The Sphere of the Risen Christ


From: Jo Ann Schwartz
Date: Sun Apr 11, 2004 5:13 am
Subject: The Sphere of the Risen Christ

A Joyous Easter to you, one and all. JoAnn


The Sphere of the Risen Christ
Emil Bock
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 and microcosm.

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 to Galilee.

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 earth."

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 Hierarchies
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 through Christ.

The Sphere of Enlightened Remembrance
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 spirit.

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 significance.

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.

Bodily Resurrection
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.


From: dottie zold
Date: Sun Apr 11, 2004 7:13 am
Subject: Re: The Sphere of the Risen Christ


A Joyous Easter to you, one and all. JoAnn

Thank you so very very very much JoAnn. And a wonderful day to all,
Love d


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