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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Festival of Easter
GA 233a

Lecture III

21 April 1924, Dornach

In order to carry further the matters with which I have dealt in the last few days, I would now like to refer to the astronomical aspect of Easter. In order to do this it is necessary to allude to some of the facts connected with the so-called Moon-Mysteries.

During all those ages in which men were aware of mystery-wisdom, the Moon-Mysteries were spoken of, and these were connected with the being of man in so far as he is a part of the whole cosmos. For we must clearly realize that man with his complete being is dependent on the whole cosmos, just as he is dependent on the earth as regards his physical body.

Now the years of materialism have brought in their train a complete loss of consciousness on the part of humanity, of the spirituality existing in the wide spaces of the cosmos, as revealed in the formation of the constellations, and in the movements of the stars, when these are planets. No trace of this consciousness has remained beyond the outward observance of the stars and the calculation of the movements of the planets.

When we observe how all this is studied according to the ideas of modern astronomy, it strikes us as being exactly the same as if one were to study the human physical organism, completely unconscious of the fact that it is permeated with soul and spirit, keeping before one only the conditions of measure, and the external relationships of movement of this organism, and forgetting entirely that in the relationship of measure and of movement the soul and spirit find expression.

In man, an undivided soul- and spirit-nature comes to expression, held together by the ego. But in the organism of the whole universe, spiritual perception finds the expression not of a single undivided soul- and spirit-nature but of a multiplicity—an immeasurable, boundless multiplicity of spiritual Beings, who reveal themselves in the grouping of the stars, in the movements of the planets, through the light streaming from the stars, and so on.

All this multiplicity of spirituality living in the stars is related inwardly to man in the same way as those things are related to him, which, from an earthly side, and throughout the whole realm of Nature, provide him with the means of sustenance. But the closest connection between man and the universe has to do with what is called the “Moon Mystery.”

When the moon is observed outwardly, it is seen in its relation to the earth to be in a state of metamorphosis or change. At one time it is seen as a full luminous orb; we look again and see that only a part of it is luminous—a half, then a quarter. We also have that state of the moon in which it is entirely withdrawn from external sight, the state which we call that of new moon. Then we have again the return of full moon.

All this is explained nowadays by merely saying that in the moon we have a body moving in space which is illumined by the sun from different directions, so that to us it seems to assume different forms. But with this we have not exhausted what the moon does for the earth, and more especially what it does for man on the earth. We must clearly understand when we look at anything so apparently physical on the surface, as the full moon is, that what it here presents to us in its physical aspect is something entirely different, in that physical aspect, from what the new moon presents to us (which because of the relative connection of worlds it cannot do directly and physically), and we must not think when the moon does not show itself that its powers and activities are not present.

When because of the relationship of the heavenly bodies we know: now it is New Moon ... the moon certainly is invisible, but because of this it is present in a more spiritual way than when we see its physical light at the time of Full Moon. So the moon is present at one time physically and at another time spiritually. We have therefore a constant rhythmic alteration between a physical manifestation and a spiritual manifestation of the moon.

If we wish really to understand what is brought about through this, we must turn back to those facts already known to you through statements made in my book, An Outline of Occult Science. We must recall what is said there: The moon was once within the earth; it belonged to the earth-body; it left the earth and became what might be called a neighbouring planet. It has therefore split off from the earth, and now circles round it. It showed influences exercised by it on men while it was still connected with the earth.

Man was, of course, an entirely different being when he lived and evolved on an earth that still had the moon within it. Since the withdrawal of the moon the earth has been impoverished in respect of moon-qualities; from that time man has been maintained in his lower parts by other forces, by purely earth-forces, not by earth- and moon-forces. On the other hand, those forces which (so long as the moon was within the earth) worked on man from within have now, since its withdrawal, worked on him from the moon—that is, from outside.

We can therefore say: The forces of the moon streamed at one time through man, they encountered first his feet and legs, then streamed through him upwards from below. Since the departure of the moon from the earth these have worked in a reverse direction, from the head of man downwards. Because of this the Moon-forces have had an entirely different task for humanity than they had before.

In what way did this task show itself? It became evident through man having a clearly defined experience on descending from pre-earthly to earthly existence. When a man has passed through the period between death and rebirth, and has been acquitted of everything regarding the things affecting his soul and spirit during that period, he turns his attention to the descent to earth, to the union of himself with what in a physical, corporal way is to come to him from his father and mother. But before—with the help of his ego and astral body—he can find the means for union with the physical body; he must be clothed with an etheric body which he attracts to himself out of his cosmic surroundings.

This occurrence has been fundamentally changed since the time of the moon's withdrawal from the earth. Before the moon's departure, when a man, having completed his life between death and a new birth, drew near to earth again, he had need of powers by which he could organise the ether which was dispersed through all the surrounding universe, around himself, his ego, and astral body into the form of an etheric body. These powers he acquired on his approach to earthly existence from the moon, which was then one with the earth. Since the moon's departure he has acquired the powers necessary to the formation of his etheric body from outside the earth, in fact from the departed moon; so that immediately before his entrance into earthly life man has to apply to that which is contained in the moon—to something cosmic—in order to construct his etheric body.

Now, this etheric body must be so constructed that it has, as it were, an outer and an inner side. Let us try to picture in a quite diagrammatic way how the etheric body is formed. It has an outer and an inner side, so that we realize man has to construct it both outwardly and inwardly. In forming the outer part of the etheric body he requires the forces of light, for besides other substances the etheric body is principally formed of waves of cosmic light. Sunlight is not fitted for this; sunlight cannot supply the power which enables man to form his etheric body. For this purpose light is needed that has shone from the sun on to the moon and has been reflected back from the moon again, and through this the light has become radically changed. All the light coming from the moon, and streaming from it out into the cosmos, contains powers which enable man when coming down to earth to construct the outer side of his etheric body.

On the other hand, that which streams spiritually from the moon, at the time of the new moon, sends into the cosmos the forces needed by man for the construction of the inner side of his etheric body.

Therefore, man's power to form the outer and inner sides of his etheric body depends on the rhythm between the periods of bright external moonshine and the dark of the moon.

What the Moon-forces are thus able to bring about in man depends also on this: that the moon is not the mere physical body that modern natural science imagines it to be, but that it is permeated through and through with spirit, that it is indeed composed of a plurality of Spiritual Beings.

I have explained on many occasions how it was that the moon separated at one time from the earth. It was not only physical substance that passed out into space, but I explained how those ancient Beings who lived at one time on the earth, not in any kind of physical body but in a spiritual form, how they were the original teachers of humanity and withdrew along with the moon into cosmic space, and that there they established a kind of moon-colony. So that we must distinguish on the moon between its physical-etheric and its psychic-spiritual nature, only this latter is not a unity but a multiplicity.

The whole spiritual life of the moon is dependent on the manner in which the Beings dwelling in the moon look from their moon-standpoint out on the surrounding universe—how they regard the world around them. And were I to express myself in a pictorial way I might say: the Spiritual Beings of the moon turn their attention first to what is of the greatest importance to them—to the planets belonging to our planetary system. Everything that takes place in the moon, by which man receives in the right way the forces necessary for the forming of his etheric body, depends on the results of observations (Beobachtungsresultaten) arrived at by those Beings living, as one might say, in the moon and observing from it the planets of our surrounding planetary system—Mercury, Sun, Moon, etc.

This was a knowledge that existed in certain of the Mysteries. An ancient knowledge preserved in certain of the Mystery Oracles held that the constellations and the mutual movements of our planetary system were observed from the moon, and that in accordance with these movements the deeds of the Moon-beings were determined.

Stress was laid on this by those who regarded the Moon as the point from which, in a certain way, world-connections (Weltenverhältnissen) having to do with the formation of the human etheric body were determined; and these Moon-forces came to be associated in the consciousness of men with the forces of the other planets.

We see this in the names of the days of the week, how




and how the moon in its observation has to do

with Mars or Zeus on



with Merkury or Wodin on



with Jupiter or Thor on



with Venus or Freia on



with Saturn on



with the Sun itself; which does not work directly with its forces on the etheric body, but is reflected indirectly from the moon on



So men came to associate what was perceived from the moon with that which entered their consciousness regarding the relationship of the planets to different parts of time.

In the centres of the Ancient Mysteries something like the following was said: “Remember, O man! that before thy descent to earth thou hadst need of powers that were built up by the moon, through the fact that the Moon-beings gazed upon the other planets of the planetary system. Thou hast to thank the powers of the moon derived from Zeusday, Wodensday, Thorsday, Freiasday, etc., for the special configuration assumed by thine etheric body at its descent into thy physical body.”

Thus on one side we have the rhythmic progression of the moon in periods of light and darkness round the earth; on the other side we have the impression made on the consciousness of men by the whole sequence of the planets in their courses. The Mysteries added to that which had already been given out, this: Because certain Moon-beings could gaze on Mars, man was enabled to organize within his etheric body the capacity for speech. Because these Beings were able to gaze on Mercury, man acquired that which enabled him to construct within his etheric body the aptitude for movement.

If people desire to speak in accordance with these Moon-mysteries at the present time, it is possible to give expression to them in an entirely different form: this can be done by means of Eurythmy. Eurythmy develops out of speech. Having investigated the mysteries of language, by allowing the Moon-beings to instruct us in what they are able to observe when gazing on Mars, we make further investigations: we then notice how what we investigate changes, if after having directed our observation to Mars we direct it to Mercury. Thus when we turn from what the Moon-beings experience through Mars, to what they experience with regard to Mercury, we pass from the human aptitude for sound-production to the human aptitude for Eurythmy. This is to explain the matter in its cosmic aspect. What pours into man as the capacity for acquiring wisdom comes to him through experiences the Moon-beings have in respect of Jupiter.

All that permeates the souls of men, as love and beauty, they receive through the experiences that come to the Moon-beings from Venus.

The experiences that come to the Moon-being through their observation of Saturn impart to the etheric bodies of men their inner soul-warmth; and that from which man must be preserved, that which must be repulsed, as it were, by him so that the construction of his etheric body is not disturbed immediately before its descent to earth, is what comes to him from the sun. Thus those things come from the sun—or rather from this contemplation of the sun—against which man must be shielded by protecting powers so that he may become a being cut off and enclosed within his etheric body.

In this way man learns to know what takes place on the moon. In this way he also learns how the human etheric body is formed—how it is constructed when a man comes down from pre-earthly into earthly existence. The things just described are those connected with the Mysteries of the Moon (Mondengeheimnisse). It is possible to speak of such things to-day; in certain of the Ancient Mysteries they were not only described but experienced—truly experienced. They were experienced in such a way that what is written below was not only known but really inwardly felt—







Love, Beauty.


Inner Soul Warmth.


Protective Forces.

Through initiation into the Mysteries, of which I spoke in the last lecture, people could rise above mere sight by the eyes, and hearing by the ears, as these are known in earthly conditions, they could free themselves from the body, they could withdraw (sich fernhalten) from the physical body and live only in the etheric body. But when living thus in the etheric body a man lived with all those things of which I have just been speaking. He then lived with speech, not as formed by the larynx, but with the speech that resounds in Mars as universal language (Weltensprache). He moved in accordance with the way Mercury controls movements in the cosmos; not with feet and limbs, but in the sense in which Mercury guides the movements of human beings. A man did not then attain to wisdom with such trouble as is customary in the years of a child's education to-day, and which in this materialistic age is in fact un-wisdom, but he lived directly in the wisdom of Jupiter, because he was able to unite himself with the Moon-beings who gaze on Jupiter. When men were initiated in this way they were actually and entirely within the rays of the moon's light; they were not beings living in flesh and blood on earth—they had left the earth and dwelt as beings in the moonlight, but in moonlight that was modified and transformed by what lived in the other planets of our planetary system During the periods of spiritual observation a man living in such Mysteries was a Light-being of the Moon. This must not be taken in a symbolic sense, or thought of as in any way abstract; but just as a man is aware of reality when he goes on a journey, say to Basle and back, such an one was conscious of the reality about him when through the ceremonies of initiation he had approached the Moon-beings.

Such a man knew that he had left his physical body for a time, and with his soul- and spirit-nature had entered the light-sphere of the Moon, that he had been clothed with a light-body, and, because united with the Moon-beings, he had gazed out into the wide spaces of the planetary worlds and had actually been able to perceive what it is possible to discover there. And what was it he saw? The principal thing he saw—he saw other things too—was that the forces coming from the Sun-beings have nothing to do with the formation of the human etheric body. In observing the sun he beheld something that for the etheric body was disruptive; and he knew that none of the forces proceeding from the etheric body could be acceptable to the sun, but that such forces must proceed from the higher members of human nature, from the ego and the astral body. Only on these could the Sun-forces work. Thus he knew that one did not look to the sun, but to the planets, for the human etheric body. One looked to the sun for the human astral body, and especially for the ego; but that for the whole inner power of the ego one must turn to the sun. This was the second fact that came to him through initiation into the recurring mysteries of the moon: the fact that in the etheric body he belonged to the planetary system, but that for the forces strengthening and permeating the ego and the astral body he must look to the sun.

The actual result of this initiation was that a man felt himself to be one with the moonlight, but that through the moonlight-existence (Mondenlichtdasein) of his own being he could gaze into the sun. He now said to himself: The sun sends its light to the moon because it must not impart it directly to man. He receives the moonlight united with the forces of the planets. From these he constructs his etheric body.

These secrets were known to anyone who had been initiated in this manner. By this he knew in how far he bore the power of the spiritual sun within him. He had seen it. He had reached a consciousness of the extent to which he bore the spiritual sun within him. This marked the degree of initiation he had gained, and by which a man became a Bearer of the Christ, which means a bearer of the Sun-being; not a receiver, but a bearer of the Sun-being. In the same way as the moon when it is full is a bearer of the sunlight, so such a man was a bearer of the Christ—a Christophoros. Initiation to this degree was therefore an entirely real experience.

And now picture to yourselves that other absolutely real experience by which a man escapes from the earth and, as an initiated human being, rises to the existence of a Light-being, and think of this earlier inward human Easter experience as changed to a cosmic experience—a cosmic festival. In later times men knew nothing of this; they did not know that such a thing was possible as that a man could really pass out of earthly existence into super-earthly existence, could unite with the Moon-nature (mit dem Mondenhaften) and from the moon gaze on the sun. But a remembrance of this had to be preserved; and this remembrance is preserved in the Festival of Easter.

The way in which all this can be experienced by man does not pass over into our later super-materialised consciousness. Instead, we are left with but an abstract conception of it. A man no longer looks into his own being so that he says: I can become one with the moonlight ... but he looks to the moon—to the full moon. In those days he looked up to the full moon and said: It is not I who evolve so as to attain that; but the earth which strives towards it. When does she strive towards it most? She strives towards it most in early spring, when the forces which were formerly with the seeds and the plants within the earth stream forth from the surface of the earth. On earth these forces become plants; but they go further, they stream forth into the wide spaces of the cosmos. In the Mysteries people made use of the following image; they said: At the time when the inner forces of the earth carry that which streams upwards through the stalks and leaves of plants out into the cosmos, man is able most easily to attain to the Sun-moon initiation and become a Christophoros; for he then floats, as it were, towards the moon on the forces that in spring stream from the earth to the moon. But he has to do this at the time of the full moon.

All this passed into the memory of the people, but it became abstract. They felt something must come to them with the full moonlight.... but it was an unconscious feeling, it was no longer a clear knowledge that these people experienced. Something, not the man himself, streamed up towards the full moon when this was the first full moon after the beginning of spring.

What can the full moon do now? It gazes on the sun—that is, it gazes on it on the first day dedicated to the sun, on the first Sunday following the coming of spring. As in former times the Christophoros looked up to the Sun-being from the standpoint of the moon, so the moon now gazes on the sun—that is, on what it symbolises—on the Sunsday.

Thus we have, say on the 21st of March, the beginning of spring; the forces of the earth then begin to reach forth into space. The right moment must be awaited when the observer—the full moon—is present. Full moon falls this year on the 21st of March. What does the moon gaze on? The sun. The following Sunday was then fixed as Easter Sunday.

It is therefore an abstract computation of time, and has endured as the relic of an entirely real event of the Mysteries which took place frequently in ancient times and happened to many people.

This is the truth concerning the Easter festival. Our present day spring festival represents a certain occurrence in the Mysteries that was celebrated everywhere in spring; but this occurrence in the Mysteries was different from the one I described in the first lecture.

The one I then described was that which led men to an understanding of death. I then explained that the thought of resurrection, which was made comprehensible by such means as the celebration of the Adonis festival in autumn, led them in about three days, through experiencing death, to a realization of resurrection in the spirit. This process of resurrection belongs really to autumn for the reason I then stated.

The event I am describing to-day is different; it was celebrated in other Mysteries and was carried out in connection with special initiations, those of the sun and moon. And this event was placed by man at a time before the beginning of life (vor den Lebensanfang). So that we must be able to look back to a time when in certain Mysteries there was knowledge concerning man's descent from pre-earthly to earthly existence, and in other Mysteries—those connected with autumn—there was knowledge concerning his ascent to that which was spiritual.

But in later ages, when there was no longer any understanding for the living connection between man and the spiritual nature of the cosmos, it happened that the autumnal festival of the Mystery of Resurrection became simply confused with the mystery of man's descent (Niederstiegsmysterium)—that of the spring.

In the confusion which thus arose we see how materialism gradually entered into human evolution, and how this not only gave rise to false views but actually produced absolute confusion in men's minds regarding things in which at one time a holy order reigned. For there was a holy order in the fact that, as autumn approached, a cosmic festival drew near which again called attention to an occurrence in the Mysteries. On these occasions it was said: Nature now becomes barren, withers and dies; this resembles the death of the physical side of man. But while man, when looking at Nature, sees only that which works destructively, something lives in him that is eternal, something that, disregarding what takes place in Nature, can be seen in spirit, something that rises after death to life in the spiritual world. In the mystery of the spring season it was made clear to men that Nature is conquered by the spirit; that spirit works down again out of the cosmos; that physical life will sprout and spring again from the earth because the spirit compels it to do so.

At this festival men were not to think of how they passed through death to a spiritual life but of how they had come down from what was spiritual. Therefore, when Nature first began to stir in spring, man had to think of his descent into physical life; and when Nature was in decline, then he had to think of rising to what was spiritual—to think of his resurrection. The life of the soul can be intensified in an extraordinary way when anyone thus experiences his connection with the cosmos. The carrying out of these mysteries varied in different regions. In ancient times there were some races that were really more Autumn-people and some who were more Spring-people. The people of the Adonis-mystery were among the Autumn-people; the Spring-people were connected with other Mysteries, more with those I have been describing to-day. And only those people who, seeking wisdom, journeyed like Pythagoras from Mystery to Mystery have passed through the totality of human experiences. Prom one Mystery “station” where the secrets concerning autumn—the true Sun-mysteries—were seen, they passed on to another where the secrets of the Spring—the Moon-mysteries—could be perceived. This is why we are always told concerning the ancient fully qualified Initiates that they travelled from one station of the Mysteries to another. It could be said of them that in a certain way these Initiates experienced the year inwardly through its festivals. An Initiate of olden times might have said: When I arrive at a place where the Festival of Adonis is celebrated, I behold within me the autumn of the universe and the rays of the spiritual sun when the night of winter begins. If he came to another place where the Spring-mysteries were celebrated he said: Here I behold the secret of the Moon-mysteries. Thus he learnt to know inwardly that which was connected with the real meaning of the whole year.

You can gather that our Easter Festival is really burdened with something that it should not be burdened with. Our Easter should really be a Festival of Burial, and this burial-festival had also to occur in spring, as was really the case in respect of the Festival of Human Spirituality; it was a festival for the purpose of stimulating men to work, and was necessary for primitive humanity as summer approached. Thus the Easter Festival was a Festival of Exhortation to work during summer. And the Autumn Festival, the Festival of Resurrection, was an exhortation to strive towards the spiritual world, and was celebrated at the time when work ceased in the outer world. But when man ceased from work it was intended that he should experience in his inner being that which was of greatest importance to his soul and spirit: consciousness of the eternal part of him, by looking to his resurrection in the spiritual world three days after death.

When we pass in this way from earthly mysteries (Geheimnissen) to cosmic knowledge we are able to recognise the inner structure of the order of the year in its festivals. But much of what was veiled in the festivals, much of what they really contained, has disappeared.

In the next lecture I shall endeavour as far as possible, and in close connection with certain Mystery-stations, to enter more deeply into the subject which to-day I desired to place before you more in accordance with the connections of the heavenly bodies themselves.