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The Easter Festival in relation to the Mysteries

Schmidt Number: S-5699

On-line since: 1st April, 2000



We have heard how there grew out of the Mysteries that which unites the consciousness of men with the world in such manner that this union comes to expression in the festivals of the year. We have understood above all how the Easter Festival grew out of the principle of initiation. From all this you will have realised how great a part the Mysteries have played in the whole evolution of mankind. All the spiritual life that passed through the world and evolved through mankind proceeded in ancient times from the Mysteries. The Mysteries were very powerful with respect to the whole guidance of the spiritual life.

Now mankind was predestined from the outset to evolve to spiritual freedom. The development of freedom necessarily involved a decline in the ancient Mysteries. For a period of time human beings had to stand less in connection with such a mighty guidance as proceeded from the Mysteries; they had to be left more to their own resources. Certainly we cannot say that the time has already come today when men have won true inner freedom and are ripe to pass on to what should follow the age of freedom. Decidedly we cannot say so. Nevertheless a sufficient number of human beings have passed through incarnations in which the power of the Mysteries was felt less than in former ages. And though the fruits of these incarnations are not yet ripe today, though the harvest is not yet, nevertheless it is there within the human being, it is latent in their souls.

If, as we have often said, a more spiritual age is now approaching once again, human beings will indeed evolve in time what in their dim consciousness they have not yet evolved today. But this above all will be necessary, that the knowledge, the vision, the conscious experience of the Spiritual that can arise from present-day Initiation shall be met out of the very freedom which men have gained with reverence and true respect. For if we do not revere, if we do not treasure it, true knowledge or indeed any spiritual life of mankind is in reality impossible. And in this sense we shall rightly use the times of the sacred festivals, we shall use them by trying to plant, however little, into our souls all this reverence for the spiritual life that has evolved in the course of human history. We shall learn to look as intimately as we can and see how the outer historical events signify facts and carry the spiritual life from one age into another.

We know in the first place that human individuals themselves return to the Earth again and again in their repeated earthly lives. Thus they carry with them experiences of former epochs into later ones. The human beings themselves are the most important factor in the progressive evolution of all that has taken place in human history. But the human beings of every age live in a particular environment. And the environment created by the Mysteries is among the most important. Thus it is a most important factor in the progress of mankind to carry from one age into another what human beings experienced in the Mysteries and what they then experience again, be it once more in sacred Mysteries working forth into mankind, or be it in some other forms of knowledge. Today it has to be in other forms of knowledge. For the real life of the Mysteries has more or less receded so far as the outer world is concerned and has not yet emerged again.

It is indeed the case that when that spiritual impulse which has gone forth from here, from the Goetheanum through the Christmas Foundation meeting, really finds its way into the life of the Anthroposophical Society — (the Society leading on to the Classes partially begun) — this Anthroposophical Society will provide the foundation for the Mysteries of the future. The future life of the Mysteries must consciously and deliberately be planted by this Anthroposophical Society. For this Anthroposophical Society has ever before it an event which can be turned to good account in future evolution even as a similar event was turned to good account once upon a time, namely, the burning of the Temple of Ephesus. Then and now, a great and deep wrong was done. Yet on the different planes of life these things appear in different ways and it lies in the freedom of mankind to turn to good account that which on one plane is a dreadful wrong, for it is just through these terrible events that a real progress of mankind can be achieved.

Now to enter into these things with sympathetic understanding we must grasp them, as I already said, as intimately as possible. How did the spiritual life of the world live in the Mysteries? I showed yesterday how the fixing of the yearly Easter Festival proceeds from the constellations of the Sun and Moon considered in a spiritual sense. I showed how the other planets are seen from the standpoint of the Moon. According to what is there experienced in beholding the other planets, man as he descends from his pre-earthly life into his earthly life is guided and instructed in the forming of his light-ether body.

We want to gain a true and vivid conception of how this light-ether body is created through the Moon forces, through the observation if I may put it so, in the spiritual Moon observatory. We want to understand how these ethereal forces are transmitted to the human being. To this end we may either observe it, as we have tried to do, out of the Cosmos directly, where these things are inscribed, where they exist as a real fact; but it is also important to let our hearts and minds be impressed by the part which human beings took in such a truth as this in different ages.

Never did human hearts and minds partake so intimately in this descent from the pre-earthly into the earthly life with regard to the final stage, the investment of man with his etheric body, never did they partake in this fact so intimately and deeply as in the Mysteries of Ephesus.

In the Mysteries of Ephesus the whole service that was devoted to her who is exoterically known as Diana or Artemis, the Goddess of Ephesus, was calculated to enable man to experience and enter into the spiritual life and movement within the ether of the Cosmos. We may say indeed that when the adherents of the Mystery of Ephesus approached the image of the Goddess they had a feeling, a sensation which grew into a spiritual listening and may be thus expressed. It was as though the Goddess spoke: “I delight in all things fruitful and creative in the far cosmic ether.”

A deep impression was made on those present when the Temple Goddess thus expressed her joy in all things growing, springing, sprouting in the far-spread ether of the world. And there was a feeling deeply akin to the springing and sprouting of life, a feeling that was wafted through the spiritual atmosphere of the Ephesian Sanctuary as a magic breath. For the Mystery was so arranged and instituted that we may truly say, nowhere have men lived with the growth of the plant life, with the springing and sprouting of the Earth into the plants, as they did in Ephesus.

And as a consequence a certain instruction could be given with great clearness in these Ephesian Mysteries, an instruction, if I may call it so, whose aim was to bring specially near to the heart and mind of those who belonged to Ephesus the secret of the Moon of which I told you yesterday.

This was something that every one of them had as his own experience. He knew what it was to feel himself as a form of light, for this process of receiving one's form of light through the Moon was made alive and vivid to the Ephesian pupils and Initiates. And there was a certain institution in the Ephesian Mysteries such that he who could let it work upon him in the sanctuary was altogether transplanted into this creating of one's being out of the Sunlight that wove around the Moon. And then there sounded forth towards him as though it were sounding from the Sun: J O A. (I O A).

He knew that this J O A calls to life his “I” and his astral body. J O — “I”, astral body; and then the approach of the light-ether body in the AJ O A. Now, as the J O A vibrated within him he felt himself as Ego, as astral body, as ether body.

And then it was as though there sounded forth and upward from the Earth — for man himself was transported into cosmic regions — it was as though there sounded to him upward from the Earth that which should permeate the J O A: eh-v. These were the forces of the Earth rising upwards in the eh-v. — J eh O v A.

And now in the JehOvA he felt the entire human being. He felt a premonition of the physical body which he would only have on Earth in the consonants belonging to the vowels; while the latter indicate, in the J O A, the “I”, the astral body, the etheric body. It was through this living penetration into the JehOvA that the Ephesian disciple could experience the final steps of man in his descent out of the spiritual world.

And in this feeling of the J O A one felt oneself as the very sound J O A within the light. Then one was truly MAN - resounding “I”, resounding astral body, clothed in the light-radiant etheric body. One was sound within the light. And so indeed one is as cosmic man, and as such one is able to perceive what is seen in the surrounding Cosmos just as here on Earth one is able to perceive through the eye what takes place within the physical horizon of the Earth.

And when the Ephesian pupil bore within him this J O A, when he bore this within him, he really felt himself as though transported into the Moon sphere; he partook in all that could be observed from the standpoint of the Moon.

At this stage the human being was still human being in the widest sense. Only at his descent to Earth did he become man and woman. But the disciple felt himself transported up into this region of the pre-earthly life which we pass through as we approach the Earth once more. It was in Ephesus that it became most intimately possible thus to arise into the Moon sphere, and then the disciples bore in their hearts and souls what they had witnessed and experienced, and it resounded in them somewhat as follows: [e.Ed: The original German is printed at the end of this lecture.]

  Offspring of all the Worlds! Thou Form of Light,
  Firm framéd by the Sun, with Luna's might,

  Endow'd with sounding Mars' life-stirring song,
  And swift-wing'd Mercury's motion in thy limbs,

  Illum'd with royal Jupiter's all-wisdom
  And grace-bestowing Venus' loveliness —

  That ghostly Saturn's ancient memoried devoutness
  Unto the world of Space and Time thee hallow!

Every Ephesian was permeated by this experience which he felt among the greatest things that pulsated through his human being.

  Offspring of all the Worlds! Thou Form of Light,
  Firm framéd by the Sun, with Luna's might,

  Endow'd with sounding Mars' life-stirring song,
  And swift-wing'd Mercury's motion in thy limbs.

  Illum'd with royal Jupiter's all-wisdom
  And grace-bestowing Venus' loveliness —

  That ghostly Saturn's ancient memoried devoutness
  Unto the world of Space and Time thee hallow!

It was indeed an experience in which the adherent of the Ephesian Mysteries felt himself as man fully and intensely, when there resounded in his ears that which lies hidden in these verses. For he felt: Now it has dawned upon me how I am connected with the planetary system in the forces of my etheric body. Pregnantly he brought this to expression, for these words are addressed to the etheric body by the great universe:

  Offspring of all the Worlds! Thou Form of Light,
  Firm framéd by the Sun, with Luna's might.

Here man is feeling himself within the power of the Moonlight.

  Endow'd with sounding Mars' life-stirring song.

The sound which has an active, a creative, quality sounded forth to him from Mars. And then came that which fills the limbs of man with strength so that he becomes a mobile being:

  And swift-wing'd Mercury's motion in thy limbs.

And from Jupiter the light pours forth:

  Illum'd with royal Jupiter's all-wisdom,

And from Venus:

  And grace-bestowing Venus' loveliness —

So at length Saturn may gather it all up, rounding man off both inwardly and outwardly, preparing him to descend to the Earth and clothe himself in a physical body that he may live on, on Earth, as this being who in a physical garment bears the God within him:

  That ghostly Saturn's ancient memoried devoutness
  Unto the world of Space and Time thee hallow!

From all that I have here described, you will see that the spiritual life in Ephesus was filled with radiant light and colour. In this life of inner light and colour there was contained all that they knew of the true dignity of man throughout the Cosmos gathered together in the Easter thought. Many of the wanderers of whom I told you yesterday, who went from Mystery to Mystery that they might experience the life of the Mysteries in its totality, many of them declared ever and again with inner light and intimate joy how the harmony of the spheres had sounded forth to them in Ephesus when they had gazed into the Cosmos from the standpoint of the Moon, how the radiant astral light of the world had shone forth for them, how they had felt it in the Sunlight quivering around the Moon, the Sunlight filled with the spirit of the astral light, even as man himself is filled with living soul. In other places they had not experienced it thus, not at any rate with such joy and gladness and inner artistic understanding.

Now all these things were bound up with the Temple Sanctuary which then went up in the flames lit by the hand of a criminal or of a madman; but as I told you during the Christmas Foundation Meeting, [e.Ed: See: World History in the Light of Anthroposophy. (Eight lectures given at Dornach, 24th – 31st December, 1923. Obtainable from Rudolf Steiner Press.)] two Initiates of the Ephesian Mysteries were reincarnated in Aristotle and in Alexander. And these Individualities then came near what was still to be felt of these things in their time in the Mysteries of Samothrace.

At this point a seemingly chance event is of great spiritual significance in the evolution of the world. We have already mentioned it in our circle, indeed we mentioned it many years ago. When the Temple of Ephesus was burning it was the hour of Alexander's birth. But as the Temple burned something was really taking place.

How infinitely much had happened in the course of centuries for those who had belonged to this Temple. How much of spiritual light and wisdom had passed through these Temple spaces! Now that the flames broke forth from the Temple, all that had gone on in these Temple spaces was communicated to the cosmic ether. Thus we may truly say: The continuous Easter Festival at Ephesus which had been contained within these Temple spaces has since been written — albeit in letters less clearly visible — written in the great orb of the heavens inasmuch as the heavens are ethereal.

And it is so with many things. Very much of what is now human wisdom was in ancient times enclosed in Temple walls. It escaped the Temple walls, it is written in the cosmic ether and is visible there as soon as a man rises to spiritual Imagination. Spiritual Imagination is, as it were, the interpreter of the secret of the stars. Thus we may say, into the cosmic ether are written what were once upon a time the secrets of the Temples and we can read them imaginatively.

But we can also put it differently and it still remains the same. We can also say: I rise in the starlit night and look up to the heavens and give myself up to the impression of it all. And if I have the necessary faculty, all that is contained in the forms of the constellations and in the movements of the planets is transformed as it were into a great cosmic script. — And when we read the cosmic script a real content emerges of the kind which I described yesterday for the secret of the Moon. These things are really to be read in the cosmic writing, when the stars mean more to us than something merely to be calculated mechanically, mathematically, namely when they become for us the letters of the cosmic script.

To develop this idea still further, I must now refer to the following. In the time when the ancient Mysteries were already receding, the Mysteries of the Kabiri at Samothrace still existed. At the time of Alexander, Samothrace was still there as a place of remembrance, nay more, as a place for the active cultivation of the Mysteries, while as a general rule the life of the Mysteries was in its decline.

And there came the moment when through the influence of the Mysteries of the Kabiri there arose for Alexander and Aristotle something like a memory of the old Ephesian time which both of them had lived through during a certain century. And once more the J O A resounded and once again the words resounded:

  Offspring of all the Worlds! Thou Form of Light,
  Firm framéd by the Sun, with Luna's might,

  Endow'd with sounding Mars' life-stirring song
  And swift-wing'd Mercury's motion in thy limbs,

  Illum'd with royal Jupiter's all-wisdom
  And grace-bestowing Venus' loveliness —

  That ghostly Saturn's ancient memoried devoutness
  Unto the world of Space and Time thee hallow!

But in this remembrance, in this historic remembrance of an ancient time, there lay a certain power to create something new. And from that moment there went forth the power to create a new thing, yet a strange new thing which has been little noticed by mankind. You must come to understand what was the real character of the new creation that went forth from the working together of Alexander and Aristotle.

Take any great work of poetry or any other work. Take the most beautiful works written in German if you like, take a German translation of the Bhagavad Gita, take Goethe's Faust, or Iphigenia, or anything you value highly. Think of the rich and imposing content, let us say, of Goethe's Faust, and now think, my dear friends, through what is this great content transmitted to you? Let us assume that it is transmitted to you as it is to most people. At some time in your life you read Goethe's Faust. What is it that meets you on the physical plane? What is there on the paper? Nothing else but combinations of abcdef, and so forth. The whole mighty content of Faust dawns upon you simply by using combinations of the letters of the alphabet. There is nothing there on the paper that does not coincide with one or other of its twenty or so letters. From these twenty letters there is conjured on to the paper that which awakens for you, if you can read, the abundant content of Goethe's Faust. Nay more, you are free to say that this perpetual repetition of abcdef is a dreadful bore, it is the most abstract thing imaginable. And yet these most abstract things rightly combined give us the whole of Faust.

Now when the cosmic sounding in the Moon was there again and Aristotle and Alexander recognised what the fire at Ephesus had signified, when they saw how this fire had carried forth into the far ether of the world the content of the Mysteries of Ephesus, then it was that there arose in these two the inspiration to found the Cosmic Script. Only the Cosmic Script is not founded on abcdef. As our book writing is founded on letters, so is the Cosmic Writing founded on thoughts. Now there arose the letters of the Cosmic Writing.

If I now write them down before you they are as abstract as abcd:

  Activity (or Action)
  Passivity (or Suffering)

There you have so many concepts. Take these concepts which Aristotle first expounded to Alexander and learn to do the same with them as you have learnt to do with abcd. Then with Quantity, Quality, Relation, Space, Time, Position, Activity, Passivity, you will learn to read in the Cosmos.

But in the age of the abstract a strange thing happened in the logic of the schools. Imagine a school in which it was the custom not to teach people to read, but if you will, to manufacture books in which they have to learn abcd etc., again and again, in all manner of combinations, ac, ab, be, and so on. And suppose they never came to the point of using these letters in order to place before the soul rich and abundant contents. That would be the very thing which the world has done with Aristotle's Logic. In the textbooks of Logic these Categories, as they call them, are introduced. We learn them off by heart but do not know what to do with them. It is just as though we learn abcd off by heart and do not know what to do with the letters. Just as the content of Faust can be resolved into something as simple as the letters abcd and so forth, so the reading in the Cosmic Script resolves itself into these simple things which we must only learn to deal with. And fundamentally speaking, all that Anthroposophy has brought forth, and all that it can ever bring forth, is experienced from out of these concepts just as what you read in Faust is experienced from out of the letters. For in these simple concepts as the Cosmic Alphabet, all secrets of the spiritual and physical worlds are contained.

This was what happened in the further evolution of the world. Formerly there had been immediate spiritual experience for which the realities of Ephesus were still most characteristic. But now another thing came to take its place. It takes its start in the time of Alexander, but it was only in later times, throughout the Middle Ages, that it evolved in its peculiar form. It is a doubly hidden, double esoteric thing. Doubly esoteric is the meaning that dwells within these eight or nine concepts (for we may also extend the number to nine). Indeed we learn ever more and more to live in these simple concepts, and to experience them in our souls as vividly as we experience the abcd when we have before us the rich and manifold spiritual content of a book.

Thus you see, what was a mighty revelation of instinctive wisdom through thousands and thousands of years flowed at length into concepts whose inner force of life and strength must once more be revealed in time to come. In very truth the time will come when man will find again what is truly resting as in a grave, namely the cosmic wisdom and the cosmic light. Man will learn to read once more in the great universe. He will experience the resurrection of what lay hidden in the intervening time of human evolution between the two spiritual epochs.

And we, my dear friends, are here to make manifest once more the things that are hidden. We are here to create an Easter Festival as an experience of all mankind. And as on other occasions we could say: “Anthroposophy is a Christmas experience” — so we may say today: “Anthroposophy itself, in all its working, is an Easter experience, an experience of resurrection bound up with the experience of the grave.” It is important just at this present Easter Gathering for us to feel, if I may so describe it, the full festivity of the Anthroposophical striving. For we must feel that today we may go to some Spiritual Being who may perhaps be near to us immediately behind the threshold, and in face of him we say: “Ah! once upon a time mankind was blessed with a divine-spiritual revelation whose light still shone most radiantly in Ephesus. But now all this lies buried. How shall I dig out of the grave what thus lies buried? For surely one would imagine that that which has been can still be found in some historic way, can be found lying in the grave.” And then the Being will answer us as in a similar case once upon a time the corresponding Being answered: “That which ye seek is no longer here; it is in your hearts, if only ye open your hearts in the true way.”

Anthroposophy is there indeed; it lies at rest in human hearts, only these human hearts must be able to open themselves in the true way. This is what we must feel. Then in full consciousness, not instinctively as in ancient time, we shall be led back again into that wisdom which lived and shed its light in the ancient Mysteries.

This is what I would fain bring to your hearts at the present Easter time. For to permeate ourselves with this sacred, solemn feeling which can arise from Anthroposophy — this too will play its part and carry us upward into the spiritual world. This too must be united with the Christmas impulse which was given to us at Dornach. For the Christmas impulse must not remain a merely intellectual, theoretic and abstract one. It must be an impulse of the heart, it must not be dry and matter-of-fact. It must be sacred, solemn, joyful, not in sentimentality but out of the reality of the thing itself. Then even as Aristotle and Alexander used the fire of Ephesus when it flamed forth anew in their hearts, when it flamed forth in the Cosmic ether and bore down to them anew the secrets that were afterwards gathered up into the very simple concepts — then even as they could use the fire of Ephesus, so will it be our part to use what has also been carried out into the ether — for we may say so in all humility — in the names of the Goetheanum; namely all that has been intended and that shall be intended with Anthroposophy. But what does this imply? at the annual festival of mourning, at the time of Christmas and New Year, the very time in which our misfortune came upon us, it was granted us to send forth a new impulse from the Goetheanum. Why was it so? Because we may rightly feel that what hitherto was more or less an earthly thing, what was achieved and won and founded as an earthly thing, was carried forth with the names into the cosmic spaces. Just because this misfortune came upon us, when we recognise and know the consequence of it, we may justly say: henceforth we understand that we can no longer merely represent an earthly concern, but we represent a concern of the wide ethereal universe wherein the Spirit lives. For the concern of the Goetheanum is indeed a concern of the far and wide ether wherein there dwells the spirit-filled wisdom of the world. It has been carried forth and we may now fill ourselves with the Goetheanum impulses as with impulses coming in towards us from the Cosmos.

Take this as we will, take it as a picture. The picture signifies the deepest truth and this deep truth is expressed in simple words when we say: Since the Christmas Foundation impulse anthroposophical work shall be permeated with an esoteric character. This esoteric character is here because what was once earthly rayed forth into the cosmic spaces through the astral light that played its part in the physical fire, and because this returns again as a living power into the impulses of the Anthroposophical Movement if only we are able to receive them.

Then, when we can do this, we shall feel as one part of all that lives in Anthroposophy the Anthroposophical Easter mood which can never, never think that the spirit dies, but that it rises again and again. And Anthroposophy must hold to this Spirit that arises ever again out of eternal foundations.

Let us receive this as an Easter thought and as an Easter feeling into our hearts. Then, my dear friends, we shall carry with us from this Gathering feelings that will give us courage and strength to work when we stand once more in our different places when this Easter visit is over.

(Original of verse in this lecture):
  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 Saturn's weltenalte Geist-Innigkeit
  Dich dem Raumessein und Zeitenwerden weihe!

Last Modified: 06-Jun-2017
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