At the first Whitsuntide, the Holy Spirit or Cosmic Ego descended individually and as one into the purified astral body or Sophia of those present.* Maria has been often pictured in the midst of the disciples, receiving the central beams. Above each head appeared a tongue of fire. The words that they spoke were understood in each language, as if they were spoken in their mother tongue. The sense of the word was present in its essence.
In the Saturn incarnation of the earth : ‘There was the WORD’, as we hear in the St. John’s Gospel. The WORD, the Creative Logos was before human existence, as such. It was with God, and although deeply connected to the elements, but, of a greater order than all the elements.
There are four kinds of fire in occult terms, that refer to our sheaths (physical, etheric, astral, and I – according to Rudolf Steiner, these sheaths must eventually be buried in the fire of the spirit. In the future evolution, untold centuries from now in the final or Vulcan incarnation of the earth, this unity will become what is called the fourfold philosophic fire. The physical, etheric, and astral are considered to be the children of the I.
‘Strive for the fire, seek for the fire,
Thou shalt become fire.
Bring fire to fire,
Throw body, soul, and spirit into fire,
Then hast thou dead and living fire,
Thou shalt become black, yellow, white, red fire,
Bear thy children in fire,
Give them food and drink in fire,
Thus they live and die in fire
And shall be in the end a fourfold philosophic fire. **
By the ‘fourfold philosophic fire is meant the black fire of Old Saturn in which all is warmth, but gives out no light; the yellow fire of Old Sun, where light is already shining forth; the white fire is Old Moon, when it becomes an inner stream of sap in living beings; the red fire refers to the Earth condition, when it works in the blood. We must add fire to fire, that is, the fiery lower passions must be purified by uniting them with the higher spiritual fire. This purification of the soul or astral is to some extent, present at Whitsuntide.
In the early stages of the human being during the present Earth incarnation, the atmosphere was still fiery; the first human incarnations were formed out of the element of fire. The evolution of the human being and the kingdoms of nature has and will continue developing. The fire of human creativity is born of individual free will.
In the sevenfold star, found in the Intrinsic Correlation (here in Research) one experiences a relationship between the Earth incarnations and individual evolution between death and rebirth.
The First Seal of the Seven Seals, which was presented by Rudolf Steiner at the Munich Conference of 1907, stands forth in the fiery feet, in the fiery countenance, and in the complete power of the ‘creative word’, which is to be finally won by mankind, seen as the fiery source coming out of the mouth.
What could this imagination have to do with the tongues of fire at Whitsuntide? Let us develop this question by working with the appearance of various spiritual fires through the ages:
In the ancient Persian Mysteries, it was through the workings of fire that one could approach the’Lord of Life’. This was bound up with a luciferic Godhead, before Christian times. Egyptian initiations included the fire as one of the elements in their Initiation ceremonies. In the Greek myth of Prometheus, fire was stolen from the gods. In the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, were written in fiery script on Mount Sinai. This was considered to be the first Pentecostal meeting for the Jewish group soul (fifty days after the Passover) God enabled the purification of social life by the letter of the law, written in a fiery script.
Much later, the birth of the consciousness soul in the early 1400’s was heralded by ‘fire in the heavens’ with thunder and lightning. This was also a quickening of the human sense of individuality. Human beings are becoming able to feel how each other ‘feels’ in the moment, experiencing this through the breath. We have to learn, somehow, to tame and regenerate the soul’s fiery element, creating mutual enthusiasm for each individual’s progression. This regeneration is a step towards the Sophia or purified astral body.
On earth we are painfully aware of the present survival dangers. Thanks to the Christ impulse with its spirit of forgiveness and human repentance, human beings, along with the kingdoms of nature, will be able to carry through to the culmination of our development.
‘From Caterpillar to Butterfly’, so to speak. Being the United Soul Festival, Whitsuntide brings all of the kingdoms together for the potential healing effort of the entire earth, which has been permeated by the Christ being.
In the elemental world, it is the fiery salamanders, who lead the bees and the butterflies to the flowers, which they, in turn pollinate. Here, with the Night Peacock Eyes painting, you can see the representations of the salamanders, as given by Rudolf Steiner. When Christ is experienced as Lord of the Elements, at Whitsuntide there is a blossoming of human fulfilment being prefigured. The disciples asked, ‘What does this mean?’
And how do we interpret this event? How does this wonder of communication in tongues relate to the fire of the Holy Spirit above the heads of the disciples at Whitsuntide?
Fortunately we have more than one lifetime to find out. Everyone has an individual destiny. The fire of karmic atonement sometimes burns painfully.The same flame is bless-ed, however, in the moments of karmic fulfilment and the untangling of karmic knots. Each individual decision to return to the earth after each period between death and a new birth allows us to understand, and become more and more connected to the Christ Being. His return to Earth as the presence of the Holy Spirit at Whitsuntide has connected the Cosmic Ego – to the Sophia or purified astral body. In daily life this cleansing of the astral body is often through catharsis and crisis, strengthened us by our striving.
I believe that the fire’s cleansing power, as experienced in the laws of karma, can be especially experienced in us at Whitsuntide. In starry fire-flames our individual destinies are written. It is the same spirit that illumines us after death; and while on Earth, we have the grace which allows us to continue evolving. Christ returned from the Ascension for the salvation of the Earth. We also return incarnation after incarnation to grow and evolve with Mother Earth!
Imagine the possible individual trials of the Jewish travellers and the pilgrims on the way to the meeting, then called Pentecost. It was originally a harvest meeting connected with the wheat harvest. (Here in the Southern Hemisphere the harvest of late summer/autumn, connected us to the seed of regeneration.)
Stories could be imagined about the soul trials of the pilgrims, and we at the present time know our own trials in connection to this day. We have a lot to overcome. At the First Whitsuntide (‘White Sunday’, relating to the white robes of the newly baptised Christians), many different points of view were present. The Arabs and the Jews were both there. Many regions were foreign to each other. Then the Wonder of Pentecost happened, such as was never before experienced, where all who had ears to hear could understand one another’s preaching. The Holy Spirit enabled this understanding on a cosmic scale. It is indeed like the Fairy Tale mood which is often is evoked at Whitsuntide. It attests to the hope that some day human beings, and all the kingdoms of nature will live in peace and harmony.
As we have understood, the Christ impulse in the tongues of fire, existed on the level of inspiration in the disciples’ souls, and all who were filled with the Holy Spirit. This power becomes individualised in each heart, and can penetrate today into each person’s thinking, feeling, and willing. This individualisation can become interpreted into poetry and art, where all can express the universal truth out of free will ‘as it is given to them’. ‘Christ’s words are all that forms itself when we fill ourselves with the Christ impulse,’ says Rudolf Steiner. ‘One can hear the word that Christ speaks at all future times, because He is with us ‘even unto the ends of the earth.’***
I believe it was the Holy Spirit that enabled the presence of what is called the ‘phantom’ at Christ’s descent into the underworld after the crucifixion. It was the spirit of the ‘dove’ which had first hovered above the head of Jesus at the watery baptism on the Jordan which was transformed and reappeared at Whitsuntide, ten days after Ascension, in multiple form above the heads of the disciples, in what John the Baptist spoke of as ‘the baptism of fire’. Human virtue, in a social sense, can rekindle that spirit amongst us in daily life.
Why could the dove reappear at Whitsun? There was an essential counterpart which had to be present. As Rudolf Steiner said in his Gospel of St John,: It was the cleansed, purified astral body, that bears within it the moment of Illumination and none of the sense
impressions of what we call the ‘physical world’. Only the organs of perceptions of the spiritual world are in present. In esoteric Christianity, this is called the pure chaste Virgin Sophia.
This is what was brought by the disciples, Mother Mary is at the centre. The disciples, had recently replaced Judas, who had played his part in the crucifixion, with the new disciple, Mathias. The twelve had been restored, representing the presence of the Zodiac. There was not only speaking in tongues but also listening in a very special way. They, and many of those who were assembled, were listening from the heart, to the words being spoken and these words were proclaiming the wonders of God. This kind of proclaiming is a language of a higher order. One thinks of the sounds inherent in the planetary representations of the Zodiac Verses of Rudolf Steiner, for example. The universal principles are speaking ‘through’such a human being.
When the Virgin Sophia encounters the Cosmic Ego, the universal ego which causes illumination, the esoteric student is surrounded by a spiritual light. This appears as a kind of wedding. One can thus understand the flower symbol for Whitsuntide perhaps because the human potential is being ‘fertilised’.
As Goethe wrote in the ‘Metamorphosis of the Plant’:
‘Twofold at first they unite,/ as destined ones meeting to ripen.
Lovingly stand they in beautiful pairs/ and bounteous union,
Gathered in countless array/ there where the altar is raised.’
I think, perhaps, the ultimate human potential is that of procreation out of the Word of God. One day human beings will be ‘spoken into incarnation’. Perhaps this will be a Spirit manifestation, rather than a united Soul manifestation, as seen at Whitsuntide. These thoughts brings us back to the mystery of the First Seal with its tongue of fire, which I brought today, and the inspiration for the theme Whitsuntide and the Element of Fire.
12 May, 2016
* Gospel of St John, Rudolf Steiner, Google Books
** Esoteric lecture, 8 March, 1908, Rudolf Sreiner
***Whitsun and Ascension, An Introductory Reader, Rudolf Steiner, Google Books
‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem’ God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed they all asked, ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
Pathians, Mededs and Elemites, residents of Mesapotamia, Judea, amd Cappedocia, Pontus. And Asia, . Phrygia, and Pamphilia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs- We hear them all declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues. Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another,’ ‘What does this mean?’’
Some however made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’
Bible quote – Acts 2, 1-13