Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Brexit, new wine and old bottles – what is really going on?

Since 23rd June, when a majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union, it has seemed as though the entire country is in a kind of prolonged post-referendum stew. Many of those who voted Remain are feeling angry – angry towards those who voted Leave, angry towards David Cameron for making such a thorough miscalculation of such an important issue for grubby short-term political ends, angry that a continent united peacefully after the Second World War now looks set to unravel, and angry about the possibility that the United Kingdom may cease to exist if the Scottish people (who voted to Remain) now vote for independence. London has been in a state of shock – how dare a few million provincials in a “foreign” country called England do this to them? There have been calls for a second referendum, with millions signing a petition to that effect, in a vain bid to persuade parliament somehow to overrule the referendum result.

As an anthroposophist, I know that being on the losing side can be painful. After all, as Hermann Poppelbaum once said, “If one is to pursue a life spent in the promotion of anthroposophy, it is necessary to develop an entirely new relationship to failure.” But even so, the reaction of those who were unhappy with the result of the British referendum has been extraordinary: there have been splits in settled communities and dissension between old and young, rich and poor, metropolitan types and country dwellers, and even within families. A friend spoke about a married couple she knows: the husband voted Leave, the wife voted Remain. After the result, they didn’t speak to one another for three days and things are still decidedly frosty between them.

My own family has not been immune from this. My French in-laws emailed to say in Asterix-speak: “Ils sonts fous, ces Anglais”, and made it politely but decidedly clear that in their view I was naïve, idealistic and quite mistaken in my reasons for voting Leave. My son expressed the same view, but in angrier, more indignant language and accused my generation of having betrayed younger people. Why it is seen as unworldly to have ideals while trying to take a view beyond the immediate, I’m not quite sure; but I try to reassure myself about these idealistic tendencies of mine with the following quotation from Rudolf Steiner’s Renewal of the Social Organism:

“It is too easy to dismiss as impractical idealism any attempt to proceed from bread-and-butter issues to ideas. People do not see how impractical their accustomed way of life is, how it is based on unviable thoughts. Such thoughts are deeply rooted within present-day social life. If we try to get at the root of the ‘social question’, we are bound to see that at present even the most material demands of life can be mastered only by proceeding to the thoughts that underlie the co-operation of people in a community.”

For it is clear from the referendum result that co-operation between the people in the various British communities is breaking down. To quote from an article by Brendan O’Neill in The Spectator:

 “The most striking thing about Britain’s break with the EU is this: it’s the poor wot done it. Council-estate dwellers, Sun readers, people who didn’t get good GCSE results (which is primarily an indicator of class, not stupidity): they rose up, they tramped to the polling station, and they said no to the EU.

It was like a second peasants’ revolt, though no pitchforks this time. The statistics are extraordinary. The well-to-do voted Remain, the down-at-heel demanded to Leave. The Brexiteer/Remainer divide splits almost perfectly, and beautifully, along class lines. Of local authorities that have a high number of manufacturing jobs, a whopping 86 per cent voted Leave. Of those bits of Britain with low manufacturing, only 42 per cent did so. Of local authorities with average house prices of less than £282,000, 79 per cent voted Leave; where house prices are above that figure, just 28 per cent did so. Of the 240 local authorities that have low education levels — i.e. more than a quarter of adults do not have five A to Cs at GCSE — 83 per cent voted Leave. Then there’s pay, the basic gauge of one’s place in the pecking order: 77 per cent of local authorities in which lots of people earn a low wage (of less than £23,000) voted Leave, compared with only 35 per cent of areas with decent pay packets.

It’s this stark: if you do physical labour, live in a modest home and have never darkened the door of a university, you’re far more likely to have said ‘screw you’ to the EU than the bloke in the leafier neighbouring borough who has a nicer existence. Of course there are discrepancies. The 16 local authorities in Scotland that have high manufacturing levels voted Remain rather than Leave. But for the most part, class was the deciding factor in the vote. This, for me, is the most breathtaking fact: of the 50 areas of Britain that have the highest number of people in social classes D and E — semi-skilled and unskilled workers and unemployed people — only three voted Remain. Three. That means 47 very poor areas, in unison, said no to the thing the establishment insisted they should say yes to.”

As for the mainstream political parties, they seem to have gone through a collective nervous breakdown. The Tories have demonstrated yet again their capacity for ruthlessness and backstabbing amongst colleagues; while Theresa May has outgamed them all and clawed and fought her way to the top of the greasy pole. One Tory MP was quoted as saying: “The thing about Theresa is that she knifes you in the front”. It seems this was meant as a compliment. The Labour Party is currently in meltdown, with the Parliamentary Labour Party divorced from its voters, its members and from its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is facing a leadership challenge from two former members of his shadow cabinet. The referendum has revealed just how incompatible the various sections of the Labour electorate have become and it is not inconceivable that the Labour Party will split into two or more new parties.

Many young people are upset about the result, despite the fact that according to Sky Data only 36 per cent of 18-24 year olds bothered to vote in the referendum, compared with 75 per cent of 45 year olds and 83 per cent of people over 65. This first became obvious when a young woman went viral on YouTube describing her bewilderment that her vote had actually had a real grown-up effect on the life of the nation. “I didn’t realise,” she kept saying, and, “I thought I might get another chance to vote again.” She is of course a product of the re-sit generation, which grew up facing only exams which could be re-taken until a favourable result was gained. So the attitude that a democratic vote can be taken again if you don’t like the result is not perhaps surprising; indeed, we saw the EU adopt that approach with the Nice Treaty and then again with the Lisbon Treaty when voters in Ireland did not vote in the approved way.

What most of these young people don’t seem to have realised is that reports of the enormity of the change that emerged on June 24th are misplaced. It may not be as seismic as people have assumed. The truth is that the world is controlled by the corporate sector, especially the banking sector, and will continue to be so whether the UK is part of the EU or not. It’s a strange paradox that all these radical young people who voted Remain were on the same side as the major neoliberal institutions – from the Bank of England, the Conservative government and the Corporation of London to the EBRD, OECD, World Bank and the US government.

It’s also worth noting that in this age of social media we are increasingly living in what has been called a “filter bubble”, in which our information sources are becoming ever more filtered and self-socialised, because we are only associating with people who live and think like us. Here’s what internet guru Tom Steinberg said about this on his Facebook page just after the result:

“I am actively searching through Facebook for people celebrating the Brexit leave victory, but the filter bubble is SO strong, and extends SO far into things like Facebook’s custom search that I can’t find anyone who is happy despite the fact that over half the country is clearly jubilant today and despite the fact that I’m *actively* looking to hear what they are saying.

This echo-chamber problem is now SO severe and SO chronic that I can only only beg any friends I have who actually work for Facebook and other major social media and technology to urgently tell their leaders that to not act on this problem now is tantamount to actively supporting and funding the tearing apart of the fabric of our societies. Just because they aren’t like anarchists or terrorists – they’re not doing the tearing apart on purpose – is no excuse – the effect is the same, we’re getting countries where one half just doesn’t know anything at all about the other.”

As I mentioned in my last post, I thought it was foolish of the EU to treat David Cameron’s call for meaningful reform with such contempt and to send him back to the UK with barely a fig leaf to cover his embarrassment. The EU is now reaping the consequences, and it is surely time, as Angela Merkel seems to have realised, to get shot of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission. Interestingly, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has come up with some useful suggestions for reform of the EU. He’d like to introduce some new rules: the EU would only act in areas where other member states could not. It would agree that any of its directives could be vetoed if a third of national parliaments rejected them. Such changes could have provided a blueprint for precisely the kind of far-reaching reform that Cameron was seeking and had promised to the British people. If he had got a deal like that, I might even have voted Remain myself, despite all my other concerns about the EU. Rutte’s overall point is that sovereignty – and democracy – matters. But this was not to be, and Cameron had to fall on his sword.

If, as the referendum result seems to show, a social and political cleavage is deepening in our country, what can be done? What is really going on? We are in truly turbulent times. Since the Brexit vote, we have had the publication of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War, the conclusions of which will surely mean that Tony Blair spends the remainder of his life fighting lawsuits from bereaved families as well as moves to impeach him from people such as Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party. Nor are these convulsions confined to the UK; in recent days, we have had the murder of more than eighty people in Nice by what is assumed to be an Islamist terrorist, an event which seems certain to strengthen the appeal to French voters of Marine Le Pen and her Front National party, who are also arguing for a Frexit referendum; we have had an attempted military coup in Turkey; and we have the prospect of Donald Trump in the USA presidency from November.

To turn from the ridiculous to the sublime, I have found this passage from a lecture that Steiner gave in November 1919 to be meaningful:

 “…Now we live in the age of the Michael Revelation. It exists like the other revelations. But it does not force itself upon the human being because man has entered his evolution of freedom. We must go out to meet the revelation of Michael, we must prepare ourselves so that he sends into us the strongest forces and we become conscious of the super-sensible in the immediate surroundings of the earth. Do not fail to recognise what this Michael revelation would signify for men of the present and the future if men were to approach it in freedom. Do not fail to recognise that men of today strive for a solution of the social question out of the remnants of ancient states of consciousness.

All the problems that could be solved out of the ancient states of human consciousness have been solved. The earth is on the descending stage of its evolution. The demands which arise today cannot be solved with the thinking of the past. They can only be solved by a mankind with a new soul constitution. It is our task so to direct our activity that it may assist the rise of this new soul constitution in mankind.”

What did Steiner mean by the Michael revelation? He was referring to the Archangel Michael, the Time Spirit for our age, and Steiner saw the Michael Impulse as the theme needed to transform modern human consciousness. Stated very simply, this Michael impulse is to help us all to receive the inflow of the spiritual world into our material, physical world.

I daresay that quite a few people will be scornful of moving from a sober discussion of the political and social realities around Brexit to mention of the non-material influences on these matters; but to my mind, at a time when all our established systems are breaking down, when our leaders are discredited and clearly at a loss as how to proceed, and all the hidden dark secrets of our society are coming to the light of day, it is impossible to understand what is going on without a larger view of human consciousness than is provided by the materialist outlook. Right now we are surely seeing some of the effects of the Michaelic impulse on our “ancient states of human consciousness”. As always, the poets and artists get there before us, and W B Yeats described what is now happening, in a poem written in 1919, the same year in which Steiner delivered the lecture quoted here.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.


Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.


The darkness drops again but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Steiner ended the lecture quoted above with this warning:

“Externally, humankind approaches today serious battles. In regard to these serious battles which are only at their beginning … and which will lead the old impulses of Earth evolution ad absurdum, there are no political, economical, or spiritual remedies to be taken from the pharmacy of past historical evolution. For from these past times come the elements of fermentation which first, have brought Europe to the brink of the abyss, which will array Asia and America against each other, and which are preparing a battle over the whole earth. This leading ad absurdum of human evolution can be counteracted alone by that which leads men on the path toward the spiritual: the Michael path which finds its continuation in the Christ Path.”

Jesus Christ put it this way: “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”

In the UK, Europe and America we are seeing that the politicians are unable to keep the old machinery working. They pull the old levers, more and more frantically, but the effect is less and less. We see the old social orders are breaking down, and new cultures are rising up. For some reason, the politicians and the media people are usually the last to realise what is going on, while everywhere around them people are starting to resist the old certainties and a tendency to disorder begins to emerge. Our western civilisation is changing in the age of the consciousness soul and under the influence of the Michael impulse; and a certain amount of chaos is inevitable as we move to a different kind of order. The new wine needs new bottles.



Filed under Anthroposophy, Brexit, European Union, Jesus Christ, 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