Comprehending the Spirit Within – The Whitsun theme – by Rev. Michaël Merle
reported by John-Peter Gernaat
During the ten days of Ascension a series of conversations took place on the archetypal Tree of Life using one representation of it which is the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. We used this Tree of Life because this Tree was developed in the age of the Consciousness Soul. This Tree of Life is represented by ten nodes called sefirots which are considered as emanations of the Divine. This Tree was presented in a particular way and during the Ascension conversations ascended the Tree from Creation through the central pillar of Hope, to the square of our higher faculties, to the triangle of the spiritual bodies we are still to develop.
However, the forms that have just been presented are inscribed into the etheric, permeating the formative life-body of the child during our Baptism sacrament using the three substances of water, salt and ash. These are substances of:
Using the substance of water, a triangle is placed on the forehead of the child; using salt, the square is placed on the chin (over the throat area) of the child; and using ash, a cross is placed over the heart of the child. These symbols are accompanied with the congregation present holding in consciousness the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
The Whitsun talks looked at the descent into the human being followed by an ascent of experience.
In the Act of the Apostles there is an extraordinary description of the Whitsun event. The contemplation for June (see the June newsletter or the Community website) deals with the Gospel Reading for Whitsun which is not from the Acts of the Apostles by rather from the 14th chapter of John. This reading describes the preparation for the internal event for the disciples rather than the external event. Reading from Act 2: 1-12 provides an extraordinary picture of the descent, the way that we inscribe the Kabbalistic Tree of Life in the Baptism on the forehead, on the chin and on the breast. We have an understanding that this event of Whitsun is the event that changes the relationship the human being has, on earth, with their I-organisation (also described in Anthroposophy as the Ego). It is at this event of Whitsun that the Ego is incorporated and becomes incarnated into the bodily constitution of the human being.
Our experience of our earthly “I” before Whitsun was one of being accompanied by our earthly “I”. It was around us, in support of us, with us, but not in us. At Whitsun, in the story described in Act 2, we have a shift from ‘with’ to ‘in’; from ‘without’ to ‘within’; from an external reality to an internal reality. We, as human beings, have been carrying a sense of our earthly “I” in us for the last 2000 years. This is a relatively short period to have mastered this experience. As a consequence of the incarnation of the “I” something turns around. What had lived for early civilisations and was most clearly expressed by the peoples of the Indus Valley (now north western India) was an experience of an energetic rising through centres of energy. This picture will be explored more fully at St John’s this year. This is the energy rising through the emotional, energetic body of the human being: a rising energy through the chakras, as they are referred to. This rising energy had been fulfilled by one human being, of whom we know, who achieved the full development of all of the chakras all the way up. All seven principal chakras had been opened, enlivened and experienced, by a Hindu prince who renounced his royal life and became known as The Enlightened One, the Buddha. Once this capacity has been established by one human being all human beings have the capacity to do it.
Now we have a turn around, because in the upward rising of the energy only half of each chakra is enlivened. In order to fully enliven the chakras something must be brought down into them from the spiritual word. As human beings, we have worked at lifting something ourselves, but this is not enough, now we must draw down something from the spiritual world into us. One could say that our effort now needs to be graced. This descent of the Spirit in us means that the flames of fire that could be seen above the head of the other by the Apostles were drawn into each one. We hear in the Whitsun epistle that these flames now “flame from the human heart”. These flames entered into the human being, and as the Spirit being incorporated into us. This can then give birth to Christ-in-us. This flame enlivens, in a graced way, the chakras now coming down into the human being.
The first chakra to be enlivened is the ‘third-eye’ charka which means that we now have a graced capacity to think. The capacity for our thinking had been well prepared before the Whitsun event and is probably best seen in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. This capacity to think loves the wisdom of thought. There was a capacity in this thinking to be able to relate to ourselves and to the world and to understand something of our selves in a different way to the rest of the world. This foundation for thinking needed a certain grace.
We were well able to work into our will, a capacity to do. Speech is one of the most extraordinary capacities of will. The speeches of great orators prior to Christ demonstrate the degree to which this capacity had already been developed. This too applies to the words of the Prophets of the Old Testament and to John the Baptist who spoke a ‘word of flame’ in preparation for the flame that was to come. They were words of the Spiritual world given to the human being to speak out. We did not yet, as human beings, all have that capacity. The grace of the incarnating spirit has now graced every human being with the capacity to begin to develop the ability to speak words of compassionate love. The first human being who could develop the capacity to speak in that way was Francis of Assisi, says Rudolf Steiner.
We are now in the Consciousness Soul age, a time where we are conscious beyond the capacity of a rational mind and a capacity to reason, to feel ourselves conscious of ourselves and our responsibility – how we are able to respond. If we think of thinking, then of will and then of feeling we have a very strong sense of how the consciousness of the heart has to work with the will of our speech and the concepts of our mind. The chakras that have been enlivened in the path of descent are the chakra of the ‘third eye’ and of the larynx – the throat – our ability to step out and speak. We are now working on enlivening the chakra of the heart. It was enlivened before (on the ascending path of development), but we are now enlivening it, Rudolf Steiner describes, in opposite spin. This is creating a vortex. Something is actually moving in us, more than it had before.
This is one way in which we can comprehend the Spirit within. It is the Spirit that allows these charkas to operate anew and will continue to descend until seven chakras are enlivened.
We should also consider that we are lifting something in ourselves. It is a growing capacity that is developing today. When we think of growth our inclination is to think of an upward growth. In the twelve senses that Rudolf Steiner presents there is something extraordinary: there are many ways in which these twelve senses can be divided, but one way is to speak of the four foundational senses, the four intermediate senses and the four higher senses. It is the four higher senses that are relevant. They spiral from the heart back to the crown. They are presented in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts 2: once the Apostles are in the room, “suddenly a sound came from the Spiritual Hights, like the rushing of a mighty wind” (so, not the rushing of a mighty wind, but like the rushing of a mighty wind). They experienced a sound quality. The first of our higher senses is our capacity to hear. There must be a change in our capacity to hear. Previously we heard as a skill. But, how did we respond to what we heard? How did hearing move to listening? Listening is not a mechanical skill. To transform hearing to listening requires us to hear with the heart. We need to cultivate a heart-listening, to feel what it is that is being said. What is it that is being said in the words: the feeling and the attitude? We can feel offended by how something is being said, even when, on the surface, the words are innocuous. This is something that happens in the heart that is now graced in a new way. Then the next thing can happen. Through the sound that transformed to listening the Apostles were able to see something that manifested as tongues of fire. Then a new capacity opened in their speech, and they were able to speak (they were filled by the Holy Spirit and they all began to speak). But their speech had changed. It was no longer a speech addressed to one but had become a speech addressed to all. They were not speaking in one set human language, they were speaking in a language that was extraordinarily human, so that everyone who was listening could hear what the Apostles were saying in their own mother tongue. (The division of languages that had occurred as a result of the building of the Tower of Babel was now reunited and a single human language was spoken by the Apostles that transcended words and grammar.) That is the mystery: we go from sound – hearing – to speech. That is the next higher sense that must develop its independence in our journey of human development. After that we develop, on the ladder of senses, the sense of thought, or concept. Those listening to the Apostles could now comprehend what the Apostles were saying. That comprehension allowed the people to understand what was being said. These three senses: hearing, speaking and thought are the foundation for the highest sense of all, which is the result of all of this. This highest sense is the sense of the individual in the other, of the I-organisation of the other. This is the sense of the full and free human being (a conscious I-organisation-being recognising and acknowledging the I-organisation-being of another person).
As we look at the independence of the senses we might imagine that hearing develops an independence to become listening much earlier for the human being, but it doesn’t. Other senses become independent much earlier in our development. The independence of the sense of hearing, speech and thought can only begin to emerge when we are in a different relationship to ourselves, which is in youth. When the independence of these senses first begins to emerge, they are still underdeveloped as one will experience with teenagers and into early adulthood. The hurtful side of speech develops before the heart has fully connected to speaking and graced speaking emerges. Then we come to the capacity to grasp a concept, to grasp an idea and to work with it in a conscious way. This is when we realise that “I am thinking this thought”. The thought is not necessarily ours, but in thinking it we have made it ours. It is a thought that lives in the world out there that we have made our own. This thought now has power out of us, in what we say and do. These develop in teenage years. We see in teenagers that they appear to lose even the capacity for the skill to hear, speak and think and they have to find these anew. It is almost as if the capacity to hear, speak and think is turned off until it can be turned back on in a new way.
Rudolf Steiner suggests that the most beautiful way of speaking in this way came to us through Francis of Assisi. He developed such an extraordinary understanding of himself in the world, and the world in him that he could write a song that recognised the sun as a brother and the moon as a sister. He could recognise a true living relationship to the whole of the Cosmos.
We then have a new capacity for thinking. It is wonderful to see it wake up in a teenager, then a whole new world opens up for the human being. It is then that learning should be based on debate, discussion and discovery. (That is what tertiary studies should be.)
These three senses are foundational to the sense of the “I” of the other. Unless we are able to listen with our hearts, speak our will with love, and grasp a true understanding, consciously, of the world around us, we will not have the very things we need to recognise the extraordinary beauty of the “I“ of the other, even when their speech and expression is less than perfect. Comprehending the Spirit within means understanding the dynamic relationship of hearing, speaking and thinking with the extraordinary power that comes as we develop these chakras of the forehead, larynx and heart in a new way.
The Whit Monday conversation went into a little more detail on the descent of the Spirit into the human being.
Between Whitsun and the Age of the Consciousness Soul, the Spirit was taking hold of the forehead, ‘third eye’, chakra and the throat chakra. First the Spirit brought the Sentient Soul and the Mind Soul into consciousness before the development of the Consciousness Soul could unfold. The Spirit first encountered the Rational or Mind Soul. The originating source of the Cosmos must be brought to consciousness otherwise the Mind Soul will take us down the path of materialism. If the human being fails to make the Mind Soul conscious it will remain greatly logical but disconnected from the reality behind physical matter which created existence. When the ‘third eye’ chakra is working for the Good and True the future unfolding of material existence allows the Spirit in all to become conscious.
The Sentient Soul had already been refined by the Mind Soul and had become a part of our will, part of our responsiveness. It therefore resides in the throat chakra. It was in the time that the human being came to mysticism that the response of this charka was more than a sentient response. Francis of Assisi sees a deep mystical relationship to the sun and the moon. He develops a conscious connection. His consciousness of what the sun truly is creates a relationship for future development. It is a new conversational relationship that we initiate through the descent of the Spirit in us.
When the Spirit lands in the human heart chakra we are in the Consciousness Soul space of having a Mind Soul and a Sentient Soul that are now conscious. Rudolf Steiner provided exercises for the heart chakra while also providing exercises for mystical speech and mystical thinking connected to the throat chakra. Saint Paul transforms Greek thinking to mystical thinking, a conscious mysticism, in his writings found in the New Testament. This brings the new development of our third eye chakra into focus.
We have an interesting picture of the three festivals of the Spirit: Whitsun, St John’s and Michaelmas. We have a renewed understanding of these three festivals of the Spirit. Whitsun is celebrated over three days and has a three-foldness to it. St John’s is celebrated over four Sundays and opens the beginnings of the incredible, renewed 8-fold path. Michaelmas is also celebrated over four Sundays representing the four cardinal points of the cross.
St John’s is a festival that reaches a high point of expression in Francis of Assisi. Michaelmas, under the guidance of the Archangel Michael, is truly about the development of the heart chakra.
We are all developing the Sentient Soul, Mind Soul and the Consciousness Soul, but what happens when we do not turn it around with the incorporated I-constitution and engage with Creation through our intention? Consciousness is about a sense of being something, knowing why and where the future development of this beingness leads. It is not sentimentality but rather a true conscious development. We are in the process of working with the Good to become one with the Good.
There is a natural process of unfolding, and it is a given. If we believe that this is how it works, then it is. It happens of its own accord, as an example a teenager develops automatically and can reflect on that development and recognise that it was automatic. However, if we remain exclusively in this belief then we are not developing seeds for the future. Then we grow and develop out of Father-forces, but will it build something for the future? We build muscle through resistance but by removing resistance we do not develop. When we make an effort out of our I-constitution, no one but we ourselves know that we are making that effort. It is this area of effort that is under attack today. The more inner work we do, the greater the possibility for the future, while the less inner work we do, the smaller the possibility becomes for a future.
Whit Tuesday turned to the progressive development of evil.
Before the current Earth Cycle of Time there have been three previous Cycles of Time. The Old Saturn Cycle of Time was one in which the focus of development was on the Archai. At this time this Hierarchy was known as the Asuras. This Hierarchy offered a gift of themselves to the mighty hierarchy of the Thrones. The gift of some was received by the Thrones while the gift of others was not. This may have been due to the needs of the Thrones rather than the quality of the gifts. However, some of the Asuras whose gifts were not accepted felt slighted and aligned themselves with an evil that had existed from before the Cycles of Time. Those who continued in their development became known as the Archai, the Spirits of Time. Those now aligned with the great source of evil retained the name of the Asuras.
During the Old Sun Cycle of Time the focus of development was on the Archangels. One of this Hierarchy fell from grace and in the process gained followers. He is known in some cultures as Ahriman.
During the Old Moon Cycle of Time the focus of development was the Angels. We are familiar with the fall from grace of one of the mightiest of the Angels, Lucifer, the Light Bearer.
During the Earth Cycle of Time where the focus of development is the human being, Lucifer is the first of the beings not aligned to the developmental path of humanity who begins to bear an influence on human beings. Later in the development of humanity, Ahriman begins to bear an influence on human beings. Now we are experiencing an influence from the Azuras on our development. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer the words “Lead us not into temptation” refers to the influence that Lucifer and Ahriman have on us, while the words “But deliver us from the evil” refers to the influence on humanity of the Azuras, who are in alignment with the great pre-existing evil. We are able to escape the entrapment of our souls from the influence of Lucifer and of Ahriman. This entrapment results in our souls becoming fixed in a particular view. Christ is often seen as the balance between the influences that are brought to bear by Lucifer and Ahriman. The impact of the Azuras is, however, very different. This is because the Ancient Evil wishes for the total annihilation of humanity. The wish of the Azuras is thus to destroy the human soul.
The direction of the influence of Lucifer – one could describe it as one pole – is idealism, it is the pole of illusion and perfection. The pole of the influence of Ahriman is realism – it is the pole of materialism, the mantra that it is only real when is can be seen, felt and measured on the earthly plane. Between these two poles Christ holds the balance, preventing idealism form becoming illusionary and preventing realism from descending into materialism.
The Temptation in the Garden of Eden was an idealistic temptation. It was the temptation of Lucifer. We can see the temptations at play in the three elements of the soul. The temptation of Lucifer was to escape the experience of the Sentient Soul – see only the spirit of the tree, but not the physical manifestation of the tree. The temptation of Ahriman is to remove the spirit completely and to live entirely in the Mind Soul – everything is material! The Consciousness Soul Age sees Lucifer and Ahriman taking on new roles. There is now an interplay happening between these Beings that is in the service of the Ancient Evil. The aim of this interplay is to rob us of our consciousness so that we become automatons. How is this temptation being enacted? One clear example is in the way human beings interact and relate to video games. One may think that video games are an escape from reality, but in truth, they are an escape into a fantasy reality. It is an illusionary world that is entirely dependent on technology. It is something that acts as an external source of addiction for the human being. This addiction is an escape from reality into a material reality of technology and illusory substance. It is an addiction that is easily monetised.
All three aspects of the human soul are under attack. There is a real need to bring consciousness to the Mind Soul and to the Sentient Soul using the Consciousness Soul. Each of the Sentient Soul and Mind Soul were developed to their greatest capacity, now the Consciousness Soul must develop them beyond this peak.
Humanity must now work with our heart forces, we need to become ‘conscious of our humanity’. This is not about an escape. The world of Earth is our home where we are to work. However, humanity should not confuse the journey with the destination. The journey, through our earthly incarnations where we work in the world, is very important. The incorporation of the “I” – the Christ-in-me – is a new source to take hold of the source of the soul, where the soul resides.
The Spirit rays out from human hearts as a result of the Mystery of Golgotha and the Mystery of Whitsun – all together the Turning Point of Time. The Spirit was poured into human hearts and as a consequence the Apostles went out to speak, think and finally feel, because of a new source point from which the Spirit rays out.
Our human development is assisted by the beings that offer resistance. This is the mystery of the work of Lucifer and Ahriman and where they are finding redemption in the fulfilment of the aims of Christ. The Azuras are, however, very different. The Covid pandemic has exposed this thoroughly. What spirit can shut down the entire world completely in a matter of weeks? (Only a Time Spirit.) If we remain unconscious to this power, these spiritual beings will rob us of our consciousness.
Planting seeds has power. The transubstantiated substances of bread and wine have a powerful effect. It may look like nothing, but the homeopathic effect is to heal the whole organism. Evil works on a principle of multiplication while Good works on an exponential principle through the homeopathic effect that a tiny amount has a very large effect.
We need to be conscious of the forces that live in the human soul and can manifest in the world around us. The events in the world may cause fear to arise in us. This fear can be helpful in waking us up; it is how we wake up that is important. When we build Faith, Hope and Love we can defend ourselves. This refers back to the talks on the Tree of Life as represented by the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. It is where we base our security that is the starting point from which to build. This is important when we see people around us lose their homes and their jobs and their world is washed away in floods. Our humanity Is our foundation and the three pillars on which we base our being:
To this Rev. Reingard Knausenberger added: We have been working with one picture for thirteen days. This has Anthroposophical significance.
Hope is founded in our physical body and our physical body is the basis for hope. As long as we are breathing there is hope and further development is possible. We are hope. When we look again at the Hope Pillar of the Tree of Life from Creation to Foundation to the heart (Beauty): creation is a given, we must work to maintain the foundation, and we can express gratitude that we have a body. Some children come into the world carrying gratitude for the hope of incarnation. Incarnation is not a given but a privilege to have the possibility of a body in which to develop.
Faith is founded in the soul and in our emotions. We work on ourselves to arrive at a capacity for faith.
Love is founded in the rhythms of the Spirit.
We are able to refer truth to a real picture. When we are able to make the Kabbalistic Tree of Life work for us from our world view, it is a real picture. Anthroposophy has the capacity to take what already exists from ancient wisdom and to raise it another step.
The Astral Body is beautiful when held by the ego.
Returning to the main conversation: Koine Greek permits words to be constructed from root words. Eulogia from which we derive eulogy, is to speak the consecration of the human being that confirms a human life. Thus, eulogy is the full confirmation of a human life. To consecrate is to “make holy with”, it is to make whole. The German for the Act of Consecration, ‘Die Mensheweihehandlung’ makes it clear that it is a process: to make it sacred by the way it is handled. The German for ‘let us’: ‘Lasst uns’ has in it the vowel sound “a” which is the sound to receive and also to act now. (To this Reingard reminded us that the human being is the sacrament of the gods.) The sefirots of the Tree of Life are manifestations of how to make holy. There are ten steps to the human being becoming the tenth hierarchy.
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