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Easter as a Chapter in the Mystery Wisdom of Man

Esoteric Easter: Lecture IV



E HAVE SEEN that out of the Mysteries grew something that made man aware of being related to the world in a way that can be expressed in the annual festivals; and in particular we have learned that Easter is an outgrowth of the principle of initiation. From all that has been set forth it will have become evident what a significant role the Mysteries played in the entire evolution of humanity. Really everything of a spiritual nature that has permeated the world and developed through mankind originated in the old Mysteries. In modern terms we could say that the Mysteries were all-powerful in guiding the spiritual life.

Now, it was intended from the beginning that mankind should develop freedom; and to this end it was necessary for the old Mystery system to recede and for humanity to be less closely linked, for a time, with the powerful guidance that proceeded from the Mysteries, to be cast more upon its own resources, as it were. We certainly cannot assert today that the time has arrived in which men have achieved their true inner freedom and are ready to pass over into the next phase of evolution that is to follow upon that of freedom. This is not the case. Still, many have already passed through a number of incarnations in which the power of the Mysteries was less strongly felt than formerly; and though the seeds of these incarnations have not yet sprouted, they are nevertheless potentially present in the souls of men. And with the coming of a more spiritual age they will develop what they have not developed in their present dimness of vision. Above all things, however, it will be necessary that the wisdom, the vision, the experience of the spiritual such as can be attained by modern initiation, be met with esteem, with reverence; and this must be offered out of man's freedom. Without esteem and reverence, true enlightenment and a spiritual life of humanity is really not possible.

Surely we make the right use of festivals if with their help we try to implant in our souls this esteem, this reverence for things spiritual as they have evolved during the course of human history; if we try to learn how to observe in the most intimate way possible the spiritual significance of outer events, to understand how these carry spiritual meaning from one age over into another. For the time being men keep returning to Earth in repeating incarnations, thus carrying over their experiences of earlier epochs into later ones. Human beings are the most important factor in the further development of all that takes place within the history of mankind. But men of all periods live in a definite environment, and clearly, one of the most significant environments was that of the Mysteries. A most important factor in the progress of humanity is the carrying over of what has been experienced in the Mysteries and re-experienced, be it again through the medium of Mysteries, whence it acts upon mankind, or by other means of enlightenment. Today it must be the latter, for the true Mystery system has withdrawn from the present outer world and is to reappear only in the future.

If the impulse that went forth from here, from the Goetheanum, at the time of the Christmas Meeting, really takes root in the Anthroposophical Society, it is certain that by leading to ever deeper insight the Anthroposophical Society will be the foundation for the Mysteries of the future. These new Mysteries must be consciously nurtured by the Anthroposophical Society. We recall an event that can be utilized in our development as once a similar one was used: the burning of the Temple of Ephesus. Both were the result of a grave wrong; yet on different planes things have different meanings, and it is possible for a frightful iniquity, as it appears on one plane, to be employed on another for the advancement of human freedom — in the sense that precisely such horrible events can bring about a real advance in human progress.

But as I have already said, such matters must be grasped through their inner meaning if they are to be approached understandingly. One must enter into the particular manner in which the spiritual element of the world pervaded the Mysteries. Yesterday I pointed out how the establishment of the annual Easter Festival grew out of a spiritual conception of the constellation of Sun and Moon, and that from the Moon viewpoint the other planets were observed. And I said further that according to what is learned by observing the other planets, the human being, in descending from the pre-earthly to the earthly existence, is guided in forming his light-ether body.

If we would observe and rightly understand how this light-ether body, these ether forces, are transmitted to us by the Moon forces, Moon observations — by what I might call the spiritual Moon observatory, this can be done as we have just endeavored to do it: by turning to the cosmos where it is all inscribed and exists as a fact. But it is important to ponder in our souls the human element as well, the part it plays in the different epochs as a factor of these truths.

As a matter of fact, never did the souls of men take part so intimately, so fervently, in this last phase of the descent to Earth — the enveloping in an etheric body — as in the Mysteries of Ephesus. There the whole service of the Goddess of Ephesus, exoterically called Artemis, was directed toward co-experiencing the spiritual weaving life within the cosmic ether. When members of the Ephesian Mystery approached the image of the Goddess, the feeling this gave them may be said to have become intensified to hearing; and what they heard, as though the goddess were speaking, was something as follows: I rejoice in all that bears fruit in the wide expanse of cosmic ether. — A deep impression was created by this expression of intense joy on the part of the Goddess of the Temple, her joy in all that grows, sprouts and burgeons in the world-ether; and an ardent feeling of close relationship with blossoming and flowering was in particular something that permeated the spiritual atmosphere of the Ephesian Sanctuary as with a magic breath.

Nowhere else was the growth of the plant life, the drive of the Earth forces into the plants, co-experienced so intensely as in the Mystery of Ephesus, for the entire training here tended to that end. And this led to the next step: it was here that instruction was given, if I may so call it, specially intended to induce in the minds of members a feeling for the Moon secret, of which I spoke yesterday. It was everyone's own experience to feel himself as a light-being, because the act of receiving his light-form from the Moon was made so alive for the neophytes and initiates.

A part of the ritual ran something as follows — and one who could take part in it was actually transported into that act of forming himself out of the sunlight that circles around the Moon: as though proceeding from the Sun, there came to him the sound J O A.*

* Translator's Note: — For readers not familiar with German it must be explained that j is pronounced like our y in “yet” — in other words, like an excessively short German i. For this reason it is not too strange that one often encounters J for I (but only in capitals), and the above is a case in point. Indeed, there is no choice here but to use it, as the same letter must serve as a pure vowel in J O A and later as a modified vowel in Jehova. — The letters J O A must be pronounced Ee Oh Ah, and Jehova that appears later, Yay-hoh-vah.

He knew that this J O A activated his ego, his astral body. J O (ego, astral body) and A (the approach of the light-ether body), joining in J O A. Then, with the J O A vibrating in him, he felt himself to be composed of ego, astral body and etheric body.

And then it seemed as though he heard sounding up to him from the Earth — for he had been transported into the cosmos — something that saturated the J O A: eh v. Jeh Ov A What rose up to him in the eh v were the Earth forces.

Now he realized that in this Jeh Ov A he felt the complete human being. The premonition of the physical body, which he acquired only on Earth, he felt intimated in the consonants complementing the vowels that in the J O A indicate the ego, the astral and the etheric body. — This becoming one with the Jeh Ov A was what enabled the disciple of Ephesus to sense in their full significance the last steps of the descent from the spiritual world.

But in feeling the import of this J O A the neophyte at the same time felt himself to be the sound J O A in the light. Then he was a human being: resonant ego, resonant astral body, in a shimmering light-ether body. He was sound in light. That is the nature of cosmic man; and in this state the initiate was able to grasp what he saw in the cosmos, just as on Earth he could perceive through his eyes what occurs in the physical environment of the Earth. When the neophyte of Ephesus bore this J O A within him he really felt transported into the Moon sphere, and he took part in all that could be observed from the point of view of the Moon.

 Diagram 1
Diagram 1
Click image for large view

In this condition the human being was man in general, in the sense that the differentiation between man and woman did not enter until the descent to Earth occurred. Man felt himself transported into this pre-earthly existence, the region immediately preceding his approach to the terrestrial. The Ephesian disciples were able to achieve this ascent to the Moon sphere in a particularly intimate way; and henceforth they carried in their heart, in their soul, what they had experienced there. It sounded for them something as follows:

World-engendered being, thou art shaped in light,
By the Sun empowered in the Moon's full might;

Mars' creating chiming, power to thee is bringing,
And Mercury, moving limbs in oscillation swinging;

Jupiter's radiant wisdom is on thee gleaming,
And Venus' love-bearing beauty is on thee beaming;

So that Saturn's world-aged spirit-inwardness
Doth to space's being and to ages now aborning consecrate thee.*

* Translation by Henry B. Monges.

Weltentsprossenes Wesen, du in Lichtgestalt,
Von der Sonne erkraftet in der Mondgewalt,

Dich beschenket des Mars erschaffendes Klingen
Und Merkurs gliedbewegendes Schwingen,

Dich erleuchtet Jupiters erstrahlende Weisheit
Und der Venus liebetragende Schönheit,

Dass Saturns weltenalte Geist-Innigkeit
Dich dem Raumessein und Zeitenwerden weihe!

That expresses what permeated every Ephesian, and he counted it the most important of all that pulsed through his being. When a participant in the Ephesian Mysteries heard these words ringing in his ears, as it were, there was something about them that made him feel himself completely as a human being; for through them he became aware of the relation between the forces of his etheric body and the planetary system. This came to forceful expression. The cosmos speaks to the etheric body:

World-engendered being, thou art shaped in light,
By the Sun empowered in the Moon's full might.

Now the human being feels himself to be in the power of the moonlight.

Mars' creating chiming, power to thee is bringing.

The chiming, endowed with creative force, sounds across from Mars. And what gave strength to man's limbs, endowing him with the power of movement:

And Mercury, moving limbs in oscillation swinging.

From Jupiter there rays across:

Jupiter's radiant wisdom is on thee gleaming.

And from Venus:

And Venus' love-bearing beauty ...

In order that then Saturn may gather up all that rounds off the human being within and without, prepare him to descend to Earth and there to clothe himself in a physical garb; and then further enable this physically garbed being, who bears the god within him, to live on the Earth:

So that Saturn's world-aged spirit-inwardness
Doth to space's being
And to ages now aborning
Consecrate thee.

From what I have described you can readily see that the spiritual life in Ephesus was colorful and aglow with inner light. Epitomized in the thought of Easter, it comprised really everything that had ever been known about man's true dignity in the cosmos, in the whole universe. And many of the wanderers I mentioned yesterday — those who went from one Mystery to another in order to benefit by the totality of the Mysteries — many of these have repeatedly assured us that nowhere else as in Ephesus — at least, not so joyously — did they perceive so intimately and brightly the harmony of the spheres through that Moon point of view, where the radiant astral light of the world shone on them, where they sensed it in the spiritual sunlight flooding the Moon: in other Mysteries the saturation of man's soul and spirit with astral light was not felt with such an intense, inner artistic grasp.

All this was associated with the temple that went up in flames by the hand of a criminal or a lunatic. But as I mentioned during the Christmas Conference, initiates of the Ephesian Mysteries were re-embodied in Aristotle and Alexander; and these personalities came close to what was still capable of being sensed, in their time, of the Mysteries of Samothrace.

Now, what appears to be an outwardly fortuitous event can be of great spiritual significance in world evolution. Among ourselves it has frequently been mentioned for years that the Temple of Ephesus was burned at the hour in which Alexander the Great was born. But as this temple burned, something significant occurred.

What untold experiences had come to the dwellers in that temple through the centuries! What a wealth of spiritual light and wisdom had suffused its halls! And while the flames lept up from the Temple of Ephesus, all that wisdom was imparted to the cosmic ether, so that we may say: the perpetually recurring Easter Festival of Ephesus that had been locked in the temple halls was henceforth inscribed in the dome of the universe, in so far as this is etheric, though in less legible letters.

That is often the way things work out: much human wisdom that in olden times had been enclosed within temple walls was released, was inscribed in the world-ether, and there at once becomes visible to one who ascends to real imagination. And this imagination is the interpreter, as it were, of the secret of the stars: what once was secret within the temples has been inscribed in the world-ether, and there it can be read by means of imagination.

We can put it another way, but it means the same. I go out into the starlit night, contemplate the firmament and throw myself open to it. Then, if I have the right capacity, the forms of the constellations and the movements of the planets are transmuted as into vast cosmic script. And if I read this script, something emerges like that which I explained yesterday in referring to the Moon secret. When the stars no longer remain merely something to be mathematically and mechanically computed, but become the alphabet of cosmic script, these things can indeed be read there.

But I should like to develop the matter further. When Alexander and Aristotle approached the Kabirian secrets in Samothrace at a time when the old Mysteries were already on the decline, [Samothrace still existed as a memorial and also as a sanctuary for work, but in the main the Mystery schools had declined in the time of Alexander.] something occurred to them at that moment through the influence of the Kabirian Mysteries like a memory of the old Ephesian time, which both had passed through in a certain century. And once more there resounded the J O A, and again they heard intoned:

World-engendered being, thou art shaped in light,
By the Sun empowered in the Moon's full might;

Mars' creating chiming, power to thee is bringing,
And Mercury, moving limbs in oscillation swinging;

Jupiter's radiant wisdom is on thee gleaming,
And Venus' love-bearing beauty is on thee beaming;

So that Saturn's world-aged spirit-inwardness
Doth to space's being and to ages now aborning consecrate thee.

But in this memory, this historical recollection of something ancient, there resided a certain power, the power to create something new. And from that moment there streamed forth this power to create something new — but it was something strange and little observed by mankind. For you must really first understand the nature of this creative power that went forth from the collaboration of Alexander and Aristotle.

Take any notable poem or other work of art — it can be a most beautiful one, such as the Bhagavad Gita or Goethe's Faust or his Iphigenia — anything you value very highly — and reflect on its rich and mighty content — let us say, on the content of Goethe's Faust. Now, by what means, my dear friends, is this rich content transmitted to you? Let us assume that it is transmitted in the ordinary way, as it is to most people. At some time during your life you read Faust. What did you encounter on the physical plane — on the paper? Nothing but combinations of a b c, and so forth. The means by which the mighty content of Faust is disclosed to us consists only of combinations of the letters of the alphabet. If you know the alphabet, the paper contains nothing that does not correspond with one of the twenty-odd letters. Something is conjured up out of these twenty-odd letters — if you know how to read — that evokes for you the whole glorious substance of Faust. You may find it excessively tiresome to recite the alphabet, and you may consider it as abstract as anything could well be; yet rightly combined, this superlative abstraction gives us the whole of Faust.

Now, when there was heard again the cosmic resounding from the Moon that disclosed to Aristotle and Alexander what the blaze of Ephesus signified, how that fire had carried the secret of Ephesus out into the world-ether, there came to Aristotle the inspiration to found the cosmic script. This, however, is not achieved by means of the alphabet, but rather through thoughts, as book writing is made up of letters. And so the letters of the cosmic script came into being. — When I write them down for you they are just as abstract as the alphabet:

Being   Time
Quantity (amount)   Position
Quality (attribute)   Having
Relationship   Doing
Space   Suffering

There you have a number of concepts. They originated when Aristotle laid them before Alexander. Learn to accomplish with these concepts what you do with the alphabet, and you will have learned to read in the cosmos by means of Being, Quantity, Quality, Relationship, Space, Time, Position, Having, Doing, Suffering.

In our age of abstractions something peculiar happened to logic, as it is taught in the schools. Imagine a custom existing in some school to teach — not reading, but, for instance, to provide books from which the pupils had to keep learning the letters in all conceivable combinations, but never arriving at using them for envisioning the wealth of the contents: that would be the same as what the world has done to Aristotle's Logic. In the books on logic are listed his categories — that's what people call them. People memorize them, but have no idea what to do with them. It is exactly like memorizing the alphabet without knowing how to apply it.

Reading the cosmic records bases on something just as simple as extracting the content of Faust by means of the alphabet — it must merely be learned. And fundamentally, all that anthroposophy has ever brought forth or ever will has been experienced by means of these concepts, just as what is read in Faust is experienced through the letters. For all the secrets of the physical and the spiritual world are comprised in these simple concepts that are the cosmic alphabet.

Something intervened in Earth evolution at the time of Alexander that stands in contrast with the direct perception so characteristic of Ephesus. It did not develop till later, especially during the Middle Ages; and it is deeply hidden, profoundly esoteric. Profoundly esoteric is the meaning that dwells in those ten simple concepts; and actually we are learning more and more to live in them. But we must keep striving to experience them as livingly in our soul as we do the alphabet when a wealth of spiritual substance is in question.

Thus you see how something that for thousands of years had been a mighty instinctive revelation of wisdom flowed into ten concepts, whose inner power and light, however, remain to be re-disclosed. And when man will have learned again to read in the cosmos, when he will experience the resurrection of what has lain buried as though in a grave during this interlude in human evolution between the two spiritual ages, then it will come about at some future time that the world wisdom, the light of the world, will be found again. It is our task, my dear friends, to bring to light again what is hidden. We must make of Easter an experience for all humanity. And just as it could be said on other occasions that anthroposophy is a Christmas experience, so it is in its whole manifestation an Easter experience, a resurrection experience coupled with an experience of the grave. And it is especially important during this Easter gathering that we should feel, if I may so express it, the solemnity of anthroposophic striving by realizing that today we can turn to a spiritual Being Who may be close to us, directly beyond the threshold, and appeal to Him thus: Oh, how blessed was mankind at one time with divine-spiritual revelation that still shone so very bright in Ephesus! But now all that is buried. How can I uncover what is so deeply buried? — for one would like to believe that what once existed might in some historical way be found again in the grave where it lies.

Then the Being will reply to us, as did once before a like being in a similar case: What you seek is no longer here. It is in your heart, if only you will unlock your heart in the right way.

Anthroposophy is indeed latent in the hearts of men, but it is for these human hearts to open in the right way. That is what we must deeply feel. Then we will be led back — not instinctively, as of old, but in full awareness — to the wisdom that lived and shone in the Mysteries.

All this I would like to implant in your hearts, my dear friends, at this Easter time; for to permeate yourself with something that can enkindle a feeling of solemnity in every heart dedicated to anthroposophy, that is something which carries up into the spiritual world and which must be correlated with the Christmas impulse given at Dornach. For this impulse must not remain a thought-out, intellectualistic one, but must spring from the heart; it must not be formal or matter-of-fact, nor must it be sentimental: it must issue from the cause itself and bear the mark of solemnity. When the conflagration at Ephesus blazed up, first in the outer ether and then in the heart of Aristotle, it revealed anew to Aristotle the secrets that could then be epitomized in the simplest terms; and we may say in all modesty that, just as he was able to use the fire of Ephesus to this end, so it is our task — and we shall fulfill it — to use what the flames of the Goetheanum carried into the ether: the aims and purpose of anthroposophy.

What do we gather from all this, my dear friends? That at the memorial service in the Christmas-New Year time, the time in which the disaster struck us a year before, it was vouchsafed us to send forth a new impulse from the Goetheanum. How could this be? Because we are right in feeling that what had previously been a cause pertaining to this Earth, worked for and established as such, was carried by the flames out into cosmic space. Because this misfortune has come to us we are, recognizing its consequences, justified in saying, Now we understand that we may no longer represent a mere Earth cause, but must know it as one of wide etheric space in which the spirit lives: the cause represented by the Goetheanum is a cause of the cosmic ether in which lives the spirit-filled wisdom of the world. It has been carried out into the ether; and it is granted us to permeate ourselves with the Goetheanum impulses flowing in from the cosmos.

Take this in any sense — as an image, if you like: even as an image it signifies a profound truth, a truth that can be simply expressed: the Christmas impulse calls for the permeation of anthroposophical activity with an esoteric element. This is present because what had been earthly now reacts on the impulses of the anthroposophical movement through the astral light in the physical fire that rayed forth into cosmic space; but we must be able to receive these impulses.

Then, if we are able to receive them, we feel a certain important link in the chain of all that lives in anthroposophy: it is the anthroposophical Easter spirit, which can never in the world believe that the spirit perishes, but rather that it arises ever and again after dying through the world; and anthroposophy must hold fast to the spirit resurrected again and again out of eternal depths.

That is what we will take into our hearts as the Easter thought, the Easter feeling; and from this gathering we shall carry away feelings, my dear friends, that will fill us with courage and strength for work when we return to our allotted spheres.

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