Esoteric Easter. Lecture 3 of 4.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, April 21, 1924 [90 years ago today]:
In expanding today what we have been discussing in the previous lectures I should like to take up the astronomical aspect of the Easter festival; and in order to do this it will be necessary to touch upon some of the facts referring to the so-called secret of the Moon.
During all epochs in which people knew of the Mystery wisdom, the secret of the Moon was a familiar concept and was invariably associated with the being of man, in so far as the latter is related to the whole cosmos. We must keep clearly in mind that in his entirety man is related to the whole cosmos, just as he is connected with the Earth as regards his physical body. Now, it is a concomitant of the materialistic age that of the vast cosmos, which expresses its spirituality in the form of the fixed star constellations and the movements of the planets, nothing has remained in human consciousness but the outer appearance of the stars and the computation of their movements (if they are planets) and so forth.
The manner in which astronomy is studied today is the same as it would be if one studied the relative measurements and the outer conditions of movement in the human organism, remaining unaware that a psycho-spiritual element pervades the physical organism and comes to expression in these measurements and conditions of movement.
In the human being a unified psycho-spiritual element manifests itself, held together by the ego. But spiritual observation discloses that the cosmic organism expresses itself not in a unified psycho-spiritual entity but in a multiplicity, an immeasurable, limitless multitude of spiritual beings that reveal themselves through the forms of the fixed star constellations, through the movements of the planets, through the light raying forth from the stars, and so on.
Inner man is related to this spiritual multiplicity in the stars as is physical man to Earth substances that can serve as nourishment. And man's closest connection with the universe has to do with what we can call the secret of the Moon.
External observation of the Moon shows it to be in a state of metamorphosis as seen from the Earth. We see the full luminous face, we see it half-illuminated, then one-quarter — and there is also that stage in which it entirely withdraws from outer view, called the stage of new Moon. And then we have again the return to full Moon.
All this is nowadays explained as though the Moon were merely some kind of a body moving about in cosmic space, illuminated by the Sun from different directions and hence presenting various aspects. But that does not exhaust what the Moon means to the Earth, and especially to Earth men. In the case of the Moon in particular we must understand that if we look out at something as readily perceptible in its physical surfaces as, say, the full Moon — that is, something that presents a physical aspect — this aspect embodies something totally different from what is inherent in a new Moon. True, the new Moon cannot achieve direct physical expression on account of correlated cosmic conditions; but we must not conclude that because it does not express itself as a physical phenomenon, it has no effect. When our knowledge of the firmament tells us that it is new Moon, this means that the Moon is present in an invisible but all the more spiritual way than when appearing as full Moon in physical light. So the Moon is present — now wholly physical, now wholly spiritual, and we have the rhythmic alternation of its physical and spiritual expression.
And now, in order to understand the crux of the matter, we must recall a fact with which you are familiar from my Occult Science, an Outline, namely, that at one time the Moon was within the Earth: it was part of the Earth body. It passed out of the Earth and became a satellite, as the term goes. In other words, it split off from the Earth and now circles it. When it was one with the Earth its influences upon human beings were exerted from the Earth.
Naturally, in the time when man existed and developed upon an Earth that still contained the Moon, he was a very different being. When this Moon withdrew, the Earth became poorer by exactly what the Moon represented; and henceforth the lower
We can put it this way: formerly the Moon forces came in contact first with the lower limbs — the feet and legs — and then streamed upward from below; but since the Moon withdrew from the Earth they act in the opposite direction, from the head downward. But this implies that the task of these forces has become a very different one, and the nature of this task comes into evidence in the experiences man has when he descends from the pre-earthly to the earthly life. When he has completed the period between death and a new birth and has absolved all the requirements of soul and spirit demanded during that period, he prepares to descend to Earth, to unite with the bodily-physical principle transmitted to him by his father and mother. But before it is possible for his ego and astral body to unite with the physical body he must provide himself with an etheric body, which he attracts from the surrounding cosmos.
This process has radically changed since the Moon withdrew from the Earth. Before that time man needed forces, when approaching the Earth again, that would enable him to shape the all-pervading ether into the form of an etheric body around his ego and astral body. These forces he drew, as he approached the Earth, from the Moon which was then within it. He still does; but the point is that since the splitting off of the Moon they come to him from outside the Earth. This means that immediately before entering the Earth life he must appeal to the power of the Moon forces — that is, to something cosmic — if he would build his etheric body.
This etheric body must be formed in such a way that it has, as it were, an outer side and an inner side. Let us think of it quite graphically, formed with an outer side and an inner side. When the outer side is being formed the forces of light are needed, for, like other things of substance, the etheric body is fashioned principally out of the flooding light of the cosmos. But sunlight cannot be employed for this purpose: it does not provide the forces that would enable man to build his etheric body. This calls for sunlight that is reflected by the Moon and thereby radically altered; and all the light coming to us from the Moon — in fact, all the light shining from the Moon into the cosmos — contains the forces that enable man to form the outer side of his etheric body when he descends to Earth.
And on the other hand, the forces man needs to form the inner side of his etheric body are the spiritual emanations of the new Moon; so that his ability to form the outer and the inner side is related to this rhythm of the outer light and dark of the Moon.
But all this that the Moon forces achieve for man, as it were, goes back to the fact that the Moon is truly not the mere physical body about which modern science tells us fairy tales, but a body wholly permeated by spirituality, comprising a multiplicity of spiritual beings. I have repeatedly explained that when the Moon withdrew from the Earth, it was not merely physical matter that streamed out into cosmic space: those ancient beings, man's primordial teachers, who lived on the Earth not in physical bodies but in a spiritual form, these passed with the Moon out into the universe and there founded a sort of Moon colony. We have therefore to distinguish between the physico-etheric and the psycho-spiritual constituents of the Moon, remembering that again the latter is not a unity but a multiplicity.
Now, the entire life of this spirituality in the Moon depends upon the manner in which those beings observe cosmic conditions from their point of view, from the point of view of the Moon. Figuratively expressed: the spiritual beings of the Moon direct their gaze primarily to what is of greatest importance for them, to the planets of our orbit; and upon the inferences of these observations depends all that takes place on the Moon, as well as all that contributes to providing man in the right way with the forces needed for forming his etheric body.
Certain of the Mysteries knew this. It was ancient Mystery knowledge in some of the sanctuaries that the constellations and the movements in the planetary system were observed from the Moon, and the actions of the Moon beings determined accordingly. This was expressed by relating, in human consciousness, the Moon with the forces of other planets, the Moon being the point from which are determined those cosmic contexts that are linked with the forming of the human etheric body. This is reflected in the names of the days of the week:
|Jupiter||Thursday (Donnerstag — Jupiter is the German Donar)|
|Venus||Friday (Venus is the German Freia)|
|Sun||Sunday (the Sun forces cannot act directly in the formation of the etheric body, but they act in their reflection from the Moon.)|
Thus we see how everything pertaining to the point of view of the Moon was brought into relation with all that tended to quicken man's awareness of the planets in connection with reckoning time. And the burden of the admonition given in the old Mysteries was something as follows: Remember, O man, that before descending to Earth you needed forces engendered in the Moon by the act of the Moon-beings in observing the other planets. For the configuration of your etheric body, when you descended to earthly life, you are indebted to the Moon's share in what is expressed by Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and so forth.
So on the one hand we have the rhythmical passage of the Moon through light and darkness in its course around the Earth, and on the other we find the whole sequence of the planets inscribed in human consciousness. The Mysteries even added the following: Due to the ability of the Moon-beings to behold Mars, the capacity for speech is organized into man's etheric body, and through their observation of Mercury, the capacity for movement is concentrated there.
If we wish to employ these secrets of the Moon as a medium of expression, this can be done in an entirely different form: speech becomes eurythmy. It comes about as follows: if we study the secrets of speech by finding out what the Moon-beings observed when questioning Mars, and then discover what changes these observations undergo when the Moon-beings turn to Mercury, then speech becomes eurythmy. In other words, if we transform the Moon-beings' Mars experiences into their Mercury experiences, the human capacity for speech becomes the capacity for eurythmy. That expresses the matter cosmically.
The current engendering in man the capacity for wisdom derives from the Moon-beings' experiences with Jupiter; what streams through the soul as love and beauty, from Venus; and that which permeates the etheric body with inner soul warmth is gained from the experience acquired by the Moon-beings' observation of Saturn.
There remains that which must be kept away — pushed back, as it were — to prevent its interfering with the formation of the etheric body immediately before the descent to Earth: that which comes from the Sun. From the Sun — or from the observation of the Sun — derive the forces from which man must be protected if he is to become complete in himself through the integration of the etheric body — that is, through protective forces.
It can be said that in this way we learn what occurs on the Moon, and at the same time we learn how the human etheric body is formed and constituted when man descends from the pre-earthly to the earthly existence. Those are the facts connected with the secret of the Moon. Nowadays we can recount such matters, but in certain of the older Mysteries they were not merely narrated but actually experienced. What I shall now write on the blackboard was not only known; it was an inner experience.
|Saturday:||Inner Soul Warmth|
By means of initiation into the Mysteries, of which I spoke yesterday, it was possible to get beyond looking outward and listening outward with eyes and ears in the physical vicinity of the Earth. It was possible to become free of the physical body, to keep aloof from it, and to live only in the etheric body; and then the initiate lived with all that has been described. He did not live with the speech formed in the larynx, but with the speech resounding in Mars as cosmic language. He moved in conformity with the way in which Mercury guided the movements in the cosmos: not merely with feet and legs did he move, but in accord with the manner in which Mercury directs the movements of the human being. Nor did he possess that wisdom so laboriously acquired during childhood and early youth — really an unwisdom in the materialistic age — but he lived actually in the wisdom of Jupiter, because he could unite with the Moon-beings who observed Jupiter.
This sort of initiation really meant that the mystic was wholly in the light shining from the Moon. He had left the Earth, no longer a creature of flesh and blood, and lived in moonlight modified by forces from the other planets. During these periods of spiritual observation he simply became a light-being of the Moon — not in a symbolical sense or in any way to be thought of as abstract, but rather, as a man might today go to Basel and back, fully conscious of a reality, knowing he had experienced something real. The mystic was equally conscious of reality when he was led through the initiation ritual to the Moon-beings.
The initiate knew that for the time being he had taken leave of his physical body, that his soul and spirit had passed into the light-sphere of the Moon, and that he had borne a light-body; and because he had been united with the Moon-beings he had looked out into planetary space, truly able to behold what could be revealed in this vast realm.
And what was that? Well, among other things, he observed principally that from the Sun there emanated the forces of beings that must not be allowed to intervene in the building of the human etheric body. The Sun appeared as something that tended to dissolve, destroy, the etheric body; hence he knew that forces to be received by the Sun-beings must not proceed from his etheric body, but from his higher principles, from his ego and astral body. Only upon these must the Sun forces be allowed to act. So he knew that for the forming of his etheric body he must not look to the Sun but to the planets, and that he must turn to the Sun for his astral body and especially for his ego and its whole inner strength. The second point, then, that became manifest through this recurring initiation into the secret of the Moon was this, that in what pertained to his etheric body man belonged to the planets; but for the strengthening of his astral body and most of all his ego he must look to the Sun.
This initiation was really of such a nature as to make the mystic one with the moonlight; but it was by means of his own moonlight existence that he looked into the Sun.
And now he reflected as follows: the Sun sends its light to the Moon because this must not be imparted to man directly. The result is moonlight in conjunction with the planetary forces, and out of this the etheric body is formed. — That was the secret known to him who was initiated in this way. He also knew to what extent he bore within him the power of the spiritual Sun: he had seen it, become conscious of it; and this was the stage of initiation at which the initiate became a Christ bearer — that is, a Sun-being bearer, not a Sun-being recipient. Just as the Moon itself, when at full, is a sunlight bearer, so man became a Christ bearer, a christophoros. This initiation leading to the stage of christophoros was thus an absolutely real experience.
Now imagine this actual experience through which the mystic sped away from the Earth, as it were, and ascended as an initiated Earth-man to the light-being; and imagine this inner, human Easter experience of former times transformed into a cosmic festival. In later ages men no longer knew that such things could happen: that man is really able to withdraw from Earth conditions, unite with those of the Moon, and from the Moon behold the Sun. But the memory of it was to be preserved, and this we have in the Easter festival.
The ability to experience all this did not pass over into the later consciousness that was becoming materialistic; instead it turned into an abstract conception. Men no longer looked inward and said: I can unite with the moonlight. They looked at the Moon, the full Moon, and said: It is not a question of my aspiring upward: it is the Earth that strives to ascend. And when is this effort at its height? When spring begins, when there burst forth from the surface of the Earth all the forces that had lain dormant in seeds and plants under the ground. On the Earth they become plants, but they go further: they stream out into cosmic space.
The old Mysteries employed this image: man can most easily attain to the Moon-Sun initiation and become achristophoros in the season when the inner Earth forces, by means of the stems and leaves of plants, carry out of the ground what then streams forth from the Earth into the cosmos; for then he floats, as it were, on the forces that in spring ray out from the Earth and up to the Moon. But it must be the light of the full Moon.
All this, then, became a memory, but it also became abstract ... It must be the light of the full Moon. ... Subconsciously, no longer with the clear knowledge that this could be a human experience, people imagined that something or other — not man himself — streamed toward the full Moon, the first one after the beginning of spring. And what can this full Moon do now? It beholds the Sun; that is, the first day dedicated to the Sun: the first succeeding Sunday. Just as once a christophoros, from the viewpoint of the Moon, beheld the Sun-being, so now the Moon beholds the Sun — that is, its symbolization in Sunday.
We have the beginning of spring, March 21st, and the forces of the Earth are burgeoning forth into the universe. We must await the proper observer, the full Moon.
March 21st — full Moon — Sunday.
What does the Moon observe? The Sun; and the following Sunday is fixed as Easter Sunday. This is an abstract way of determining the date, surviving from a very real Mystery event that in former times frequently occurred for many men.
That is actually what our present spring Easter festival has come to be. It represents a Mystery act that has often been performed in spring; but it is not the one I described day before yesterday. The latter led man to a comprehension of the death event. I explained that the idea of resurrection, clarified by something like the Adonis celebration in the fall, really led men to the experience of death, to the spiritual resurrection after about three days; and this process of resurrection really belongs in the autumn, for the reasons I gave.
The process I described today is a different one, performed in other Mysteries for certain initiations — those of the Sun and Moon; and this process confronted the neophyte with life's beginning. So you see, we can look back at a period in which certain Mysteries saw the descent of man from the pre-earthly to the earthly life, while others dwelt on the ascent in the spirit. But in later epochs, when the living substance of man's relation to the cosmic spirit could no longer be discerned, men went so far as simply to combine the autumn Mystery of the ascent with the spring Mystery of the descent into one festival.
Thus the confusion manifesting itself in the course of human evolution is evidence of the gradual effect of materialism: not only has the latter engendered false beliefs, but it has completely confused men's minds concerning an issue that at one period of human events existed, I might say, in a sacred order that caused mankind at the approach of autumn to celebrate a cosmic festival. But this in turn pointed to a Mystery act that evoked the thought: Nature falls into barrenness, it wilts and dies away, and this is like the physical dying of man; but while in Nature only the perishable is seen to be active, there lives in man the eternal, which must now be observed spiritually, disregarding the course of Nature, as the element of resurrection in the spiritual world after death. The spring Mysteries made it clear that Nature is conquered by the spirit, that, in turn, the spirit acts out of the cosmos, and that matter germinates and sprouts from the ground because it is driven by the spirit.
But this was intended to remind men not of their passing into the spirit through death, but of their origin in the spirit, their descent from the spiritual world. Precisely where Nature begins to ascend, man was to remember his descent into the physical; and where Nature disintegrates, man was to contemplate his ascent, his spiritual resurrection. There is no doubt that such an understanding of man's relation to the cosmos intensified his soul life enormously.
But this varied according to the locality. In olden times some were definitely inclined to be autumn peoples and others rather spring peoples. Among the former were to be found the Adonis Mysteries; among the latter, other Mysteries concerned with what I have set forth today. And only those seekers after wisdom of whom it is correctly reported that, like Pythagoras, they moved about from place to place, from one Mystery to another, only those enjoyed the fullness of human experience. They would pass from a sanctuary where they could participate in the autumn secret, which is really the Sun secret, to one where the spring secret was revealed, the Moon secret. For this reason it was reported again and again of the consummate old initiates that they traveled from one sanctuary to another. It can truly be said of these that they had a certain inner experience of the year and its festivals. An old initiate of that sort could say to himself: I come to a place where the Adonis festivals are celebrated, and I can witness the cosmic autumn and the rays of the spiritual Sun at the beginning of winter's night; I wander to another, where the Mysteries of spring are observed, and I can behold the secret of the Moon. — Thus he acquired an inner knowledge of all that relates to the whole meaning of the year.
You see, our Easter Festival has really had something saddled on it that is not right. It should really be a spring commemoration of burial; and this commemoration of burial in the spring should at the same time be an incentive to work, such as the more primitive man needed during the summer time: that is what such burial festivals were in their appeal to the human spirit. Easter was a festival of admonition regarding the work of summer, just as the autumn festival of the resurrection of the spiritual world was a festival celebrated in the season when the labor was completed. But it was of the utmost importance for man's soul and spirit that, when his work was finished, he should become aware of and inwardly experience the eternal in himself by contemplating the resurrection in the spiritual world, the days that follow upon death.
In passing, then, from Earth secrets to cosmic secrets, from Earth wisdom to cosmic wisdom, we can come to know what I should like to call the inner structure of the order of the year, as indicated by the festivals. But much of what had been hidden in them has disappeared.
Today I wanted to present this subject to you by considering the conditions of the firmament itself. Tomorrow I shall endeavor, as far as time permits, to penetrate still deeper into it in the light of certain Mystery sanctuaries.
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