The Sphere of the Risen
The Three Years
THE Easter message is the
heart and fountain-head of the Christian faith. The saying of
Paul: "if Christ be not risen then our faith is in vain"
justifies a description of Christianity simply as the religion
of the Risen Christ. Christian devotion has ultimately no other
purpose than this: to cherish community with the Risen Christ.
Christ is not to be sought either in the past or in the future,
but in the immediate present. His sphere is not a "beyond";
He is near to us in this world in which we live.
Where is the sphere into which
we must enter in order to feel and experience the nearness of
the Risen Christ? Every year, during the Easter season, the hymn-like
texts spoken at the altars of the Christian Community point to
this sphere, and suggest at once its tremendous magnitude. A
jubilant breath pervades the prayers of Easter, expressing itself
twice, as with inward necessity, in the word "rejoice".
Who rejoices? Who is made to rejoice by the Easter mysteries?
In the first place the text says, "the airy regions of the
earth rejoice exceedingly", and soon after, "Christ
has invaded man's rejoicing pulse of life". First, the breathing
soul-sphere of the whole planet rejoices, that renewed cosmic
sphere of sunlit clouds, air and wind into which the earth grows
in Spring; then, the inward life of man, touched by the Risen
Christ, rejoices too. We recognize the wide span of the soul
at Easter; it comprises the outward and the inward world, macrocosm
The Fourfold Easter Gospel
The artistic fourfoldness of the Gospels meets us nowhere so
vividly as in the Easter stories; here, the Gospels are more
differentiated in their special quality and colouring than anywhere
else. They become four separate books, each with its individual
character; and the synoptic harmony of the four, with all their
differences and apparent contradictions, makes the universal
totality of "the Gospel in the four Gospels" appear
with greatest clarity.
The composition of the Easter
story in the Gospel of St. Matthew has a special grandeur. The
first Gospel completely surpasses the others in poetic design.
A double drama, full of tension, frames the Easter scenes themselves.
The cosmic drama of the earthquake prepares and attunes our soul
from the beginning for the power and magnitude of the event.
Only St. Matthew's Gospel mentions the shocks of the earthquake
which, beginning with the afternoon of Good Friday, tore open
the ground of the Earth, and continued reverberating until the
morning of Easter Sunday. The cosmic drama at the beginning is
followed by a human drama at the end, the deception of the priests
at the Sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea. The high priests have
posted watchers because they are afraid of fraud; but now they
themselves attempt a fraud, by inducing the watchers through
bribes to make false statements. Then the story proceeds in terse
and dramatic stages. The Easter scenes themselves begin at the
tomb. This forms a prelude, which is also contained in the other
three Gospels. Afterwards, we are taken at once to the summit
of a high mountain. The angel at the tomb has asked the women
to tell the disciples that the Risen Christ will go before them
into Galilee; and now we also are immediately in Galilee. Together
with the disciples we are transported to a height from which
the world can be surveyed as if we were on the summit of that
marvelous mountain where once the three most intimate disciples
saw the Christ in His transfigured glory: on the summit of Tabor,
the mountain of mountains, which rises in the sunny landscape
of Galilee. Here, the Risen One speaks to His disciples: "To
Me is given all power in heaven and earth"; and He sends
His disciples as apostles into all the kingdoms of the world.
In St. Mark, the framework
of the external dramatic events is missing; an inward dramatic
quality takes its place. After the meeting with the angel at
the tomb, we see the women return to the room where the disciples
are united. It is the Coenaculum, the room of the Washing of
the Feet and the Last Supper; the sacred, time-honoured place
on Mount Sion; the centre of the spiritual history of humanity
from times immemorial. in this room the events of Easter continue.
Here the Risen One enters the circle of the disciples and, speaking
to them, conquers their hardened hearts. Having been at first
without understanding for the Easter message, and even for the
words of the Risen Christ, they can now become bearers of the
cosmic impulse which has come into the world through the Resurrection.
And now they experience how the Christ is raised before their
eyes into heavenly heights, although they remain in the house;
a first glimpse of the Ascension moves them within the four walls
of the room.
Now we begin to see the deeper
symbolism in the Easter stories, which belong together: St. Matthew
leads to the top of the mountain, St. Mark leads into the house.
In contrast to the dramatic study of St. Matthew, a great and
wonderful inwardness lives in the Gospel of St. Luke. The transition
from outside to inside which takes place in passing from the
first to the second Gospel is further deepened. This transition
dominates the story of the two disciples who walk to Emmaus,
which follows the scene at the tomb. For these disciples, too,
the real meeting with the Risen One, by which they recognize
Him, occurs only at the moment when they have entered the house
at the end of the way and have sat down at the table at twilight,
in the stillness of the house. The theme of the transition from
outside to inside is continued here; at a quick pace we return
with the two disciples on the same evening to Jerusalem, and
enter with them into the Coenaculum, where the other disciples
are assembled; and we are made witnesses of the Risen One appearing
suddenly in the midst of the disciples and taking food and drink
before their eyes, in order to unite Himself with them in the
sacred meal. In St. Luke, as in St. Mark, the interior of the
house is the scene of the real Easter meeting, following the
prelude at the tomb; but the scenes of the inward drama in St.
Luke have more soul and are more richly differentiated.
St. John presents us with
a very great wealth of Easter scenes. Even the prelude at the
tomb develops into a whole drama. Mary Magdalene comes to the
tomb; no angel is there to mitigate the shock which she feels
at the sight of the empty tomb. She walks back all the way to
find the disciples. Two of the disciples, seized with great anxiety,
run through the whole city until they come to the tomb, but they
also find it empty; no spiritual figure appears to them; they
have to leave, taking with them an apparently insoluble riddle;
in silence they return to the Coenaculum. Mary Magdalene is left
alone at the tomb. Only now, when she stands at the tomb for
the second time, her soul is opened up for the presence of spiritual
beings who are there; and the first meeting with the angels grows
into the first meeting with the Risen One Himself, Who appears
to her as the gardener. And once more, but now charged with increasing
content, the transition from outside to inside takes place. We
find ourselves again within the room of the Last Supper, and
share in the experience of how the Risen One manifests Himself
to the disciples. The following scenes develop with such rich
detail that we begin to recognize how the Easter fellowship of
the disciples with the Risen One extends beyond Easter Sunday,
and fills the whole season. One week after, Thomas, the doubter,
is permitted to convince himself through physical touch of the
fact of the bodily Resurrection. But the sequence in John is
not yet at an end; the steps which have led us from outside to
inside are reversed. The Gospel leads us again outward. The interior
scenes are followed by a series of scenes which take place under
the open sky of Galilee. All of a sudden, the disciples are transported
to the Sea of Galilee. During the night, they draw in the miraculous
draught of fishes; and in the cool of the morning, on the shores
of the blue lake, the radiant figure of the Risen One appears
to them. A holy meal unites them with Him. Then He addresses
three times His earnest question to Peter; eventually He gives
to the disciples their apostolic charge, pointing into the far
distant future with mysterious words.
We can now discern an important
aspect in the wonderful composition of the Gospels as a whole.
In the scenes which follow the prelude at the tomb, we are led,
in the sequence of St. Matthew to St. John, through three archetypal
settings: on the mountain, in the house and on the sea. Apparently
physical landscape is described, but in fact we are shown regions
of the soul which we have to traverse in order to meet the Risen
One. The Gospel, taken in its entirety in the four Gospels, has
given the first pictorial hint of His sphere.
The Angels at the Tomb
Most Bible readers take it that the Easter stories in all four
Gospels agree in describing first the meeting with the angels
at the tomb. But this is not so.
The Gospel of St. Matthew
says that the women come to the grave, and in the early light
of dawn they receive a severe shock, for the earthquake, which
seemed to have subsided for a whole day, breaks out afresh. They
have to make their way among trembling rocks. Then a flash of
lightning tears away the curtain, as it were, from the world
of the senses. When they reach the grave, a spirit-form shines
before them in overwhelming brilliance. "And when the Sabbath
was past and the first day of the week was dawning, the women
came to visit the grave. And there was a great earthquake, and
the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the
stone from the entrance to the grave and sat on it. His form
was like lightning and his raiment white as snow." When
the lightning has struck the watchers to the ground, the angel
speaks to the women. The first premonition of Easter is given
them, and they receive a message enjoining the disciples to go
In the light of the supersensible
conception of the world which is the basis of the Gospels, the
earthquake is described, not as a natural process, but as the
activity of supersensible powers and beings. Through the souls
of the women we, too, see a powerful Being from the angelic hierarchies
taking part. An angel who resembles the powers of lightning and
of snow descends from heaven to roll away the stone. It is important
to note that the women perceive the angel while they are still
outside the tomb. The vision that overtakes them is mingled with
the physical perception that the entry to the tomb is exposed
by the rolling away of the stone which has covered it. The supersensible
experiences which the Gospels recount are never arbitrary, but
have a firm psychological basis. Even in the Gospels people do
not have supersensible experiences without some cause. In every
case a specific emotion is active in the soul which releases
the vision. According to the description in the Gospel of St.
Matthew an overwhelming shock brought it about that suddenly,
as the rock split, not only the outer event but also the supersensible
Being, the angel of the earthquake, was perceived.
In the Gospel of St. Mark
the account of the meeting of the women with the angel is different,
both in its inner aspect, and in the circumstances of its place
and time. On their way to the tomb the women are full of anxiety
as to how they will be able to get into the closed sepulchre.
But as they reach the end of their journey they are greatly surprised
to find that the stone has been rolled away, and that the entrance
to the tomb is open. The problem that has worried them has been
solved, but such a solution must prepare them for still further
and perhaps greater surprises. Mark's comment, "for the
stone was very large," makes us share in the women's breathless
astonishment. They go inside the tomb , and there a bright light
streams towards them out of the darkness. On their right they
see an angelic form in a long white garment. The angel, who is
described as a young man, speaks to them of the Resurrection,
and gives them the message for the disciples about Galilee.
This experience of the angel
does not occur as in the Gospel of St. Matthew, before they enter
the tomb, but inside it, and it happens also at a somewhat later
point of time. While St. Matthew describes the angelic Being
as "the angel of the Lord", which in Hebrew would read
"the angel of Jehovah", St. Mark speaks of the "young
man" who sits to the right of the tomb. This is an entirely
different situation and it is also a different condition which
releases the vision. This time it is not fear but astonishment.
Here is a first apparent contradiction between the two Gospels.
In the Gospel of St. Luke
things progress still further before the experience occurs that
leads out of the sphere of sense-perception into the supersensible.
The description of the external situation is carried to the point
to which it had been taken by St. Mark. The women come to the
grave; they find the stone rolled away from the entrance and
go inside. They search for the dead body of Jesus. And the longer
they search, the more anxious and disturbed they become because
they cannot find Him. Only when their anxiety has reached its
climax, their eyes are opened to the spiritual Beings who are
there. "And as they were much distressed, behold, two men
stood before them in white garments which shone like lightning.
And they were afraid, and cast their eyes downwards towards the
In this case the women have
penetrated many paces deeper into the tomb than in the account
given by St. Mark, and have already been there for some time.
Now it is not fear of the earthquake, nor astonishment over the
open tomb, but their anxiety over the empty grave which releases
the vision. The feeling which goes beyond sense perception is
quite different and belongs to a more advanced consciousness.
This time, surprisingly, it is two angel Beings Who reveal themselves
to the women, and instead of being called "angel of the
Lord" or "young man", they are now called "two
men in white raiment".
By this time it is obvious
that there is nothing haphazard in these discrepancies between
the several Gospels, but that the advance from one Gospel to
the next follows a specific law. The meetings with the angels
undergo such an orderly transformation, a metamorphosis so significant,
that the differences in the Gospels, taken as a whole, draw attention
to a special secret.
This becomes specially clear
when we come to the Gospel of St. John. Here Mary Magdalene comes
alone to the tomb. She enters and finds it empty. Thus the external
course of events is once more taken up at the point reached in
the preceding Gospel. The feelings that had been stirred in the
soul of Mary Magdalene by the earthquake, the open tomb and the
empty grave are not described. The Fourth Gospel is concerned
with experiences which take place later. Mary Magdalene leaves
the tomb without having met with an angel. She goes all the way
back through the city to the disciples. Now Peter and John run
to the tomb, and with her they peer into the empty grave. Although
there is no direct mention of this in the Gospel, it is in accordance
with the spirit of the Gospel of St. John to suppose that the
disciples saw something of the cosmic aspect of the empty grave.
On the site of the tomb the earthquake had reopened a deep cleft
which formed part of the ancient chasm in the surface of Jerusalem
which had been levelled by Solomon. Thus the disciples do not
only look into the empty grave; they look into a visible gloomy
chasm. They have a unique experience of the mystical stage called
"standing before the abyss". Bewildered, they go away
again, and Mary Magdalene remains there alone. Some time elapses.
Then Mary Magdalene weeps. The tears that she now sheds are due
neither to fright, nor to astonishment or anxiety. She weeps
because she is wholly absorbed in love for Him who has been torn
away from her. Much more has happened than that Jesus has died.
All the miraculous and inexplicable events since mid-day on Good
Friday awaken dreamlike perceptions, whereby the greatness of
Him Who has passed through death stands before the soul of Mary
Magdalene as never before. The more she feels His greatness,
the greater is her love. This love opens the eyes of her soul.
While her physical sight is blinded with tears, her weeping awakens
spiritual sight, and she perceives two figures. But these are
not the same as those described by St. Luke. She sees two angels
in white garments, one at the head and one at the foot of the
place where the body of Jesus had been laid. Although there is
still no trace of the beloved body, yet now, through her spiritual
experience, she is conscious of the exact spot where He had lain.
The two angels say to her, "Woman, why weepest thou?"
In that moment, as she collects herself to answer them, the experience
moves forward to a new stage. She turns round, and there, in
Joseph of Arimathea's garden, she sees a figure facing the tomb.
She does not recognize Him as Jesus. He Who stands outside appears
to her in the form of a gardener. And her first impulse is to
ask Him if He can tell her whither the body of Jesus has vanished.
Then Jesus speaks to her in the very same words which earlier
the angels had used, "Woman, why weepest thou?". We
should not think that either the angel or the Risen One speaks
in human language. What is heard inwardly by the soul is reproduced
by the Gospel in human words. It is only by silencing the human
words that we can hope to enter into the inner hearing from which
they come. In the Gospel of St. John it is out of the inner hearing
of the question put by the angels that the new spiritual meeting
arises whereby Mary Magdalene becomes the first bearer of the
real Easter perception. The Figure out there facing the tomb
takes, as it were, the words from the angels' mouths.
Again, the Figure that Mary
Magdalene sees as a continuation of her perception of the angels
is clearly that of a man. When the Gospel says that she thought
it was the gardener, this does not mean that she was deceived.
Jesus does appear to her as a Gardener. The medieval painters,
by representing the Risen Christ as a gardener, have adequately
reproduced the imagination which passed before Mary Magdalene's
soul. The Risen One is really the Gardener of a new garden, the
planter and cultivator of a new life on Earth.
The sight of the gardener
brings new hope to her loving soul. Perhaps He Who appears before
her can restore to her the Lost one. Only a few moments ago,
love of Christ had caused her tears to flow. Now that same love
lights up her soul. At that moment she feels herself called by
name, and at last understands that it is Christ Who stands before
her in the Easter garden. She has really found again Him Who
had been wrested from her. She puts out her hands to embrace
Him. But the stern warning meets her "Touch Me not!"
The Easter Mystery is not yet consummated. What happens at the
tomb takes place only in the forecourt. The complete manifestation
of the Risen One in His spirit-body is first experienced only
when the outdoor scenes have come to an end, and the indoor scenes
within the circle of the disciples have begun.
The Gospel of St. John carries
further the metamorphosis of the Easter prelude at the tomb.
The significant transformations and amplifications in the meetings
with the angels of the first three Gospels here reach their climax.
After the terror of the earthquake, the amazement at the open
tomb, the anxiety over the empty grave, it is now tears of love
which open the eye of Mary Magdalene's soul for the angels. Then
the meeting with the Gardener forms the transition from the angelic
forecourt to the actual Temple of Easter.
Concerning the Celestial
Each of the Evangelists describes the angelic Beings at the tomb
in a characteristically different manner. It must not be supposed
that the angel of the Lord mentioned by St. Matthew, the young
man by St. Mark, the two men by St. Luke and the two angels by
St. John refer to the same supersensible fact, variously expressed
according to the dictate of fancy. The evangelists remain true
to themselves even in the matter of the names they give to the
angel at the tomb. The young man in the Gospel of St. Mark appears
on another, earlier occasion before the Easter story. St. Luke
also mentions the two men in white garments again, after the
conclusion of the actual Easter scenes. The same young man who
later appears to the women at the tomb becomes for a moment visible
in St. Mark's description of Christ's capture in Gethsemane.
"But there was also present a young man in a white garment.
The officers tried to seize hold of him. But he let go his linen
cloth and fled from them naked." It is not surprising that
this scene is usually understood in purely physical terms. But
to anyone who views the Gospel as a whole with a lively sense
for metamorphosis it will readily suggest itself as a supersensible
event. The same figure of the "young man in a white garment"
appears on the night of Maundy Thursday and on the Easter morning,
though on each occasion in an entirely different mood and setting.
The second appearance of the
two men in white garments mentioned by St. Luke is in the Acts
of the Apostles, at the Ascension. When the divine Sun of the
Risen Christ vanishes in a cloud from the sight, of the disciples,
there arc the two men who say, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand
ye gazing up into heaven?" The "two men" appeared
to the women in the dawn which preceded the sunrise of the Resurrection.
They appear to the disciples when this Sun is no longer visible.
The metamorphosis of the scenes
at the tomb from the first to the fourth Gospel shows a clearly
traceable path from the sphere of the earthquake outside it to
a scene in the interior. A similar succession of stages marks
the description of the angels. According to the Gospel of St.
Matthew, the women experienced a supersensible form who revealed
himself to them in the realm of nature, in the agitation of the
elements. This represents a stage of supersensible experience
that once before played an important part in the religious history
of mankind: in the revelation on Mount Sinai. God spoke to Moses
on Mount Sinai in the earthquake, in fire and smoke, in thunder
and lightning. The angel of the Lord who met the women on Easter
morning came from the same sphere.
Then, passing directly to
the description of St. John, Mary Magdalene becomes aware of
the forms of two angels at the head and at the foot of the place
where the body had lain, but in the metamorphoses of her soul's
experience, a second spirit-encounter follows at once. The pair
of angels is replaced by the human form of the gardener. In the
first Gospel the powers were of the higher hierarchies now there
are angels, and at last, Man Himself. In fact, the descriptions
which the four Gospels give of the scenes at the tomb lead down
through the stages of specific hierarchies to the archetypal
picture of man.
In the gradations of Beings
which continue upwards beyond stones, plants, animals and men,
the stage above man is that of the Angels. Their task is to guide
the destiny of the individual. Each man has his own angel. He
can open himself to the divine guidance which would work into
his destiny through the angel. But he can also estrange him.
self from his angel, and so go astray. The next sphere above
the angels is that of the Archangels. They guide the nations,
of which they are the real "folk-spirits". Each nation
has its own individual arch. angel, who tries to give a purpose
to its destiny. The next hierarchical stage is that of the Primal
Forces, or Archai. They arc spiritual powers who guide whole
Ages of time. It is their task to communicate a new impulse to
evolution in each Age. They are revolutionary beings, instilling
new activity and tendencies into the flow of human history. When
a new Age dawns it announces itself through the activity of a
new Time Spirit, a new Force of Primal Beginning, which supersedes
its predecessor. The Archai are rejuvenating beings, beings of
will, who introduce something fresh and unspent into the world.
Above the level of the Primal Beginnings there are the Exusiai,
the Spirits of Creation whom the Old Testament calls the Elohim.
They are the spiritual Powers who work creatively and give form
to Nature. The beginning of the Book of Genesis speaks of them
because through their creative activity our planet Earth entered
upon its present physical existence. The most powerful of the
Elohim is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament who manifested
himself to Moses in the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai.
The fourfold Easter Gospel
leads through the spheres of the Exusiai, of the Archai, of the
Archangels and of the Angels down to the figure of Man. The sphere
of the Elohim appears in the form of the angel of the earthquake
whom the Gospel describes as a flash of lightning and calls the
Angel of the Lord. In the form of the young man who appears to
the women in the Gospel of St. Mark the sphere of the Archai
is disclosed who introduce new impulses and new beginnings into
the destiny of humanity.
In the two men in white garments
of whom St. Luke speaks, the sphere of the Archangels appears.
The three "men" who once visited Abraham on the plains
of Mamre as bearers of a divine message were, according to tradition,
the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. And lastly, in the
two Angels of the Gospel of St. John there is the sphere of the
angelic beings next to man. Eventually the Gospel of St. John
comes down from the level of the hierarchies to Man.
As we draw near to the grave
we have to pass through concentric circles. In the centre the
archetype of Man appears before the soul, and forms the transition
between the preliminary angelic experiences and the actual meeting
with the Risen One Himself. The next concentric spheres are those
of the Angels, the Archangels and the Archai. The outer sphere
which is first to be crossed is that of the Exusiai with their
hosts. Christ's hierarchical Beings are gathered around the grave
in their ranks. The tomb is not guarded only by watchmen who
fall to the ground; it is also guarded by the angelic spheres.
just as the angelic hosts gathered round the crib at Bethlehem,
perceptible to the hearts of the simple shepherds, so now they
press around the grave on Golgotha, and are seen by the deeply
stirred souls of the women. But the homely scene of Christmas
has given way to a dramatic conflict which is fought out in the
cosmos. The gates of Hell are forced open. Death is overcome.
A victorious Force unites itself with the Earth and makes its
influence felt from the cosmic horizon right into the inmost
being of Man.
The Risen One and the Angels
at the Tomb
Through the medium of different angels it is, however, always
the Christ who is perceived. Whether it is the angel of the earthquake,
or the young man in white raiment, or the two men in white garments,
or the two angels at the head and at the foot of the grave, it
is nevertheless the Risen One who shows Himself to the women.
Even the gardener is an image, of which the reality behind it
has gradually to be perceived. Mary Magdalene is able to do this
at the moment when she hears herself addressed by name. From
then on the Risen One shows Himself in His very own form. But
it is important to feel Him already, as the women did, behind
the manifestations of the angelic forms. That the Angel of the
Lord shows Himself in the earthquake enables one to understand
that the Risen One is preparing to become the new Spirit of the
Earth, the power which moves the new creation. When, in the same
Gospel which records the women's experiences with the angel of
the earthquake, the Risen One says, "To Me is given all
power (Greek: Exousia) in heaven and upon earth," He discloses
that it is He Himself Who appeared to the women through the Angel
of the Lord, a Being from the realm of the Exusiai. The Christ
is also the young man. Through His Resurrection the most powerful
impulse of rejuvenation enters the dying world of creation. And
in the angelic manifestations of the Gospels of St. Luke and
St. John yet more secret aspects of Christ are revealed.
There is an illustration of
this in the history of painting. Up to the end of the Middle
Ages, illustrations of the Easter story show, almost exclusively,
the Risen One bursting open the grave and rising victoriously
towards Heaven out of the depths. Without casting the slightest
reflection on the beauty and the religious value of these pictures,
it must yet be said that something more than this is needed.
Christ rising from the ground with the Easter banner gives only
St. Matthew's aspect of the Resurrection. It contains an element
of unthinking dogmatism, which hinders the full understanding
of Easter. For the power of the Risen Christ is not directed
from below to above, away from the earth, but towards the earth,
from above to below. Very few pictures of the Resurrection have
been painted in the spirit of St. Luke or St. John. Among these
is Rembrandt's pictures of the scene at Emmaus, in which Christ,
sitting at table with the two disciples, appears like a flash
of lightning. Most beautiful is Raphael's well-known picture
of the Easter scene on the shore of the Lake of Gennesareth,
drawn originally as a cartoon for a tapestry in the Vatican,
and now in London in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It would
help very much to deepen the conception of Easter if there were
more such paintings. St. John's aspect especially ought to inspire
modern pictures of Easter, because it leads on from the appearance
of the gardener to the human form divine reestablished in and
The Sphere of Enlightened
The two men in white garments say to the women inside the sepulchre
these words: "Remember how He spoke unto you when he was
yet in Galilee." This is an extension of the commission
about Galilee which they receive in the first two Gospels. Instead
of being directed by the angels to Galilee, which might be taken
as meaning the geographical Galilee, they are now reminded of
the sphere of memory, and are told to walk once more in recollection
over the roads of Galilee which they had walked with Jesus, and
to reflect once more on the words He had spoken to them there.
As the vision of the angel fades, it is said of the women, "And
they remembered His words and returned from the sepulchre."
At first the meaning seems to be that it now suddenly occurs
to the women, stirred by the words of the angel, that Christ
had in fact prophesied all that had since happened. But a more
intimate secret is hidden here. In the supersensible experience
of Easter morning an appeal is made to the force of remembrance
as an organ of the soul. The sphere of memory is touched by the
That we possess the gift of
memory, and bear in us a treasure chamber out of which we can
recall the past, is a far greater miracle than we realize. To-day
we often damage this treasure. Through our insistence on training
the brain to memorize, the deeper-rooted, more comprehensive
force of recollection is pushed into the background.
The power of memory plays
a significant part in our being and destiny. As people get older,
and suffer perhaps already from weakness of memory in daily affairs,
they have a great revival of remembrance, and are able to recall
things of their childhood far more vividly than they could in
middle age. The nearer we get to death, and the more we escape
from the spell of the physical, the more is remembrance set free.
This can give an indication of what is experienced after death.
In the days immediately following death, one is surrounded by
a panorama of the sum-total of all one's memories. The eye of
memory is fully released. From this we can gauge anew what an
inexpressibly great miracle our faculty of memory is.
In the faculty of memory an
inner power of vision is at work. As it exists to-day, this faculty
is the remnant of a past clairvoyance. If we cultivate it we
can become seers. This will one day become important for our
life with the dead. Anyone who mourns a beloved friend lives
in the memories they had in common. If this experience is made
a conscious exercise, faithfully practised, we shall find that
memory acquires a strength which may lead to an unhoped-for immediacy
of meeting, which may even be lasting.
This is the key to the momentous
Easter experiences of the disciples during the forty days. While
they were gathered together in the Upper Room, living in the
great memories of the last three years, again and again they
became aware of certain words and actions of their Master, as
fresh and as overwhelming as if they were now being spoken or
enacted before them for the first time. While the events were
actually taking place they had for the most part been living
as in a dream; now each memory was an awakening that flashed
through their souls. This caused their eyes to be opened for
the Risen One. The force of true recollection had called Him
into their midst. It was He Who spoke to them in enhanced light
the words they remembered, and Who carried out in their presence
the actions they recollected. Through Him their memories, only
now really becoming their own, grew into a whole world of revelation.
Thus, in the story of Emmaus a special fact belonging to the
sphere of enlightened recollection is contained. The two disciples
feel someone walking by their side. This sense of being accompanied
by a Form from a spiritual realm will one day be of universal
We can have two kinds of "double".
A familiar example of one kind is given in Goethe's "Faust".
Mephistopheles, the dark double, causes men to lose themselves
in the maze of life. But people who have a relationship to the
divine can feel the presence of an illuminated double, as if
their own angel Were walking beside them. There is a famous example
of the angelic experience of the double in the Apocryphal story
of Tobias. The young Tobias is able to go his way comforted by
the presence at his side of the Archangel Raphael.
In the future the Shining
Form who walks by man's side will become translucent for the
form of the Risen Christ Himself. In the beautiful old church
of St. Apollinaris Nuova in Ravenna, high up on the walls of
the middle aisle of the nave, a series of mosaics represent stories
from the Gospels. In most of these scenes Jesus is represented
with another who stands near Him, a little behind, clad in a
white garment. There Jesus is already accompanied by the angel
who will appear to the women at the grave on Easter morning.
Lastly, the secret of the
Easter double is touched on also in the words spoken to Peter
on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. "When thou wast young
thou girdest thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldst: but when
thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another
shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldst not."
(John 21, i8.) The interplay of the forces of remembrance will,
if faithfully cultivated in the soul, undergo a deepening: this
will enable organs for the spiritual to develop, and they will
speak either for people's immediate guidance, or for their future.
With the development of the faculty of recollection the voice
of conscience will form itself anew. While the earlier instinctive
conscience focused on the past, and recalled past errors, the
new conscience will be an organ for the helping and counselling
Being who walks by man's side. Through conscience awakened to
the spirit, man will be able to cultivate a lasting relationship
with the angel of Easter morning. and through him with the Risen
One Himself. The Risen Christ will manifest Himself as the true
Lord of human destiny, and the "Other" who walks beside
man, and guides him, will be felt as the hand of Christ. Thus
man will acquire the strength and security to bear, and to win
through, even the hardest fate. The permanent relationship to
the fact of Easter is the real source of consolation. The Risen
One is near to us as "the Comforter of our earth existence".
But memory is not simply a
part of our being over which we ourselves have sole control.
It is a projection of divine forces into human nature. It still
surrounds us for a while even after death, in order to mirror
the divine verdict on the fife through which we have just passed.
Even during life our memory is in fact under continuous control
of the archangels. The Beings related to the "two men in
white garments" control the sphere in which we enter through
the power of memory. So it comes about that by transforming our
remembrance into devotion, and by the practice of recalling backwards
the day's experiences, we acquire the power to call angels to
our help, and with their help gradually to become clairvoyant
for the Risen Christ.
St. Luke, as a pupil of St.
Paul, is especially fitted to show just this intimate way to
the revelation of the etheric Christ. One of the main threads
in the Christology of St. Luke and St. Paul, who agree in their
description of the institution of the Lord's Supper, are in these
words mentioned by both of them: "This do in remembrance
of Me,"!-words which are not mentioned in any other Gospel.
They do not refer to the superficial faculty of memory, bound
up with the brain. The Greek word (Anamnesis) touches the secrets
of supersensible man more deeply. A better rendering would say
"Do this as an exercise in the remembrance of Me."
The anamnesis of Christ has to be practised, and the Sacrifice
of Bread and Wine is the Act in which this exercise can be successful.
Why should remembrance of the Christ be practised? Because it
enables Him to draw very near to men. He who observes the injunction
of the words of the Lord's Supper remembers the Risen One. Actually,
all reading of the Gospel ought to take place "in remembrance
of Me": that is, it ought to bring Him truly into the present.
He who does this is not alone. But sacramental life, above all,
makes it possible to feel the Risen One near, as guide and comforter.
The disciples experience the Risen Christ not only as a Soul-Being,
as countless people experienced their dead in those times. Resurrection
is more than immortality. if the essential meaning of the Three
Years lay in the incarnation, in the Being of God really becoming
flesh, then Christ's Resurrection was His victory over death,
over "the flesh", over the material body which had
been His habitation. How can one form an idea of the "resurrection
of the body"?
For every human being, differentiated
mysteries of ex-carnation are involved in the process of death.
Death is more than the laying aside of the physical body. Of
course, in drawing his last breath an does put off the garment
of the corruptible material body. But in the forms of life and
destiny into which man now enters, a shadow follows him like
the after-effect of the relationship in which he stood towards
his body in earthly life. According to how much he clung to what
is earthly and material, separation from which now causes him
to suffer, the shadow of this bodily sphere darkens the world
into which he is gradually growing. But in the measure in which
he has, during life, made himself the master of matter, and of
the instincts due to matter, he possesses even after death a
flowing force of light which banishes the shadow and fills the
darkness. The spiritual power over matter which man has attained
during life is not lost. But if before death he has lost himself
to the perishable world of "this side", he is now banished
into a powerless beyond; he lacks the force of light to cross
the dark abyss, and to participate with those still living on
Earth in the fight of light against darkness. But the more strength
he has gained during fife to wrest the spirit from matter, the
imperishable from the perishable, the less will the abyss terrify
him and cut him off. Thus souls are distinguished after death
by the extent to which they have developed mastery over matter.
The Easter miracle, the victory of Christ over death, was that
a Being crossed the threshold from whom death was unable to wrest
anything at all. For three years the Ego of Christ, by penetrating
further and further the earthly body, had proved Himself the
Lord and Victor over matter. Transmutation of dead matter through
unremitting permeation by the Spirit-this was the result of the
Three Years. It is this which throughout the Passion gave to
Jesus the majestic fire of Humanity raised to the Divine. The
same imperious greatness with which He approached the grave of
Lazarus, and with which He entered into Jerusalem and purified
the Temple, remained with Him on Golgotha and beyond. By sharing
in the human destiny of death He had brought His earthly body
as a sacrifice to the Cross, yet when He revealed Himself to
His disciples the elemental power of His spirit over matter was
so great that they could not but believe that they were perceiving
Him with their physical senses. The Body which appeared before
them was not palpable to earthly sense; but they clearly felt
the effect of the fiery power with which the supersensible form
of the Risen Christ was active in the sphere of earthly matter.
The intensity of the victory over death was so great that the
border-zone in which the spiritual is able to create matter out
of itself was laid open to them.
The unique mystery of the
Resurrection-body of Christ may become more accessible to our
understanding if we consider the general stages of waxing and
waning which, according to the descriptions of modem Spiritual
Science, every human being has to undergo immediately after Death.
When the physical body is cast off, an enveloping, supersensible
frame or "sheath" remains for a short time which, placed
as it is between body and soul, forms a bridge between the state
of incarnation and the period of soul-existence which will continue
for a long time. This "sheath" is the ether-body, the
body of formative forces, which has given life and form to the
physical body. This etheric body, man's lowest supersensible
member, is the bearer of memory. Into this etheric body the pictures
of our earthly experiences arc woven, and so long as the physical
body still absorbs and conceals the etheric body, these memories
emerge into consciousness only in fragments. In the moment of
death, when the dense earthly covering is laid aside, the sum
total of our memory expands. The soul sees the close network
of pictures concentrated in the etheric body as an overwhelmingly
bright sphere. For three days the vast tableau lasts, embracing
in backward order every detail of the past life, until this second
vehicle of life, the ether body, is also laid aside and, expanding,
merges with the cosmic ether.
The entrance after three days
into the world of soul and spirit presents a severe trial for
the human being. It is only at this point that the Threshold
is fully crossed. Uncovered, the soul is exposed to the eye of
cosmic judgment. Strength to make the crossing comes to the soul
only in so far as it has gained, during life, inner force through
union with God. No light shines in the darkness unless an inner
light has been acquired through goodness and an inclination-towards
the spirit. Only he maintains his ground here who can in very
truth stand on his own feet. Only he has fight at his disposal
who himself radiates light. He whose only link was with the earth
sinks, powerless, into unconsciousness. He is in danger of the
"second death", the death of the soul. The hideous
power of death over the human being is fully seen for the first
time only at the moment when the soul throws off its second garment.
The complete power of the
spirit over matter which holds good even after death, shows itself
when a quintessence of the two sheaths which the soul has discarded,
the physical body and the etheric body, is left to it. Human
beings vary in this respect after they have crossed the Threshold.
The draught of Lethe which man swallows when he reaches the far
shore of his flowing ether body, and exchanges the sum of his
memories for the great oblivion, can be a miserable drop which
is consumed by the fires of the zone of trial. But it can also
resemble a shining crystal, which draws to itself a permanent
spiritual component, not only from the etheric forces of the
cosmos but also from the creative plane of corporeal potentiality
which lies between the etheric and the physical. Christ's power
over matter and death was so great that He was able to wrest
from death the whole of the etheric body in which He had dwelt
for three years. After three days of spiritual struggle, the
victory of Easter morning lay in the fact that the Christ, instead
of being banished by death into another world, remained on Earth
in His etheric body, which had become entirely a crystal of light.
And the body in which the Risen One manifests Himself to His
disciples was at the same time far, far more than an ordinary
etheric body. It would not have been able to overcome its innate
centrifugal tendency to unite itself with the cosmic ether had
it not become saturated by the quintessence of the physical body
and thus made capable of retaining form. Here we come upon the
original meaning of the word "quintessence". The quinta
essentia is a mysterious supersensible fifth element, beyond
the four elements which, according to ancient tradition, made
up the physical world of matter. The quinta essentia is a principle
of form which holds the four elements together. Thus the etheric
body of Christ, which had been wrested from death, was in its
uniqueness richly imbued with nascent life-forces and creative
power. It was not a physical body, but in terms of force and
form it stood in the closest possible relationship to the plane
on which the disciples lived, as creatures of flesh and blood.
The spiritual body of the Risen One could be described either
as an etheric body which had at its disposal the form and earthly
faculties of a physical body, or as a physical body raised out
of its mortality to the plane of an etheric body. We can only
grope helplessly for human words to describe the greatest miracle
that has ever happened in the existence of the Earth. But if
here we succeed in finding at least a beginning of a living understanding-and
the knowledge won by Rudolf Steiner has made this possible-we
shall grasp the Archimedean point which our entire thinking and
understanding can use as purchase for a new ascent.
The encounters of the disciples
with the Risen Christ in the Easter days in the Upper Room in
Jerusalem were miraculous, and yet they are not miracles that
can be accepted only by a sacrifice of reason. They were supersensible
experiences, but experiences which tended so powerfully towards
the physical plane that the disciples could believe that they
were perceiving the Risen One with their senses. When Thomas
sought to touch His hands and His side, the faculties of perception
in His own etheric body were so highly enhanced by entering into
relation with the life-body of Christ that the powerful tendency
of this Body to take on form and substance revealed itself to
him as something verging on the physical. When the disciples
experience how the Risen One sat with them at table and took
food and drink, there was a resumption on the higher Easter level
of the events of Maundy Thursday. Then the power of the Christ
over earthly matter had manifested itself to their dimly apprehending
souls as the power of transformation, as the faculty of transubstantiation;
bread and wine were illumined and filled with His fife forces
and His soul forces and so became His body and His blood. Now
in their midst the Risen One assimilated into Himself food and
drink. Under the stimulus of spiritualized memory the etheric
forces of the disciples became clairvoyant for the Etheric Light-Form
of Christ, and they perceived the miracle of transubstantiation
as the eating and drinking of the Risen One, in that they saw
the gifts on the table received into the glory of light of the
corporeality wrested from death.
Lastly, they felt themselves
transported into the scenery of a new cosmic springtime. In the
midst of the dying earth existence they walked in the garden
of a new earth. They called the world of their Easter "Galilee",
because the scenery around the Lake of Gennesareth and round
the holy mount of the Transfiguration, still filled with the
ether of the Old Sun, became a prophetic transparency for the
earth which will one day be raised to the new Sun-ether, the
paradise regained, springing from the seed sown on Golgotha.
In the sphere of Easter Communion the dimensions of a new cosmos
open out. The miracle of bodily Resurrection bridges the gulf
between what is within and what is without, between microcosm
and macrocosm. Man's inmost pulse of life rejoices exceedingly,
and with him rejoice the airy regions of the earth.