by Rev. Michaël Merle
Christ says: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). In John 21 we hear Christ ask Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” and tasks him with tending the flock of the new church. Peter is tasked with tending to the life of the community of Christians. We could say that John is tasked with speaking the truth in his initiation that provides him with the possibility to enter consciously into the spiritual world. A striking example of John speaking truth is in his letter where he writes: “God is Love” (1 John 4). James becomes the carrier of the way. After he is beheaded in Jerusalem his body is returned to Spain where his apostolate had taken him and is buried where the church of Santiago de Compostela (the field of stars) stands that is reached by the Camino de Santiago – the Way of Saint James.
As a group, Peter, James and John have a close relationship with Jesus. They are among the first disciples called by Jesus and they are called out from among the twelve to be present at significant events that formed a part of their path of initiation. The first of these is when Jesus takes them up onto the mountain and is transfigured. In the Transfiguration they see a living picture of the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets in Christ. They are men of the Jewish faith and know the Law of Moses and the Prophets. The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths or Tents), Sukkot, is spoken of by the Prophets so that in the future humanity will permanently ‘live in the tent’: it will be a feast without end. When the disciples of John the Baptist follow Jesus and ask where he resides, they are asking him where he ‘has pitched his tent’. The prologue of John which says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” can be directly translated as: “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us”. When Peter asks Jesus whether he should erect three tents he sees in the picture of the Transfigured Christ with Moses and Elijah the fulfilment of scripture. Jesus responds that the fulfilment of scripture is not a completed event but an ongoing process.
The second time these three disciples are called out is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even though they are intimate friends of Jesus they cannot maintain daylight consciousness to witness the event. Peter will again refuse to bear witness to Jesus only a few hours later, before the cock crows. Peter is challenged to bear witness to the Christ before the crucifixion and he cannot. It is only after the Resurrection that most of the apostles find the possibility to bear witness and become martyrs.
We know quite a bit about Peter and John from the scriptures, but less about James.
Peter is a man with an evolving journey. He is Simon and when he is called Jesus names him Cephas, the stone (the foundation stone), which is Petrus in Latin. He was a seeker as Simon and accepting his discipleship he becomes Peter. Then, after the Resurrection when he is tasked with tending the Life of the flock of the followers, he is called Simon (out) of John. He takes another step in his evolving to become a ‘John’ or Simon Peter John. This may indicate a stage of development. The Johanine consciousness is one of a deep recognition of Christ. It is a step in initiation. It may be viewed that Simon the seeker becomes Peter the disciple and then in his apostolate he becomes a ‘John’, he becomes Peter (working out) of John (a true Johanine consciousness).
Tradition tells us that when Peter is condemned to be crucified, he refuses to die in the same manner as his Lord and is crucified upside down. The upside cross is a symbol for Peter. Another symbol for Peter is the crossed keys representing the keys to the Kingdom. This symbol has been transferred to the Pope (who is seen by Catholics as the successor of Peter).
When the Apostles are related to the Foundation Stones of the New Jerusalem the order is not as in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark but rather according to the apocryphal story of their calling.
The first of the Foundation Stones is jasper, or more correctly heliotrope (bloodstone). It is a stone of green speckled with red. The red of the strength of life in the blood. Green is the colour of copper that tarnishes to green. It is the green of Venus related to sacrifice, Friday, Easter and Resurrection. This is the Foundation Stone aligned with Peter.
Each stone is connected to a soul quality that must be transmuted to a spiritual virtue. Heliotrope is connected with Pisces. Pisces represents the Kar fish that swim in opposite rotation around the base of the Tree of Life (from the early Zarathustrian tradition). Pisces is also seen as two ichthyocentaurs, Aphros and Bythos – Sea Foam and Sea Depth – who carry Aphrodite (Venus) from the sea to the seashore. Rudolf Steiner related Pisces with magnanimity. Peter is magnanimous and must develop this to the spiritual virtue of love (“Do you love me?” – at the time of asking he had not yet transformed affection to love.).
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