Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Festival of Easter
GA 233a

Lecture IV

22 April 1924, Dornach

We have seen how out of the Mysteries has grown that which has bound the consciousness of man so closely to the universe that this bond found expression in the annual round of festivals, and we have seen especially how the Festival of Easter has evolved out of the principle of Initiation. From all that has been said, you must have been struck by the great importance of the part played by the Mysteries in the development of mankind.

Everything spiritual that passed through the world in ancient times, by which men were able to develop, did in fact have its rise out of the whole life and content of the Mysteries (Mysterienwesen). Making use of a modern expression, one might say: the Mysteries had a great deal of power in respect of the guidance of all spiritual life.

Now humanity was ordained from the beginning to develop freedom. That this might develop, it was necessary that the life of the Mysteries should decline, so for a long time men were not so closely associated with the powerful guidance coming from the Mysteries and were left more to themselves.

It is very certain we cannot yet say that the time has come when men have attained true inner freedom, that they are now sufficiently ripe to pass on to the next age following the one in which freedom has been gained. Truly we are unable to say this. All the same, there are a sufficient number who have gone through incarnations in which the power of the Mysteries was less apparent than formerly; and if to-day the seed of their passage through these incarnations has not yet germinated, still it is there—it is implanted in the souls of men. And as an age is now approaching which will be again an age of greater spirituality, men must begin to develop what in their present state of dullness they have not yet developed. Without appreciation, without reverence and true knowledge, a spiritual life is really not possible. We make a right use of these festival seasons when we employ them to develop, and to some small extent to implant in our souls, this feeling of appreciation and reverence for what is spiritual that has evolved in the course of human history; when we endeavour to learn as intimately as possible how and why external historical events point to spiritual facts, and carry over what is spiritual from one age into another. This is mainly possible because men come again and again into earthly existence in recurring earthly lives, and therefore carry with them into later epochs what they had experienced in earlier ones. Men are the most important factors in the further development of human history. In every age they live in a definite surrounding or atmosphere (Umgebung), and one of the most important of these was that of the Mysteries. Thus one of the most important agents in human progress is the power to carry over what was experienced in the Mysteries and to live this again, whether it be in the Mysteries themselves, where it works into humanity at large, or simply as cognition or knowledge. To-day this must be in some form of conscious knowledge (Erkennen), for the true life of the Mysteries (Mysterienwesen) has withdrawn more or less from the external life of to-day and must come forth into it again.

We are here constrained to say: It is indeed the case that if that impulse which went forth from the Christmas session here at the GStheanum really enters into the life of the Anthroposophical Society, this society, by pressing onwards to ever greater depths of knowledge, can provide the foundation of a further “living content of the Mysteries” (Mysterienwesen). This must be nurtured consciously within the Anthroposophical Society. For this society has experienced an event that can be utilized in evolution in the same way as a similar event was once utilized: the burning of the temple at Ephesus. Both there and here a great wrong lies at the root of what was done. Things present, however, different aspects on different levels, and what at one level is a dreadful wrong, may be used in accordance with human freedom in such a way that real human progress can be achieved through it.

If we are to enter into such matters with understanding we must grasp them, as I have already said, in as intimate a way as possible. We must study the special way in which the spiritual things of the world were cultivated in the Mysteries. I indicated in the last lecture how out of the spiritual observation of the constellations of the sun and moon, as practised in the Mysteries, the fixing of the annual festival of Easter was determined; further, that the other planets were regarded from the point of view of the moon. I said that according to what was experienced in the observation of the other planets a man was guided at his descent from pre-earthly to earthly existence, that his luminous etheric body was constructed in accordance with what was then seen.

Now if anyone desires to gain some comprehension of how through the forces of the moon—or rather through the spiritual observations by the moon—these etheric forces are transmitted to man, this can be done, as we have tried to do, from observation of the cosmos itself, where it is inscribed, where it exists as fact.

But it is most important that the human interest, which throughout the ages has been felt in these truths, should be permitted to influence the soul. Never did the souls and minds of men take so much interest in the descent of the soul from pre-earthly existence, never was so intimate an interest felt in the last stage of this descent, in man's clothing of himself with the etheric body, as in the Mysteries of Ephesus.

In the Mysteries of Ephesus the whole ritual practised by the goddess of Ephesus, who is named esoterically Artemis, was really directed towards participating in the spiritual blending and interweaving of life in the ether of the universe—in the cosmic ether.

We can venture to say that, when those taking part in the Mystery of Ephesus approached the image of the goddess, an enhancement of perception occurred which amounted to hearing, and what was heard might be given in the words of the goddess somewhat as follows: “I rejoice in all that is fruitful within the wide-spreading universal ether.” This expression of inward joy on the part of the goddess exercised a very profound influence on all growing, blossoming life in the universal ether. And feelings inwardly connected with this springing life breathed like a magic sigh through the spiritual atmosphere of the sacred precincts of the temple of Ephesus.

All the arrangements at this centre of the Mysteries were so directed as to enable people to say: Nowhere but at Ephesus is there so close a union with the growth of living plants, with this sprouting and springing of the being of plants from the earth. This led to the fact that within those Mysteries especially clear instructions were given concerning those secrets of the moon of which I spoke in the last lecture, and which were for the special purpose of bringing an understanding of such things to the souls of those who were adherents of the Ephesian Mysteries.

To feel himself as a light-form was an individual experience to each of these Ephesian pupils and initiates, for it was a real and living fact to them that their light-forms came to them through the moon. The instruction they received was somewhat as follows:

Those able to let the instructions they received in the places of consecration work on them were entirely taken up with this self-construction out of Sunlight that came to them, though changed, by way of the moon. They then heard as if coming to them from the sun the tones: J O A.

They knew that these tones, J O A, stimulated their ego and their astral body. J O equalled the I (ego) and astral body, and they perceived the approach of the Etheric-Light-Body in the A, forming together J O A. When these tones vibrated within the pupil for initiation he was conscious of his ego, of his astral body and etheric body.

Then it was as if there rang forth from the earth (for the man was now entered into cosmic conditions) something which enforced the J O A, making of it eh v, JehOvA. It was the forces of the earth that revealed themselves in the eh v.

The pupil now felt his whole human being in the JehOvA. He felt a premonition of the physical body as it was first on earth in the consonants which accompanied the vocalization, which in the J O A indicated the ego, the astral body, and the etheric body. It was the experiencing of himself in the JehOvA that enabled the pupil of the Ephesian Mysteries to experience the final steps in his descent from the spiritual world. At the same time the consciousness of the J O A was such that he felt himself to be in the light, that he was this tone, J O A. He was then a Man: a resounding (Klingendes) ego, a resounding astral body, within the luminous, shining etheric body. Man was then tone in light. This is the cosmic man.

Thus man is capable of accepting (aufzunehmen) that which he sees out in the cosmos, in the same way as here on earth he accepts the things he sees with his eyes when he looks out to his physical surroundings on the earth. The pupil of the Ephesian Mysteries really felt when he bore the J O A within him as if transported to the Moon-sphere. He shared in what was observed from the point of view of the moon. At that time the human being was still a universal being (Mensch im allgemeinen). It first became man and woman at its descent to earth. But man then felt he was transported to the realms of pre-earthly existence, though aware of the approach of what was earthly. This transporting of themselves into the Moon-sphere was, to the Ephesian pupils, an act of the greatest possible intimacy. They then bore within their hearts and within their souls all the things they had experienced and which sounded in their ears somewhat as follows:

Thou Being, offspring of worlds, who in thy Light-form art strengthened by the Sun under the Moon's control,

Thou art endowed by Mars with his creative resonance, with Mercury's swinging movement of thy limbs ;

Enlightened by the rays of Jupiter's wisdom, And by the love-bearing beauty of Venus,

And Saturn's age-old spiritual inwardness consecrates thee to life in space, to growth in time!

Consciousness of this filled each pupil of Ephesus. He realised that this consciousness which pulsated through him was of the greatest consequence to his humanity.

One can say: this was something which enabled a pupil belonging to the Ephesian Mysteries to feel himself most truly man. To put it trivially—when these words sounded in his ears he felt a consciousness dawn in him that connected him, through the powers of his etheric body, with the whole planetary system:

Weltentsprossenes Wesen, du in Lichtgestalt,
Von der Sonne erkraftet in der Mondgewalt,

Dich beschenket des Mars erschaffendes Klingen
Und Merkurs gliedbewegendes Schwingen,

Dich erleuchtet Jupiters erstrahlende Weisheit
Und der Venus liebetragende Schönheit,

Dass Saturns weltenalte Geist-Innigkeit
Dich dem Raumessein und Zeitenwerden weihe!

This is expressed most pregnantly in the following words spoken to the etheric body by the universe:

“Weltentsprossenes Wesen, du in Lichtgestalt, Von der Sonne erkraftet in der Mondgewalt.”

The man now consciously felt himself within the power of the moonlight.

“Dich beschenket des Mars erschaffendes Klingen Und Merkurs gliedbewegendes Schwingen.”

Here the resonance, which has something creative in it, comes to him from Mars. And that which imparts power to his limbs, that enables him to become a being of movement, comes from Mercury:

“Und Merkurs gliedbewegendes Schwingen.”

From Jupiter illumination comes to him:

“Dich erleuchtet Jupiters erstrahlende Weisheit.”

And from Venus there comes:

“Und der Venus liebetragende Schönheit.”

In order that Saturn can gather together all that completes man inwardly and outwardly, preparing him for his descent to earth, clothing him with his physical body and enabling this physically clothed being, who bears God within him, to carry on his life on earth:

Dass Saturns weltenalte Geist-Innigkeit
Dich dem Raumessein und Zeitenwerden weihe!

From all I have described you can gather that the spiritual life at Ephesus was inwardly bright and full of colour. And this inwardly bright and colourful life contained precisely all that is summed up in the thoughts of Easter, all that the consciousness of man was able to grasp as his own intrinsic worth in the whole cosmos, the whole universe.

Many of those wanderers to whom I alluded in the last lecture, who passed from Mystery to Mystery in order that they might gather the full sum of those influences that came from the Mysteries—many of these wanderers have given us the assurance: that nowhere had the Sphere-harmonies resounded so clearly, so inwardly, as they sounded at Ephesus, because of the perception they had of things as seen from the aspect of the moon. In no other place had the astral light of the world appeared so luminous as when perceived in the light of the sun flooded by the softly glimmering light of the moon—and spiritualized by this astral light as man is ensouled by it—in no other place had they been able to perceive this, or at least not with the same joyousness and inward artistic acceptance.

All this was associated with the temple which later went up in flames through criminal or crazy folly. Initiates of these Ephesian Mysteries were incarnated, as I informed you at the Christmas meeting, in Aristotle and Alexander the Great. These individuals came in touch at that time with what could still be traced of the Mysteries of Samothrace.

Now an external, apparently chance event is sometimes of great importance in the evolution of the world. Some considerable time ago I informed you that the time of the burning of the temple at Ephesus coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great. But other things also took place through this burning of the temple. Oh, how manifold and tremendous are the things that have happened in the course of centuries to those who belonged to this Temple! How much of spiritual light and wisdom has passed through these Temple Halls! And all that passed within these halls was recorded in the world-ether while the flames burst forth from out the Temple. So that one can say: the continuous Easter festival at Ephesus, enclosed as it was within the Temple Halls, has been inscribed ever since on the vast dome of the universe in respect of this dome's ether-nature, though perhaps in letters that are not perceptible to all.

And so has it been with many things. Much of the wisdom of humanity was in ancient times enclosed within Temple walls. It has escaped from these walls, has been inscribed on the universal ether, and henceforth is immediately visible there to those who have risen to real imaginative knowledge.

This imaginative knowledge is to a certain extent the interpretation of the secrets of the stars. What once was Temple-wisdom has been inscribed on the universal ether, and can thence be read by those possessing Imagination.

This can be put in a different way; yet it is the same in whatever way it is put. One can say: I go forth into the night, and gaze on the starry heavens, allowing the impression they make to sink into me. And if the necessary faculties have been acquired, that which is contained in the grouping of the constellations, in the movements of the planets, is transformed into a mighty script. And when this cosmic script is read, something emerges from it of a similar kind to what I described in the last lecture concerning the Secrets of the Moon. These things can absolutely be read in the script of the firmament by those to whom the stars are not merely objects for mathematical calculations but when they are letters in a cosmic script. Something further might here be added for the elucidation of this matter.

At the very time the Mysteries of the Kabiri arose in Samothrace, and the older Mysteries were declining, something emerged through the influence of these Kabiri Mysteries which for Alexander and Aristotle were like a remembrance of the earlier times they had passed through together in a certain century at Ephesus. (Samothrace was not a Mystery-establishment of remembrance, nor was it a place for work where development was practised; as a matter of fact the life of the Mysteries was in general decline at the time of Alexander.) In this remembrance they heard again the sound of the word J O A. Once more there sounded within them:

Weltentsprossenes Wesen, du in Lichtgestalt,

Von der Sonne erkraftet in der Mondgewalt,

Dich beschenket des Mars erschaffendes Klingen

Und Merkurs gliedbewegendes Schwingen,

Dich erleuchtet Jupiters erstrahlende Weisheit

Und der Venus liebetragende Schönheit,

Dass Saturns weltenalte Geist-Innigkeit

Dich dem Raumessein und Zeitenwerden weihe.

In this remembrance—in this historical remembrance of things long past—there lay a certain power for the creation of something new. From that moment a power went forth for the creation of something new—a very remarkable new thing which has attracted very little attention from mankind. You must try to understand how this new creation which proceeded from Alexander and Aristotle was really brought about.

Take some well-known poetic work, or any other work—the most beautiful you can find—take for instance a German translation of the “Bhagavad Gita,” GSthe's “Faust,” or the “Iphigeneia,” anything on which you set a high value, and think of its rich and mighty content, that of GSthe's “Faust,” for example. By what means is this rich content communicated to you, my dear friends? Let us take it that it is communicated to you as is done in the case of the majority of men: that at some time of your life you read GSthe's “Faust.” What came to you on this occasion on the physical plane? What was on the paper? Nothing was on the paper but certain combinations of a b c d e f, etc. These combinations were the only means by which the mighty content of “Faust” was passed on to you. When you know the Alphabet there is nothing on the printed page that is not comprised in its 26 letters. But the rich content of the “Faust” is conjured from the paper in a magic way by means of these letters. It is clear to the eye that the repetition of a b c is wearisome; it is the most abstract thing imaginable. Yet this abstract thing, rightly combined, gives you the complete “Faust”!

And now, when that cosmic world-tone of the moon was heard again—the tone in which Aristotle or Alexander were versed—the meaning of the fire of Ephesus became clear, they knew how this fire had borne out into the far spaces of the world-ether the secret of Ephesus—and there now arose in Aristotle the inspiration to establish (zu begründen) the Cosmic-script. Only this world-script could not be built on the foundation of a b c d e f; but just as ordinary script was founded on letters, the world-script was founded on thoughts. In this way letters of the world-script came into being.

When I write down the following list, the words are just as abstract as a b c d e:



Quantity, that is Number.


Quality, Attributes.

To have (or having).


To do (or doing).


To suffer (or suffering).

You have here a few ideas. Learn to accomplish with these ideas which were first propounded to Alexander by Aristotle—learn to do with these ideas what you have learnt to do with abed; you then learn how from Being, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Space, Time, Place, Having, Doing, Suffering, to read the Cosmos.

In the age of abstraction something extraordinary occurred in the schools of logic. Only suppose, if in certain schools concern was not with teaching people to read, but with compiling books in which every possible combinations of a b c d had to be learnt—a c, a b, b e, and so on—but not so as to learn by this to make use of the letter in a way that could bring any rich content to their souls, this would be to do exactly the same as the world has done to the logic of Aristotle. In his logic what were called categories were put forward; they were learnt by heart, but people did not know how to make use of them. This is similar to learning the a b c by heart without knowing how to use it.

Reading in the script of the universe can be traced back to something as simple as the learning of a b c is to the content of “Faust.”

In fact, what has been put forward by Anthroposophy, and can continue to be put forward, is arrived at from these ideas in the same way as the reading of “Faust” is arrived at by means of letters. For all the secrets of the physical and the spiritual world are contained, as a world-alphabet, within these simple concepts.

You have to realize that in the course of the world's development it happened, that as opposed to the earlier direct perception of which the events at Ephesus were still the most characteristic example, something arose which had its beginning at the time of Alexander, and continued to evolve more especially during the Middle Ages, something most profoundly hidden and esoteric.

Most profoundly esoteric is the thought living in these ten simple conceptions. We must learn really to live more and more in them; we must strive to experience them in our souls, when these have a richly organized spirit-filled content, as vividly as we experience the a b c.

Thus we see, how in these ten concepts whose inner illumination and source of power has once more to be discovered, was comprised something which like a mighty instinctive revelation of wisdom endured through thousands of years. And it will one day come to pass that what seems actually to have been laid within a grave—that is, the Wisdom of the world—will once more emerge and find the Light of the world, men will learn to read in the cosmos once more, and the resurrection of that which has been kept in concealment during the interval of human evolution between the two spiritual epochs, will again be experienced.

Our purpose, my dear friends, is to reveal to mankind that which has been hidden. I can therefore say, as on other occasions: Anthroposophy is a Christmas event, and in all its acts it is also an Easter event, a resurrection experience that is connected with a burial. And it is important that we should feel, especially at this Easter Assembly, the solemn sanctity—if I may so express it—of our Anthroposophical aspirations, in that we have some perception of being able to go to-day to a Spiritual Being who stands near us, perhaps immediately beyond the threshold, and to Whom we can say: Ah! at that time humanity was blessed by a divine spiritual revelation, which shone with exceptional clarity at Ephesus, but now all that lies buried. How can I again bring forth what thus lies buried! Yet we can believe that what once has been can somewhere be found again—can be found in the grave where it was hidden.

Then a Being will answer us, as on a similar occasion this same Being answered once before: “That which ye seek is no longer here, it is in your hearts, if only ye will open them to receive it in the right way.”

Anthroposophy already dwells in the hearts of men. These men have only to open their hearts to it in the right way. Then we shall experience in full sunlight, not in the old-time instinctive way, our return to that Wisdom which lived in, and illumined the Mysteries.

These are the things, my dear friends, which I desired to bring before you at this Easter season. For to fill ourselves with that which like a sacred breath can inflame the heart of everyone who holds to Anthroposophy, and can bear us with it into the spiritual world, is an impulse which is closely associated with the Christmas Impulse given at Dornach. This impulse must not remain something that can be thought out; it cannot stop at intellectuality; it must be an impulse coming from the heart, not dry or insipid—not sentimental, but in accordance with its whole nature it must be a very solemn one.

In the same way as the flames at Ephesus were used by Aristotle to fire his heart anew, and after they had streamed up into the outer ether they had brought to him again the secrets which he was then able to grasp in their primal significance ... as the fire at Ephesus could be used in this way, it is laid upon us, and we shall soon be able to carry out the demand (I say this in all humility), it is laid upon us to use that which as the aim and purpose of Anthroposophy was carried up into the ether along with the flames of the GStheanum for the further carrying out of this purpose.

What is to be the outcome of this, my dear friends? The outcome is to be that we receive a new impulse from the GStheanum. At the annual commemoration of the sad event which falls at Christmas time, the time in which this misfortune overtook us, we must receive a fresh impulse from the GStheanum. And why? Because we should feel what formerly was more or less an earthly concern, founded and constructed as a thing of earth, has been borne up by the flames into the wide spaces of the cosmos. Because this misfortune has come upon us we ought to be able to say in recognizing the results of this misfortune: We now realize that we should not have carried this out as a merely earthly concern (Erdensache) but as one appertaining to the whole far-reaching etheric world in which the Spirit dwells: then what happened to the GStheanum becomes something that concerns the wide ether in which dwells the spirit-filled wisdom of the universe. It has been carried out far into the beyond, and we must fill ourselves with the impulses of the GStheanum that comes to us from out the cosmos.

Let us take this as we will, let us take it as an image. But the image contains a profound truth. And this profound truth can be expressed in simple words when we say: The activities (Wirken) of Anthroposophy have been permeated with an esoteric tendency since the time of the Christmas impulse, 1923. This esoteric impulse or tendency exists, for though the earthly part through the co-operation of physical fire streamed out into space as astral light ... this impulse works back again into the Anthroposophical movement if only we are in a position to receive it.

When we are able to do this we are aware of a most important factor in all that lives in Anthroposophy. This important factor or part (Glied) is the Easter-feeling (Osterstimmung), that Anthroposophical feeling that can never be persuaded that the spirit can possibly die, but that, when owing to the world it has to die, it rises eternally anew. Anthroposophy must hold to the spirit that from eternal foundations ever rises again.

Let us take this to our hearts as an Easter thought, an Easter feeling. We will then take with us from this place of meeting, when we take our way into other walks of life, something which will give us courage and power to carry on our work.