Category Archives: Spiritual Science

Under the Gaze of Uriel

 The following is the text of an address given as part of the Midsummer Festival organised by the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex, held on Sunday 23rd June 2019 at Emerson College.

 We are now at the Summer Solstice and the St John’s Festival, that time of the year when in the Northern Hemisphere we have our longest day and shortest night. Rudolf Steiner, in a lecture given on 12thOctober 1923, said that the great archangel most associated with this time of year is Uriel: and that Uriel directs his countenance and clear piercing gaze down towards the Earth and perceives disturbing shapes which continually gather and dissolve, gather and dissolve again. These shapes, Steiner says, are “human errors upon which Uriel directs his earnest gaze. Here during the height of summer, the imperfections of mankind are searchingly surveyed and contrasted with the morality implicit in the natural world. Now we see how at midsummer human errors are woven into the regular crystals which are formed in the normal course of Nature. On the other hand, all that is human virtue and human excellence rises up with silver-gleaming lines and is seen as the clouds that envelop Uriel”.

Uriel via wikimedia

Uriel directing his gaze at human errors. (Photo via Wikimedia)

So Midsummer is a time when, under the gaze of Uriel, the spiritual world looks with especial closeness at our human actions and motivations. This is a good time of year for us to do the same and look closely at what we humans are doing in the world.

Almost 60 years ago, someone who was inspired by anthroposophy wrote a book which woke up the world to the dangers of the unregulated use of pesticides. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which was published in 1962. Her book has been rightly acknowledged as one of the all-time great pieces of science writing, detailing the scale of the damage being done by human-applied chemicals to the environment and all its denizens.  It had a huge impact and led to awareness and legislation at least in part controlling the damage caused by pesticides such as DDT.

Rachel Carson photo via BBC

Rachel Carson (photo via BBC)

In a letter written in 1958 to a friend, soon after she began the research that would lead to her book, Rachel Carson spoke about how difficult it had been for her to believe what was happening. She said:

“Some of the thoughts that came were so unattractive to me that I rejected them completely,  for the old ideas die hard, especially when they are emotionally as well as intellectually dear to one…that the stream of life would flow on through time in whatever course that God had appointed for it …And to suppose that, however the physical environment might mould Life, that Life could never assume the power to change drastically – or even destroy – the physical world. These beliefs have almost been part of me for as long as I have thought about such things. To have them even vaguely threatened was so shocking that, as I have said, I shut my mind – refused to acknowledge what I couldn’t help seeing.”

Today, sixty years on, we are witnessing even greater threats to the web of life on Earth and it is perhaps even more difficult for us than it was for Carson to acknowledge and take on board the scale of the challenges now facing all of life. This is the first time in our history, for example, that through the activities of humankind, the entire global climate is shifting to what may be our permanent disadvantage; and we are also in the middle of what scientists are calling the Sixth Great Extinction of species, again caused by our activities.

But if that isn’t enough, there are still other challenges coming up fast to confront us. It was last year, just shortly after Midsummer, that during the annual conference of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, we were shocked by the message that Nicanor Perlas brought about the threats posed by the advent of artificial intelligence. Nicanor has written a book about this, which no doubt many of you will have read, and it has a stark and scary title. His book is called Humanity’s Last Stand and in it he estimates that humanity has about 20 years to find ways in which artificial super intelligence, (ASI) can be aligned with human values; if we are not able to do this, we are likely to be totally overwhelmed by materialistic technology. If Uriel is casting his gaze on the leading advocates for ASI, he will be observing people who believe that humans are nothing more than complex biological machines.

Perlas via Right Livelihood Award

Nicanor Perlas (photo via Right Livelihood Award)

If you believe human beings are nothing more than complex biological machines, then you open up your fellow humans to some disturbing outcomes; we can see, for example what is happening in China right now, where with the power of AI the governing Communist Party is developing extensive new tools for a comprehensive method of political and social control. They have given this a harmless sounding name – they are calling it “social credit.” But what it means is a total surveillance society, in which nothing you can do is hidden from the authorities. If the Chinese state gives you a poor social credit score, then your life becomes very severely constrained. You may be prevented from graduating, or travelling on some train lines, or buying an airline ticket, or buying a property, taking out a loan or even filling your car with fuel.

Now of course, no Western government would dare go so far as they are going in China, though no doubt some of them would like to. The irony of this is that the Chinese social-credit system is based explicitly on a familiar, Western model: the credit score, which we all know about. Data brokers trace the timely manner in which we pay our debts, giving us a score that’s used by lenders and mortgage providers. We also have social-style scores, and anyone who has shopped online with eBay has a rating on shipping times and communication, while Uber drivers and passengers both rate each other; if your score falls too far, you’re out of luck.

The Chinese genius, if you can call it that, was to take credit scoring as a tool of social discipline to its logical conclusion. They have extended their control across the entire range of interactions any member of modern society is more or less compelled to pursue by the very style and structure of contemporary life.

But of course there are many other phenomena of our time that are truly disturbing; there are so many shapes of human error for Uriel to gaze upon – but this evening I would like to focus on just one of them, which is the move to merge humankind with machines and technology.

Rudolf Steiner, of course, foresaw all of this, as far back as 1910. This is what he said in Lecture 12 of the series ‘The Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric’:

(…) “the will is there to harness human energy to mechanical energy. These things should not be treated by fighting against them. That is a completely false view. These things will not fail to appear; they will come. What we are concerned with is whether, in the course of world history, they are entrusted to people who are familiar in a selfless way with the great aims of earthly evolution and who structure these things for the health of human beings or whether they are enacted by groups of human beings who exploit these things in an egotistical or in a group-egotistical sense. That is what matters. It is not a question of the what in this case; the what is sure to come. It is a question of the how, how one tackles these situations. The what lies simply in the meaning of earthly evolution. The welding together of the human nature with the mechanical nature will be a problem of great significance for the remainder of earthly evolution”.

That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? “The welding together of the human nature with the mechanical nature will be a problem of great significance for the remainder of earthly evolution”. And in our time it’s being led not by people who structure these things for the health of human beings but by those whom Steiner describes as exploiting these things in an egotistical or group-egotistical sense.

How are they doing this? It is being presented to us not as a threat to our essential humanity but as a kind of species transformation through medical science and technology. The promise is that we will become new kinds of human beings as our bodies, minds and relationships with the environment and with mechanical devices become altered in fundamental ways.

The prediction by futurologists such as Google’s Ray Kurzweil is that we human beings will become more god-like as we become more machine-like and as machines develop more god-like powers. Kurzweil says that we humans are nothing special in the animal kingdom: we have no immortal soul, there is no essential human self and our thoughts and emotions are the product of electrochemical impulses which can in the future be modelled by algorithms. Our future lies in the hands of technical experts – in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cognitive and computer science. New tools will become parts of our bodies. We will have bionic hands, feet and eyes, while nanorobots will move through our bloodstream looking out for disease and repairing the damage of age and injury. We shall have wearable and implanted devices to expand our senses and alter our moods, while biological tools will enter our cells, remodel our genes and give us new and better flesh, blood and neurons. Does that sound wonderful to you, or terrifying?

Kurzweil via Wikipedia

Ray Kurzweil (photo via Wikipedia)

Another futurologist, Yuval Noah Harari, says it is a fact that the “last days of Homo sapiens are fast approaching, and that our species will be replaced “by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds”. Ordinary human beings will become surplus to requirements, as wars will be waged by drones and work will be done by robots: “Some economists predict that sooner or later, unenhanced humans will be completely useless”. Algorithms embedded in silicon and metal will replace algorithms embedded in flesh, which as Harari points out, is what biology and computer science tells us is all we really are anyway. Things have apparently gone so far that some in Silicon Valley already refer to human beings as ‘meat puppets’.

But things are going still further: Harari says that human beings will cease to be free agents, that their autonomy will be taken over by algorithms – written at first by human beings but ultimately by algorithm-writing machines. As this happens, liberal society will disintegrate as we will no longer be able to sustain belief in the uniqueness of the free human being as the basis of liberal social order. He says that: “We – or our heirs – will probably require a brand-new package of religious beliefs and political institutions.”

harari via wikipedia

Yuval Noah Harari (photo via Wikipedia)

This new religion will be called Dataism. It will be accompanied by the dissolution of the boundaries between humans, animals, machines and social systems, all of which will be seen as algorithmic information processing systems. The concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ will be replaced by the primacy of the free flow of information. The “cosmic data-processing system” will be what God once was: “It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.”

Rudolf Steiner has told us what is the true challenge of our age: he says “it is humanity’s task in this period to come to grips with evil as an impulse in the evolution of the world”. The task for the fifth post-Atlantean period, he says, is a particularly difficult one:

“As you see, a great many temptations face humanity. When the powers of evil gradually appear, it is natural that man is more likely under the circumstances to give in to this evil in all realms, rather than taking up the struggle to allow what appears to him as evil to be put in the service of the good in world evolution. Yet this must happen: the evil must to a certain degree be placed at the service of the good in world evolution”.

And it does seem as though we are indeed at a new point in world and human evolution. In this connection I remember a quotation from the late visionary poet and playwright Christopher Fry, who in his play, A Sleep of Prisoners, has one of the characters say the following:

The human heart can go the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this is no winter now.
The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move.
The thunder is the thunder of the floes, the thaw, the flood,
the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now, when wrong comes up,
to face us everywhere
Never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul
men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size,

The enterprise is exploration unto God.

So that is what we are about in this age – we have chosen to be here at this time when human beings are making a massive evolutionary shift. This is a terrifying but also really exciting time to be here on Earth; and adopting a Luddite approach to emerging technology is not the required response. Steiner tells us:

“It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves from Ahriman by cutting ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy for this is not to let the forces of the modern soul weaken and cut themselves off from modern life, but to make the forces of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life. A courageous approach to modern life is necessitated by world karma, and that is why true spiritual science possesses the characteristic of requiring an effort of the soul, a really hard effort”.

Alongside courage and hard effort, we also need hope, what Steiner in one of his verses refers to as “all-sustaining hope”. So here are a few reasons why, despite everything, I’m still hopeful and optimistic.

On a personal level, I’m encouraged by listening to the speakers who come here to give talks at Emerson; we have had some wonderful speakers who are alerting us to what is going on in the world and who are giving us real pointers to the future. I was particularly impressed recently by a representative of the Youth Section from Dornach, and the work that that Section is doing on a research project into young people’s attitudes towards spirituality across 23 different countries. I’m also blessed to work on these Emerson talks with some fine young colleagues. And in Liz Attwell’s inspirational talk 2 weeks ago, we heard of her intuition that it is the young people of today who are birthing a new Christ impulse. She also said that many of the dark things we are experiencing are just the inevitable flotsam and jetsam thrown up by this new impulse – and I’m sure she’s right.

Because of all this and so much more I am conscious of how lucky we are to live here and to know that Emerson College, Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch farms, Michael Hall School, Peredur, Tobias and Nutley Hall are all here. We live in an island of sanity amongst the surrounding seas of illusion and although we have some adjustments to make so that we can look the modern world square in the face (what is happening to the Waldorf schools is a case in point here), we are nevertheless strong and resolute.

And beyond our locality, I see all sorts of hopeful developments happening. Just this week, for example, we heard that an American billionaire has given £150 million to the University of Oxford to fund a new centre to look into the ethics of artificial intelligence. His name is Stephen Schwarzman and he said: “I think the scientists agree that they want AI introduced in an ethical way, because they don’t want to experience the downsides. I think this is one of the major issues of our age, because AI is going to come, it’s really unstoppable. It’s not just AI, it’s robotics and all other kinds of computer science innovations”. That echoes what Steiner said back in 1910. And on 12th June the UK government committed us to zero net emissions by 2050, which is definite progress – and there are now 18 out of 28 EU countries which have also pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2050.

I am also amused by and take pity on the idiocies of our atheistic futurologists.  Ray Kurzweil, for example, that incredibly clever man and chief futurologist of Google, is also, rather endearingly, an idiot. He believes in cryonics, which for those of you who don’t know about it, is a technique of freezing dead bodies in the hope that science in the future may find a way to bring the corpses back to life. Ray Kurzweil has booked himself a place for when he dies with a leading American cryonics company, which charges $200,000 to deep-freeze a full body or, if you’re a cheapskate, $80,000 for just a head. The process involves getting to the patient as soon as possible after clinical death has been pronounced and then cooling the body over the next few days to bring it down to -196C using nitrogen gas. Your corpse is then placed in a shiny steel capsule with a bullet-proof viewing window and stays there until the day when science has sufficiently advanced to bring you back to life. I am not making this up – this is genuinely what cryonics is about; and Ray Kurzweil has signed up for this. The poor man doesn’t realise that he is already immortal! If he’d just read Steiner and informed himself about what a human being really is, he could have saved himself $200,000!

I comfort myself with the thought that in the final analysis, Ahriman and his minions will always lose. They always lose because they lack the capacity to love or understand those who can love. Nicanor Perlas in his book repeats a story that Bernard Lievegoed says was given by Steiner in a letter to a widow. In this letter, Steiner says he saw the image of Ahriman sitting in a cave under the earth. He works. He writes things down, counting and counting, calculating and calculating. He tries to build up a whole world out of a new mathematics (and of course AI algorithms are part of the new mathematics). There, Steiner says, Michael stands beside him waiting. For Michael knows that he will make the final addition. Michael with his sword, will make the sum. The moment has not yet come. Michael is waiting, standing by the side, waiting. He can do this when people on earth are there fighting and going with him. With Uriel, we weigh up and understand; with Michael, we act without fear on the basis of that understanding. And that is the really important point – in this present age of the consciousness soul, Michael can only act if we help him to do it. But if we do, he will in turn help us to find much more positive outcomes from the extreme technologies that are threatening our existence today. So it really is up to all of us to play our part in this huge battle.

And finally, I would like to leave you with this verse of Steiner’s:

“We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror of what comes towards Man out of the future. We must acquire serenity in all feelings and sensations about the future.

We must look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may come. And we must think only that whatever comes is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.

It is part of what we must learn in this age, namely, to live out of pure trust, without any security in existence – trust in the ever-present help of the spiritual world.

Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us. And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves Every morning and every evening”.

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Filed under Ahriman, Artificial Intelligence, Cryonics, Evil, Futurology, Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Science, Uriel

An open letter to Frank Thomas Smith

Dear Frank,

You have asked for comments on your “Apologia” for publishing your translations of the lessons of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science and making them available for anyone to read in your Southern Cross Review.

When you first began publishing your translations, I wrote to say that I did not on the whole agree with what you were doing and now that you have completed this very long task, which must have been a labour of love on your part, I would like to add a few more thoughts.

I will refer here to what Steiner himself wrote about the First Class for people who were not members of the School of Spiritual Science. These comments were set out in various letters published between January and June 1924 and originally printed in the News Sheet issued by the Goetheanum. Steiner had very clear guidelines for both how the content of the lessons should be received and also for what was expected of people who wanted to become members of the School. I would like to look at these indications of Steiner’s, to see which of them might still apply today.

We could start by looking at what Steiner said were his intentions for the School:

“…what we need is the place which gives what is given nowhere else: namely, that which can guide man into the spiritual world. And that is intended to be the content, in the strictest sense of the word, of the School of Spiritual Science.” (Lecture at Dornach, 18th January 1924)

Steiner also gave an outline of the nature of the classes:

“… the aim is to give insight into the experience of the ‘threshold’ between the sensory and supersensible world. For those who really seek knowledge of the human being it is necessary to understand how everything that ‘nature’ reveals in the way of beauty, grandeur and nobility cannot lead to the human being. The inner human being, working in the external world, does not have his source in the natural but in the spiritual world. But into the latter the senses and the brain-bound intellect cannot penetrate. These inevitably cease their activity where the human being seeks to engage with the world of his origin. But where this activity ceases the human being initially finds himself incapable of perceiving anything. He gazes into his surroundings and, as though it were ‘nothing’, the darkness appears to him that is present due to this incapacity. This incapacity can only give way to spirit-beholding capacities as the human being becomes aware of higher forces within himself which form the ‘spiritual senses’ in the same way that the physical forces of the organism form the body’s senses. This depends on a complete transformation of the inner life from one form of existence to the other. In this transformation, a person must not lose the one form of existence before he acquires the other. A proper process of transformation results from the right mode of experience at the ‘threshold’. Knowledge of the human being in his true essence is only possible from a perspective beyond the threshold. Someone who wishes to absorb with healthy human reason the communications of a seer that come from the realm beyond the threshold must also have a picture of what the seer experienced at the threshold. He only becomes able to properly judge the supersensible realm when he is also aware of the conditions under which knowledge of this supersensible realm is gained.

One will only be able to give content to the words with which the results of supersensible vision are expressed when one understands what the seer underwent before he acquired the power to form such words. If one does not understand this, it appears as if the words do not signify supersensible but sensory things – and this leads to confusion. The words become deceptive, and instead of knowledge, illusion arises.” (GA260a)

Was Steiner trying to keep these things secret?  Definitely not; he said that the Anthroposophical Society is “an absolutely public Society like any other Society…not in the least hedged-in from the outer world…we must not be in the least bit narrow-minded when it comes to the admission of members.” When speaking about the relation of the individual member to the Society, he emphasised: “What we may call the teaching and spiritual impulses of this Society can be understood by every one if only he will use his everyday human intelligence…you do not need any kind of initiation or the like.”

But Steiner also said that most people “do not like to admit that the spiritual can be clearly seen and understood. Most people have not the necessary courage. They find it comforting to say: ‘The spiritual world is that which a man divines but cannot understand – it is the great secret.’ Now spiritual science always consists in the unveiling of this secret – so that the secret is made manifest before the world.” (30th January 1924)

So from the foregoing, it is clear that Steiner did not wish to prevent anyone from knowing about, or finding access to the spiritual world – quite the contrary. This would seem to accord, Frank, with your desire for openness about the text of the Class lessons. But this does not mean that it was right for people to come to these lessons with no preparation.

On the contrary, he advised that only those people who had been members of the Anthroposophical Society for two years should apply to join the First Class:

“… for two years, one should endeavour to find one’s bearings in all that the Anthroposophical Society already contains…Whoever has not been in the Society for two years will not be well advised to enter a Class at once.”

Steiner’s reasons for saying this seem to have had at least some of their foundations in what he perceived as the necessity for community: “…you must go into the Society, or into its several groups, not merely in order to learn what is there said or even debated, but simply because the human beings are there. You must be able to go there for the sake of human beings…The human being needs the human being.” (ibid)

As far as applicants for Class membership were concerned, Steiner addressed those who were involved with what he called ‘playing at esotericism’ and the creation of cliques: “You find it too difficult to get to grips with the esoteric content of life itself; you find it comfortable to talk about the esoteric. When esotericism passes from mouth to mouth, no matter with what unction, then it is idle esoteric chatter…this among other things does untold harm… Therefore within the Classes, in future, the question of trust and confidence will have to be taken most earnestly. It will be quite invalid for people to say: ‘Having been in the Society for two years, I now have a claim to be received into a Class.’ “ (ibid)

If members of the General Anthroposophical Society (GAS) were inclined to cliquishness and esoteric chatter, then Steiner and the Society leadership reserved the right not to admit them to the Class: “Whoever wishes to gain entry merely for the sake of curiosity, or in the hope of hearing something different in the Classes than he can hear in the General Society, should therefore think again and rather decide not to seek entry…The point is that those who are in the Class should become the true representatives of the anthroposophical cause…The care of the anthroposophical cause will be in the hands of the School…the School of Spiritual Science must consist of those who feel themselves through and through as representatives of the anthroposophical cause.” (ibid)

Steiner felt that the GAS provided people with spiritual knowledge, and anyone could become a member of this without taking on further responsibilities. But he also felt that: “…we must have a group of people who penetrate through the exoteric to the esoteric, and this cannot be achieved unless one shoulders definite responsibilities. For if none could be found to take on these responsibilities, then…anthroposophy would not be able to exist…it will be essential that all members of the Class also state their complete willingness to cultivate anthroposophy in the world and to stand as its representatives.” (3rd February 1924)

So, Frank, it seems to me that by publishing on the internet the Class lessons, you have done several things which could be unhelpful:

  • You have short-circuited the two-year period of preparation that Steiner thought was necessary and which could be done by joining the Society
  • By putting them online, you have taken the Class lessons outside the context of human community which Steiner thought was essential
  • You have made the texts available to people who may not be ready for such esoteric concepts and thereby could be “put off”; and by so doing, have perhaps deprived them of an opportunity to benefit from these lessons within the proper and supportive context of a group.
  • You have given scoffers and opponents the chance to quote these lessons, which are bound to seem fantastic and absurd to those who have as yet no understanding of the spiritual world from which we all come
  • You have given opportunities, specifically warned against by Steiner, for spiritual tourists to engage in esoteric chatter without getting to grips with the esoteric content of life itself.
  • The lessons are steeped in esoteric knowledge and require much background preparation from the student. They are not to be read or talked about like stories from a newspaper, or thought about with our everyday kind of thinking. So these texts are not for intellectual or casual reading, but require a certain cast of mind, as well as preparation and commitment, before engaging with them.

Do you still feel that publishing the Class lessons was a good idea, Frank?

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, School of Spiritual Science, Spiritual Science

What is anthroposophy? (in no more than 250 words)

I’ve been asked to write a short introduction for newcomers on the theme of “What is anthroposophy?” for a website for the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex.  Having set myself a limit of no more than 250 words, I came up with the following 224 words:

What is anthroposophy?

Anthroposophy (meaning “wisdom of the human being” or “consciousness of one’s humanity”) was defined by its founder, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) as “a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.”

Steiner considered anthroposophy to be a science of the spirit, and a necessary complement to natural science. It deals with many large questions, such as: the purpose of life, the physical and non-physical aspects of the human constitution, the nature of divinity and the cosmos, and the understanding of those universal laws which govern life. Anthroposophy is a philosophy, not a religion, and people of all religions and none have found it useful in expanding their sense of what it means to be a human being.

Anthroposophy has been applied in many practical ways to great effect for the benefit of individuals and the community, including in agriculture (biodynamics), education (Steiner Waldorf schools), medicine and curative education, pharmacy, sociology, economics and diverse branches of the arts.

Freedom is at its core and Steiner was always insistent that anthroposophy must never force its existence upon people. It is instead something to be discovered by those individuals “who feel certain questions on the nature of human beings and the universe as an elemental need of life, just as one feels hunger and thirst.”

Writing a brief introduction to a subject as complex as anthroposophy wasn’t an easy exercise, by any means – so I’d be grateful for any comments, advice or alternative versions (preferably from people who are well disposed towards anthroposophy!).

 

 

 

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Why Easter should remain a moveable feast

As we all know, journalists have staple seasonal themes that they return to with slight variations year after year. Thus in the summer, they write about school exam results and how A levels are not as rigorous as they used to be; in the autumn, when the clocks go back, they call for the abandonment of British Summer Time and if that should disadvantage the Scots, it’s no more than they deserve for their nationalist importunings; and in Spring they ask why is Easter so early/so late this year and why can’t we just pluck a fixed date out of the air and settle on that?

These journalists usually manage to find some politicians and even church representatives to back up their call to settle on one date. Secularists have suggested that Easter should fall on the second Sunday of April each year. The World Council of Churches in 1997 suggested replacing the current equation-based system for calculating the date with direct astronomical observation.

For Easter is indeed a moveable feast. To state it as simply as possible, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox on 21st March. 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 (although as we will see later, the church authorities got the 1943 date wrong). The commonest date 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, skeptics and planners who would like to have fixed public holiday dates – but these 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.

Lili Kolisko

Lili Kolisko

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 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.

On the church authorities’ 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, six weeks later. 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. If any of you want to read more about this, there is a monograph by Lili Kolisko, called Spirit in Matter, available here.

And I’m tempted to quote one of Steiner’s remarks from his autobiography, that materialism “looks at matter but is unaware that it is really spirit that it is looking at, only it is appearing in material form.”

But I don’t expect that this will become a staple seasonal theme for journalists any time soon.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Lili Kolisko, Spiritual Science