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The Cycle of the Year as Breathing-Process of the Earth

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

The Cycle of the Year as Breathing-Process of the Earth

On-line since: 11th April, 2004



I. March 31, 1923

The “festival year” evolved over ages out of the whole constitution of the Earth. The cycle Earth carries out in relation to the cosmos is a kind of in-breathing and out-breathing of those forces constituting the soul element of the Earth.

Initiates saw in birth of Jesus the Earth event which could bring about transition from lunar to solar orientation. Jesus had to be born in winter when Earth has soul-being within. In spring the Christ-permeated Earth-soul, joined by Michael and by man's soul, flows out into spiritual cosmic space to be met by force of sunlight. Tearing spiritual away from spatial through setting of Easter date a mighty “jolt” toward spirit.

At midsummer when Earth-soul had out-breathed, initiates especially of North saw Earth-soul as mirror of cosmos, impermeable by Christ Impulse. Hence Ahrimanic powers established in Earth at midsummer. In Autumn man's returning soul plunges into an Earth permeated by these powers. Since last third of 19th century Michael comes to aid of the single human soul. Here Steiner mentions for only the second time the importance of celebrating Michaelmas, Sept. 29. Michaelmas is needed to supplement Easter and prepare for Christmas.

II. Easter Sunday, April 1, 1923

Today the time is come when the Easter thought which died in abstract thoughts of natural science must become living again.

The Christmas (Chthonian) Mysteries of midwinter, a descent into the depths of the earthly world. The Moon forces prevail in winter; positive and negative effects. The Ahrimanic danger. Polar opposite of Christmas Mystery, the St. John's Mystery. The Easter Mystery and the Michael Mystery were seen as holding the balance between these two.

Christ gained the victory over death; prepared for man's forgetting of super-earthly in 15th century. Through His descent into Hell, the heavenly region was won for the further evolution of mankind. The re-enlivened Easter thought, “He (Christ) was laid in the grave and is risen,” is to put forth out of itself the Michael-thought, “He (man) is risen and can confidently be laid in the grave.” Taking spiritual knowledge into will forces. Becoming “festival-creating.” Re-linking of human existence with divine existence.

III. April 2, 1923

People of ancient times related lives to seasons and their festivals. Those who lived after Mystery of Golgotha felt need for vision of Entombment and Resurrection. A secret of human evolution that from religious attitudes toward phenomena of the world, inspirations for whole of life proceed. In Middle Ages festivals ordered by priests provided inspiration.

Natural science as heritage of Scholasticism the result of inspiration of Entombment, of Good Friday. Supersensible repudiated. Michael festival renewed out of esoteric foundations could again work inspiringly and have significance for social structure. The Easter thought can only attain new nuance through being complemented by the Michael thought.

Involvement of elemental beings in in- and out-breathing of Earth-soul during four seasons. Right experiencing of Michaelmas season necessary for man's right involvement with elementals. Spiritual as counter-manifestation of fading sense-perceptible correlated with thinking-process. Permeation of will with spirituality. Unity of nature at Easter leads to spiritualistic Monism or materialistic Monism. Spiritual and sensible distinct in autumn. The rhythm between the differentiated and the undifferentiated as third element. Experiencing living transition from unity into trinity and return. Through complementing Easter thought by Michael thought, possible to perceive primordial trinity. Michael festival should give inspiration to introduce threefoldness into life. Recognition of primal trinity necessary to form true ideas of free spiritual life, life of rights, and socio-economic life. Trinities in human being in Theosophy. Course of year embodies pulse of 3 to 1 and 1 to 3. Human soul could reunite with cosmos if replace abstract spirit and spirit-void nature with Nature permeated with spirit and spirit shaping naturally. These could again weave religion, science and art into oneness at Easter, threeness at Michaelmas.

If Michael thought became living as festival working inspiringly in all domains of life, then through active personalities impulse could arise which alone could replace descending forces with ascending ones.

IV. April 3, 1923

Dreamy instinctive clairvoyance in ancient times. Insights arising out of dreams formed myths. People were more involved then with seasons, with the cycle of the year.

Only through midsummer festivals arranged by the Mysteries could ancient men experience mineral realm and attain thereby a kind of ego consciousness. Content of dream consciousness poured out into cosmos in song and dance, in a way learned from songbirds. Men received descending ego as answer to their music. Summer festivals established communication between Earth and heaven.

Winter festivals called upon man's contemplation, were connected with instruction. Solving riddles, e.g. magic incantations. “Throwing of the runic wands.” Primitive modeling activities, especially in freezing water. Lead casting an abstract remnant. In moulding activity men found answers to their questions of the Earth, learned to know Earth's sculptural shaping force. Animal forms. Man noticed own form only at Christmas. Gradually attained interest in the flowing together of animal forms into the human form.

At midsummer man learned to know himself inwardly in relation to his ego; in winter to feel himself outwardly in relation to his form. Festivals an integral part of life. Man felt himself as citizen of cosmos, can again come to sharing the life of the cosmos in a different way through applying himself to the spiritual. Ego consciousness has now been drawn in; something else lies in turn beyond the ego. Man now experiences bodily limits; needs to learn etheric and astral elements outside himself. When he has come to experience his freedom and his world of thought, he must emerge again and experience cosmically. This is what Anthroposophy intends in renewing festivals and creating Michael festival. The cycle of the year can thus become something even loftier than it was for man long ago.

V. April 4, 1923

Review of previous lecture. Modern man fond of his body but indifferent to his “I.” In ancient times man perceived “I” in midsummer in connection with the cosmos, absorbing moral impulse into himself. The answer he expected from the heavens following his singing and dancing was divine moral “Enlightenment” — perhaps in thunderstorm. Messages of day and night differed. Nature ruled in midsummer night. People approached spiritual in a real dream which revealed elementals. Man ascribed the divine spiritual within him to the revelation of the St. John's season.

In autumn man felt himself growing out of the divine-spiritual into nature, which inclined toward death. This season for acquiring “Knowledge of Nature,” for reflection. Mottoes taught in Mysteries: for summer “Receive the Light;” for autumn “Look around thee.”

In midwinter man felt himself as unfolding downward; felt gravity; felt darkness rising out of the Earth like a serpent; felt ensnared in will nature by Earth forces, by forces opposed to moral world order. His intellect, which began to consolidate in autumn, incited him to cunning, to follow the principle of utility. The “Temptation through Evil” approached him. Man was to overcome this through Platonic virtue we call Temperance. “Beware of Evil” was the winter motto. Spring was to see the “Return to Human Nature” — to the higher nature — through “Repentance.”

In summer men dreamed outside the human being. During winter, to the extent that their soul-being was inwardly free, they dreamed within their own being. Dream Song of Olaf Åsteson. “Know thyself” practiced in spring in polarity to “Knowledge of Nature.”

Echoes of these festivals have persisted, but everything was changed with the Mystery of Golgotha.

Birth of Jesus, by legend in a cave, took place when man in grip of Earth powers. Materialism has overwhelmed midsummer sense of Enlightenment. Autumn of special importance. How can man transform nature knowledge so that out of it spirit knowledge can arise?

Michael festival must take on special meaning. Gradual overcoming of animal forms. Man must study nature-science to learn what man is not, what spirit is not. Telescope and microscope show lie in place of truth. From this counter-image can develop force indicated in overcoming Dragon by Michael.

When man no longer had true feeling for seasons, he related things instead to the human being. The concepts of the seasons were changed into so-called Platonic virtues. Soul-cowardice holds man back from spirit-knowledge. Michaelmas should become festival of soul courage from which will ray out what will give other festivals right content. The festivals should become festivals of remembrance or admonition, Michaelmas above all. The festivals must continue, but because man is changing they too must change.

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