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The Mystery of Pentecost—
The Witsun Mystery

Artwork by Iris Sullivan

May 30, 2022

Pentecost, also known as Witsun, is a major festival in the Christian church. It is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter which is June 5th this year. Pentecost commemorates the arrival of the Holy Spirit appearing as tongues of fire to the disciples of Christ Jesus after His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit healed the disciples’ pain and sorrow following the Ascension by facilitating an inner experience of the Christ Himself within them. Rudolf Steiner teaches:

During the ten days following the Ascension, the suffering of Christ's disciples was beyond all telling, because Christ had vanished from their sight. And out of this pain, out of this infinite sorrow, there sprang that which we call the Mystery of Pentecost, the Whitsun Mystery. Having lost the sight of Christ in instinctive, external clairvoyant vision, the disciples found it again in their inmost being, in their feelings, in inner experience — found it through sorrow, through pain.

See THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING: ASCENSION AND PENTECOST, Lecture III. World-Pentecost: the Message of Anthroposophy, which is quoted throughout this article.

Pentecost is an individual experience of the Christ within us rather than above in the heavens.

Before the Mystery of Golgotha—the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus—the Christ could only be found outside the Earthly realm. At that time, one might say:

“If you desire to know something of the Christ, you will seek in vain on the earth; you must be lifted to the secrets of the sun. For only outside and beyond the earth will you find the mysteries pertaining to the Christ.”

About 800 years before the Mystery of Golgotha, mankind lost its ability to remember that before they incarnated on earth, they beheld the Christ from the other side of the sun.

It was as though the link between themselves and the Christ had been severed. This was because they were no longer able to look up into the spiritual worlds, and in the earthly realm the Christ was nowhere to be found.

Mankind had lost its connection to the Christ and began to fear death.

Something happened then in the evolution of worlds that has no parallel with anything within the range of human knowledge. For in the spiritual world, the Beings above man — the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai, up to the very highest Divine Beings — only pass through transformation, metamorphosis. They are not born, neither do they die. In the Mysteries of those times it was said: “Men alone know birth and death. The gods know metamorphosis only; they do not know birth and death.”

Through the Mystery of Golgotha the Christ then, as Steiner eloquently states, “out of infinite grace and mercy” descended to the earthly realm—to join mankind so men might find Him there. And through the subsequent Mystery of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended to mankind. Beginning with the disciples after the Mystery of Golgotha, the Holy Spirit brought the wisdom of the risen Christ to humanity.

And so, since men could no longer reach Him, Christ came to them on earth. In order that this might be achieved, it was necessary that He, as a god, should undergo what no god had ever previously undergone, namely, birth and death. Christ became the soul of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, and passed through birth and death. That is to say: for the first time a god trod the path which leads through human death.

Thus, humanity was saved from eternal separation from the Christ and impending death and decay.

With the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, humanity regained the possibility of eternal life through Christ Jesus. The disciples reconnected with the Christ after His ascension through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We too may now be filled with the Christ to be saved from falling into the decay of the material world.

Had Christ not appeared on the earth, had He remained the Sun-God only, humanity on the earth would have fallen into decay. Increasingly men would have come to believe that material things alone exist, that the sun and the stars are material bodies. For men had forgotten altogether that they themselves had descended from a pre-earthly existence, from the spirit-world of the stars.
Only for a time, however, can mankind hold to the conviction that everything is material. If all human beings were to believe, let us say for a century, that everything is material, they would lose the strength of the spirit within them and would become decrepit and sick. This would in fact have been the lot of mankind if Christ in His infinite mercy had not come down from the spiritual world to the earth.

The Witsun Mystery reminds us that we can be renewed by the knowledge of Christ Himself, warming our hearts “through the fiery tongues of a Christian understanding of the world.”

And so among our thoughts at Whitsun, let this too be included: that through Anthroposophy we will seek the way to the living Christ, realising that the first Whitsun Mystery can thereby be renewed in every Anthroposophist, and that with knowledge of Christ Himself dawning in his heart, he will feel inwardly warmed and enlightened through the fiery tongues of a Christian understanding of the world. May our way to the Spiritual through Anthroposophy be at one and the same time the way to Christ through the Spirit.

The whole world may be healed through The Mystery of Pentecost—The Witsun Mystery.

As this knowledge spreads from the disciples of Jesus throughout the world today, the Mystery of Pentecost takes root among humanity and heals our souls. One by one, people may now atone or become “at one” with Christ to find redemption and thereby redeem the world.

If, even in small numbers, men make solemn avowal of this, the Whitsun Mystery will take firmer and firmer root in many human beings living at the present time and particularly in the future. Then there will come that which humanity so sorely needs for its redemption and salvation; then the healing Spirit will speak to a new faculty of understanding in men — the Spirit by whom the sickness of human souls is healed, the Spirit sent by Christ. And then will come that which is a need of all mankind: WORLD-PENTECOST!

For additional lectures on Witsun and Pentecost, please visit our Festivals topic page.