Tag Archives: initiation

St. John’s Day

Our everyday ego, to which I say “I”, takes part in the whole outer world, in all that is perishable. But is there a part of me that is imperishable? There slumbers within me, a new man, a second ego.  In our age, people are unaware of this but they can become aware. This second ego is linked with the imperishable just as our first ego is bound up with the perishable. By means of a rebirth this second ego, namely our higher ego, beholds a spiritual world just as our first, or lower, ego perceives the physical world through the senses. This rebirth is initiation. It is the greatest event for any human soul. Once achieved, an initiate can look “from above” on the lower ego analogously to how man looks on objects of the physical world.

As the child is born of the mother, so the higher ego is born of man as the Son of Man. In the individual human being there can be a rebirth of the higher ego. Once this occurs, the higher ego irradiates all the circumstances of his life. He is a new man. That which existed previously is of no further importance. The higher ego grows and develops further.

Does this event of the rebirth of the higher ego have some connection with the event of Christ Jesus? “Just as a rebirth can occur for the individual in his development, so a rebirth for all humanity came about through Christ Jesus. That which is an inner event for the individual — a mystical-spiritual event, as it is called, something he can experience as the birth of his higher ego — corresponds to what occurred in the outer world, in history, for all mankind in the event of Palestine through Christ Jesus. The body of Jesus of Nazareth had unfolded like the bright sun on St. John’s Day in June. That had been foretold. Then the spirit was to be born out of the darkness, just as the sun steadily gains in strength and power up to St. John’s Day, and then begins to decline. That was what the Baptist had to proclaim. He had to continue to bear witness until — pointing to the sun’s ever-increasing splendor — he could say, He of Whom the old Prophets told, He Who in the spiritual realms has been called the Son of the Spiritual Realms, He has appeared. — Up to this point John the Baptist was active. But then — when the days become shorter and darkness begins to gain the upper hand — then the inner spiritual light is to shine as a result of right preparation, is to become ever brighter as the Christ shines in Jesus of Nazareth.

That is the way John the Baptist saw the approach of Jesus of Nazareth; and he felt the growth of Jesus of Nazareth as his own diminution and as the increase in the power of the sun. From now on I shall wane, he said, even as the sun wanes after St. John’s Day. But He will wax — He the spiritual sun — and shine out of the darkness. — Thus was the Christ heralded; and thus began the rebirth of the ego of mankind, upon which depends the rebirth of every individual higher human ego. ” — Rudolf Steiner, June 24, 1909

Meditation on John’s Gospel

Esoteric writings typically were originally passed along orally. These were meant to take hold of the thought process in one’s mind. Like ‘following” a sound wave, one’s mind expands during the meditation. No longer looking out from a point, one’s mind goes through the eye of the needle, through the crossing point of the lemniscate, so that what was inside now becomes outside. One’s mind no longer is point looking a physical world around them, but now is more like a sphere looking in and, of course, no longer looking at the physical world.Lemniscate

To guide one’s mind in this way, the meditation needed to flow. Often poetry was used where the meter, the rhythm, set a mood. The premier technique for the thought process is to use the object of one sentence as the subject of the next. This is the technique the writer of John’s Gospel employed in the Prologue (chapter 1) which can be used effectively as a deep morning mantra. I offer now my own personal translation derived from Zondervan’s Interlinear New Testament:

In the beginning was the Logos,

And the Logos was with God.

A God was the Logos,

This same one was, in the beginning, with God.

Through Him became all things.

Not one thing became without Him.

In Him is Life.

Life is Humanity’s Light.

This light shines in each soul’s darkness,

And the soul’s darkness comprehends it not.

 

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.

Learning Christianity from a Tadpole

OK, this title sounds crazy. Hang on; it will (perhaps I should say may) become clear.

This morning I was reading an article in a journal from the Nature Institute called In Context. I was struck by how the author, researcher Craig Holdrege, was able to describe how genetics alone cannot lead to an understanding of how one organism can transition from a tadpole to a frog. Craig writes “I’m wanting to counter the strong habit of thought that imagines the answer to developmental questions – the key that opens insights into the mystery of development – as lying in the past and in substances, i.e. in what one images as physical causes. No matter at what level we consider an organism and its development, we are always dealing with organizing activity or agency that is specific and that provides the context for any part-processes, such as molecular events, that are discovered.”  Earlier Craig had written “When scientists discover new molecular processes that in turn influence other processes, they are uncovering fascinating details about how the frog is coming into being. They are not ‘explaining’ it.”

I recall my high school biology teacher waved a wand over metamorphosis and later to pass the exam we needed to claim that all aspects of the processes could be found in its genes or DNA. Craig’s article caused an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment for me when I got to his conclusion “Something creative – something I have referred to as ‘activity’ or agency – is molding the developmental process. But it is not an artist creating something externally. It is the developing organism as artist creating itself. This gives richer meaning to the term ‘autopoiesis’ (self-creation), which is often used to characterize the self-organizing capacity of living beings.”

You see, in Him is life. Through Him all things became. Of course! The wholeness of Nature. All living things share their source in the Logos.  We all know about the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Metamorphosis is happening everywhere in Nature; we just do not see it; it is occult.

And what is our metamorphosis? How can we find our inner artist and fundamentally change our own being? What can we become? We must do our inner work individually but to metamorphose into our becoming we must become as one with another human being for when two or more are together as one self, in my name, I am there.

For more on self-metamorphosis, see this blog post on Whitsun.

What do we know of the ancient mysteries?

The Greek Mysteries are the most visible to historians but all cultures had their own Mystery Center(s).

Well known are many the leaders of Greek Mystery Centers such as Pythagoras and Heraclitus.

And well known are the mystery centers Cabeiri on the islands of Lemnos, and Eleusis in west Attica, about 12 miles from Athens.  Mysteries known as Dionysian, Eleusinian, Orphic, and others are well known to historians.  Many an emperor wished to be initiated, thus some of these Mysteries formed a Lesser Mystery appropriate for the unprepared while the original remained secret as the Higher Mystery.  Anyone who attempted to reveal a higher mystery forfeited their life.

A veil of secrecy concealed the manner whereby spiritual needs were satisfied for those within the older civilizations who sought a deeper religious and cognitive life than was offered by the religions of the people. “We are led into the obscurity of enigmatic cults when we inquire into the satisfaction of these needs. Each individual who finds such satisfaction withdraws himself for some time from our observation. We see that the religion of the people cannot give him what his heart seeks. He acknowledges the gods, but he knows that in the ordinary conceptions of the gods the great enigmas of existence are not disclosed. He seeks a wisdom which is carefully guarded by a community of priest-sages. He seeks refuge in this community for his striving soul. If the sages find him mature they lead him step by step to higher insight, in a manner hidden from the eyes of those outside. What happens to him now is concealed from the uninitiated. For a time he appears to be entirely removed from the physical world. He appears to be transported into a secret world. — And when he is returned to the light of day a different, entirely transformed personality stands before us. This personality cannot find words sufficiently sublime to express how significant his experiences were for him. He appears to himself as though he had gone through death and awakened to a new and higher life, not merely figuratively, but in highest reality. And it is clear to him that no one can rightly understand his words who has not had the same experience.

Thus it was with those persons who through the Mysteries were initiated into that secret wisdom, withheld from the people, and which shed light upon the highest questions. This “secret” religion of the elect existed side by side with the religion of the people. So far as history is concerned, its source fades into the obscurity where the origin of people is lost. We find this “secret” religion everywhere among ancient people insofar as we can gain insight concerning them. The sages of these people speak of the Mysteries with the greatest reverence. — What was concealed in them? And what did they reveal to one who was initiated into them?

The enigma becomes still more puzzling when we realize that at the same time the ancients regarded the Mysteries as something dangerous. The way leading to the secrets of existence went through a world of terrors. And woe to him who tried to reach them unworthily. — There was no greater crime than the “betrayal” of these secrets to the uninitiated. The “traitor” was punished with death and confiscation of property. We know that the poet Aeschylus was accused of having brought something from the Mysteries to the stage. He was able to escape death only by fleeing to the altar of Dionysus and producing legal evidence that he was not an initiate.” [Rudolf Steiner, Christianity as Mystical Fact]

Flowing out of the Mystery Centers were stories for the general population to help shape evolution, especially the evolution of consciousness.  These include the stories of Demeter and Persephone, Prometheus and Heracles, Jason and the Argonauts,  Theseus and the Minotaur, and from Egypt: Isis and Osiris.

An entry in Wikipedia claims “Christian Mystery” is used in Eastern Christianity to refer to what the Western Church currently calls Sacraments.  This writer goes on to reveal that the seven sacraments were defined for the Western Church at the Council of Trent that took place 1545-1563.  For the gospel writers, use of the term “mystery” refers to The Mysteries: both the ancient Mysteries and the new Mysteries.  It likely was taught in early Christian circles that the ancient Mysteries led to the Mystery of Golgotha.  These ancient mysteries were necessary to prepare humanity to understand this central mystery for humanity.  Following the Mystery of Golgotha, the New Mysteries of the future could begin – and these, to begin with, were enacted no longer secretly within the Holy of the Holies, but in public during the Mass.  As Christ had initiated Lazarus in public, so now the mysteries came out of hiding.  The sacraments are indeed part of the new mysteries.  But the soul mood of the participants must be prepared to receive.  A mood of sacredness must prevail to receive.  For centuries, it was felt that one should come clean, that is confess all sins, before receiving the Eucharist.

The Goal of Meditation (Western Path)

I was asked a question “do Anthroposophists (spiritual scientists) believe that they are gods or even greater than gods?” I replied with the following that I will share here:

I think there is much more to this question than a mere yes or no.

This may sound like “what is the meaning of life?” Well, in fact, it is related to that question, why are we here? What is the purpose of humanity? What’s the end goal?

Science today would have us believe that first came matter as atoms, then bigger atoms and molecules, then building blocks, then life, then consciousness.  Many philosophers and scientists today have come to a different conclusion, namely that consciousness is primary. From consciousness came life and from life matter. This does not violate the fossil record. As Life evolved, it was necessary to shed aspects to continue towards an upright human being. Life evolved shedding or precipitating out the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, and the animal kingdom. Finally an upright human being could evolve on earth.

The gods (a hierarchy of spiritual beings) prepared the earth and guided Mankind. Gradually they pulled back to where the human no longer walked with gods, no longer talked with gods, no longer found them in dreams or meditations, and eventually no longer found Nature a manifestation of the divine. God deemed this destiny so that human beings would develop towards a goal. What is that goal? To become spiritual (divine) beings of love and freedom. Each of the existing hierarchy are already spiritual beings of something – their name is what they represent. For example, Dynamis mean spirits of movement.

To become spiritual beings of love and freedom, that is a far distant goal of course. 

Through inner development, one can improve one’s character, one’s moral fortitude. And one can also open soul organs through which one can perceive the spiritual world.  The High Priests of old were such people. The Cathars of the twelfth to fourteenth century called such people Perfects as they had been perfected. Such terminology shows up in many early Christian writings. As in Buddhism, it is possible for such a perfected one to no longer incarnate. But typically in Christian streams, such perfects actually seek to incarnate more frequently to be of greater service on earth to their fellow humans.

Who were the sons of God spoken of in Genesis 6.2 and 6.4? 

In Anthroposophy, we might see ourselves as moved by responsibility to Michael and the spiritual world that tries to carry out God’s will. We might feel called to do service but to perform this service we must set aside time in our day to work on our inner life – with the goal of opening these organs of spiritual perception so that we may work out of the truth and goodness that flows from Michael, from the Christ impulse, in ways that are appropriate today. So we do not see ourselves as God or gods, but as servants to such. We do not see ourselves as privileged but as earnest and responsible.   

The meaning of life? The end goal? Mankind is to become the Tenth Hierarchy. There will be other beings after us who will be at the human stage and we who are human now will be their angels just as those that are angels now were at a human stage in times long, long ago. Perhaps the end goal is to build out Twelve Hierarchies eventually?

Seeing at the Tomb, An Easter Mystery Revealed

John’s Gospel was revered by early Christian fathers and mystics alike. Not only is its structure deeply esoteric, so is each scene. Let’s examine one such scene of Chapter 20, the Easter scene.

descent from the cross RubensThe chapter begins with Mary Magdalene coming, “on the first day of the week”, i.e. Sunday, to the tomb where the body of Jesus Christ had been laid. The tomb was owned by Joseph of Arimathea.  This Joseph had asked Pilate for the dead body. When he took the body down from the cross, Joseph was accompanied by Nicodemus as secret disciples. They prepared the body according to Jewish customs and placed it in the tomb. This all was accomplished before sunset on Friday as, in these times, the new day began with the day’s darkness.

Although John’s gospel does not state this, we learn from Mark and Matthew that Joseph had a large stone rolled to seal the entrance to the tomb. That too happened before sundown on Friday. The next morning, Matthew [27:62] writes that the Pharisees petitioned Pilate to place an armed guard at the tomb so that no one would be deceived by grave robbers that Jesus had risen from the dead as Jesus had predicted.  John’s gospel does tell us that Mary “seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” [John 20:1, KJV]. Using a Zondervan Interlinear Bible the sentence reads “sees the stone having been taken out of the tomb.” The verb “sees” is the Greek word “βλεπειν” (blepo).

Here is esoteric writing indeed! The meaning can be read both from the physical reality and from the spiritual reality. The stone has been taken away! The mineral element of His body was gone. Mary at this point could only see with her physical eyes and thus could only see the mineral part of His body. But His body was not there – the stone had been taken away or more exactly “taken out of the tomb”!

Now I want to reference a deeply moving paper by Jos Verhulst entitled The Esoteric Content of Descent from the Cross (P.P. Rubens 1612).[1] Jos explains John 20:5-6 as a mystery. Here we find the disciple whom the Lord loved sees “lying flat on the ground the pieces of linen” while Peter when he looks, he sees “the pieces of linen lying flat on the ground.” Like other esoteric writers, the writer of this gospel embeds esoteric content directly into the story by using not only imagery but in this case reversing the word order. What has changed from the disciple’s viewing to Peter’s? Is the wording reversal just literary technique? Jos makes clear the esoteric quality herein.

Now we come to the description of Peter and “the disciple,” upon hearing Mary say that the rock at the tomb is gone, running to the tomb. The first to arrive is the disciple. He stands outside the tomb and peers in seeing (βλεπειν) “lying flat on the ground the pieces of linen”. Then Peter arrives and with stronger will is able to enter the tomb. The first of the three reversals is that the disciple arrived first but Peter is the first to enters the tomb. This theme will play out in Chapter 21 where Peter will be asked to be the first to lead the Church.

Now come the second reversal. Within the tomb, Peter sees the same things as John saw from outside the tomb but now from a different perspective, namely from within the tomb. Of note, Rudolf Steiner often referred to the physical body as the tomb in which our pre-birth, living thinking is laid. To make clear this change in sight, the verb ‘to see’ changes from βλεπειν  to θεωρει (this is the root word for ‘theory’). My Greek Interlinear uses the verb “beholds” for its literal translation. At this moment, Peter is witnessing what reads as a reversal of the physical description. What Peter is perceiving is the next higher level called prana or chi or etheric in spiritual science. It is described in these traditions as reversed in sequence from the physical, as though what one reads left to right in the physical, here in the etheric one reads right to left. Note, Leonardo da Vinci practiced this reversal.

Then ‘the disciple’ also enters the tomb. In the Mystery schools of old, to go through initiation, one was put into a death like state. At first one’s perception was of the nether-world, the world of the dead. Later the neophyte would, through the guidance of the hierophant, rise into spiritual heights and be changed forever. The disciple “saw and believed” (eiden kai episteusen). Here is a third verb that again is translated to “see”; the Greek, in this case, is ειδεν (eiden which is the word horao) which, according to Strong’s Concordance means “to see with the mind” (i.e. spiritually see), to perceive with inward spiritual perception.”

Now the two men leave (my Interlinear says they “went away to themselves”) but Mary remains. She is crying at the tomb when she “stooped into the tomb” (‘into’ according to the Interlinerar) and now comes her spiritual awakening as she, like Peter, sees (θεωρει) at this etheric level. She beholds “two angels in white”.  One angel is where the feet of Jesus had been while the other was at the head. Jos Verhulst brilliantly compares this to the image on the Shroud of Turin! (I was so excited to read this.) Now Mary performs the third reversal! She reverses her gaze to behold (θεωρει) Jesus standing there. Keep in mind this beholding is within the etheric realm. At this point she cannot understand her perception until her hierophant calls to awaken her to a higher consciousness by using, as all hierophants did, her name. Mary’s initiation is complete. She too can now understand what it is she is experiencing.

This chapter closes with Thomas the Twin doubting the reports and claiming that “Unless I see (ϊδω – this is the same word as ειδεν) the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”  When Jesus later appears, he has Thomas touch his wounds and then says to Thomas “Because you have seen (εωρακας – heōrakas) me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen (ϊδωντες – idontes) and yet have believed.”

In this one chapter, we have three different verbs all translated in English to “see”. Impoverished is English in this case to reveal the progression of sight, of spiritual sight in this chapter.  John’s Gospel moved from the sight of sensory perception to sight of the etheric realm to sight in the soul realm.  Note in the mosaic how all the sheep save the one being touched are looking in reverse.

Mausoleum Galla Placidia Ravenna
Mausoleum Galla Placidia Ravenna

In the next chapter, John’s Epilogue, we again have differentiating Greek words translated to a singular English word. In this case “love” applies to “eros”, “philia”, and “agape” (only the later two appear in Chapter 21). Here Karmic redemption is instantly bestowed upon Peter for his three denials. Christ asks him “do you love me?” three times. The first two questions use the word “agape”. Peter responds with “yea Lord, you know that I love (philia) you.”  After each answer Christ makes a request. First Christ asks him to “feed my lambs”. Next Christ requests Peter “take care of my sheep.” Now a third time Christ questions Peter thereby offering redemption for his third denial. Peter bemoans being questioned like this.  In this third question, Christ no longer uses the word “agape” but now uses “philia”. Peter’s reply tells of the level of love Peter is capable of, namely Philia, when he says ” Lord, you know all things; you know that I love (philia) you.” Peter cannot stretch the truth and he knows Christ knows the truth even of the level of love in one’s soul. Peter, the rock on which Christ was to build his church, honestly knows, at this time, that Philia, love as in the lover of Sophia, the philosopher, is the heights of his love. The disciple whom the Lord loved, however, was capable of agape. But the world was not. So the church must begin with Peter who first entered the tomb and must wait for a future time for the Christianity of Agape. Has that time arrived?

[1] Jos Verhulst, https://www.academia.edu/11734939/The_esoteric_content_of_The_Descent_from_the_Cross_P.P.Rubens_1612_our_ladys_cathedral_Antwerp_._Part_II_relationships_with_Johns_gospel

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