Category Archives: Easter

Anthroposophy and the Battle for the Soul – a talk for Easter

This is the text of a talk I gave at Emerson College on Easter Sunday, 9th April 2023, as part of the Easter Festival organised by the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex (ASiS).

A little while ago, Eva Davies and I were having a conversation about the role today of a local society like ASiS and asking ourselves, if it’s not too absurd a question, what on earth can a handful of people like us do in the face of the overwhelming onslaught of evil throughout the world?

As there are some of us here who are fairly new to anthroposophy, it should be explained that the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, possessed exceptional faculties of clairvoyant consciousness. For him, unlike for most of us, the heavenly world of higher beings was completely open; and he was able to use his faculties to extend scientific research beyond the existing parameters of natural science, so as to investigate the non-physical, spiritual realities of life. Steiner’s viewpoint, which could be described as esoteric or cosmic Christianity, went beyond the teachings of the Catholic and Protestant Churches but was nevertheless fundamentally Christian and he was able through his researches to describe the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as the central point of human evolution.

Interestingly, Steiner does not make a straight distinction between Good on the one hand and Evil on the other. Instead, he identifies two poles of Evil, which he calls Lucifer and Ahriman. Between these two poles, Christ holds the balance in the middle. Steiner saw Lucifer and Ahriman as not only forces or tendencies which affect humankind and draw us towards evil; but he also saw them as actual beings, who have had or are about to have physical incarnations. Lucifer’s incarnation was in China, in about 2500 BC. The incarnation of Christ was 2000 years ago, as we know. Ahriman’s incarnation is due about now, which is why we’re having such difficult times. 

Steiner has told us that the incarnation of Ahriman is due “before even a part of the third of millennium after Christ will have passed” and cannot be averted. It will happen. He has also told us:  it can bring good over the long term insofar as we wake up to the spirit through resistance against Ahriman’s materialistic impulses. But if Ahriman is not recognised, his influence will be harmful. Steiner also said at a meeting with young people in Breslau (which was then in Germany and is now Wroclaw in Poland), that Ahriman will do everything in his power to advance the moment of his incarnation as much as he can. Steiner then mentions the year 1998, which for anyone interested in numerology is 666 multiplied by 3. I’m intrigued to note that it was about then, actually in 1999, that Vladimir Putin came to power. 

We are undoubtedly living in the precursor years of Ahriman’s incarnation, even if not yet during the actual incarnation. The signs are all around us and like me, you will probably have your own list of Ahrimanic phenomena in our times. There are so many to choose from, ranging from the apparently trivial to the alarmingly serious and it is difficult to keep up with all the negative developments that are happening throughout the world. Thank goodness there are also many positive developments which seem to arise in response to the Ahrimanic symptoms.

For me, Covid has been one of the most significant of the Ahrimanic phenomena. Covid is a viral disease, which means that it is mineral in nature and does not have its own life processes, and therefore needs a host organism so it can reproduce itself. But it also has astonishing intelligence, for example in the resistance it can develop to medicines, or in the way it can mutate, partly in response to vaccinations. But I can’t help asking, where does this astonishing intelligence live? In what being does this intelligence reside?

Second, the Covid pandemic produced fear, much of it stoked by deliberate government policy, as well as anxiety and division between people, even within families. It also led governments to dismantle existing civil liberties with an ease that they had not expected to find in Western democracies. It became impossible to have a fruitful exchange of views between different standpoints and we saw instead heightened emotions, rejection and hatred of other people’s opinions. This process was driven even further by our news outlets and social media, who censored the views of anyone, even distinguished professors of medicine, whose expert opinion did not fit the official line. Some of you may remember what happened to the Great Barrington Declaration, which was rubbished by the WHO. Again, one must ask: whose interests are being served by this fracturing of social cohesion?

And of course, Russia’s illegal and brutal war in Ukraine is another prime symptom of the Ahrimanic assault on humanity. At first, it was almost impossible to believe that such a thing could be happening, that in the 21st century one European nation could invade another to seize its territory and kill and terrorise its people. And yet it has happened and is continuing, with no sign of an end to these horrors. Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a rogue state, a mafia-led kleptocracy, a pariah among nations and all the more terrible because it possesses over 6000 nuclear weapons. The Russian Army, in directing its assault on the ordinary citizens of Ukraine, has become a byword for corruption and brutality, inhumanity and incompetence. Russia, in the words of one Russian journalist who dares to oppose Putin’s war, will wash in the shame of these actions for decades to come. And now we are beginning to see a growing alliance between Russia and China, two autocracies finding common cause in opposition to the Western democracies and bringing with them the possibility of World War III over Taiwan.

What times we are living through! And of course there are so many other symptoms we could notice, whether it’s artificial intelligence and the gradual merging of humans and machines, about which even Elon Musk has called for a 6-month pause to assess the dangers; climate breakdown; the subversion of truth and morality in the post-Truth society; GMO and gene editing, about which the latest UK Government law, the so-called Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 23rd March. Poor King Charles! I can’t believe he was happy to sign that into law.

Here, I think, it is relevant to quote what Rudolf Steiner had to say in the Karmic Relations lecture given in Dornach on 4th August, 1924:

“For the anthroposophist this proverb must hold good. He must say to himself: ‘Now that I have become an anthroposophist through my karma, the impulses which have been able to draw me to Anthroposophy require me to be attentive and alert.’” 

Yes: we must be attentive and alert; and Steiner has also said that: “The important thing is that humanity should not sleep through Ahriman’s appearance.”  This brings me back to the question I asked earlier: what should be the role of a local society like ASiS and what can a handful of anthroposophists do in the face of developing evil throughout the world? Eva Davies and I, during the conversation which prompted these thoughts, came to the conclusion that one of the most useful things we can do is really to be attentive and alert to any and every manifestation of Ahrimanic impulses in the world – to really see what is going on and come to a view on where these diverse phenomena are leading us. We won’t be able to change them – but by seeing them for what they are, we remove part of their power over us. But it’s quite astonishing how insidious and subtle these Ahrimanic influences are, and the ability they have to manifest in the most unexpected places; and I’d like to share with you just two, rather startling and shocking examples that I’ve noticed.

And because today is Easter Day, I’ll begin with a threat to Easter from a most unexpected source.  Easter is of course a ‘moveable feast’, meaning that it is a festival whose date changes each year. To state it as simply as possible, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox on 21stMarch. It can be as early as 22nd March, as it was in 1761 and 1818, but will not be again until 2285. It can be as late as 25th April but that hasn’t happened since 1943 and won’t recur until 2038. The commonest date for Easter Sunday is 19th April though the full cycle of Easter dates only repeats after 5,700,000 years.

Now all this is of course very untidy and much annoys bureaucrats, atheists and planners, all of whom would like to have fixed public holiday dates – but such people are wholly ignorant of the fact that on the true Easter Sunday intensified cosmic energies flow into the earth.

To back up that statement, I’m going to refer to some remarkable experiments done by Lili Kolisko (1889 – 1976), who did investigative scientific work into etheric formative forces, following indications given by Rudolf Steiner. She had shown that it was possible to get an image of the life-force of a plant by making a highly potentised solution of the plant essence through very great dilution, and then adding a solution of certain minerals which represent planetary forces – Silver Nitrate, Iron Sulphate or Gold Chloride. A piece of litmus paper is placed upright in a saucer with the solution and the liquid, rising to a certain height, shows the most striking colours and shapes which reveal the invisible etheric forces working in the plant. The technique is known as capillary dynamolysis.

In 1943, by which time Mrs Kolisko was living in the UK and carrying out daily experiments with capillary dynamolysis, Easter fell shortly after the equinox on 28th March. The church authorities in England had ruled that the Easter Full Moon should be considered to be a month later and that the festival should be celebrated on 25th April. The Astronomer Royal, however, disagreed and maintained that the earlier date was correct. Mrs Kolisko set out through her experiments to see which of them was right. Every day she repeated her experiments and a certain pattern showed itself again and again, until on Sunday 28th March a resplendent form of shape and colour appeared, quite different from the others. So the Astronomer Royal was correct and the church authorities got it wrong – on their preferred Sunday of 25th April there was no difference from the pattern of any other day.

A similar strengthening of the etheric forces was revealed on the true Whitsuntide, which is also a moveable feast because it is always on the seventh Sunday after Easter. So to anyone looking at the photos of these experiments, there can be no doubt whatever that a remarkable inpouring of spiritual power takes place on the true Easter Sunday and at Whitsun. It indicates that both Easter and Whitsun are cosmic events. These photos can be seen in a monograph by Lili Kolisko, called Spirit in Matter – just google for it and you will find it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the Ahrimanic forces if they could somehow undermine the cosmic power of Easter Day? Well, they have found a way to do this and I’m sorry to say that it involves the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

In 2016, Archbishop Justin announced how, after more than a thousand years of Easter being a moveable feast, he had hopes of reaching agreement with the other churches to settle upon a fixed date for Easter. He said he would “love” to see Easter become a fixed date by the time he retires.

Mr Welby said that he will consult with other authorities including Pope Francis and the Coptic Pope to negotiate a change to the date. It is very unlikely that any change will be made without the full assent of all those authorities. So with the active help of the Archbishop of Canterbury and possibly the leaders of other churches as well, Easter is likely to become a fixed date in the calendar and thus an event of cosmic significance, which is the occasion for a huge influx of spiritual power that affects all life on Earth, will be diminished to no more than an ordinary day. It would prevent humans from participating in this cosmic event, which as Rudolf Steiner told Ita Wegman offers a moment of revelation in which Christ may be experienced. What a great result for Ahriman, made even more satisfying by the fact that it is the leaders of the Christian churches who will have brought it about!

But even the undermining of Easter as a cosmic event might be considered less important than what Ahriman appears to be working on in connection with reincarnation. Those of you who are sports fans will probably not like what I’m about to say. Just over 100 years ago, Rudolf Steiner warned in a lecture given on 9th July 1918 (GA181) about high initiates in Anglo-American circles (by this he means secret brotherhoods of oppositional powers) who have a programme to undermine gradually the normal process of reincarnation. This is what Steiner had to say:

“They cultivate especially the powers of perception belonging to the body which strengthen the subjection of man to the body, through the incoming of forces not belonging entirely to the body but binding it to the earth.  (…)  A strong physical sense of relationship between the human body and the earthly elements is to be acquired. This strong feeling of relationship between the creature in the physical body and the earth exists to-day in certain species of apes, which have it as their soul-life. In them it can be studied physiologically and zoologically. What is present there can be gradually formed into a “system of instruction for human beings”; all that has to be done is to develop the coarse side of relationship with nature into a system of bodily education. (In saying this I am neither railing nor criticising; I am merely stating facts.) Thus it will be possible to bring about a sort of practical Darwinism, intensifying the relation of man to what binds him to the earth in a certain sense, to “monkeyfy” him. That is the practical side. It will be pursued through the intensive cultivation — ostensibly instinctive but in fact carefully directed — of sports and such-like things. This fetters the soul, drawing it into a sense of kinship with the earthly, with the earth itself, and so a spiritual ideal such as I have described is set up. By this means the continuing alternation of spiritual life and physical life will be overcome, and by degrees the ideal will be realised of living in future periods of earth-evolution as a kind of “phantom”; of dwelling on earth in this guise.” In other words, a kind of ghost, unable to move on to the heavenly world after death.

Steiner was not an enthusiast for sport and there are many quotations demonstrating this. Here is just one: “The excessive pursuit of sport is Darwinism in practice. Theoretical Darwinism is to assert that man comes from the animals. Sport is practical Darwinism, it proclaims an ethic which leads man back again.” (Study of Man, Lecture 13)

Returning to Steiner’s 1918 lecture (GA181), he went on to say that: “The Anglo-American people (and I think by this phrase he means the secret brotherhoods referred to earlier) strives for this strange ideal: no longer to return into earthly bodies, but to have an ever-increasing influence on the earth through the medium of living souls, whilst they themselves become more and more earthbound as disembodied souls. A very interesting point is that this ideal can be appropriately followed only by the male population, and hence, in spite of all political endeavours, an increasing difference between men and women will arise in Anglo-American civilization. Anglo-American spiritual life will in essence descend to future ages through women; while that which lives in male bodies will strive towards such an ideal as I have described. This will set the pattern of the future Anglo-American race.”

Now because what Steiner has to say here is so startling, let us try to be clear about his meaning. He is saying that the over-emphasis on sports, games, athletics and so on are among the forces of hindrance in modern civilisation. This is because the concentration on physical prowess and skill fetters the soul, in his phrase, drawing it too closely to kinship with the earth, so that after death, instead of making the normal transition to the spiritual world and to eventual reincarnation, the soul stays not just disembodied but also earthbound – it is unable to move on to the heavenly world. And these disembodied souls who remain close to the earth then have the ability to influence living souls on earth with the Ahrimanic illusion that the only reality lies in materialism. That is a truly startling observation, which he followed up by saying that it is male bodies who will be most affected by this and therefore Anglo-American spiritual life will in essence descend to future ages through women. My assumption about this statement is that in Steiner’s day, the audiences at football and other sports were overwhelmingly male; and the women therefore were less likely to succumb to the unseen soul influences present at those events. And perhaps we might also say that the devotion required to be a mother (and protect the next generation) and the channelling of spiritual forces in childbirth predisposes women to a higher attunement to wellbeing and family harmony – hence women have an increased likelihood of possessing loving heart forces naturally resistant to Ahrimanic impulses.

But Steiner was of course speaking over 100 years ago and the situation regarding women and sport has been transformed since then. We now have enthusiasm throughout the world, not just in the Anglo-American countries, for women and girls’ football. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was first held in China in 1991 and 176 national teams now participate internationally. Here in the UK, the England women’s team is praised for being more successful than the men’s team and players have recently been awarded MBEs and OBEs. The sport is poised to grow and grow, with women and girls being encouraged to take part at all levels of the game. Even in the Middle East and North Africa, countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Palestine, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Israel have had large-scale competitions and national teams – and since 2020, countries that have traditionally been seen as extreme like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan have begun to develop women’s football in order to raise their international profiles and to distance themselves from their conservative pasts.

Steiner was warning not of the elimination of the knowledge of reincarnation but the gradual elimination of reincarnation itself. One has to ask: Is the worldwide growth of women’s football just one indication among many that Ahriman is working far more effectively for this end than even Steiner himself had supposed? And what is it that these Ahrimanic beings are seeking to bring about? According to Steiner: “They set themselves the task of keeping man on the Earth by every possible means. You know from the book Occult Science that the Earth will one day pass over into the Jupiter condition. That is what these beings want to prevent. They want to prevent man from developing in a regular way together with the Earth and then passing over into the Jupiter condition in a normal way. They want to preserve the Earth as Earth and mankind for the Earth. Hence these beings work unceasingly and with great intensity to achieve their purpose.” (1922-12-03-GA219)

Now, I am not a fan of sport – I’d much rather read a book or listen to music or do some gardening – so perhaps I can be accused of bias; and when I discussed Steiner’s ideas recently with a well-known anthroposophist and sports fan in this village, he thought what I was saying was nonsense – so I am under no illusion that what I’ve just said will gain any acceptance even in our own circles, let alone in the wider world. But Steiner did not criticise modern sport and athletics because he wasn’t interested in them, but because of the effects he could perceive them having on us. He saw much of sport as being unhelpful in what he considered to be really important, ie that we should realise that we are not just creatures of flesh and blood but that we are actually spiritual beings who are currently having human experiences within our physical bodies. You are of course free to assert that Steiner was wrong about sport and its effects – but then I think you have to explain how and why Steiner was wrong. 

There’s no doubt that Ahriman has an easier task than one could wish. He finds it easy to persuade humans to give up their future to him, because Ahriman can work through the seat of our desires – our pride, greed, laziness, lust or wish for power – but Christ can only work through our I or individuality and this means that the struggle is not an equal one. Our individuality has so to develop itself that it can in time learn to recognise and resist the many temptations offered by Lucifer and Ahriman. The two forces work in harmony at the present time, even though they appeal to different instincts in us. The way to deal with these two poles of Evil is to seek the balance in the middle, which is represented by Christ.  

And I also have to acknowledge that, although Steiner talks about the “regular” way in which Earth and humanity evolve together and the “normal” way in which the Earth will pass one day into the Jupiter condition, how many of our fellow humans actually believe these things? By the time after many aeons when the Jupiter condition occurs, humans will no longer be in physical bodies. I’m fairly sure that most humans may not like the sound of this and would much prefer to stay with what they know, which is what Ahriman is offering them, ie to keep humankind earthbound and in physical bodies. Better the Devil you know, especially when he offers you such a wide range of sports and entertainments…

And whether you agree with Steiner or not, the real challenge of these times is how to get through them without succumbing to despair. For me, the pain consists of seeing what is happening and realising that the vast majority of our fellow human beings, although they know that we are living in a troubled world, are oblivious to what is really going on. And what I think is really going on, to borrow the title of a book by Bernard Lievegoed, is The Battle for the Soul. According to Lievegoed, because the human spirit is unassailable, the opposing powers therefore direct their efforts against the soul. The human soul is the real battlefield of the war between the powers of good and evil. What the Ahrimanic powers are attempting is to obscure the human soul or even to destroy it, so that the human ‘I’ is unable to gain experience through it.

Ahriman is also working very hard to ensure that we humans are unaware of the second coming of Christ, which according to Rudolf Steiner will not be a physical incarnation this time around. That was done once and for all 2000 years ago and will not be repeated. Steiner says that since about 1933, the Christ has been available to human beings in the etheric field and that more and more of us will be able to have the experience of an encounter with Christ. We know how Ahriman dealt with this threat in 1933, by bringing Hitler to power in Germany, thus creating more assaults on the human soul that diverted us from awareness of what was happening in the etheric realm. By keeping the eyes of most of humanity fixed firmly on the material world, and completely unaware of any other reality, Ahriman has kept knowledge of the second coming from our souls.

In 1916, Rudolf Steiner said that at the beginning of the 21st century, evil will appear in a form which at that time could not be described. His audience in 1916, even though they were enduring the horrors of the First World War, would not have been able to understand or take in a detailed description of the evils which we ourselves are having to live through at this time. As I mentioned during the Michaelmas address last September, the ecological crisis and the multiple other crises confronting humanity are at root just one crisis, that of our human consciousness. The state of the outer world is a direct reflection of the state of the human soul.

But before we sink into despair, let us remind ourselves of the larger context. The Earth is the location for human evolution, even though in our real natures, human beings are not earthly creatures, but are instead of spiritual and cosmic origin. The human body is a sheath, a container for soul and spirit. We had to sink into earth-bound materialism in order to understand what freedom means and to make a positive choice for freedom. But now, during this age of the Consciousness Soul, we are learning that lesson and are awakening in earthly existence to the full power of the ego, the ‘I’, and as a result we are gradually turning once again towards the cosmos.

We are at that stage now, with humankind once again on an upward journey towards our true nature. It is of course that upward trajectory which the Ahrimanic powers are seeking to divert, through various schemes to keep human beings fettered to the Earth and the prevailing materialist consciousness. Here I’d like to quote from a 1929 essay by Ita Wegman called ‘The Mystery of the Earth’, which also brings us back to Easter:

“The purpose of earthly evolution lies in this turning-back of man to the cosmos. Out of his own power the human being could never achieve this. For he could not have brought about a complete reversal in the direction which evolution took. So a cosmic impulse had to be inserted into the course of earthly and human evolution. This happened when a cosmic being, the sublime Sun Being Himself, the Christ, descended to the Earth and through His death on the cross united himself with everything terrestrial, thus transforming the Earth in its innermost essence.”

And this is a quotation from Rudolf Steiner’s Lecture VIII from The Principle of Spiritual Economy:

“… when the Mystery of Golgotha happened, human beings received the ability to muster from within the strength necessary to elevate themselves and lead themselves upward into the spiritual worlds. The Christ descended much deeper than had those previous leaders of the world and of mankind: not only did He bring heavenly forces into the earthly body, but also He spiritualized this earthly body in such a way that it now became possible for human beings to find the way back into the spiritual world with the help of these very forces.” ~Rudolf Steiner GA 109

So let us try to remember that we are now on the upward path back to realising our true nature as spiritual beings who are currently having human experiences within physical bodies, despite all that Ahriman can do to deceive us. Let us do our best to be alert and attentive to all the tricks, wiles and illusions being practised on us with the aim of diverting us from our path, because by observing and identifying what is really going on, we are doing as much as we can at this time to ensure that Ahriman fails in his attempts.

It is anthroposophy which can make us aware of these larger truths and provide us with the protection we need to come through this Battle for the Soul with our essential humanity still intact. I’d like to finish this address with a verse from Rudolf Steiner, which is almost like an answer to the question Eva Davies and I had asked ourselves about the role of anthroposophists at this time. It is called ‘To the Berlin Friends’ and he wrote it in November 1923 but every word of it could have been written to describe our situation today.

Mankind is now forgetful
Of the Divine inner realm,
But it is our will to bring it
Into the clear light of consciousness,
And then bear above rubble and ashes
The divine flames in the heart of man.
Lightning-bolts may therefore shatter
Our houses in the world of sense;
We are building houses of the soul
From what is iron-firm.

Light-weaving of knowledge.
And downfall of the outer
Shall become ascent
Of innermost soul-being.

Suffering draws near
From the powers of material force;
Hope rays forth its light,
Even when darkness surrounds us;
And it will one day
Well up in our memory,
When after the darkness
We can again live in the light.


Filed under Ahriman, Anthroposophy, Archbishop of Canterbury, Easter, Evil, Justin Welby

Being human is an Easter experience

Some months ago, I was asked by the committee of the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex to give an address on a theme of my choice at our Easter Festival, which was to be held at Emerson College on Easter Day, 12th April 2020. I was honoured and enthused by this request and decided to give a talk on the theme of ‘Anthroposophy as an Easter experience.’

The inspiration for this theme came from a remark by Rudolf Steiner during a lecture he gave on April 22nd 1924: “Anthroposophy in all its working, is an Easter experience, an experience of resurrection bound up with the experience of the grave.” Steiner was speaking in the context of the deliberate destruction by arson of the first Goetheanum on New Year’s Eve 1922, an event which he was able to relate to the similar destruction of the Temple at Ephesus in the year 356 BC by the arsonist Herostratus.

The Goetheanum had been intended as a modern mystery temple; its burning had been for Steiner a kind of crucifixion.  Steiner now called for a renewal of the Mysteries, saying that: “The Anthroposophical Society must consciously cultivate this renewal. The Society was, after all, witness to an event that, like the burning of the Temple at Ephesus, can be turned to good historical account. In both cases a grievous wrong was perpetrated. However, what is a terrible wrong on one level can turn out to be useful for human freedom on another level. Such harrowing events can indeed call forth a true step forward in human evolution.”

Steiner also recognised that the destiny of human beings is to achieve freedom, “which meant that the Mysteries’ powerful influence had to diminish and for a time leave human beings more or less to their own devices.”  This, of course, in the age of the Consciousness Soul, is where we are today, with many people pulled this way and that because they have no foundational philosophical base on which to gauge their response to world phenomena.

All of this was to have been the context for my talk, which cannot now take place owing to the Covid-19 pandemic which has closed down Emerson College and many of the other aspects of our normal, everyday life. I would also have talked about some of the anthroposophical enterprises which have experienced significant difficulties in recent times, particularly the Steiner schools. I had even found a quotation from Steiner, to the effect that whatever good intention we start off with, it is inevitable that the way of the world will eventually turn it into its opposite. It comes from Lecture 4 in the cycle ‘The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness’, given in Dornach on 6thOctober 1917:

“ ‘Surely’, people will say, ‘it must be a good thing to be more and more perfect?’ And ‘What better ideal can there be but to have a programme that will make us more and more perfect?’ But this is not in accord with the law of reality. It is right, and good, to be more and more perfect, or at least aim to be so, but when people are actually seeking to be perfect in a particular direction, this search for perfection will after a time change into what in reality is imperfection. A change occurs through which the desire for perfection becomes a weakness. Benevolence will after a time become prejudicial behaviour. And however good the right may be that you want to bring to realisation — it will turn into a wrong in the course of time. The reality is that there are no absolutes in this world. You work towards something that is good, and the way of the world will turn it into something bad. We therefore must seek ever-new ways, look for new forms over and over again. This is what really matters.”

But to have confined my remarks to the original theme of this talk would at the time of this pandemic have seemed not only beside the point but even frivolous, given the scale of what human beings are currently facing. It is not only anthroposophy which is having an Easter experience but humanity as a whole.

Each one of us is familiar in these apocalyptic times with what Steiner called ‘the experience of the grave’ . For many areas here in the UK, 2019 ended and 2020 continued with day after day of heavy rain and disastrous flooding. The rain never seemed to stop. On the other side of the world, Australia suffered huge bush fires which were then followed by floods. Climate change, which is affecting all parts of the world, is having a marked effect on weather patterns. Pollution is poisoning our land, seas and rivers and much of nature, including us. Migration and the associated resurgence of nationalism encouraged by populist politicians is undermining our sense of shared humanity and common goals. We know that the Sixth Great Extinction of species is underway, and this and so many other human-made problems are casting long shadows over all life on Earth. And just to add to the Biblical scenes of apocalypse, in Africa we are even seeing a vast plague of locusts, the worst there has been for nearly a century. Now the Covid-19 pandemic has joined these other phenomena to reinforce our sense of all-consuming crisis. For me this is epitomised by the “social distancing” that we are being exhorted to practise – literally to keep our distance one from another.

In Judith von Halle’s book Illness and Healing, she suggests that in this present age of the Consciousness Soul, many modern illnesses are in fact illnesses of the organism of humanity, ie the totality of all human beings. These illnesses arise from the collective effect of the actions, thoughts and feelings of each one of us and express themselves through human beings in the form of pandemics; but they also manifest in the Earth as extreme weather events, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and so on.

This will, no doubt, strike many people as just fanciful – but as Steiner observed in another context, “Present day materialism will find it very hard to admit that the spirit creates everything material. It is, however, the tragedy of materialism that it understands the nature of matter least of all…”

But could it be, as ‘Midnight Rambler’ recently suggested on this blog, that the current pandemic may have a potentially positive outcome? His view was that, if we can grasp it, this global event could be an example of metanoia – a John the Baptist moment for a re-evaluation of how we want to live and how we want society to function. He also said: “Is everyone noticing how Natura is breathing more easily now that the world is slowing down?”

Let us hope so – we should never waste a good crisis; and unlike the Member of Parliament I heard on the radio the other week, I do not want to “get back to normal as soon as possible” after this crisis is over; because if we do go straight back to how life was before, we will soon have to suffer even more pandemics, extreme weather events, societal breakdowns etc., until we finally learn the lesson.

The lesson we need to learn is actually quite a simple one: how can we meet real human needs and care for each other and all life on Earth through our work? If we are to experience the resurrection as well as the grave, it is human solidarity, which is love expressed in practical action, which will get us through this present crisis and take us on to a better future. We are seeing this now, in the countless deeds of selfless work on behalf of the sick by hospital and health workers; and we see it, too, in the myriad acts of kindness offered towards the elderly and vulnerable by their neighbours.

At my own local level here in Forest Row, I’m often reminded of these simple truths; at Tablehurst Farm, for example, where I work at the farm’s care home, a small residential home for three adults with learning disabilities. I’m reminded of this, too, by the farm’s work in producing biodynamic and organic food for local people while demonstrating strong community values. The farm has recently started home deliveries for the elderly and those who are self-isolating (a service which I’ve just taken advantage of, as my wife Sophia and I are recovering from symptoms of the virus and so unable to leave home). Will this epidemic help society to make these kinds of initiatives part of the new normal, so that we don’t have to go back to what we had before?

Even better, might this experience make it possible for us humans to realise we can change our habits and our expectations without too much pain? Could those of us in the West learn to do with less so that the rest of the world can have a little more?  Can we prolong this welcome mini-break that the Earth has had from our polluting activities? It’s been wonderful to see evidence of reduced air pollution across major cities and I’m sure we’re all enjoying the diminution in aircraft and traffic noise. Could this be maintained into the future? Probably not, unless we can persuade governments that we do not want to resume the relentless emphasis on economic growth, even though it’s obvious that this is the only way for us to achieve the reduction in carbon emissions necessary if the twin crises of climate change and species extinction are to be averted. If change is what we want, then we all need to let our politicians know it, loud and clear.

I’ve been veering towards the positive so far on what this pandemic might mean for us; but there is also a possibility that I am being naïve and that we are all being ‘played’ by forces that are very far from benign towards human beings. One of the many disturbing features of this crisis is the astonishing speed with which our civil liberties have been taken away from us. At Easter time, amid all the other restrictions being placed on us, it is very strange that Covid-19 is making it impossible for churches to be open and for services to be held; and therefore “where two or more are gathered together in my Name, there I am present among them” is also rendered impossible. Sophia, who is a French national, tells me that in France people are now only allowed out of their homes if they are on their own – and only for one hour at a time and they can only go one kilometre from their home. This pandemic has created the circumstances in which all the aspects of a totalitarian dictatorship can be justified by governments and accepted meekly by most of us, not only in France but also in the UK and across the world.

Who would wish to bring about such a situation? Anthroposophists will of course have a ready candidate in mind, the infinitely clever being whom Jesus Christ called the Ruler of this World and whom Steiner called Ahriman.  It would be very much in the interests of Ahriman, whose incarnation may be imminent, to close down Easter and to force every person on the planet to submit themselves to government diktat for reasons that are apparently benign and claimed to be for the greater good.

What can we do as a form of gentle resistance to this closing-down of Easter and normal life? This Good Friday morning Sophia and I lit a candle and read through the Gospel of John, from the account of the last supper in the Upper Room through to the events of the Crucifixion; this was an incredibly powerful and moving experience for both of us. We will continue to read the rest of the story in the coming days. Outside, the sun was shining, the plants are burgeoning and there was a very strong sense of the Christ-filled elementals celebrating in the garden.

If I could have given my talk at Emerson College on Easter Day, Sunday 12th April, I would have begun with the great Easter poem by the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser. This is Sonnet 68 from the ‘Amoretti’ sequence of 89 sonnets, first published in 1595, which Spenser wrote for his fiancée, Elizabeth Boyle. Now it seems an appropriate way to end this piece:

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,

Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:

And having harrow’d hell, didst bring away

Captivity thence captive, us to win:

This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,

And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,

Being with thy dear blood clean wash’d from sin,

May live for ever in felicity.

And that thy love we weighing worthily,

May likewise love thee for the same again:

And for thy sake, that all life dear didst buy,

With love may one another entertain.

So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,

Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.


Filed under Ahriman, Covid-19 pandemic, Easter

Rudolf Steiner on The Meaning of Easter

(…) “We keep Easter, the festival of Resurrection, but in our materialistic outlook we have long ago ceased caring whether or not we have a real understanding of the Resurrection. We set ourselves at enmity with the truth and we try to find all manner of ingenious ways of accepting the cosmic jest — for indeed it would be, or rather it is a jest that man should keep the festival of the Resurrection and at the same time put his whole faith in modern science which obviously can never make appeal to such a Resurrection. Materialism and the keeping of Easter — these are two things that cannot possibly belong together; they cannot possibly exist side by side. And the materialism of modern theology — that too is incompatible with the Easter festival. (…)

The only possible way in these days for man to unite a right feeling with Easter is for him to direct his thought in this connection to the world-catastrophe of his own time. For in very deed a world-catastrophe is upon us. I do not mean merely the catastrophe that happened in the recent years of the war, but I refer to that world-catastrophe which consists in the fact that men have lost all idea of the connection of the earthly with that which is beyond the earth. The time has come when man must realise with full and clear consciousness that super-sensible knowledge has now to arise out of the grave of the materialistic outlook. For together with super-sensible knowledge will arise the knowledge of Christ Jesus. In point of fact, man has no other symbol that fits the Easter festival than this — that mankind has brought upon itself the doom of being crucified upon the cross of its own materialism. But man must do something himself before there arises from the grave of human materialism all that can come from super-sensible knowledge.

The very striving after super-sensible knowledge is itself an Easter deed, it is something which gives man the right once more to keep Easter. Look up to the full moon and feel how the full moon is connected with man in its phenomena, and how the reflection of the sun is connected with the moon, and then meditate on the need today to go in search of a true self-knowledge which can show forth man as a reflection of the super-sensible. If man knows himself to be a reflection of the super-sensible, if he recognises how he is formed and constituted out of the super-sensible, then he will also find the way to come to the super-sensible. At bottom, it is arrogance and pride that find expression in the materialistic view of the world. It is human pride, manifesting in a strange way! Man does not want to be a reflection of the divine and spiritual, he wants to be merely the highest of the animals. There he is the highest. But the point is, among what sort of beings is he the highest? This pride leads man to recognise nothing beyond himself. If the natural scientific outlook on the world were to be true to itself, it would have the mission of impressing this fact again and again upon man: You are the highest of all the beings of which you can form an idea. The ultimate consequences of the point of view that sets out to be strictly scientific, are such as to make a man turn pale when they show him on what kind of moral groundwork they are based — all unconscious though he may be of it. The truth is, we are today living in a time when Christ Jesus is being crucified in a very special sense. He is being put to death in the field of knowledge. And until men come to see how the present way of knowledge, clinging as it does to the senses and to them alone, is nothing but a grave of knowledge out of which a resurrection must take place — until they see this, they will not be able to lift themselves up to experiences in thought and feeling that partake of a true Easter character.

This is the thought that we should carry in our hearts and minds today. We still have with us the tradition of an Easter festival that is supposed to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. The tradition we have, but the right to celebrate such a festival — that we have not, who live in present-day civilisation.

How can we acquire this right again? We must take the thought of Christ Jesus lying in the grave, of Christ Jesus Who at Easter time vanquishes the stone that has been rolled over His grave — we must take this thought and unite it with the other thought which I have indicated. For the soul of man should feel the purely external, mechanistic knowledge like a tombstone rolled upon him; and he must exert himself to overcome the pressure of this knowledge, he must find the possibility, not to make confession of his faith in the words: ‘Not I, but the fully developed animal in me,’ but to have the right to say: ‘Not I, but Christ in me.’ ”


This extract comes from the lecture given on April 2nd1920 in Dornach.

With thanks to James Stewart and the invaluable Rudolf Steiner Archive.



Filed under Easter

The Archbishop of Canterbury wants to sabotage Easter

My positive Easter mood, as conveyed in my last post, was quickly overshadowed by no less a person than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby.

Archbishop Justin was heard on the news programmes brightly announcing how, after more than a thousand years of Easter being a moveable feast, he had hopes of reaching agreement with the other churches to settle upon a fixed date for Easter. He said he would “love” to see Easter become a fixed date by the time he retires. But he added that it might take up to a decade for that to happen:

“I would expect between five and 10 years’ time – I wouldn’t expect it earlier than that not least because most people have probably printed their calendars for the next five years.”

Mr Welby said that he will consult with other authorities including Pope Francis and the Coptic Pope to negotiate a change to the date. It is very unlikely that any change will be made without the full assent of all those authorities.

Mr Welby did warn however that churches have been attempting since the tenth century to fix the date of the festival, which at the moment is set with reference to the moon and the sun. The legal foundation for changing the date of Easter has been in law since the Easter Act of 1928. But for it to be changed, churches need to assent to it — though the law allows the Government to simply decide to fix the date, authorities have deferred to churches since it was passed.

Since the fourth century, the date of Easter has fallen on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the spring equinox. That means that it can vary hugely from year-to-year. In 2017 for example, Easter Sunday will fall on April 16, and in 2018 it will be on April 1.

I wrote about this a year ago, in my post “Why Easter should remain a moveable feast” and there I set out details of some fascinating experiments done by the late Lili Kolisko, following indications given by Rudolf Steiner. These experiments demonstrate clearly that on the true date of Easter, there is an influx of cosmic energies of resurrection to the Earth. When worked with by priests and worshippers in Easter services, these energies have a hugely beneficial influence on all creation, whether the priests and congregations are aware of it or not. It will be yet another triumph for the oppositional forces if this energy is not used on the true Easter day.

Just before Easter, I decided to write to Justin Welby to ask him to re-consider. The reply I got from his correspondence secretary was very worrying:

“Dear Mr Smith – Archbishop Justin has now left London to spend Holy Week and Easter in Canterbury and so I have been asked to write thanking you for your message.  The proposal to fix the date of Easter was made by the Coptic Pope Tawadros II, after discussions with Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The proposal is at an early stage of discussion between the main Christian denominations.  The world-wide Anglican Communion is not leading on this but the Primates of the Communion, meeting in Canterbury recently, were supportive of the idea.”

How sad it is that these princes of the Christian church seem to have no knowledge of the true esoteric meaning and power of Easter. On March 25th, I sat with the farm team at Tablehurst Community Farm to listen to a reading of a passage from Emil Bock’s book, “The Three Years”, which described the real meaning of what was happening on that first Good Friday. It was a sobering thought to discover there was more true feeling and understanding of Easter in that simple gathering than exists among all the primates and popes of the Christian denominations.

Perhaps Archbishop Justin sees himself as a moderniser, in the mould of Tony Blair, bringing new thinking to fusty old institutions. But perhaps, also like Tony Blair, he hasn’t got the first idea of what it is he is tinkering with, and will bring disaster in his wake. Mr Welby would like to retire knowing that he has secured a fixed date for Easter – this would be his legacy. Instead, it will be another triumph for those who hate the spirit, if all the churches celebrate Easter on a day when none of the great Easter cosmic energies of resurrection is coming into the Earth. For anyone who cares about this, it’s time to start writing to these churchmen – we’ve got five years or so to get them to think again.


Filed under Archbishop of Canterbury, Easter, Justin Welby, Lili Kolisko, Rudolf Steiner

Thoughts on Easter

Tablehurst sheep and lamb

Proud mother and 10-minute old lamb at Tablehurst Community Farm


After a hectic but very enjoyable Lambing Day on March 19th, with hundreds of visitors at Tablehurst Farm, we went in the evening to Lewes, the county town of East Sussex, for an inspiring performance of Bach’s St John Passion. To go from little lambs to the Lamb of God is a wonderful way to get into the Easter mood; and it also got me reflecting on Easter as the festival of death and resurrection, the death of Jesus Christ and his subsequent rebirth into a new life.

When I was a child and indeed for many years afterwards, I could never understand what was meant when teachers and priests said things like “Christ died to save our sins” and “Christ died that we may live”. And actually, I’m not sure that those teachers and priests knew what they meant, either. How could someone dying a horrible death 2000 years ago have had any practical effect on our lives today? And how did that death redeem my small sins or help me to live? There is a mystery here and I didn’t receive any explanation that made sense to me while I was growing up.

As I got older and particularly as I began to enquire more widely into esoteric matters, I started to get a glimmer of understanding into these questions. Rudolf Steiner’s works have been particularly helpful in this respect.

From his youth, Steiner possessed complete clairvoyance so that the spiritual worlds were as open to him as the material world is to us. Having developed this power of exploring higher worlds he set about his investigations and was able to research back to the dim past of human and planetary evolution. To his astonishment, he discovered that the descent of the Christ into physical existence was the absolutely central event of evolution, what he sometimes called “the turning point of time”. Of this period in his life Steiner writes in his autobiography: “I stood before the Mystery of Golgotha in a most profound inward festival of knowledge” and it is a fact that from about 1910 onwards Steiner’s entire teaching is Christo-centric.

Naturally this teaching does not always conform to church dogma, for Steiner’s spiritual research enabled him to arrive at esoteric truths and then express them without the need to pay lip service to what was taught by the churches. Some of you may remember David Jenkins, who was Bishop of Durham from 1984 to 1994. He enraged newspapers like the Daily Mail and the more thick-headed rent-a-quote type of MP by saying that the resurrection was not of a physical body, an idea which he described as “conjuring tricks with bones.” The poor bishop was trying to give out information from esoteric Christianity rather than the fairy story that the Church hitherto had thought was all we could understand – but clearly there were still some people who didn’t want to take off their baby shoes.

It’s also disappointing to have to spell out the following but if I don’t do so, there are people who will try to drive sectarian wedges between Steiner and others. So let it be understood that behind everything Steiner says is the concept that life is a divine oneness and that humankind is one great family. The Christ impulse illumines every race, creed and nation, and there is nothing sectarian about it – Truth and Love are there for every human being, of whatever race and whether atheist or believer.

Esoteric Christianity sees the man Jesus as the human vehicle for the cosmic being of the Christ. What do we mean by the Christ and why did this cosmic being need a human vehicle? The name “Christ” comes from the Greek “Christos” and it refers to an exalted being of the spiritual Sun. We need to re-think materialistic science’s view that the celestial bodies are just balls of gas or types of nuclear reactor in the skies – the solar system as seen with Steiner’s spiritual knowledge is a huge living organism filled with living thought. Here we have to try to encompass the concept of a solar system filled with spirit and being. This is not the time to go into Steiner’s picture of the evolution of the solar system and the way in which the celestial bodies became related to each other but those who are interested can read more in Steiner’s book, An Outline of Esoteric Science. If we can nevertheless hold on to this picture of the celestial bodies as spheres of activity for spiritual beings, then we might also see that evolution has both a spiritual and a physical aspect.

Steiner says that the overlighting of Jesus of Nazareth by the Cosmic Christ took place at the time when the 30-year old Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. This was when the Christ incarnated into the body of Jesus. In the Gospel of St Matthew we read: “and lo, the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him.” For three years after the Baptism, the Christ lived in this body of Jesus until his death on the cross.

Turning now to Steiner’s comments on Easter, he says here something about the true significance of the Festival for us:

“When a mighty individuality like that of the Christ Jesus comes to the aid of entire humanity, it is his sacrifice in death which permeates the karma of mankind. He helped to carry the karma of the whole of humanity, and we may be quite sure that redemption through Christ Jesus was absorbed and assimilated by the totality of human karma.”

An amazing thought, and one which to me helps to make sense of the saying that Christ died to save us from our sins. What Steiner is conveying here is that when Christ died on the cross he took on a huge part of the karma of humanity, which had it not been redeemed in this way, would have led us into more and more darkness and materiality. Instead, Christ’s deed began the slow but sure upward ascent away from materialism in which we are now engaged. Now, this materialism still has a long way to run, apparently for another 2,500 years or so, and indeed it has not yet reached the peak of its intensity – but we are all now on an upward path.

Unusual and startling as some may find Steiner’s insights, personally I find them very helpful in understanding the true meaning of Easter. Steiner goes on to talk about the enormous significance of Easter for human evolution:

“Christ Jesus experiences death, as commemorated by Good Friday. He remains in the grave for the period of three days, this representing His coalescence with earthly existence. This period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is celebrated in Christendom as a festival of mourning. Finally, Easter Sunday is the day on which the central being of Christianity arises from the grave. It is the memorial day of this event. That is the essential substance of Easter: the death, the interval in the grave, and the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.”

“The essential point is that in the thirtieth year of His life… the primal Being of the Sun, the Christ Himself…took up His abode in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. That is what underlies the Mystery of Golgotha as the primal fruit of the whole life of the Earth.”

“It is, however, characteristic of the modern evolution of Christianity that the thought of Good Friday (i.e. the Crucifixion)…has come ever more to the fore, and the thought of the Resurrection — the true Easter thought — has gradually retired. Thoughts on Easter must point especially to a time in which man must experience the resurrection of his being through the Spirit. We have need of Easter thoughts, and of a full understanding of such thoughts…It is the Christ we have need of, however, the Christ Whom we can seek in our own inner beings, and Who at once appears when we do seek Him…We have need of the vivid consciousness of the eternity of the Spirit.”

Notice there that Steiner has said that the true thought of Easter is Resurrection and not the concentration on the Crucifixion. In other words, the more important aspect of Easter is not death and mourning but the possibility of new life and the return of awareness of the spirit to human consciousness. He says:

“We will never be able to grasp the true thought of Easter unless we realise that in speaking of the Christ we must look upwards from what is merely earthly to what is cosmic….Christ came down among men in order to unite the souls of men with the Cosmic Spirit. Only a true expounder of the Gospel of Christ points out that what we see in the physical sun is the outward expression of the Spirit of our universe — the resurrecting Spirit of our universe.”

And in fact Steiner gives us the most tremendous thought, one which I find changes my conception of what it is to walk this Earth. He says that since Christ’s descent into hell and resurrection, Christ has lived in the etheric body of the Earth and can be experienced by those who have developed the necessary supersensible perception. Steiner says that there will be no Second Coming of Christ in a physical body. There is no need for the Christ to incarnate again and live through a physical body and so pass through death. That was done once and for all and will not be repeated.

So if the Christ really is in the etheric body of the Earth, what does that mean for us? Well, it certainly can make a difference to how you walk on the earth itself. If the Christ is there, then you are literally treading on holy ground every time you take a step, wherever you may be. And if He is indeed present invisibly throughout the whole etheric field of the Earth, then He is truly within the etheric body of every form, every tree and plant, every animal. Christ came for the benefit of all creation, not just human beings. But with our normal intellectual processes we cannot consciously experience this. If we can raise our thinking and awareness, however, there we shall find Him.

Now, here’s another thought – what would it mean for the world if instead of dashing about heedlessly, we walked with the awareness that we are treading on the etheric body of Christ, and that by doing this with loving consciousness, we are helping to release the spiritual substance locked up in matter and thereby transforming it – what might that do to the world? What might that do to our selves?

Happy Easter!

Easter languages


Filed under Anthroposophy, Cosmic Christ, Easter, Jesus Christ, Rudolf Steiner