, and how the impulses of this epoch live within us still. We shall realise then that an understanding of these connections is essential to the attainment of true insight for our work and thought at the present time.” — Rudolf Steiner, European Spiritual Life in the 19th Century, Lecture 1, 15May1921, Dornach, GA 325

 

Christmas Symbolism: Ox and Ass

During the Age of Taurus (roughly from 3000 BCE to 800 BCE), the bull and the calf were venerated. As this Age transitioned to Aries, the Mithraic Mysteries arose where the cosmic Christ was sought as one overcame the bull within:Mithras

Note the symbol of the snake. Mithraism apparently grew out of Persia and became popular throughout much of the Roman empire just before the spread of Christianity.

Many of the Old Testament books have the expression ox and ass. For example, in Job 1:14 it says “and there came a messenger unto Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them,”

adelphia sarcophagus

Andrew Graham-Dixon of the Independent writes in his Arts column from December 1992, “The first reference to the ox and ass at the Nativity comes several centuries after the fact, in a book that is not much read these days: the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, written [down] some time in the eighth century [most researchers date this to 600 AD]. The author of this apocryphal text is unlikely to have invented this detail on his own. It seems probable that the early church fathers had also placed the ox and the ass at the Nativity because of what seemed a suggestive reference to the two animals in the Book of Isaiah: ‘The ox knows its owner and the ass its master’s stall; but Israel, my own people, has no knowledge, no discernment.’” The Adelphia Sarcophagus relief (to the left) is from roughly 330 AD; note the ox and ass in its nativity scene.

Giotto also places the ox and ass in his nativity scene. GiottoScrovegniChapel_Nativity 1305In his Escape to Egypt and the triumphant entry of Christ Jesus to Jerusalem includes an ass for travel (frescoes by Giotto).

19-flight-into-egyptIn Luke 13:15 we read “The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?”

A bit later in Luke, 14:5, it says “And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?”

OK, lots of other references are possible – you likely are aware there are many such references in the Bible and other related ancient texts. I have had a question about the symbolic or mystical purpose of these two beasts. In reading David Ovason’s book The Two Children, I found a treasure! “The ox was intended as a reference to the bull of Mithras, and perhaps even to the bull of the Egyptian god Apis – both important cults still offering initiation at the time of the birth of Jesus. … Just as the bull would have been familiar to the early Christians as being emblematic of the Mithraic cult, so the ass would have been familiar to them through the writing of the 2nd century AD African writer Lucius Apulcius.” Apulcius’ esoteric book The Golden Ass, is the story of a “human who had been metamorphosed into the body of an ass” but finds liberation through the “initiation rites of Isis”. David goes on to say that Gnostic deities were depicted with the head of an ass.Giotto Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_10__Entry_into_Jerusalem

The gospel books are full of passages where the event could be happening in the physical or in the spiritual world or both (typically both).  I find it plausible that both the bull (ox) and the ass each represent a stream of the ancient mysteries. Linking the bull to Mithras and Egyptian Apis mysteries makes sense. And I can be persuaded that the ass represents the Osiris-Isis mysteries of Egypt but I’ll need more persuasion. Anyone want to persuade me?

Return of HephaestusTo close I’d like to add one more image. When Hephaestus returned to Mount Olympus, many years after his mother, Hera, threw him off because his foot was deformed and thus ugly, he rode on an ass. Christ did not copy this; rather he fulfilled the myths and the prophecies. What does this riding into Jerusalem or onto Olympus truly mean?

The Holy Trinity – The Logos – The Elohim – Christ – and Jesus (phew!)

It was a great debate in Early Christianity: is the Father of the Old Testament the same as the Father Christ referred to? For many the God who says and eye for an eye is different from one who says love thy enemy, turn your cheek. Eventually, a majority vote decided that these were the same Father. But this does not settle Truth. Most Christians continued to have a different perspective until the Roman army was used to get them to agree.

The matter becomes much more deep when we look at the work of the School of Athens under Dionysius the Areopagite (which Justinian had shut down). Here we find a Heavenly Hierarchy defined where the Elohim are equated with the Exusiai. The Christ is from this hierarchy but he carries within himself, united, the Logos who is the Son in the Holy Trinity. That is why John’s Gospel says In the Beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with the God. A God was the Logos. This same one (a god, an elohim) was with the God in the beginning. The Greek adjective ton should appear whenever the definite article ‘The’ is meant.

Now all this grows profoundly in depth when we consider the Rosicrucian interpretation of Genesis. “Let us create Mankind in our image.” One (of the 7) Elohim creates Eve as an asexual human. She is fertilized from the spirit – from knowing. Another Elohim, Yahveh, creates Adam (both are Adam in that they are Mankind). From Eve without Adam comes Cain. From Eve with Adam comes Abel. Then Eve liberates herself through Lucifer from Yahveh by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. And by getting Adam to also eat from it, the process of sexuality begins – humanity moves from being asexual to being a sexual duality and this process continues through Cain and Abel until Seth is born. Seth represents the first humans who are the result of sexual relations, of the woman being fertilized by a man as he is the first whose likeness is that of his parents. Heredity begins as does reincarnation.

It is important to study why Freemasons look back to Cain as their founder. Abel tended sheep while Cain tilled the soil. Profound. Look at the difference in the verbs to tend and to till. Cain sought to spiritualize the earth. Abel accepted the abundance given by God. Abel, during the time before the duality of sexes was established, represents feminine wisdom. Cain represents masculine wisdom. For Freemasons, in doing their work, they had to be kept free of feminine wisdom. With the advent of the 20th Century, this came to an end.

Dionysius the Areopagite listed the Heavenly Hierarchy as follows:

Holy Trinity: Father – Son (Logos) – Holy Spirit

  1. Seraphim
  2. Cherubim
  3. Thrones
  4. Kyriotetes
  5. Dynamis
  6. Exusiai / Elohim
  7. Archai
  8. Archangeloi
  9. Angeloi
  10. Mankind to become this hierarchy

Much earlier in evolution, the being known as the Christ, through his development, became united with the Logos. When evolution was working on Mankind, Christ was at the level of an Elohim. Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel and Jesus from Luke’s Gospel are from the tenth. They make an incredible sacrifice to merge when the Luke-Jesus is 12 in the Holy of the Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. This boy is now Jesus of Nazareth who will again make a sacrifice to offer his sheaths to the Elohim known as the Christ at baptism.

Although many Gnostics thought this was an example of an avatar incorporation, for early Christians this was a God becoming Man – penetrating all the way into the body so that even the physical body could be resurrected for all humans. Note that the physical body and its mineral/ash are not the same thing. At Easter, the stone was removed.

Who is Working Now?

John 5 is about a healing of a man by the Pool of Bethesda. Many of those afflicted awaited there for an angel to stir the waters believing the tradition that at that moment someone could be healed of their affliction. One man had been there 38 years hoping to be healed. Jesus approaches him and asks him if he has the will to be healed. The man replied that he does but he does not have someone who could carry him quickly down to the waters in time to be the first to catch the stirring and thus be healed. Jesus says to him, Arise, take up your mat and walk! Moments later, those adhering to Hebraic laws concerning the Sabbath, told this man that he was breaking the law that bans work by carrying his mat. Later Jesus “finds” this man “in the temple” and says to him, “Behold (Ide), you have become well. Sin no more lest something worse be generated in you.”  This man then tells the Jews that it was Jesus who healed him. So now the Jews confront Jesus about performing work, a healing, on the Sabbath. Jesus answers them by saying My Father once was working, now I am working [John 5:17]. The rest of chapter 5 is remarkably deep and a topic for another time. But what can we make of this passage?

Taking this in reverse order let us first focus on 5:17. Various translations include [NASB] “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.” [KJV] “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”, or [ASV] “My Father worketh even until now, and I work”.  The Greek says “working until now” using the word “arti” to mean that the Father’s work is being or has been suspended, and now Christ is becoming or is the one at work. A turning point in time was occurring then.

The healed man is not betraying Christ-Jesus by revealing who it was who healed him. We find this word “ide” translated as “behold”. In a prior blog concerning the mysteries revealed in John 20 (at the tomb) we found three Greek words that are often translated to merely “see”. But “ide” implies a seeing that is higher than that through the senses. “In the temple” can mean literally in the temple rebuilt by Herod or it could mean in a holy place within the body (soma) or both! It is here that Jesus finds him. The healing the man just went through changed him deeply, not just his lameness. Now he could truly inhabit his body and thus Jesus could find him there within.

Lastly we come to the 38 years this man has been waiting. The passage does not say he waited a long time; rather it is explicit how long. What else takes 38 years? The Hebrew calendar was based on the 235 full moons it took for the sun, earth, and moon come back into the same relative position, or every 19 years. Two such cycles this man had waited. Jesus had asked him what might seem to be an obvious question, “Do you have the will to get well?” The lame man, one would think, would be irritated when Jesus then says: “Take up your mat and walk.” That is exactly what he cannot do. But, deeply, he has understood what Christ-Jesus meant: through Him comes the power of inner adaptability, a soul-force that overcomes one’s adversity, a lame body. We can no longer allow ourselves to be carried by our fellow human beings – we must carry our own cross. Moreover, we must become those who are able to carry others. By developing our soul-forces, we become the masters of our environment (in a broad sense of the word environment).

Mithraism and the Cosmic Christ

When religions of old pointed to the God found in the sun, they were speaking about the Logos through whom all things became. Different names were given to this being. One religion that immediately preceded Christianity tried to prepare the way for the coming of this God, namely Mithraism. Once Christianity was established, it lost this connection to the cosmic Christ in favor of the earthly Christ. But the mosaic shown here, from St. Peter’s Basilica, shows the cosmic Christ as the charioteer of the Sun.

The approach of this God was experience in the ancient mysteries. Preparation meant overcoming one’s “Bull”. These ancient priests had an incredible knowledge of the stars and a sophisticated knowledge of the fixed and moving stars. They knew that if one followed all the majestic forces that flow from these sources and from the earth as well, one can grasp not the human but the bull. Only with the additional forces of the sun, could they grasp the meaning of the true human being. Meaning, of course, comes from the Logos.

To overcome one’s bull, involved inner strength to overcome the body’s influence on one’s soul (and lower self). Associated with this bull, we see in this sculpture three creatures. What do these represent? MithrasRemember that Christ was crucified with two others through whom individually both Lucifer and Ahriman spoke. Lucifer, in ancient art, has typically been depicted as the serpent while Ahriman is the hound. But who is represented by the scorpion? This completes the unholy trinity and its name is confusing as some traditions revere those spiritual beings with this name: Asuras. What is meant is those beings who are of the Archai level but have not met their own progress in past planetary conditions and thus act as a hindrance in our Earthly planetary condition. As weights are a hindrance to lifting objects, they strengthen us in our spiritual forces.

So Mithraism intended to make straight the way to the Cosmic Christ. Arius brought this cosmic Christ perspective. But by the 4th Century, Western Christianity had focused entirely on the earthly Christ and rejected the way of using the ancient mysteries to understand the Mystery of Golgotha.

Fear of Spiritual Death

As the Ancient Mysteries were fading, especially from the 4th century BC until the 1st century AD, the priests were very aware of a decline in their mysteries. No longer could their initiates reach back to the times when mankind and their gods interacted. No longer could their rituals invoke their folk spirits to descend and participate and guide. Traditions and knowledge passed down alone kept the people and their mystery center together. The priests feared what was to come. For them it appeared that without a renewal of their spiritual connection, all would be lost. Humanity would experience a spiritual death.

Christ entered and through the Mystery enacted on Golgotha, the new path, the new human became possible. Thus, Grunewalde depicts John the Baptist as saying at the cross “He must increase and I must decrease”.

This was what early Christianity was about.

Working with the Meditation from John’s Gospel

Last blog introduced John’s Prologue as a meditation. Now let’s go line-by-line deepening our esoteric understanding:

In the beginning was the LogosWhy “Logos”? Why not “Christ”? Why not “The Son”? We can conclude this gospel is primarily about the Logos, not any other person or god. But what is the “Logos”? What would be the understanding of “Logos” to contemporaries of this writer?

And the Logos was with God“With God, or can this be translated “within God”?

A God was the LogosSome translations will omit “A”. How might this change the intended theology? How many hierarchies in the heavens did theology of the time regard? Which levels might its beings be called “gods”? If not of the Holy Trinity, of what hierarchy might the Logos be?

This same one was, in the beginning, with GodWhy is this seemingly repeated? This gospel writer does not waste words, does not repeat, so what’s going on? Is the “one” referred to different? It says this “same one”.  Is this “same one” still with God?

Through Him became all thingsDoes this make the Logos the creator of “all things”? Note it does not say “all beings”. Are heavenly beings included in this creation? Are evil beings? How did contemporaries view matter? Read up on the Gnostic theology for one view of contemporaries. What was being purified in baptism, in the public baths before entering the temple?

Not one thing became without HimWhat does the writer mean by “became” or “to become”. Aristotle and Plato were considered the pinnacles of philosophy in those times – what did they have to say about “becoming”?

In Him is LifeLife as a “substance”? All of Life? What is Life? What is my Life? How might my memories be related? If Christ is in me, is he in my Life?  All of my life? Is it still my life? Where is my Life? What happens in a near-death-experience (NDE)? Where goes my life when I die? Where is my life before I am born? Does my life evolve?

Life is Humanity’s Light. Oh my! How are we to understand this!? Life is Light – really? Where is my light (this little light of mine)? When I conceive of a new idea, cartoonists show a light bulb turning on in my mind. Creative thinking has long been associated with an inner light. Typically our every-day thinking is a dead-thinking, not light, nor dark, but dead, like that “thinking” in a computer. A living-thinking glows and not only enlightens, it reveals other things. Do our senses only receive or do they, as Plato claimed, shine out to the object of our attention? If so, what kind of shining is this?

This light shines in each soul’s darknessSo there is both light and darkness in my soul? Compare this concept again to the Gnostics and other contemporaries. What does it mean to shine? Does it mean all-giving? What is darkness? All-receiving? What might light in the spirit be? How might it be different from light in the physical realm? What does the name Lucifer mean? (Light bearer). What being represents darkness in the spirit? Can the soul “see” the physical?  

And the soul’s darkness comprehends it notThat sounds as if the writer is saying I have two aspects to my soul; one, with light, and one with darkness and the one with darkness does not understand the one with light. What is this darkness? Is it a being within me? Is it me? What does the Logos have to do with me? with Humanity? with earth and evolution?

Lots of questions! Why am I not offering answers as well? The story of Sphinx of Thebes describes how unanswerable questions once drove people mad. The time was about the 8th century BCE. Oedipus, as representative of the new soul forces with intellectual capacities that would declare “I know!” were beginning to form. When Oedipus comes to the sphinx, she asks him a question. Because Oedipus is able to answer it, she must no longer torment him. We are now well passed the development of the Intellectual Soul so each one of you are able to answer these questions, especially through meditation.

From Ancient Mysteries to Rome, Part 2

A study of history can, however, bring to light something else in this connection, that is of very great significance. Into the external exoteric culture of Greece flowed much of this threefold teaching of

  1. Zarathustra, teaching of the spiritual Sun
  2. Osiris, the elemental Sun and
  3. Anaxagoras, of Zeus, the Sun-flooded ether environment of the Earth.

The world would never have had such a sublime Greek art, nor such a wonderful Greek philosophy, nor a Plato or an Aristotle, were it not that into the art and philosophy of Greece flowed streams from this ancient wisdom.

A time came, however, when the initiation truths that were handed down from past epochs were no longer sufficiently protected from profanation. Many teachings that had their source in initiation wisdom passed into the hands of distinguished Romans, more especially the Roman emperors. Among them all, perhaps of Augustus alone can it be said that he still knew how to value the initiation wisdom that was imparted to him. In the Roman world there was, generally speaking, no understanding for the esoteric factor in Greek art and Greek wisdom, no recognition that these contained elements which could be traced back to the very most ancient wisdom teaching. Consequently, the hopelessly prosaic, the semi-barbarous civilization of Rome took over what we may call the surface brightness, the sheen, of Greek culture, but was quite incapable of handing on, in its true form, to later generations what lived at the heart of this culture. And so when Roman influences began to permeate the Christianity that had, ever since the Mystery of Golgotha, been making its way into the world, there was no possibility for Christianity to receive, along with all that came from Rome, the true essence of the ancient culture.

Because Rome did not know how to value and guard initiation, the genuine initiation truths of earlier times have been prevented from finding their way over to the West. We must realize that we, as human beings possessing the ordinary consciousness of modern times, have been debarred from the sacred truths of olden times because Rome was unable to understand these truths. As we know, it was a man who hailed from Rome that drove out of Europe the last remaining Greek philosophers and obliged them to seek refuge in the East.

Now, there was in a later time a man who came as near to the teachings of initiation as it was possible to come in the time in which he lived, and who was acquainted with the teaching o£ these three aspects of the Sun — the aspect of the Sun according to Zarathustra, the aspect of the Sun that is associated with Osiris, and the aspect of the Sun as seen and understood by Pythagoras and Anaxagoras. This man was Julian the Apostate. He was not able himself to behold the Sun in all three aspects, but he knew of the teaching; he knew it as a tradition that had come down in the Mystery Schools. And so impressed was Julian the Apostate by this teaching of the three aspects of the Sun that to him that which Christianity brought seemed small in comparison. For he still knew of the inexpressible glory and splendor into which Zarathustra had gazed; he had learned to know also of the activities of fire and of light, of the cosmic chemical forces, and of the cosmic life-forces, as man had been able to behold them in the ancient Mysteries. Of all this he, Julian, could in his time still learn, albeit only by tradition.

This whole teaching seemed to him so sublime, so mighty, that he found himself unable to accept Christianity. The thoughts and purposes of his mind were, in fact, turned in quite another direction. He seized with the desire to impart to mankind the ancient Mysteries into which he had himself been initiated up to a certain degree. And this, my dear friends, was what led at last to the unsheathing of the dagger that brought his life to a violent end. The hand that lifted the dagger belonged to one of those who counted it a sin to communicate the lofty teachings of initiation to the general run of mankind. Julian’s murderer wanted that people should hear of the Sun spoken of in an external manner only.

Julian the Apostate declared that the Sun has three aspects:Bust of Julian the Apostate

  1. its influence on the Earthly ether
  2. its heavenly light that is behind the Earthly ether, the warmth, the chemical, and the life forces
  3. the aspect of pure spiritual Being.

For this he was put out of the way arranged by one of his own soldiers (tradition says John Martyr the Warrior). And indeed it must be admitted that the moment had not yet come when mankind in general was ripe to receive such weighty and solemn truths. That time has now come.

From Ancient Mysteries to Rome, Part 1

[The following relies on insights from a lecture by Rudolf Steiner in London, 24 August 1922]

Let’s go back to the Ancient Persian civilization when the teacher of mankind during the height of this civilization was Zarathustra (aka Zoroaster). It was a common custom for the pupils of a great and lofty teacher to continue for a long time to bear his name.  Thus, the Zarathustra we read of in history is in reality the last of a succession of pupils of the great Zarathustra. This great teacher of mankind was initiated in a most wonderful and remarkable manner into the secrets of existence, and he could stand before the men of his time and teach them as an eminent and sublime initiate.

When we look at the Sun, we see it through our scientific education. Through his initiation, Zarathustra knew that in that place in the heavens where we see a mere Sun, he knew there lives a great and all-embracing Spirit. In fact, Zarathustra did not see the physical Sun at all; rather he beheld a great and omnipresent cosmic Spirit that influenced him in a spiritual way. Zarathustra knew that with the sunshine came also spiritual rays, rays of divine-spiritual grace and bounty, which enkindle in the soul and spirit of man that ‘higher man’ to which the ordinary man in us must continually aspire.

Zarathustra, Zoroaster means the Radiant Star as this is what his pupils called him. They perceived that he received from the radiant Godhead the rays of wisdom. When Zarathustra looked upon the spiritual cosmic Sun, he was looking into the source of all the forces through which all things became. Forces that make the stones on the Earth to be hard and solid, forces that make the plants to come forth from their seeds and grow, forces that make the animals to spread abroad over the face of the Earth in their different kinds, and forces that make man to flourish and thrive upon the Earth. The first and oldest of the Zarathustras, the original Radiant Star, had knowledge of everything that took place on the Earth because he was able to experience the Spiritual Being of the Sun whom he called Ahura Mazda.

As mankind evolved, so did these Ancient Mysteries. When we get to the Chaldean and Egyptian era,  initiates were no longer able to penetrate so deeply into the Mysteries of the worlds. Mankind still looked up to the Sun, but he no longer saw it as radiant, as sending forth rays; rather, he saw it now as shining, as illuminating the Earth with its light. Sun-radiance was replaced with sunshine. Ra signified for Egyptians the Sun that moved round the Earth, giving light and Osiris was his representative on Earth. Some of the secrets from Persia had been lost. For example, the initiate was no longer able to see with full inner clarity the radiant cosmic God, as had the Persian initiates of an older time. He could only see how the primal astral forces descend from the Sun. Zarathustra saw in the Sun a Being, he was still able to see in the Sun a Being. The initiates of Egypt saw in the Sun the forces that come to the Earth.. What they saw were deeds, forces of light, forces of movement but not a spiritual Being. And the Egyptian initiates spoke of One who represents, on Earth, the forces of the Sun that man carries within him, namely Osiris.

When we come to the age of Greece, we find that by the eighth, seventh, fifth century before the Mystery of Golgotha, man had lost all power of looking into the Mysteries of the Sun. He could see only the effect of the Sun’s influence in the environment or the Earth. Man beheld the working of the Sun in the ether that fills all the space around the Earth. And this ether, that spreads out around the Earth and permeates also man himself, this the Greek initiates such as Anaxagoras called Zeus.

We see three descending stages in the cultural evolution of mankind. First there was the stage when the initiates beheld in the sun a divine-spiritual being; followed by a second stage when the initiates beheld the sun’s forces; and finally a third stage, when the initiates beheld only the influence of the sun being in the earth’s ether.

Whitsun: what is this festival anyway?

What is Whitsun? Why is it Important?

Whitsun is a shortened version of Whit Sunday which may derive from White Sunday or from Whit as in wit, wisdom, or both. This name is used in countries with Anglican religious heritage or connections. Whitsun is the seventh Sunday after Easter. It is another name for Pentecost which is the fiftieth day after Passover (the Saturday before Easter, or at least it was supposed to be but differences between the Gregorian, the Julian, and the Hebrew calendars cause Western Easter, Eastern Easter, and Passover to often unalign.) Another way to describe this is that Ascension Thursday happens 40 days after Easter and Whitsun/Pentecost ten days later. While Christmas is a fixed holiday, Whitsun/Pentecost is “movable” as it falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon that follows the spring equinox. The early Christians tried to establish Easter as a cosmic event with Christmas as an earthly event.  Pentecost is the Greek name for Shavuot, a prominent feast of ancient Israel that celebrated Moses receiving the Law on Sinai. Perhaps the name Whitsun, or Whitsunday, was an attempt to distance or distinguish this Christian festival from the Jewish one.

Whitsun and Ascension go together. The time from Easter to Ascension is a time of intense teaching from Christ to the disciples. All present were initiated into the deep Mysteries of Golgotha.  Then comes the proving of the training – ten days alone (or becoming all-one).

The festival of Whitsun commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples. This is described in Acts 2:1-4, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all together in one self [place is often used]. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong rushing wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

Normally our mental image is tongues of fire on the 12 disciples but note this 6th century Rabbula Gospels from Syria (now in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy). It shows Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, in the middle. Thus present, in one self, were more than just the 12. Some traditions claim as many as 120 were present as one.

To understand Whitsun/Pentecost, we need to understand what is here called the Holy Spirit. There are two mentions in the bible of descents of the holy spirit. The first is [John 1:32-34] at the baptism of Jesus,  “Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit descend down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’” The second ‘descent’ is Acts 2:1-4 as quoted above. I bolded the words “and remain” to emphasize that this spirit was not in Jesus of Nazareth until this moment of baptism. Theologians often miss this important point.

‘Spirit’ is mentioned in other passages, notably John 19:30, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit [pneuma, πνεῦμα].” Pneuma is the same word for wind in Greek, not the moving air but what moves the air. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states that pneuma also means “breath as in the nostrils or mouth, often in Greek writings from Aeschylus down.” Now read Genesis 2:7 (ASV) “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” And in John 1:4 “In Him is life [zoe, ζωὴ] and that life is the light of mankind.” “Him” is the Word, the Logos. When a human being speaks a word, they must use their breath. Breath is of the airy element in which light can freely exist. Note the strong association of the Word with life, zoe. Much more could be said on this tangent.

How are these two descents of the Holy Spirit alike and how are they different?

Let’s start with the day of the Ascension. Gazing upwards, the disciples of Christ Jesus  see Christ vanishing in the clouds. The usual conception of this scene is that Christ went up into heaven and so departed from the earth leaving not only the disciples to their own resources but the rest of mankind as well. This feels like a spiritual reneging on the promise of Easter! Did not Christ, through His deed on Golgotha, resolve to unite His own Being with the earth, that is to say, from the Mystery of Golgotha onwards to remain forever connected with earth-evolution?

Next, ten days after this Ascension, tongues of fire descend upon the heads of all of those assembled as “one self” so that they are inspired “to speak with other tongues.” What this actually means is that from this moment forward those gathered were able to impart the secrets learned from their time with the resurrected Christ, of the Mystery of Golgotha, to the heart of every human being, irrespective of race, gender, religion, or ethnicity. This was a cosmic deed accomplished for the whole of humanity.

Christ fulfilled his deed for all mankind on Golgotha. But now mankind must come to grasp this deed. The permeation of the human spirit-and-soul with the power to understand the Mystery of Golgotha is the sending of the Holy Spirit. This is the picture of the Whitsun festival, the festival of Pentecost.

Christ sent the Spirit after ten days of working on their own so that the individual being of spirit-and-soul may have access to the effects of The Deed that was accomplished for all men in common. Through the Spirit man must learn to experience the Christ Mystery inwardly, in spirit and in soul. The Holy Spirit is available to each human individual in order that he or she may be able to understand this cosmic Deed.

Looking a bit deeper (there are always more depths!), we can come to see that the Ascension tells us: The Deed on Golgotha was fulfilled for the physical body and the etheric body in the universal human sense while Whitsun tells us: The single human being must make this Deed bear fruit in himself by receiving the Holy Spirit. Thereby the universal Christ Impulse becomes individual in each human being.

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