A Seasonal Thought
FROM THE SERPENT TO THE LAMB - THE NEW FORM OF THE ETHERIC
by Rev. Michaël Merle
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature God has made. He said to the woman …” (Genesis Chapter 3)
So begins one of the best-known stories in the world. By what happened the human race is affected in its very depth, not one of us is not concerned in it. The writer of Genesis only gives it six verses, under two hundred words.
The tempter is represented in the form of a serpent. Serpents did figure in many early myths, legends and religions. Babylon’s god, Ea, was often pictures with a serpent’s head. Egypt’s Atum (in one story) was to become a serpent at the end when all else had gone out of existence.
In Canaan, a serpent was the symbol of the healing god; his healing implement was a rod with a serpent turned round it. In early myths and religious legends serpents did not act as tempters, but as defenders of things or places which were especially sacred or gave power beyond the human measure. The temptation of Eve in the Genesis story was to seek satisfaction in an experience outside of her essential self, to taste the fruit that would take her out of her inner experience and one that would disturb human relationships from then onwards. With this story the serpent tempts Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In this way humanity grabs the power of discernment prematurely. The proper evolution of humanity is disturbed.
All these images of serpents seem to aptly apply to the apparently harsh words of John the Baptist (‘Brood of Vipers’) addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to where he baptized people. John’s message: “Change your ways, the Kingdom of heaven is near”, heralded a new and unusually powerful symbol: the Lamb. In St John’s Gospel we read, “John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. I came baptising to prepare for him’.”
In pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God, John was identifying the self-offering and sacrificial nature of Christ’s essential self. The gift of Christ to us is for us also to be like the lamb – able to give of ourselves and oppose the self-centeredness of the serpent. This Christian quality of empathy and concern for others is the practical demonstration of love.
As part of lectures Steiner gave in November 1909 which were collected into a small booklet – Deeper Secrets of Human History in the Light of the Gospel of St Matthew, he explains how before the baptisms of John in the River Jordan the formation of the etheric body of human beings looked serpent-like. This could be correlated to the image of the rising kundalini in the practice of yoga: two intertwining ‘serpents’ of rising energy. In John’s Baptism of Jesus the etheric body could now be seen by initiates under the image of the Lamb. This formation of the etheric body as the Lamb could not arise out of man’s old serpent-like etheric body. It was to be the gift of Christ made manifest in Jesus.
The fundamental feature of the etheric world is the inter-relationship of all its parts, and the capacity of the soul to experience itself in other souls and to receive them into its own experience. This is the etheric expression of man’s true nature. In the physical world, it is realised in sacrifice and self-offering of which the Lamb is the symbol.
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The Christian Community recognizes the Christian way to be a path of freedom. Fostering the freedom and responsibility of the individual is seen as a fundamental part of the Christ's message and deeds. All who come with an attitude of reverence and open-minded questioning will find the greatest measure of intellectual freedom.
In the Southern African Region, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, there are four congregations with resident priests. Johannesburg is one of these four congregations.
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