At the turning point of time
The cosmic spirit-light stepped
Into earthly evolution;
Had ended its reign;
The bright light of day
Streamed into human souls;
The poor shepherd hearts
The wise kings’ heads.
Sun of Christ,
Our hearts —
So that good results
Our hearts beget,
Forcefully will to do.
Foundation Stone Meditation, Rudolf Steiner
“Sometimes a breath floats by me,
An odor from Dreamland sent,
Which makes the ghost seem nigh me
Of a something that came and went,
Of a life lived somewhere, I know not
In what diviner sphere.
Of mem’ries that come not and go not;
Like music once heard by an ear
That cannot forget or reclaim it;
A something so shy, it would shame it
To make it a show.
A something too vague, could I name it.
For others to know:
As though I had lived it and dreamed it,
As though I had acted and schemed it
And yet, could I live it over,
This Life which stirs in my brain;
Could I be both maiden and lover,
Moon and tide, bee and clover,
As I seem to have been, once again.
Could I but speak and show it.
This pleasure more sharp than pain.
Which baffles and lures me so!
The world would not lack a poet,
Such as it had
In the ages glad,
Lowell, The Twilight
The setting midsummer sun found the witness in a distinctly prayerful posture, shrouded by heady masala incense and calling Earth to witness. Venus had emerged, triumphant as a diamond on her band of gold, heralding the rising moon and guided to the altar by a vast and dominant Jupiter.
Pondering this crystal-clear sky, the witness could see how the dazzling quintessential force of the even-star was polarised by the glowing pharos of Mars, beckoning his paramour as he bequeathed to her the dark and endless night. The imperator of war was in a state of surrender at the temple of beauty.
The witness wondered about the effects of Mars’ conjunction with Venus, Jupiter and Mercury beyond the perfect moon, at that very instant deflecting onto captivated Earth the magnified potential for an alchemical wedding. This compelling planetary event was irresistibly conspiring with the precession of the equinoxes to create the most potent cosmic conditions that had ever been witnessed from Earth – at least since the Star of the Magi heralded the turning point of history.
Or so it seemed.
How can such a sign be ignored? thought the witness.
The answer was that it could not!
That the divine plan might remain unfulfilled was inconceivable, but how, precisely, it was to manifest would remain the Mother of all Mysteries.
An indeterminate length of time later the witness re-emerged, relieved of magazine and whiskey glass but clutching to heart an exceedingly large, old and important-looking volume. The disappearance of Pros Theon had ended a few short minutes after its guardian entered the large, cluttered bathroom, whereupon it was joyfully rediscovered amidst a towering stack of books.
Unspeakably relieved with seven years of life added back on, the witness placed the priceless treasure on the polished wooden desk with a great sense of ceremony, lit an ancient lamp and turned to the penultimate section:
Μεταμόρφωσις ἀλκυονίδες (Transformatio Dies)*
Translating and interpreting the metamorphosing text was a mission that took every effort of will and imagination, the fruits of the prophetic tome being rare and arcane indeed. At a certain point – in need of divine assistance – the witness looked over the text and out of the window for inspiration, focusing on the swaying tree tops as a breath-taking vision manifested with perfect clarity in the darkening ether.
A great supernatural bird – a huge white-headed eagle – awoke prophetic memory with his clairvoyant eyes then spread his enormous wings and took to flight towards the window. His sights were locked with terrible precision on the fixated witness, who felt a heavenly upsurge of pure joy and ran in the eagle’s direction as if physically lifted from the chair, having reverted back to childhood in a twinkling of the eye.
They reached the window as one and were simultaneously faced with the realisation that a window between worlds was separating them. The knowledge brought both grief and gratitude in equal measure, as the love-struck witness was just able to grasp one of the bird’s magnificent tail feathers and later attach it to the sun-tinted dream catcher. More evocations of Halcyon Days would be captured by this than all the other feathers combined.
“What you seek is seeking you”
* Days of Transformation
You spend vast trouble to aid your foes. You cut from a spirit its bodily life. You punish vengefully the erring. You falsely arrogate to yourselves the right law divine to shed human blood. You err, and know not that the spirits you so hurt shall in their turn avenge themselves upon you. You have yet to learn the earliest principles of that Divine tenderness and pity which labours ever through us to rescue the debased spirit, to raise it from the depths of sin and passion, and to elevate it to purity and goodness.
You know naught of God when you do such deeds. You have framed for yourselves a God whose acts accord with your own instincts. You have fabled that He sits on high, careless of His creatures, and jealous only of His own power and honour. You have fabricated a monster who delights to harm, and kill, and torture: a God who rejoices in inflicting punishment bitter, unending, unmitigable. You have imagined such a God, and have put into His mouth words which He never knew, and laws which His loving heart would disown.
God – our Good Good, Loving, Tender, Pitiful – delighting in punishing with cruel hand His ignorant erring sons! Base fable! Base and foolish fancy, produced of man’s cruel heart, of man’s rude and undeveloped mind. There is no such God! There is none. He has no place with us: none, save in man’s degraded mind.
Great Father! Reveal Thyself to these blind wanderers, and teach them of Thyself. Tell them that they dream bad dreams of Thee, that they know Thee not, nor can know till they unlearn their ignorant conceptions of Thy Nature and Thy Love.
Yes, friend, your jails and your legalised murder, the whole tenor of your dealings with criminals, are based on error and ignorance.
Your wars and your wholesale murderings are even more fearful. You settle your differences with your neighbours, who should be your friends, by arraying against each other masses of spirits – we see not the body; we care only for the spirit temporarily clothed with those human atoms – and those spirits you excite to full pitch of rage and fury, and so you launch them, rudely severed from their earth-bodies, into spirit life. You inflame their passions, and give them full vent. Vengeful, debased, cruel, earth-bound spirits throng around your earth-sphere, and incite the debased who are still in the body to deeds of cruelty and lust and sin. And this for the satisfying of ambition, for a passion fancy, for an idle princely whim, for lack of something else to occupy a king.
Ah! friend, you have much, very much to learn: and you will learn it by the sad and bitter experience of undoing here – after that which you have now done. You must learn the golden lesson, that Pity and Love are truer wisdom than vengeance and vindictive punishment; that were the Great God to deal with us as you deal with your fellows, and as you have falsely fabled that He will, you would be justly sent to your own imagined hell. You must know of God, and of us, and of yourselves, ere you can progress and do our work instead of our adversaries’……
…..turn to the progressive souls who will receive the teaching of wisdom: speak to them the message of Divine truth that shall regenerate and elevate the world: and for the blind ones, pray that when their eyes are opened, they may not despair at the sight which they shall see.
William Stainton Moses, Spirit Teachings
Let us turn now to the idea of tsimtsum – the ‘withdrawal of God’ in the Lurianic school of the Cabbala. The doctrine of tsimtsum reveals one of the ‘three mysteries’ in the Cabbala: sod hajichud, the mystery of union; sod hatsimtsum, the mystery of concentration or divine withdrawal; sod hagilgul, the mystery of reincarnation or the ‘revolution of souls’. The two other ‘mysteries’ – the mystery of union and that of the revolution of souls – will be treated later, in other letters. Concerning the ‘mystery of the divine withdrawal (or concentration)’ which interests us here, it is a question of the thesis that the existence of the universe is rendered possible by the act of contraction of God within himself. God made a ‘place’ for the world in abandoning a region interior to himself.
The first act of En-Soph, the Infinite Being, is therefore not a step outside but a step inside, a movemetn of recoil, of falling back upon oneself, of withdrawing into oneself. Instead of emanation we have the opposite, contraction…The first act of all is not an act of revelation but an act of limitation. Only in the second act does God send out a ray of His light and begin His revelation, or rather His unfolding as God the Creator, in the primordial space of His own creation. More than that, every new act of emanation and manifestation is preceded by one of concentration and retraction. (Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism).
In other words, in order to create the world ex nihilo, God had first to bring the void itself into existence. He had to withdraw within in order to create a mystical space, a space without his presence – the void. And it is in thinking this thought that we assist at the birth of freedom.
Freedom is not determined by God; it is part of the nothing out of which God created the world….The void – the mystical space from which God withdrew himself through his act of tsimtsum – is the place of origin of freedom, ie, the place of origin of an ‘existence’ which is absolute potentiality, not in any way determined. And all of the beings of the ten created hierarchies are the children of God and freedom born of divine plenitude and the void. They carry within themselves a ‘drop’ of the void and a ‘spark’ of God. Their existence, their freedom, is the void within them. Their essence, their spark of love, is the divine ‘blood’ within them. They are immortal, because the void is indestructible. Further, these two indestructible elements – the meonic element (ov – void) and the pleromic element (plenitude) – are indissolubly bound to one another. (Nichoas Berdyaev, The Destiny of Man).
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter IV, The Emperor
During the period of struggle, questions as to the purpose of life and man’s own being had formulated themselves, but when the answers come they do not answer the questions but rather obliterate them in the experience of the reality itself.
Thus, with regard to the mystery of man’s own being, the answer is not an intellectual exposition of the constitution of man, but rather an awareness of his own inner Self and as a result, the discovery of the world of that Self. When, in that world, we consider the problem of the duality which we all experience in daily life, of a higher Self on the one hand and a lower self on the other, we find a wonderful truth.
Man is essentially divine; as a son of God he partakes of the nature of his Father and shares His Godhead. Man’s own and true home is therefore the world of the Divine; there we live and move and have our own being ‘from eternity to eternity’. In his own world the Ego of man has his own activities and lives a life of joy and splendour beyond all earthly conception. There is, however, one lesson or experience which he cannot learn in his own world, but for which he has to put forth his consciousness into the worlds of outer manifestation where there is manifoldness and the antithesis of “I” and “not I”.
It is there alone that, through the medium of bodies composed of the matter of these outer worlds, the Ego can gain self-consciousness, that is to say, consciousness of himself as a separate individual. The divine world which is the true home of the Ego is a world in which there is not that distinction between Self and not-Self, but in which every part shares of the universal consciousness of the whole. That is why in this world the particular self-realisation which is necessary to the Ego cannot be gained. It is only the three-fold universe of outer manifestation, the physical world, that we find the duality of subject and object necessary for the gaining of self-consciousness.
Thus it is truly for the gaining of knowledge that the Ego puts himself forth into these outer worlds and assumes bodies of the matter of these worlds. It is this going forth of the soul into the worlds of darkness which we find symbolically described in the story of Genesis. Primitive Paradise is not a state which can last, however great its beauty and harmony. The soul must eat of the tree of good and evil, the tree of knowledge, even though at the cost of Paradise.
Having thus become conscious of the desire to know the worlds of matter, the soul is clothed in “coats of skin,” the bodies of matter, and henceforth has to live under the conditions of material existence, “labouring and bringing forth in pain.” The end of this long exile is the redemption or regeneration, which takes place when the soul regains knowledge of her own divinity, and Christ is born in the heart of man. Then Paradise is regained, but now in full self-consciousness, the Ego in his own divine world possessing the fruits yielded by the soul’s descent into the worlds of matter.
J.J van der Leeuw, God’s in Exile
The part of them worthy of the name immortal, which is called divine and is the guiding principle of those who are willing to follow justice and you-of that divine part I will myself sow the seed, and having made a beginning, I will hand the work over to you. And do ye then interweave the mortal with the immortal, and make and beget living creatures, and give them food, and make them to grow, and receive them again in death.”
Thus he spake, and once more into the cup in which he had previously mingled the soul of the universe he poured the remains of the elements, and mingled them in much the same manner; they were not, however, pure as before, but diluted to the second and third degree. And having made it he divided the whole mixture into souls equal in number to the stars, and assigned each soul to a star; and having there placed them as in a chariot, he showed them the nature of the universe, and declared to them the laws of destiny.
Like the preceding Arcana, The Arcanum ‘The Chariot’ has a twofold aspect. It represents, from one side, he who – having triumped over the three temptations – remains faithful to the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity; and it represents, from another side, the danger of the fourth temptation, which is the most subtle and intimate temptation, and is the invisible synthesis of the three temptations: the spiritual temptation of the victorious through his victory itself. It is the temptation to act ‘in one’s own name’, to act as master instead of as servant….
When you resist a temptation or renounce something desired below, you set in motion by this very fact forces of realisation of that which corresponds above to that which you came to renounce below. It is this that the Master designates by the word ‘reward’ when he says, for example, that it is necessary to guard against practising righteousness before other people in order to gain their regard, ‘for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven’. (Matthew, vi, 1). Reward is therefore the action that one sets in motion above by the renunciation of desire for things below. It is the ‘yes’ from above corresponding to the ‘no’ from below. And this correspondence constitutes a basis for magical realisation and for the fundamental law of Christian Hermeticism. Let us guard ourselves from taking it lightly, for here is given to us one of the principle keys of sacred magic. It is not desire which bears magical realisation, but rather the renunciation of desire (that you have formerly experienced, of course). For renunciation through indifference has no moral – and therefore no magical – value.
The charioteer of the Arcanum is the victor over trials, ie, the temptations, and if he is a master, then it is thanks to himself He is alone, standing in his chariot; no one is present to applaud him or to pay homage to him; he has no weapons….The victory achieved in solitude….what glory and what danger it comprises at one and the same time! It is the only real glory, for it in no way depends on human favour and judgement;it is intrinsic glory – the real radiance of the aura becoming luminous. It is, however, at the same time the most real and the most serious spiritual danger which exists. ‘Pride’ and ‘vaingloriousness’, the traditional names which one gives to it, do not suffice to characterise it in an adequate way. It is more than this. It is, rather, a kind of mystical megalomania, where one deifies the regulating centre of one’s own being, one’s ego, and where one sees the divine only within oneself and becomes blind to the divine above and outside oneself. The ‘higher Self’ is then experienced as the supreme and it is far from the supreme and unique being….far from being God, in other words.
It would be as well, now, to dwell on the problem of identification of the self with the higher Self and of the higher Self with God.
C.G. Jung who, having explored the sexual or ‘Freudian’ layer, and then that of the will-to-power or the ‘Adlerian’ layer, of the unconscious (ie, latent or occult consciousness) of the human being, encountered a spiritual (mystical, gnostic and magical) layer during the course of his clinical and psychotherapeutic experience. Instead of drawing back from it or extricating himself from it through a corrosive ‘explanation’, he had the courage and honest to set himself to the laborious study of the phenomenology of this layer of the unconscious. Now, this work proved fruitful. Jung discovered here not only the causes of certain psychic disorders, but also the profound and intimate process that he designated as the ‘process of individuation’, which is nothing other than the gradual birth of another self (Jung called it the ‘Self’) higher to oneself or one’s ordinary ego. The discover of the process of the ‘second birth’ prompted him to extend the range of his exploratory work considerably notably to include symbolism, mystery rituals and the comparative study of contemporary and ancient religions.
Now, this broadening of his field of exploration also proved fruitful. Jung’s arrival at his discovery (which at first racked him, preventing him from speaking of it to a living soul for fifteen years) had its train of consequences, including the knowledge and description of some dangers or temptations belonging to the way of initiation and the process of individuation which corresponds to it, One of these dangers – which are at the same time trials or temptations – is that which Jung designated by the term ‘inflation’, which signifies the state of consciousness of the self inflated to excess, and which is known in psychiatry in its extreme manifestation by the term ‘megalomania’.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VII, The Chariot
Wisdom is the that streams out from the interior of a being in many directions. It is what dwells, actively present, in the interior of the being itself, comprehending its surroundings not in a one-sided way, but many-sidedly. If we wish to represent this schematically, we draw a point – for wisdom is contained within the human being. Out of the point, wisdom issues forth in many-sided forms. Thus we have the sign of the Sun. This is the expression of wisdom – which is inner and, at all the same time, comprises everything. It radiates forth equally in all directions – it is universal. The life force is in fact this striving of the inner being outward towards universality.
And the struggle that wisdom, as well as life, must endure in existence consists precisely in the fact that a power must be developed out of wisdom that can put up a resistance to one-sidedness, to impact from without, from right and left. For wisdom is the condition of a being that is capable of relying upon itself, of not needing any point of support, whether from right or from left, of relying upon nothing save its own inner strength of being, and of not being drawn into one-sidedness.
This is the power that lives in the principle of wisdom. It was shown in the Gospels in deeply moving portrayal when Christ Jesus was scourged by his fellow human beings. The ability to be centred in oneself – to stand, out of the power of one’s own inner being, in spite of all assaults from without – this is the power that is developed through scourging. What constituted the essential heart of the old Sun, what caused the planet to shine forth, was the same power that manifests and endures in the scourging. The planet of the scourging was the old Sun.
And if we now move on to the old Moon, we find the astral element being poured out into existence through the Spirits of Movement. At the same time, this astral element was taken hold of by Lucifer, and a battle then took place in the the heavens. Human Karma began on the Earth, but cosmic karma began on the old Moon. We can also put it this way: If the human fall into sin took place on Earth, then the cosmic fall into sin took place on the old Moon. And as a guardian was placed on Earth to guard the threshold, so also – when the spirits fell – a guardian was placed on the old Moon, one who took karma onto himself. This guardian was the realiser of spiritual karma.
By remaining true to themselves, spirits received the dignity of the guardian of the divine intentions. The dignity of the guardian is what is expressed by the crown of thorns. The crown of thorns symbolises a dignity that indeed corresponds to a state of being crowned, but at the same time it wounds the one who is crowned. For the power that the guardian, the representative of karmic necessity, must unfold from within is the power of inexorableness. It is the principle of taking a oral stand so that the Truth and the Law will be fulfilled. Pity must be overcome by the being who assumes this guardian’s mission.
And so the spiritual beings who had to represent the karma of the worlds needed, on the one hand, to look upon the Luciferic being with the greatest pity, and on the other hand they had to repeatedly overcome this pity in order to stand unshakably on the cosmic threshold. The power that reveals itself in being crowned with thorns is that of being obliged to judge while experiencing an inward pity that must, however, be constantly controlled and overcome. Thus this crown pricks the wearer himself. And that is what happened in the cosmos during the time of the old Moon that during this time the crown of thorns came into being in the Cosmos.
If we now pass on further to the development of the Earth, we find earthly existence represented by the cross. The carrying of the cross is the fundamental note, the fundamental motif, of earthly existence, and every being connected with the Earth has to experience it in some form or other. During the development of the Earth, humanity must, on the whole, reach the stage of carrying the cross; again and again individuals will have to take the cross upon themselves and learn to bear it through the whole cycle the whole circle, of their experiences. The symbol of the Earth itself expresses bringing to fulfillment of the carrying of the cross.
Valentin Tomberg, Indian Yoga in Relation to the Christian-Rosicrucian Path