Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The Four Seasons and the Archangels. Lecture 3: The Easter Imagination

Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 7, 1923:

We must realize clearly how it is that in the depths of winter the Earth, in relation to the cosmos, is a being enclosed within itself. During the winter the Earth is, so to speak, wholly Earth, with a concentrated Earth-nature. In high summer — to add this contrast for the sake of clarity — the Earth is given over to the cosmos, lives with the cosmos. And in between, during spring and autumn, there is always a balance between these extremes.
All this has the deepest significance for the Earth's whole life. Naturally, what I shall be saying applies only to that part of the Earth's surface where a corresponding transition from winter to spring takes place.
Let us start, as we have always done in these lectures, by considering the purely material side. We will look at the salt-deposits, which we have had to treat as the most important factor in wintertime. We will study this first in the limestone deposits, which are indeed a phenomenon of the utmost importance for the whole being of the Earth.
You need only go out-of-doors here, where we are surrounded everywhere by the Jura limestone, and you will have before you all that I am going to begin by describing today. Ordinary observation is so superficial that for most people limestone is simply limestone, and outwardly there really is no perceptible difference between winter-limestone and spring-limestone. But this failure to distinguish between them comes from the standpoint which yesterday I called the flea-standpoint. The metamorphoses of limestone appear only when we look further out into the cosmos, as it were. Then we find a subtle difference between winter-limestone and spring-limestone, and it is precisely this which makes limestone the most important of all deposits in the soil. After all the various considerations we have gone into here, and since we know that soul and spirit are to be found everywhere, we can allow ourselves to speak of all such substance as vivified, ensouled beings. Thus we can say that winter-limestone is a being content within itself.
If we enter into the being of winter-limestone with Intuition — the Intuition described in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds — we find it permeated throughout with the most diverse spirituality, made up of the elemental beings who dwell in the Earth. But the limestone is as it were contented, as a human head may be when it has solved an important problem and feels happy to have the thoughts which point to the solution. We perceive — for Intuition always embraces feeling — an inner contentment in the whole neighborhood of the limestone formations during the winter season.
If we were to swim underwater, we should perceive water everywhere; and similarly, if we move spiritually through the process of limestone formation, we perceive this winter contentment on all sides. It expresses itself as an inner permeation of the winter-limestone by mobile, ever-changing forms — living, spiritual forms which appear as Imaginations.
When spring approaches, however, and especially when March comes, the limestone becomes — we may say — dull in respect of its spiritual qualities. It loses them, for, as you know from previous accounts, the elemental beings now take their way, through a kind of cosmic-spiritual breathing-out, into the cosmos. The limestone's spiritual thinking qualities are dulled, but the remarkable thing is that it becomes full of eager desire. It develops a kind of inner vitality. A subtle life-energy arises increasingly in the limestone, becoming steadily more active as spring draws on, and even more so toward summer, as the plants shoot up.
These things are naturally not apparent in a crude outward form, but in a subtle, intimate way they do occur. The growing plants draw water and carbonic acid from the limestone in the soil. But this very loss signifies for the limestone an inner access of living activity, and it acquires on this account an extraordinary power of attraction for the Ahrimanic beings. Whenever spring approaches, their hopes revive. Apart from this, they have nothing particular to hope for from the realm of outer nature, because they are really able to pursue their activities only within human beings. But when spring draws near, the impression which the spring-limestone makes on them gives them the idea that after all they will be able to spread their dragon-nature through nature at large. Finding the spring-limestone full of life, they hope to be able to draw in also the astral element from the cosmos in order to ensoul the limestone — to permeate it with soul. So, when March is near, a truly clairvoyant observer of nature can witness a remarkable drama. He sees how everywhere the hopes of the Ahrimanic beings play over the Earth like an astral wind, and how the Ahrimanic beings strive with all their might to call down an astral rain, as it were. If they were to succeed, then in the summer this astral rain would transform the Earth into an ensouled being — or at least partly, as far as the limestone extends. And then, in autumn, the Earth would feel pain at every footfall on its surface.
This endeavor, this illusion, lays hold of the Ahrimanic beings every spring, and every spring it is brought to nothing. From a human standpoint one might say: surely by now the Ahrimanic beings must have become clever enough to give up these hopes. But the world is not just as human beings imagine it to be. The fact is that every spring the Ahrimanic beings have new hope of being able to transform the Earth into an ensouled, living being through an astral rain from above, and every year their illusions are shattered.
But man is not free from danger in the midst of these illusions. He consumes the nature-products which flourish in this atmosphere of hopes and illusions; and it is na├»ve to suppose that the bread he eats is merely corn, ground and baked. In outer nature these hopes are shattered, but the Ahrimanic beings long all the more to achieve their aim in man, who has a soul already. Thus every spring man is in danger of falling a victim — in subtle, intimate ways — to the Ahrimanic beings. In spring he is much more exposed to all the Ahrimanic workings in the cosmos than he is during other times of the year.
But now, if we direct our gaze upward, to where the elemental beings of the Earth ascend, where they unite themselves with the cloud-formations and acquire an inner activity which is subject to planetary life, something else can be seen. As March approaches, and down below the Ahrimanic beings are at work, the elemental beings — who are wholly spiritual, immaterial, although they live within the material Earth — are transported up into the region of vapor, air and warmth. And all that goes on up there, among the active elemental beings, is permeated by Luciferic beings. Just as the Ahrimanic beings nourish their hopes and experience their illusions down below, so the Luciferic beings experience their hopes and illusions up above.
If we look more closely at the Ahrimanic beings, we find they are of etheric nature. And it is impossible for these beings, who are really those cast down by Michael, to expand in any other way than by trying to gain domination over the Earth through the life and desire that fill the limestone in spring.
The Luciferic beings up above stream through and permeate all the activities that have risen up from the Earth. They are of a purely astral nature. Through everything that begins to strive upward in spring, they gain the hope of being able to permeate their astral nature with the etheric, and to call forth from the Earth an etheric sheath in which they could then take up their habitation.

Plate III
Plate 3

Hence we can say: The Ahrimanic beings try to ensoul the Earth with astrality (see Plate 3, reddish); the Luciferic beings try to take up the etheric into their own being (blue with yellow).
When now in spring the plants begin to sprout, they assimilate and draw in carbonic acid. Hence the carbonic acid is active in a higher region than it is in winter; it rises into the realm of the plants, and there it comes under the attraction of the Luciferic beings. While the Ahrimanic beings strive to ensoul the living limestone with a kind of astral rain, the Luciferic beings try to raise up a sort of carbonic acid mist or vapor from the Earth (see Plate 3, blue, yellow). If they were to succeed, human beings on Earth would no longer be able to breathe. The Luciferic beings would draw up all that part of man, his etheric nature, which is not dependent on physical breathing, and by uniting themselves with it they would be able to become etheric beings, whereas they are now only astral beings. And then, with the extinction of all human and animal life on Earth, up above there would be a sheath of etheric angel-beings. That is what the Luciferic spirits strive and hope for, when the end of March comes on. They hope to change the whole Earth into a delicate shell of this kind, wherein they, densified through the etheric nature of man, could carry on their own existence.
If the Ahrimanic beings could realize their hopes, the whole of humanity would gradually be dissolved into the Earth: the Earth would absorb them. Finally there would arise out of the Earth — and that is Ahriman's intention — a single great entity into which all human beings would be merged: they would be united with it. But the transition to this union with the Earth would consist in this: man in his whole organism would become more and more like the living limestone. He would blend the living limestone with his organism and become more and more calcified. In this way he would transmute his bodily form into one that looked quite different — a sclerotic form with something like bat's wings and a head like this (see Plate 4). This form would then be able to merge gradually into the earthly element, so that the whole Earth, according to the Ahrimanic idea, would become a living Earth-being.

Plate IV
Plate 4

If the Luciferic beings, on the other hand, could absorb the etheric nature of man, and thus condense themselves from an astral to an etheric condition, then out of them would arise something like an etheric form, in which the lower parts of the human organism would be more or less absent, with the upper part transformed. The body would be formed of Earth-vapor (see Plate 4, blue), developed only as far down as the breast, with an idealized human head (red). And the peculiar thing is that this being would have wings, born as it were out of clouds (yellow). In front, these wings would concentrate into a sort of enlarged larynx; at the sides they would concentrate into ears, organs of hearing, which again would be connected with the larynx.
You see, I tried to represent the sclerotic form through the figure of Ahriman in the painting in the dome of the Goetheanum and plastically in the woodcarving of the Group. Similarly, the Luciferic shape, created out of Earth-vapor and cloud-masses, as it would be if it could take up the etheric from the Earth, is represented there. [The central motif (painted from a sketch by Rudolf Steiner) in the small dome of the first Goetheanum, and in Rudolf Steiner's woodcarving of the Representative of Humanity.]
Thus the two extremes of man are written into the life of the Earth itself: first, the extreme that man would come to if under the influence of Ahriman he were to take up the living limestone and thereby become gradually one with the Earth, dissolved into the whole living, sentient Earth. That is one extreme. The other extreme is what man would come to if the Luciferic beings were to succeed in causing a vapor of carbonic acid to rise from below, so that breathing would be extinguished and physical humanity would disappear, while the etheric bodies of men would be united with the astrality of the Luciferic angel-being up above.
Again we can say: These are the hopes, the illusions, of the Luciferic beings. Anyone who looks out as a seer into the great spaces of the cosmos does not see in the moving clouds, as in Shakespeare's play, a shape which looks first like a camel and then like something else. When March comes, he sees in the clouds the dynamic striving forces of the Luciferic beings, who would like to create out of the Earth a Luciferic sheath. Man sways between these two extremes. The desire of both the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic beings is to blot out humanity as it exists today.
These various activities are manifested within the life of the Earth. The hopes of the Luciferic beings are shattered once more every spring, but they work on in man. And in springtime, while on one hand he is exposed to the Ahrimanic forces, he is also exposed more and more — and right on through the summer — to the Luciferic beings.
These forces, certainly, work in so subtle a way that they are noticed today only by someone who is spiritually sensitive and can really live with the course of events in the cosmos 'round the year. But in earlier times, even in the later Atlantean period, all this had great significance.
In those earlier times, for example, human reproduction was bound up with the seasons. Conception could occur only in the spring, when the forces were active in the way I have described, and births could therefore take place only toward the end of the year. The life of the Earth was thus wholesomely bound up with human life. [See the lecture entitled Christmas at a Time of Grievous Destiny, given in Basle, 21st December, 1916. Printed in The Festivals and their Meaning, Vol. I: Christmas. (Rudolf Steiner Press.)]
Now a principle of the Luciferic beings is to set free everything on Earth, and among the things that have been freed are conception and birth. The fact that a human being can be born at any time of the year was brought about in earlier times by this Luciferic influence, which tends always to loosen man from the Earth, and it has become an established part of human freedom. Next time I will speak of influences that are still active, but today I wished to show you how in earlier times the aims of the Luciferic beings were actually achieved, up to a certain point. Otherwise, human beings could have been born only in winter.
As against this, the Ahrimanic beings try with all their might to draw man back into connection with the Earth. And since the Luciferic beings had this great influence in the past, the Ahrimanic beings have a prospect of at least partly achieving their purpose of binding man to the Earth by merging his mind and disposition with the earthly and turning him into a complete materialist. They would like to make his capacity to think and feel depend entirely on the food he digests. This Ahrimanic influence bears particularly on our own epoch and it will go on getting stronger and stronger.
If, therefore, we look back in time, we come to something accomplished by the Luciferic beings and bequeathed to us. If we look forward toward the end of the Earth, we see man faced with the threatening prospect that the Ahrimanic beings, since they cannot actually dissolve humanity into the Earth, will contrive at least to harden him, so that he becomes a crude materialist, thinking and feeling only what material substance thinks and feels in him.
The Luciferic beings accomplished their work in freeing man from nature, in the way I have described, at a time when man himself had as yet no freedom. Freedom has not arisen through human resolve or in an abstract way, as the usual account suggests, but because natural processes, such as the timing of births, have come under human control. When in earlier times it became obvious that children could be born at any season, this brought a feeling of freedom into the soul and spirit of man. Those are the facts. They depend far more on the cosmos than is commonly imagined.
But now that man has advanced in freedom, he should use his freedom to banish the threatening danger that Ahriman will fetter him to the Earth. For in the perspective of the future this threat stands before him. And here we see how into Earth-evolution there came an objective fact: the Mystery of Golgotha.
Although the Mystery of Golgotha had indeed to enter as a once-for-all event into the history of the Earth, it is in a sense renewed for human beings every year. We can learn to feel how the Luciferic force up above would like to suffocate physical humanity in carbonic vapor, while down below, the Ahrimanic forces would like to vivify the limestone masses of the Earth with an astral rain, so that man himself would be calcified and reduced to limestone. But then, for a person who can see into these things, there arises between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic forces the figure of Christ; the Christ who, freeing Himself from the weight of matter, has Ahriman under his feet; who wrested Himself free from the Ahrimanic and takes no heed of it, having overcome it, as we have shown here in painting and sculpture. And here is shown also how the Christ overcomes the force that seeks to draw the upper part of man away from the Earth. The head of the Christ-figure, the conqueror of Ahriman, appears with a countenance, a look and a bearing such that the dissolvent forces of Lucifer cannot touch them. The Luciferic power drawn into the earthly and held there — such is the form of the Christ as He appears every year in spring. That is how we must picture Him: standing on the earthly, which Ahriman seeks to make his own; victorious over death; ascending from the grave as the Risen One to the transfiguration which comes from carrying over the Luciferic into the earthly beauty of the countenance of Christ.
So there appears before our eyes, between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic forms, the Risen Christ in his Resurrection form as the Easter picture; the Risen Christ, with Luciferic powers hovering above and the Ahrimanic powers under His feet.
This cosmic Imagination comes before us as the Easter Imagination, just as we had the Virgin and Child as the Christmas Imagination in deep winter, and the Michael Imagination for the end of September. You will see how right it was to portray the Christ in the form you see here — a form born out of cosmic happenings in the course of the year. There is nothing arbitrary about this. Every look, every trait in the countenance, every flowing fold in the garment should be thought of as placing the Christ-figure between the forms of Lucifer and Ahriman as the One who works in human evolution so that man may be wrested from the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers at the very time, the time of Easter and Spring, when he could most readily fall victim to them.
Here precisely in the figure of Christ we see again how nothing can be rightly done out of the arbitrary fancies which are favored in artistic circles today. If a man wishes to develop full freedom in the realm of art, he does not bind himself in a slavish, Ahrimanic way to materials and models; he rises freely into spiritual heights and there he freely creates, for it is in spiritual heights  that freedom can prevail. Then he will create out of a bluish-violet vapor a kind of breast-form for the Luciferic element, and a form consisting of wings, larynx, and ear as though emerging from reddish clouds, so that this form can appear in full reality as an image both of what these beings are in their astral nature and of the etheric guise they threaten to assume (see Plate 4).
Place vividly before you these wings of Lucifer, working in the astral and striving toward the etheric. You will find that because these wings are actually feeling about in the cosmic spaces, they are sensitive to all the secrets of force in the cosmos. Through their undulating movement, these wings, with their wavelike formation, are in touch with the mysterious, spiritual wave-activities of the cosmos. And the experience brought by these waves passes through the ear-formation into the inwardness of the Luciferic being and is carried further there. The Luciferic-being grasps through his ear-formation what he has sensed with his wings, and through the larynx — closely connected with the ear — this knowledge becomes the creative word that works and weaves in the forms of living beings.
If you picture a Luciferic being of this kind, with his reddish-yellow formation of wings, ears, and larynx, you will see in him the activity which is sensitive to the secrets of the cosmos through his wings, experiences these secrets through the inward continuation of his ear-formation, and utters them as creative word through the larynx, bound up with wings and ears in one organic whole.
So was Lucifer painted in the cupola, and so is he represented in the sculpture-group which was intended to be the central point of our Goetheanum. Thus, in a certain sense, the Easter mystery was to have stood at this central point. But a completion in some form will be necessary, if one is to grasp the whole idea. For all that can be seen as the threatening Luciferic influence and the threatening Ahrimanic influence belongs to the inner being of the Nature-forces and the direction they strive to take in spring and on into summer; and standing over against them is the healing principle that rays out from the Christ. But a living feeling for all this will be attained when the whole architectural scheme is completed and what I have described exists in architectural and sculptured form, and when in the future it will be possible to present in front of the sculpture a living drama with two leading characters: man and Raphael
Within this architecture, and in the presence of the sculpture, there would have to be enacted a kind of Mystery Play, with man and Raphael as chief characters — Raphael with the staff of Mercury and all that belongs to it. In living artistic work everything is a challenge, and fundamentally there is no sculpture and no architecture which — if it is to be inwardly in accord with cosmic truth — does not call for a presentation in the space surrounding it of the artistic action it embodies. At Easter this architecture and sculpture would call for a Mystery Play, showing man taught by Raphael to see how far the Ahrimanic and Luciferic forces make him ill, and how through the power of Raphael he can be led to perceive and recognize the healing principle, the great world-therapy, which lives in the Christ-principle. If all this could be done — and the Goetheanum was designed for all of it — then at Easter there would be, amid much else, a certain crowning of all that can flow into mankind from the Ahrimanic and Luciferic secrets.
You see, if we learn to recognize the springtime activity of the Ahrimanic influence in the living limestone, through which a greedy endeavor is being made to take up the cosmic astral element, then we learn also to recognize the healing forces that reside in everything of a salt-like nature. The difference is not apparent in the coarser kind of activities, but it comes out in the healing ones. Thus we learn to know these healing influences by studying the working of the Ahrimanic beings in the salt-deposits of the Earth. For whatever is permeated by Ahrimanic influences during one season of the year — we will go more closely into this next time — is transformed into healing powers at another season. If we know what is going on secretly in the products and beings of nature, we learn to recognize their therapeutic power. It is the same with the Luciferic element: we learn to recognize the healing forces active in volatile substances that rise up from the Earth, and especially those present in carbonic acid. For just as I explained that in all water there is a mercurial, quicksilver element, so in carbonic acid there is always a sulphurous, phosphoric element.
There is no carbonic acid which consists simply — as the chemists say — of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms: no such thing exists. In the carbonic acid we breathe out there is always a phosphoric, sulphurous element. This carbonic acid, CO2, one atom of carbon and two of oxygen, is merely an abstraction, an intellectual concept formed in the human mind. In reality there is no carbonic acid which does not contain a phosphoric, sulphurous element in an extraordinarily diluted state, and the Luciferic beings strive toward it in the rising vapor.
Again, in this peculiar balance between the sulphur-element that becomes astral and the limestone that becomes living, the forces we can recognize as healing influences are expressed.
And so, among much else that is connected with the Easter Mystery, we should have the Easter Mystery Play enacted in front of the painting and the sculpture, and through it the communications about ways of healing which are given in the course of the year to those willing to listen would reach a climax in a truly living, artistically religious form. They would indeed be crowned by being placed in the whole course of the cosmos and the seasons; and then the Easter festival would embrace something that could be expressed in the words: “The presence of the World-Healer is felt: the Savior who willed to lift the great evil from the world. His presence is felt.” For in truth He was, as I have often said, the Great Physician in the evolution of mankind. This will be felt, and to Him will sacrifice be offered with all the wisdom about healing influences that man can possess. This would be included in the Easter Mystery, the Easter ritual; and by celebrating the Easter festival in this way we should be placing it quite naturally in the context of the seasonal course of the year.
To begin with, in describing the powerful Imaginations which come before man at Michaelmas and Christmas, I was able to show them to you only as pictures. But in the case of the Easter Imagination, where over against the activities of the Nature-spirits there arises the higher life of the spirit, as this can develop in the neighborhood of the Christ, I could show how the Imagination can lead directly to a ritual in the earthly realm, a ritual embracing things which must be cherished and preserved on Earth — the health-giving healing forces, and a knowledge of the Ahrimanic and Luciferic forces which could destroy the human organism. For Ahriman hardens man, while Lucifer wishes to dissolve and evaporate him through his breathing. In all this the forces that make for illness reside.
All that can be learnt in this way under the influence of the great teacher Raphael — who is really Mercury in Christian terminology and in Christian usage should carry the staff of Mercury — can be worthily crowned only in so far as it is received into the mysteries and ritual of Easter. Much else can come into them; of this I will speak in later lectures.

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