Tag Archives: Judith von Halle

Whitsun: the Festival for Our Time

Pentecost Acts 2-2-4 by Anthony Falbo (via Pixels)

I was born into a non-churchgoing family and while I was growing up did not pay much attention at school to the Religious Knowledge lessons; so by the time my formal education had finished, I had acquired only the haziest notion of the Christian festivals and their significance.

Since becoming profoundly inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner and learning of the absolute centrality Steiner gave to what he called the Mystery of Golgotha, I’ve regretted my lack of knowledge and have been trying ever since to catch up on the meaning of the various Christian terms that are used in his lectures. I’ve learnt, for example, that what Steiner meant by the Mystery of Golgotha was Christ’s crucifixion and death, his descent into the underworld (“the Harrowing of Hell”) and subsequent resurrection.

Rudolf Steiner in Europe in the early days of the 20thcentury was of course secure in assuming that the vast majority of the people listening to his lectures would have immediately understood terms such as ‘Resurrection’, ‘Ascension’, ‘Pentecost’ or ‘Whitsun’. I suppose there was a time up until the 1950s or ‘60s when most people in many parts of the world would have shared a common culture based on a knowledge of the Bible.

There were still remnants of this shared culture when I was growing up; but those days have now largely gone and today, to use a reference deriving from the Christian story will be to leave many of one’s audience in the dark about what is meant. Worse than this, some people will jump to the conclusion that, to use Christian terms of reference somehow belittles or marginalises people of other faiths, or those of no faith. But even if one is familiar with the Bible, the esoteric Christianity taught by Rudolf Steiner can come as both a shock and a revelation if you are new to it.

For these reasons, I am now approaching with some hesitation the task of making the case that the Christian festival of Whitsun is of huge relevance at this particular time for each one of us, whether we are Christians or not.  I did not previously have much awareness of Whitsun, certainly by comparison with Christmas or Easter. Yet I’ve discovered that Whitsun has a special relevance for us today because it is the Festival that celebrates the birth of the free human being as we attempt to overcome the desires of the lower self and surrender to the Higher Self. It has also become clear to me that there are fundamental connections between Christmas, Easter and Whitsun of which I was previously unaware.

Perhaps a good starting point for those who, like me, did not have a formal Christian upbringing and may be a little bit vague about the meaning of Ascension and Whitsun, would be to clarify some terms. Whitsun and Pentecost are two names for exactly the same Festival, which is the commemoration of the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ (‘Pentekostos’ is the Greek for 50). It was at Whitsun when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and they began speaking in tongues. Ten days before Whitsun (and forty days after the Resurrection and always on a Thursday) is the Feast of Ascension, which marks the day when the disciples witnessed the physical departure of Christ as he ascended into the presence of God in Heaven.

But what does this all mean, and why should it be highly relevant for every one of us today, irrespective of whether we have some religious belief or none?

To answer that, I have found it very helpful to refer to what Rudolf Steiner has said about the reasons for the incarnation of Christ the Sun Spirit within the human body of Jesus of Nazareth during the last three years of his life and why Steiner saw this as the most important event not only in human history but also in the evolution of life on Earth.

The Son-Aspect of God made the stupendous sacrifice of experiencing human death through crucifixion. A stupendous sacrifice, because according to Steiner, beings of the higher hierarchies have never experienced birth and death in their own worlds; in the divine worlds, there is no birth or death, only transformation or metamorphosis from one state of existence to another. Steiner has described in his lecture ‘The Etherisation of the Blood’ how Christ’s divine blood ran into the earth from the body on the Cross and in so doing transformed the whole etheric field of the Earth. The Resurrection occurred three days later, and has been commemorated by Christians on Easter Sunday ever since.

But I suspect that most Christians will find Steiner’s comments on aspects of the Resurrection to be astonishing and controversial. I personally find these comments deeply moving and they help me to understand part of what the Resurrection was really about. I can recommend here that one should read the lecture cycle ‘From Jesus to Christ’ and especially Lecture 6 for some truly mind-expanding concepts of the meaning of the Resurrection and in particular, the nature of the Resurrection Body. (As an aside, it is striking that in his 1924 lecture series on The Book of Revelation (not online but available from Rudolf Steiner Press), Rudolf Steiner says that the words of St John must be taken literally – and he explains in great detail how these are to be understood.) But of course, at our present stage of development, we can only understand a tiny part of the significance of the Resurrection for humankind, the Earth and the Cosmos. As St John put it in the last sentence of his Gospel, if all the deeds of Christ were to be written down, ‘I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.’

For six weeks after the Resurrection the Risen Christ showed himself to the disciples in the Resurrection Body, able to come and go and be in more than one place at a time. Then came the Ascension, when the disciples appeared to lose Christ as he was taken ‘up to heaven’.  According to Steiner, this is where the Christ moves into the realm of the etheric field and thus disappears from physical view; but from now on and into our own times, the Christ is everywhere and within the etheric body of every plant, tree, animal or human being. On Ascension Day, further conditions for Whitsun were created.

Why did the Christ need to incarnate in a physical body and then experience death? The form in which the physical forces of Christ appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection was not, according to Rudolf Steiner, a body of flesh and blood, but a spirit body perceptible to the eyes of the soul of the disciples and women who had been prepared to perceive it. This Resurrection body, which Steiner calls the ‘phantom’, was the archetype of the physical body existing in the external world, with all the attributes of the physical body. It was this phantom body or archetype of the physical human being which had been under systematic attack by the adversarial forces; by the time of Christ’s incarnation these forces had so advanced the hardening and condensing processes on Earth that it was becoming likely that human beings would have lost all touch with their spiritual origins.  Part of what the Deed of Christ brought about was to rescue the physical-etheric nature of human beings from the clutches of those beings who wished to destroy it. Steiner spoke more about this here.

So the Mystery of Golgotha was for all human beings and for all life on Earth, not just for Christians. Just as the physical sun shines on everyone on Earth, so has the Deed of Christ affected every single one of us ever since.  The irony of course is that in modern times, as Wikipedia’s article on the Ascension of Jesus puts it: “a literal reading of the ascension-stories has become problematic, due to the differences between the pre-scientific cosmology of the times of Jesus, and the scientific worldview that leaves no place for a Heaven above us.”

Despite this, let us press on to Whitsun, even though we may lose some scientists along the way. Ten days after the Ascension came the event of Pentecost at Whitsun, and the descent of the tongues of fire upon the heads of the disciples. Here the Holy Spirit came in the form of the Gifts of the Spirit on the first Pentecost. Before he was crucified, Christ had told the disciples: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”. John 14:16–18

That promise was fulfilled when Peter and members of the early Church were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”. Acts 2:1–4

Emil Nolde 1909 via MutualArt

Pentecost by Emil Nolde (1909) via MutualArt

The apostles were inspired to talk in tongues when the Holy Spirit descended on them as they prayed together. Upon hearing the unfamiliar language spoken, the gathered onlookers in Jerusalem believed them to be drunk. But, Peter explained, they were in fact inspired by the spirit. He then delivered the first Christian sermon, which led to the conversion and baptism of 3,000 people. It is this sermon that many believe was the birth of the Christian church as an official movement.

Whitsun is, in fact, the completion of Easter and the completion of Christ’s mission on Earth. At Whitsun the spirit of a community or of a humanity based on the will of free individuals prevails, rather than that of a group soul or a bloodline. For an understanding of the Whitsun event from an esoteric perspective, I can do no better than urge you to read Judith von Halle’s lecture, ‘The Whitsun event at the time of Christ’, which is to be found in her book And If He Has Not Been Raised…  Here are some quotations from that lecture:

“With the completion of Christ’s mission every human being was given the possibility of comprehending the Trinity without having to leave his body. The mission of Christ, the plan of the Gods, encompassed the festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun. On Christmas Day the body was prepared into which the Father God could send His Son. The power of the Father God is expressed in this event: Ex deo nascimur. Since then the human being can feel that he as well is born out of the immense Godhead and into his earthly body.

There then follows the Easter festival, in which the human being can know the Son of God while on Earth. The human being has to become aware that of course he inhabits a body but he is not just a body. The human being can understand that in death his soul can rise again in Christ: In Christo morimur.

Rudolf Steiner once said: ‘From the moment of this inner experience of Easter, if we now suffuse the spirit which has become centred within itself with meaning that is not from this world but from the spiritual world, we will experience Whitsun. It depends on this inner experience of Easter whether we experience Whitsun’. This is why Whitsun is firmly linked to the movable feast of Easter”.

Judith von Halle continues:

“The Father sends the Son to the Earth. The Son experiences earthly death, He penetrates the body of the Earth, and the Resurrection takes place. From now on, through the Holy Spirit, the human being is able to bring about the return to the Father. This is the basis for understanding karma. You can only understand the idea of karma when you have first come to an understanding of the idea of Whitsun, for Whitsun is not a ‘passive’ festival of grace like Easter, for which the human need do nothing, Whitsun is rather a festival where the human being is active. Here the human being can work positively on his karma if the Rosicrucian saying lives within him. He knows that he is at home in the spiritual world: Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus. Reviviscimus means, we will live again. The human being must take this step himself within evolution on the Earth: the fully conscious step of returning to the Father, developing himself through all his incarnations. The possibility of taking this step has been given to him by the Son of God (‘No one cometh to the Father, but by me’ – John 14:6). But it is up to the human being to carry it out.”

The Pentecost event at Whitsun gave us the possibility that the individual soul who is willing to ask for help out of his or her spiritual striving could be flooded with Christ Power. Each one of us has his or her Higher Self or spiritual principle, which is Christ-filled.  But it does require our individual effort.  Steiner puts it like this:

“…because this essence and meaning can be fully grasped by spiritual knowledge alone, not by material knowledge, it follows that the truth of the Whitsun festival can be grasped only when men realise that the sending of the Holy Spirit is the challenge to humanity more and more to achieve Spirit-knowledge, through which alone the Mystery of Golgotha can be understood”.

Steiner also said:

“Thus we now understand what the power of the Holy Spirit is: it is the power which will raise each man ever more and more above all that differentiates and separates him from others, and makes him a member of the whole of humanity on the earth, a power which works as a bond of soul between each and every soul, no matter in what bodies they may be”.

This is why Whitsun is the festival for our age, the epoch of the Cosmic Whitsuntide. It gives us the possibility for the community of the future, in which each one of us is able not only to move into full individual consciousness but also to develop a sense for universal brotherhood – but only if we can find it within ourselves to resist the dangers inherent in this emphasis on the individual – which are selfishness, egoism and materialism.

The Christ impulse pours in at this time but it needs the inner initiative of the individual soul to lift and open itself to that impulse. To end, here is another quotation from Judith von Halle:

“Whitsun is the birth of the conscious and free fourfold human being, is the birth of the free human being not only in the way it has given the fullness of grace of the Easter event to each human being, regardless of how he stands in relation to Christ, but is also the birth of the free human being in his astral body and in his individual self, in his soul and in his spirit.  Because every human being must and above all can create by himself this connection to Christ in his soul and in his self, it is also clear that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is not only intended for the disciples at the time of Christ, but can be for every person who is presently in the world.”

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Coronavirus: what is its significance for humanity at this time?

Since early January 2020, when news first broke of a strange respiratory disease connected with a wild animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has become clear that the world is facing the worst pandemic since the onset of Spanish flu at the end of the First World War. But unlike the situation in 1918, the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus is able to spread much faster around today’s hyper-mobile world, in which more than 12 million of us take commercial flights every day.

The virus seems to have its most damaging impact on people with poor health or compromised immune systems. Beside the lungs and respiratory tract, the virus can also affect the oesophagus, heart, kidneys, ileum and bladder. Coming to a diagnosis isn’t easy – the patient may have a cough or fever or be short of breath – but there are also many cases of asymptomatic infection, making an outbreak significantly harder to contain.  Some cases are so mild that they never reach the notice of medical professionals. But others as we know are much more serious: at the time of writing, the death toll worldwide is 4,970; while 126 countries are so far affected, with 134,511 recorded cases. The website Worldometers has a daily update of these totals.

Here in Britain, a leaked government memo seen by the Sun newspaper indicated that the government is planning for up to 80 per cent of the population becoming infected with the coronavirus in a worst-case scenario; and in the “reasonable worst case” would result in around half a million people in the UK dying from the disease. This does seem to me to be absurdly pessimistic; the Sars virus outbreak in 2002/3, which also emanated from China, led to predictions of an ultimate death toll in the UK very similar to that predicted now for Covid-19. In the end the total number of deaths was nil and the number of cases recorded only four.

The worst-affected EU country at the moment is Italy, which has 15,113 cases as of today’s date, resulting in 1,016 deaths. But nobody knows where all of this is going or how long it might last; perhaps the best one can do is to avoid the plethora of misinformation and disinformation on social media and just look only at reputable sources, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose website has detailed information about the various types of coronavirus.

The WHO describes coronaviruses as “zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.” Commenting on the widespread belief that Chinese traditional medicine may have caused the outbreak, Wuhan inhabitant Wang Xiuying wrote in the London Review of Books that traditional medicine in China holds that some animal parts have near-magical properties: “Pangolin scales are supposed to help new mothers produce milk; manta ray gills clear the lungs and cure chickenpox; the penises of pandas, tigers and bears can do the same trick as Viagra; a bit of monkey brain can make you smarter.”

And in a recent article in The Spectator, Matt Ridley spelt out a possible connection between the current coronavirus pandemic and bats:

“I’m no Nostradamus, but 20 years ago when I was commissioned to write a short book about disease in the new millennium, I predicted that if a new pandemic did happen it would be a virus, not a bacterium or animal parasite, and that we would catch it from a wild animal. ‘My money is on bats,’ I wrote. We now know that the natural host and reservoir of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, is a bat, and that the virus probably got into people via a live-animal market in Wuhan.

This is not the first disease bats have given us. Rabies possibly originated in bats. So did, and does, Ebola, outbreaks of which usually trace back to people coming into contact with bat roosts in caves, trees or buildings. Marburg virus, similar to Ebola, first killed people in Germany in 1967 and is now known to be a bat virus. Since 1994 Hendra virus has occasionally jumped from Australian fruit bats into horses and rarely people, with lethal effect. Since 1998 another fruit-bat virus, Nipah, has also infected and killed people mainly in India and Bangladesh. Sars, which originated in China in 2003, is derived from bats, though possibly via civet cats. So is Mers, a similar bat-borne coronavirus that’s killed hundreds of people and camels in the Middle East since 2012. (…) Probably, captured pangolins, on sale in the live-animal market in Wuhan and mainly imported from Malaysia, had somehow caught the virus from bats. Pangolins are globally endangered because of demand from China.”

I have seen three respectable clinical studies (here, here and here) which back up Matt Ridley’s assertion of a connection between Covid-19 and bats; and this reminded me of Rudolf Steiner’s comments on bats, given in Lecture 5 of the cycle “Man as Symphony of the Creative Word.”

Be that as it may, all that this tells us is the likely source of the infection rather than the more interesting question of why it has happened. Let us put aside the conspiracy theories such as those of Dr Francis Boyle, the man who was apparently responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-terrorism Act of 1989, the American-implementing legislation for the biological weapons convention, which was later adopted worldwide. Dr Boyle says that coronavirus is a weaponised biological warfare agent that came out of the BSL-3 biowarfare lab at the University of North Carolina. Read the whole article from Natural News in which Dr Boyle sets out his allegations and then draw your own conclusions. While I’m completely prepared to believe that the biowarfare lab at UNC is very far from Rudolf Steiner’s ideal of the “laboratory table as altar”, personally, I’m unconvinced by Dr Boyle’s assertions. It’s also worthwhile looking at the website of Full Fact, a UK-based fact-checking charitable organisation, for a selection of other paranoid conspiracies about coronavirus.

So why is the world facing a pandemic of coronavirus? As an anthroposophist, I’m inclined to take a particular view on the causes of modern illness, which is that illnesses are brought about by the conditions and circumstances which we human beings create for ourselves – and not just by our actions but also our feelings and thoughts. I’m going to quote now from the book Illness and Healing by Judith von Halle, who says that since the beginning of the age of the consciousness soul, illnesses are increasingly becoming an expression of the soul-spiritual state of the whole human race and that humanity needs to see itself as a social organism which can fall ill just as much as the individual standing within it:

“We have to regard it as a tragic fate but at the same time as evidence and illustration of the context described here that the Spanish flu (…) broke over humanity like a scourge during the First World War – at a time therefore when huge losses of human life were already being inflicted. At this time, scientific advances had not only brought new developments in scientific medicine but also in the field of technology and thus in the domain of warfare. Machine guns and nerve gas are just two of the countless inventions of the modern age (…) which human beings used in a bestial way to rob their brothers of health and life. All this ensued from the dishonest politics of the time, from delusional ideas about nations and races, law and history. The beast that humanity created at this time in its thinking and emotions finally took a form corresponding to such thinking and emotions as countless millions of viruses.”

In an esoteric lesson given on 5th December 1907 (ie long before the First World War had started), Rudolf Steiner made a connection between the formation of bacilli and the god Mammon (Ahriman). Commenting on this, Judith von Halle says:

“No one today, at least, will doubt the link between Mammon and the commercial position of chemical and pharmaceutical companies in western society, which benefit financially from the ever-increasing outbreaks of epidemics. Humanity’s way of thinking has become so corrupt that it can no longer even realise how absurd it is that production of medicines is subject to financial interests – for instance that the treatment of millions of people with AIDS is, in all seriousness, dependent on the activities of profit-oriented stock market speculators.”

Referring to the rise of epidemics, Judith von Halle says that:

(…) “the organism of humanity is showing the same reaction to poor treatment as the earth organism does to the treatment which it receives. As reaction to the general deeds of humanity, the organism of humanity throws up epidemics, while the earth organism is rent with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Those who have not caused the harm are usually in fact the ones who suffer most. (…) … the social organism can only be brought back into equilibrium by innocent people having in a certain sense – with Christ as exemplar – to give up their health and life for that of the perpetrators. This will continue until humanity eventually learns, bitterly, that it is a single organism, and that through chauvinistic nationalism or economic disparity it differentiates itself into either less or more advantaged social groups or nations, and in doing so cuts off its own limbs, like arms and legs. Then we will realise that our thinking and actions have inevitably impacted on the overall social organism.”

According to Dr Dietrich Klinghardt of the Klinghardt Institute, there does seem to be a connection between the worst cases of coronavirus infection and places where there is the highest degree of 5G installation. Wuhan was one of the first cities in China for the rollout of 5G technology.  In Washington USA, there have been six deaths from coronavirus infection in the same hospital (Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland). Kirkland has prided itself as being one of the first towns in the US wired for 5G. Evergreen Hospital has, according to Dr Klinghardt’s measurements, the highest levels of WiFi exposure ever measured in a hospital. (Though I have to record that Full Fact UK, referred to above, regards any connection between 5G and coronavirus as false; nevertheless, to my mind the possibility that 5G compromises the human immune system and therefore makes us more vulnerable to viruses seems highly probable.)  The only attention that 5G gets in the British mainstream media is whether or not the Chinese company Huawei should have any part in building the UK’s 5G infrastructure. If the current pandemic raises people’s awareness of the health dangers of 5G, it will have done some good.

What are some other unexpected benefits that may emerge from this crisis? Here are a few, in no particular order:

  • The coronavirus, by itself, will not put an end to our current form of globalisation. But by serving as a reminder of how the health of humanity has been mutually dependent across borders for millennia, the latest outbreak could prompt a rethinking of how the world works together.
  • The crisis is a reminder to American politicians that there are major faults in the USA health system. Health in the USA is a perfect example of the late J.K. Galbraith’s observation that in America there is an obscene divide between private affluence and public squalor. The usual political responses won’t work – diseases can’t be deterred with overwhelming military force or bombed into submission. The federal government can’t bankrupt the virus through a heavy set of economic sanctions. Covid-19 doesn’t care how much money you make or what a big shot you are in society. This crisis could cause many more Americans to recognise that their health system is in need of fundamental reform.
  • Passenger aviation is in big trouble, because it’s clear that the virus has spread via air travel – and now the airlines have also been hit by Trump’s travel ban on Europeans flying to the US. Airlines worldwide are now in survival mode, with many implementing emergency cost-cutting measures and cutting back their flight schedules. The owners of Flybe said the coronavirus was the final blow that pushed Europe’s largest regional airline into administration this month. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the impact of the coronavirus could cost passenger airlines up to $113 billion (£87bn) in lost revenues this year. But the rest of us could be seeing bluer, less polluted skies, as was evident before when flying had to stop in 2010 after erupting volcanoes in Iceland stopped many flights.
  • Both coronavirus and climate change are crises that need humanity to unite to plan for better outcomes. The drop in global emissions caused by the coronavirus is also evidence of the level of its impact on global economic activity. No doubt many of you will have seen the astonishing “before and after” pictures issued by NASA and the European Space Agency of nitrogen dioxide pollution over China prior to the crisis and the amazing reduction in that pollution since.
  • Governments around the world need to help economies and societies that have suffered through coronavirus to recover by starting the shift to a low emissions future. They could seize this moment to enact new climate policies, remove subsidies for fossil fuels or raise taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, since lower oil prices resulting from the fight between Russia and Saudi Arabia make it less likely that consumers will feel the same level of impact as when prices were high.
  • There may be greater acceptance of the need to make sacrifices and accept restraints for both the common good and personal wellbeing. This could pave the way for many more of us to understand that, if we are to address the climate crisis not only are huge shifts in government regulation needed but also in the personal behaviour and expectations of consumers.

We live in apocalyptic times – there’s even a vast plague of locusts in Africa. The coronavirus pandemic is of course a global tragedy.  But coronavirus is also helping to strengthen recognition of our interdependence – that everyone’s health and wellbeing is everyone else’s business – and it could increase recognition that compassion and empathy are essential parts of what it means to be a human being.  Will the pandemic produce changes in society which make us more willing to act on the climate crisis and the other issues which threaten life on earth at the present time? In the end, it’s up to all of us, as it always has been.

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