The Three Gifts

…We are given mistakes,
we are given nightmares-
and our task is to turn them into poetry.
And were I truly a poet
I would feel that every moment of my life is poetic,
every moment of my life is a kind of clay I have to mould.

 

“The actual poet’s task is true for the poetic spirit in everyone-the work of giving form, expression to everything that happens, thus discovering and revealing meaning, the ‘pattern of the glory,’ discovering that all experiences, light or dark, are stars and take their place in the constellation of wholeness.”

~from the journals of Helen M. Luke.

It is the last week of Epiphany, the festival of Candlemas, when we burn the last candles as a sign of the end of this holy time of inner light. We have been touched by the star of Grace. The three gifts which the Kings brought to the Child are also to given to us, to the “Christ in us.” Each one helps us to make “poetry” out of our experiences.

The first one is gold, the most condensed form of sunlight, pressed into a precious metal. Gold is pure, warm, soft, transparent as a crystal in the New Jerusalem. It once served as a foundation for our currency, and now “waits” perhaps, for our consciousness to catch up with the idea that money is there to cultivate brotherhood, not for greed and accumulation.

Gold has other properties in the human being. It is used in the remedy “boswellia” along with frankincense and myrrh to promote health and wholeness. Rudolf Steiner also says that gold has the same physical relationship to other substances that “thinking the thought of God” has to other thought.

So perhaps with the help of the gift of gold, we can learn to listen to the thought of God.Then there is frankincense, the rising smoke of prayer and offering. Reverence and devotion open out hearts in humility. Devotion is almost a lost quality in our times and yet, it is the first step on the path of spiritual knowledge of any kind.

And the third, and perhaps most obscure gift of the Kings, was myrrh which has to do with healing, preservation and immortality. That which is immortal in us, which will move on into future earth existence, needs strengthening, through recognition. We are destined for eternal life. Our higher selves need to be honored, protected, given space, given utterance! For the higher self is indeed the “poet,” giving meaning to our experiences.

We are not merely victims down in the valley, to which good and many bad things happen, but we are on the mountaintop, watching from above, saying “Aha, there is the pattern, there is the difficulty: how can I be of service? How can I make it whole? Make it poetry?

The Birth of Joy

baptism-at-the-jordanNot only do we celebrate the Three Kings on Epiphany, we also celebrate the Epiphany in the river Jordan- The baptism of Jesus. Because just like the Star of Grace that blessed the kings with its light, the Holy Spirit blessed Jesus with Christ’s light in the river Jordan.

And yet, as important as the baptism of Jesus is, being blessed by the light would be nothing on its own. Without Jesus giving himself to the death on the cross for the life of the world, the light He received at the baptism would have no meaning. Without the three kings being able to give their gifts to the Holy Child, receiving the light of the Star would have been for naught. The point is, the gifts we receive only become meaningful in as much as we are able to give back.

For all Epiphanies lead to one thing: the joy of giving something, of offering something, however humble, that has meaning for someone. Let us remember, that our old age is fulfilled in the end, not by what we have achieved or received, our lives are fulfilled only by the spiritual joy of giving for the life of the world.

Dear friends, in these times of political turmoil, unsolvable fears and anxieties about the future, epidemics of terror and violent oppression across the globe, let us remember again that the real world is not what we see on the news. Let us remember that the true world is being brought to life in this painful darkness by the Christ-filled giving of the human heart. 
This contemplation by Rev. Evans was inspired by The Baptism.

Thoughts on the New Year

And the one sitting on the throne spoke: See: I am making all things new. And he says: Write: These words are trustworthy and true. And he said to me: It has happened. I AM the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.

—Revelation 21—

More than six hundred years ago, Guillaume de Machaut, whom one could call the first composer of something like modern music, wrote a rather remarkable song for three voices. The text is very simple: In my beginning is my end, and in my end is my beginning. The two upper voices have exactly the same melody, except that the second voice is note for note the reverse of the first. The bass or tenor voice is a melody that goes forward to the middle of the song, and then winds its way back, so that it ends at its beginning. This song became one of the underlying themes for T. S. Eliot’s last great cycle of poems, the Four Quartets. And it is a theme that we can turn to as we look from an old year into a new, as from any ending to an new beginning.

What underlies the poems of T. S. Eliot is the truth that every end is a beginning and vice versa. Every sequence of development leads to a point of culmination. At that point we may leave the sequence behind—for instance, with the words “and they lived happily ever after”—or we must begin a new sequence. And as we follow events, we may begin to be able to form a picture of where in the sequence certain events belong.

To a large extent we imagine things around us at high points of their development. The fairy tale culminates with the wedding. We look at the roses on the altar, and we carry what we see there as our mental image of a rose. Who would imagine a rose that is not in bloom? And yet, most of the time, the rose is not in bloom. Indeed, a flower in bloom is for the plant a transitional stage. The plant does not cease to develop until it produces seeds, and then, especially in the case of the annuals, it withers away, leaving a seed pod which releases its seeds to be scattered on the ground. And there we come to the essential question as we regard the seed: is this an end or a beginning?

We may regard the events of the world in a similar way. Some of them carry qualities primarily of the beginning, germinating seedling. In others we may watch the possibility of growth and the spreading of foliage. There are the great culminating events where we sense that something in long preparation has come to blossom. Then there are those events, which come at the end of a sequence, where we may recognize how the activity has turned to contraction, withering, dying away. But in and around these latter end-events it is especially necessary that we look for the seeds from which new beginnings can spring.

In the past year we have seen world events and events in our lives which bear all of these characteristics. A great deal of our focus will have been on those events which are endings—endings involving destruction of one kind or another. In such situations it is all too easy to fall into a justification of quid pro quo, and the destruction becomes more widespread and universal. Or one can retreat into a protective position, attempting to preserve what is inevitably falling away. What is helpful to remember is that when something is destroyed, a space is created. The question can then be asked: what new thing can be built in that space?

Those of us with a more optimistic disposition may well turn to other great events. In some we may think to recognize a possibility for new beginnings. But we must be all the more concerned—are not many of those events like the roses in bloom on the altar? They have been years in preparation; many people have worked and sacrificed to bring about the conditions for such a moment. But a flower preserved has not completed its cycle; to be truly a flower means to wither away and scatter its seeds so that in the future more flowers may bloom. Perhaps we may even realize that some of the spaces opened up by the catastrophes we have experienced are the spaces to be filled by those future flowers.

Underlying all of these ends and beginnings—as both Guillaume de Machaut and T.S. Eliot well knew—is the alpha and the omega, the first and last of the letters of the alphabet of sounds from which all words are formed. At every moment, now and always, he is taking up the substance we are producing, errors and all, and transforming it into the substance from which he can make all things new. I can think of no better awareness to accompany us out of the year which is ending into the one which is beginning.

 

Preparing for Christmas

Even though I am from California, I’m beginning to love snow. Not only for its beauty, but most of all, for the peaceful silence that it brings, permeating everything.

Deep within each human soul there is also a silence, an inner peace-filled silence that wants to awaken in our hearts. But just like the silence that comes only after the snow falls down from the sky, inner peace comes only after we accept whatever falls down into our lives. Like the earth receiving snow, inner peace is given us only after we embrace what falls into our lives. For even when something comes to us that is cold and painful, it is through saying ‘yes’ to the challenge that peace is possible.

And yet there is so much in us that would hinder this embrace, this ‘yes’ of what is. We are hindered by the temptation to think that what has come down to me is unacceptable, that my life just shouldn’t be this way, that if something hurts it means something is wrong. We are called to always remember that in the eyes of Christ, everything that comes into our lives is an opportunity to get closer to HIM.

Therefore, dear friends, Let us become like the earth in winter and embrace what falls to us from the sky, or like Mary, who humbly receives her will from above, even though it is difficult. Then, just like after snowfall, we will be ready for the Christmas gift, the peace-filled silence of Christ bestowed on our hearts.

The Root of Fear [i]

After Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, …the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”[ii] Later we read: Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden … and … stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.[iii]

Being afraid is the very first human emotion the Bible explicitly mentions. It appears immediately when the ‘Fall’ into the world of sense-experience is initiated by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. In the biblical account, fear appears to be joined with all that we experience in the earthly world. This description of fear is coupled with God’s first question to the ‘fallen’ human being, “Where are you?” Notice that the question is not answered. The man only says, I hid myself, seemingly not knowing where or who he is and thus being afraid. Jewish legend refers to “naked” as the loss of the “cloud of glory,” [the sheaths of auric light] that surrounded the human being before the Fall. [iv]

The original fear led to hiding to avoid being “seen,” that is, being known in the “fallen” state. Since the way back into the garden was blocked, this leads us to consider that our state of being alienated from both our true being and the divine world, as well as being mortal, arose out of divine intention.

Obviously, this original fear originated earlier and lies deeper than any of the fears we normally experience in today’s life.

[i] Most of this article’s content is based upon statements about fear that were made by Rudolf Steiner. Most of the translations of his remarks are my own. Bible passages are from the New American Standard Version, but in places indicated with [ ] I have substituted my own renderings. Quotations or paraphrases from Rudolf Steiner are referenced by the volume of the ‘Gesamtausgabe’ (GA) or collected works. All quotations are given in italics.

[ii] Gn 3:9 – 11.

[iii] Gn 3:22 – 24.

[iv] L. Ginzberg. Legends of the Bible, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia & Jerusalem, 1992, 647 pp.

 

Read the entire article here.

The Periodic Table and Christianity

The Periodic Table and Christianity: Patterns in the Universe and in Human Lives

When God made the universe and the human race he used many of the same patterns for both. The physical universe in which we live came from the spiritual world in a series of steps. Using heat, pressure and a great deal of time, the angels formed the 92 naturally occurring elements crystallizing spirit into matter. They began with hydrogen, a substance so light that it rises up through the atmosphere toward the stars whenever it is left alone by itself. So close to the spirit, just barely matter, it seems to want to go home back to the spiritual world. However, hydrogen is needed here to keep the earth from becoming too hard, too dense too fast. Usually it is bound up with other elements. Water, for example is made of two atoms of hydrogen tightly hugging one atom of oxygen, which only feels complete in their embrace: H2O. Without hydrogen we would have no water, no life on earth.

Scientists over the last 200 years have identified the 92 basic elements, as well as the complex patterns found in their interactions with one another.

The result of all that research is known as the Periodic Table, an arrangement that assigns numbers one (hydrogen) through 92 (uranium) to the naturally occurring elements and reveals an amazing array of patterns. The simplest pattern shown is size and weight: during creation every element appears to have arrived out of the spiritual world bigger and heavier (and often denser) than the preceding element. This is reflected in the periodic table in the “atomic weights” attached to each element. Scientists arbitrarily assigned the first element, hydrogen, an “atomic weight” of one. Each succeeding element has been “weighed” and then assigned a number to express its own atomic weight.

These weights are measured as multiples of hydrogen’s number one. Helium is twice as heavy as hydrogen and yet will still rise up through the air because it is lighter than air. Oxygen (the 8th element) for example is 16 times heavier than hydrogen, nitrogen (the 7th element) 14 times heavier.

At first the ability to react and combine with other elements increases very quickly and each new element is very different from the last: nitrogen (7) follows carbon (6), chlorine (17) follows sulfur (16) while aluminum, silicon and phosphorus are element numbers 13, 14, 15. Each new element brings something radically new making the world much richer and far more interesting. However, as the elements become heavier, they become increasingly similar to the preceding element. For example, iron (26), cobalt (27) and nickel (28) are very similar, though not identical. They are strong, sometimes brittle, metals with atomic weights of 56, 59 and 59. Already they are approximately 59 times heavier than hydrogen.

A pattern very similar to this is seen also in human lives: as a human soul is descending into the earthly realm the first 20 or 30 years are usually very different from each other, bringing new and interesting experiences that enrich and enliven one’s biography. Often thereafter questions of professional life, domestic situation and circle of friends become so settled that, in retrospect, the years become very similar, even blending into one another. Then heaviness can set in.

In the periodic table, by the time we get to elements numbered 57 (Lanthanum) through 71 (Lutetium) we are in a world of deadly monotony.

These elements, sometimes called rare earth elements (although not all are rare) are so similar in appearance, chemistry and physical properties that they are nearly impossible to separate from one another. Hence, their discovery and identification extended well into the 20th century. It can appear as if each new element were merely a repeat of the previous. Even though the elements numbered beyond 71 occasionally display very different characteristics, for example, gold (79), mercury (80) and lead (82), which has an atomic weight of 207, nevertheless, heaviness, density and repetition are the rule.

Then something entirely new and unexpected enters the picture, an impulse that could not have been predicted from what had gone before. The last naturally occurring element, Uranium (92), 238 times heavier than hydrogen, displays best this new phenomenon. There is a natural limit to how densely matter can crystalize. When earthly matter becomes too heavy, too dense, it begins to fall apart and “dis-integrate” from within the very core of the atom, the nucleus. Atomic radiation is given off: gamma rays, alpha and beta particles.

This radiation is deadly to life. Radioactivity leads to death which is the end of the road for matter, and the death of matter means the end of earthly life.

Death is not simply the opposite of life; it is a force that destroys life. The opposite of death is resurrection, the power to wrest life from death. In the world of earthly matter there is no power to resurrect. Like matter itself that power comes from the world of spirit. But it can only come through human beings. We have the task of overcoming the death of matter. As Paul said, all creation awaits redemption; this includes the very atoms of matter.

How are we to do this? We can only begin by overcoming death in all its forms in our own lives. The same pattern seen in spirit’s descent into matter is seen in our lives. Once we have passed through the adventures and transformations of youth, we must face increasing seriousness in our lives. The heaviness of karma, the weight of our personal obligations and the dark threat of life’s dreary repetitions can depress and discourage us. We sometimes even fear that matter’s destiny could be ours: disintegration. These difficulties are the consequence of our living in a universe made of matter.

However, the advantages of living in such a universe are even greater: we are free to think, feel and act as we see fit. In this, our freedom, we can think and question; we can wake up to the gifts, abilities and powers that are ours by virtue of being human beings. Fundamentally, we can inquire as to the meaning of life, the meaning of our own personal lives. We are free to think of, and long for, the virtues and human qualities that give life meaning: goodness, beauty, courage, faithfulness, honesty, hope, integrity, persistence, forgiveness, compassion, purity, self-restrain, sacrifice and, most importantly, love, which we can learn only in freedom. Longing for these virtues with clarity, which means thinking them in full consciousness, is actually another way to describe prayer. We are praying when we deeply long to do better, to help others and to improve ourselves.

When we pray again and again, that is, repetitively, something entirely new can come into our lives that could not have been predicted from what has gone before. Christ’s strength and spiritual light will enter our souls; this is the strength to carry and transform the burdens of our lives. Christ does not free us from the weight of the world by magically lifting us out of the world of matter and back into the world of spirit. He came to earth; he took on the weight of an earthly body to bring the power of resurrection to earthly matter. Salvation is not from the weight of our burdens and the earth; Salvation is transformation of the earth through us; in doing so we ourselves are healed as the weight of our burdens becomes less and less.

God could only help by becoming a human being. That is because we human beings are the only spiritual beings possessing consciousness of self, who actually live in this world of matter; matter permeates the essence of our physical bodies. That is why the power of resurrection began in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. With Christ’ power in our souls we can, with time and prayer, overcome the death in our soul and then resurrect this world whose natural fate would otherwise be the death of matter.

The new impulse that enters our lives is not disintegration, as with matter, but integration. The dark, all too human, corners of our soul are integrated with our higher self, which is carried by Christ. His transforming light streams into our souls, and thus into our bodies, bearing our true self; that self then can truly say, “Not I, but Christ in me.” Thus integrated we become an “integer,” a wholeness possessing integrity. Together with Christ we can then help to carry and transform the weight of the world.