The Foundation Stone Meditation
Translated by Daisy Aldan (1979)
It was George De Ris who first presented the Foundation Stone Meditation of Rudolf Steiner to me when, as a new member of the Anthroposophical Society, I began that ‘voyage’ into Anthroposophy. It has never ceased to be a source of healing, strength and revelation in the crises of life. Therefore, it has been a special joy for me to add my translation to those already existing, in the hope that it may shed another small light on this awe-inspiring work which will continue to reveal aspects of itself for generations to come. May I urge readers to use the translation only in conjunction with the original.
The original Foundation Stone was a double pentagon-dodecahedron made of copper which was laid into the ground for the first Goetheanum building in Dornach, Switzerland. Ten years later, a tragic fire destroyed the nearly completed building. In 1923, at the Christmas Foundation meeting, Rudolf Steiner presented a ‘spiritual Foundation Stone,’ the ‘Dodecahedron of Man,’ as he called it, to the members of the newly-formed General Anthroposophical Society, which was to initiate a new phase in the revelation of the Mysteries of mankind. The meditation is mantric, that is, a spiritual revelation in which sound, form and rhythm integrate with the esoteric meaning which lies in layers of evocative multiplicity.
The mantram has four major divisions, three of which are in parallel structure, concerned with the threefold aspect of the human being, as a being of willing, feeling and thinking. A progression is in process. If the three divisions are placed side by side, the lines may also be read across, and there will occur an experience as of music, with major and minor themes, commingling vertically and horizontally, which directions in subtle variations, are evident throughout. Indeed, penetration into the complex structure will reveal a pentagonal dodecahedron implicit in the number of lines, directions indicated, etc.
Part four veers off into its own direction, yet encompasses, concludes and unifies the whole. Much more may be said of the intricate inner structure of the work, but the above will indicate the potent workmanship and artistry of its author.
It is not my intention in this brief introduction to enter into a study in depth of the far-reaching relationship of the Foundation Stone Meditation with the Lord's Prayer, or with the Macrocosmic Lord's Prayer given by Rudolf Steiner on the occasion in 1913 of the laying in the ground of the Foundation Stone for the first Goetheanum in Dornach, or with Knowledge of Higher Worlds, The Philosophy of Freedom, The Letters to the Members, and other works, but merely through direct concentration on the mantram itself, to point out some of the central directions of meaning which readers may then further pursue.
It is important to bear in mind that the meditation is addressed, not to mankind in general, but to the human soul.
In the first verse of part one, the soul is reminded that it has its existence within the limbs of the human being, the instruments of will, which bear him through the world of space. It is not physical space alone which is here referred to but space which leads into the being of the Spirit-ocean. The limbs may here be considered as arms, legs, and in a certain aspect, the head which is a kind of metamorphosed limb. A dynamic of direction is implied which makes the immediacy of the meditant's identification with the process of the mantram possible.
The head, mirroring the vault of heaven, is directed upward to the cosmos and thereby may connect with cosmic existence. The arms extend to the periphery in an exchange with the world — giving and receiving. The legs meet earth, and as they walk in the footsteps of one's biography, they create world destiny. To be aware of this is to begin liberation from imprisoning substance.
The soul is reminded to live in remembrance of Spirit. This does not imply that a horizontal line of memory of past events of earthly life be traced, but that a vertical direction should be charted to the origin of the soul itself within the breast of the Divine wherein it still has existence. The soul was involved in majestic Creation, and in that process, the individual began to evolve out of the great I AM. If the past is drawn into the present, the present with its vast potential may be enriched, and thereby, the future also is drawn into the point of presence. Thus the present is redeemed from fleeting insignificance and despair. The Self may be experienced as a participant in eternal world-being and becoming.
In verse two of part one is revealed that He who is referred to as ‘The Father Spirit of Heights’ descends into the depths to bring forth creative being — as a ceramist might bring forth and mold the amorphous clay with care and sensibility, imbuing it with his very essence.
The Spirits of Form are exhorted to sound forth the creative clarion call of shaping in such a way that the depths may respond, for nothing exists in isolation and that which is formed is created by the loving encounter with its creator. In this way, mankind itself has its origin in the Divine Thought and is responsively defined by that Divine.
Already the Elemental worlds of Spirit are aware of this great truth which is heard in the East, heard in the West, heard in the North, heard in the South. Those locations must not be conceived of as physical geography: They have particular esoteric significance and form a balancing cross, which image may serve as a support for the knowledge which is to penetrate into human souls. Through remembering their origin in Spirit, those souls will be enhanced by the ever-waxing revelation of the truth expressed.
In part two, the human soul is again addressed. It is reminded that not only does it have its existence in the limbs, but also in the pulsating of heart and lungs, the middle region. In this rhythmic beat and flow — diastole/systole, inbreathing/outbreathing, expansion/ contraction, the soul may grow conscious of Time — not merely chronological time, but the eternal rhythms of life and death. Meditation will reveal the soul's relationship to all cosmic being: the rotation of the planets and the fixed stars, day and night, the seasonal cycles, the passing years, the great epochs. It will breathe with oceans, winds, tempests, and will know itself as a being of feeling which makes of it an individual.
“Meditate on Spirit,” urges the mantram, in conscious equanimity, and through deeds rising out of the heart's unsullied feeling, the union of the higher self with the I of evolving worlds will be revealed. Then will be overcome the tendencies to lose oneself in the flood of excessive sentimentality or to rigidity in the ice-cold regions of repression: in composure born of right meditation, with a sense of measure, creative deeds of love in community with free individuals will become possible. This community entered reality when the Christ united Himself with earthly destiny, and He now moves horizontally within the earth-sphere bestowing grace so that human beings may rise upright.
The Spirits of Light are beseeched to allow that which the East has to offer — spiritual insight — to ignite the defining capacity of the West, thereby creating a harmonious Middle. Through the sacrifice of the Christ — His union with earthly being — the twin evils of death — dissolution and rigidification — were transformed. Death becomes Life.
Already the beings of the world of Spirit in East, West, North, South, know this, and now it is time for human beings to grasp it. Through the free act of meditation, consciousness will dawn and as that dawn breaks, despair and death may be consumed.
“And death shall have no dominion,” as John Donne wrote, “for the Christ Light overcomes death.” Thus, “Death itself shall die.”
In verse one, part three, the soul is addressed for the third time, and is reminded that not only does it realize existence in the limbs and in the throb of heart and lungs (will and feeling), but also in the realm of thinking, the calm reposing head.
In exercising control over all haphazard meandering, the soul may attune itself to the reception of universal thinking which makes human being possible. As the Great Poem, Cosmic Thought graces mankind. Through expanding Vision (in the larger sense of that word) to encompass spiritual reality, the growth of moral and creative intuition becomes possible. The soul recognizes itself present in that reality as the physical body is present in the world of nature.
The charting and defining aims of the Divine and the individual's own part in that process, clarify themselves. Light from universal thinking pours in to stir the will forces which are needed for evolving acts of destiny. Freedom from compulsive action, and deeds of love emerge through ennobled thinking. This may be designated as union with the Holy Spirit. Past, present and future become that pinpoint of conscious being. Illusion gives way to truth as what is perceived in all worlds unites with primal reality by means of thinking. The universal thought is ever present, awaiting the encounter with the vision of the human being which alone may individualize its essence.
The very Spirits of the Soul are petitioned to formulate in the depths the question which will draw forth an answer from the heights, for only the right question can accomplish this. Parsifal could become the Grail King only when he had learned to ask the appropriate question out of the depths of being.
Then the Heights will answer, and they will say: The soul may awake to know the universal thoughts of Spirit.
In Elemental worlds of Spirit this is known: in East, West, North and South. Through enlarging Vision to encompass spiritual being, mankind will grow in spiritual stature, and earthly existence itself thereby will be ennobled.
In part four, a new rhythm and impulse spiral in as revelation of how all that has been declared has been made possible. We are told that,
“At the turning point of time,” that is, at that crucial point of midnight in humanity's evolution, that time when all ends and all may begin — the Christ Being entered earthly existence. Utter debasement was rampant and the corrupt soul of mankind stood on the brink of annihilation. But that fall had run its course and there was a breakthrough from spiritual worlds: Daybreak! “The day breaks and the shadows flee away ...”
This day-Light began to stream into human hearts, for the Sun-Spirit came not for an elite but for all humanity — for simple shepherds whose hearts held innocent love, as well as for great rulers — Kings with golden wisdom. Now all might meet in equality around the Cradle of the Child — the I AM who brought redemption, renewal and the seed of freedom and individuality.
The mantram addresses this Majesty directly: “Christ-Sun”/Son, imploring Him to lead present humanity to flower from that seed of awakening planted at that turning point of time.
“Bring love into our hearts, wisdom into our heads,” so that through our hearts' warmth, we may be receptive to those living thoughts which will stream into our will, enabling us to carve out our destiny and that of the world in harmony, in dignity, in truth and beauty.
Indeed, this might become reality if all mankind took into its heart and consciousness the Foundation Stone Meditation, for it is a healing source of strength and inspiration, a path which leads to a transubstantiation.
Rudolf Steiner placed this mantra as a seed in fertile soil of hearts:
May human beings tend it!
The Foundation Stone Meditation
The Foundation Stone
Denn es waltet der Vater-Geist der Höhen
For there reigns the Father-Spirit of Heights
Denn es waltet der Christus-Wille im Umkreis
For there reigns the Christ will in the earth-sphere
Denn es walten des Geistes Weltgedanken
For there reign the Spirit-Cosmic-Thoughts
In der Zeiten Wende
At time's turning point
About the Translator
Daisy Aldan is a prize-winning American poet and translator whose works include several volumes of original poems; two anthologies which she edited, and translations from the German of Selected Poems of Albert Steffen; The Death Experience of Manes, a five-act play in verse by Albert Steffen; The Calendar of the Soul by Rudolf Steiner, and from the French, the only authorized translation of A Throw of the Dice (Un Coup de Dés) by Stéphane Mallarmé, among others. She is a member of P. E. N. and has been on the executive board of the Poetry Society of America.