Looking Westward

As my days in Toronto become numbered, I find that leaving is not easy, but I feel it is the right step to make. Last year during the retrospection of my life as a priest during the 25th anniversary celebration, I had the grace of what Rudolf Steiner described as “rising above oneself in retrospection.” I could look back and take hold of original impulses in a new way, to be able to go forward into a new phase of development. And it became clear that I had to let go of the life and web of connections that has grown up here like a tended garden, and be willing “to die and become.” This is a process difficult both for me and for the community.

This is an ash process, whereby offering becomes a way for enrichment.

The good that we have worked together will fall like ash fertilising a field to enrich the foundation for new growth, for receiving new impulses. It is not that the “old” is destroyed, and the ever sought-after new becomes sovereign like a novelty fashion. It is that the old becomes fixed in its forms, like in the forming of a salt, where the crystal captures a particular stage. And in order for new life to spring up, a dissolving or yielding or metamorphosing must take place.

Of these possibilities, the choice has been made for me to take up work in Vancouver, for someone new to come to Toronto. Although everyone recognises that this is an opportunity for renewal, it is not without effort. Some may even feel that in my leaving, an unspoken agreement is being unacknowledged. But the agreement of a priest must be a commitment to something more far-reaching than to a particular community: it is a commitment to the body of Christ in Christian Communities. And in that we are all ultimately affected by the health of the whole. We cannot rest in our achievements, the comfort of the known and loved, once our consciousness expands beyond our current scope.

I am going to a congregation that has existed many decades, founded by Verner Hegg, and where Werner Grimm has worked for a long time, and also Michael Kientzler. There is a church building there in Burnaby, similar to the church on Avenue Road. Many people debate whether or not the church should be located there near the downtown, or in North Vancouver, where most of the people live.

Vancouver itself looks out towards Vancouver Island, the Pacific, the Aleutian Islands, and the International Dateline where today becomes tomorrow… It is situated on the Pacific rim, which encircles an ocean floor unlike the other oceans of the earth. Under the other great oceans, a structure is evident in the ocean floor that expresses a deep and vital process of circulation. A ridge, like a backbone, directs the flow of the currents of water. The metabolism that takes place at the bottom of the Atlantic, for example, helps to keep the tectonic plates which carry the continents encircling the Atlantic healthy. But the Pacific ocean floor does not have this underlying structure. It is rough and torn, still scarred by the ancient wrenching free of matter that left the earth and eons ago formed the moon.

The Revelation to John: Structure1

  • Introduction

    1. 1:1-3 John’s Preface and the 1st Beatitude (reading and hearing this book
    2. 1:4-8 John greets the Seven Churches in Asia – Voice of the Lord God
  • Opening Vision

    1. 1:9-20 I John (in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day) – Vision of One Like a Son of Man
    2. 2:1-3:22 The Seven Letters, to Ephesus – Smyrna – Pergamum – Thyatira – Sardis – Philadelphia – Laodicea
  • 1st Throne Vision

    1. 24:1-11 The One Sitting on the Throne and the 24 Elders
    2. 5:1-14 The Lamb
    3. 6:1-8 The first four Seals: the Four Horsemen
    4. 6:9-11 The fifth Seal: the souls of Martyrs
    5. 6:12-17 The sixth seal: signs of heaven, doom on earth
    6. 7:1-8 Heavenly Interlude on earth: sealing of the 144,000 Servants of the Lord
  • 2nd Throne Vision

    1. 7:9-12 Song of Those who Came Through; the Angels’ Song of Praise
    2. 7:131-17 Those in White Robes, explanation by one of the Elders
    3. 8:1 Opening the seventh Seal – Silence in heaven
    4. 8:2-5 The angel with the golden censer, the prayers of the saints
    5. 8:6-12 The first four Trumpets
    6. 8:13 Heavenly Interlude : the Eagle in Midheaven
    7. 9:1-12 The fifth Trumpet, being the first Woe
    8. 9:13-21 The sixth Trumpet, being the second Woe
    9. 10:1-11 Heavenly Interlude: the Strong Angel with the Book for the Seer (The seven Thunders)
    10. 11:1-14 The two Witnesses. Announcing the third Woe
  • 3rd Throne Vision
    [The seven visions of the Dragon]

    1. 11:15-19 The seventh Trumpet: Hymn in heaven, the Elders giving thanks
    2. 12:1-6 First vision of the Dragon: The Cosmic Woman and the Birth of her Son
    3. 12:7-9 2nd Vision: Michael battling the Dragon
    4. 12:10-12 3rd Vision: Hymn of Victory in heaven
    5. 12:13-18 4th Vision: The Dragon battling on earth
    6. 13:1-10 5th Vision: The first Beast
    7. 13:1-14 6th Vision: The second Beast
    8. 13:15-18 7th Vision: The Mark of the Beast – the Number 666
  • 4th Throne Vision
    [The seven visions of the Son of Man]

    1. 14:1-5 The Lamb on Mount Zion with the 144.000
    2. 14:6-7 The first Angel: the Eternal Gospel
    3. 14:8 The second Angel, announcing Judgment on Babylon
    4. 14:9-12 The third Angel, announcing Judgment on those who follow the Beast
    5. 14:13 2nd Beatitude (Those who die in the Lord)
    6. 14:14-16 The Son of Man reaping the earth with his sharp sickle
    7. 14:17-20 The Angel with the Sickle and the Angel with Power over Fire
  • 5th Throne Vision
    [The seven angels with their bowls]

    1. 15:1-5 The Sea of Glass and the Song of Praise of those Who Conquered
    2. 15:6-8 The seven angels receive the seven golden Bowls
    3. 16:1-11 The first five Bowls of Wrath poured out
    4. 16:12-14 The sixth Bowl of Wrath poured out
    5. 16:15 3rd Beatitude (Warning to be awake and to keep one’s garments)
    6. 16:16 Assemblage at Armageddon
  • Interlude
    [The seventh Bowl and the seven visions of doom]

    1. 16:17-21 The seventh Bowl of Wrath poured out
    2. 17:1-6 The World Harlot of Power
    3. 17:7-18 The Angel interpreting her Appearance
    4. 18:1-3 Woe on Babylon
    5. 18:4-8 Another Angel warning the Believers
    6. 18:9-20 Lament of Kings, Merchants and Seafarers
    7. 18:21-24 The Angel with the Millstone, symbol of destruction
  • 6th Throne Vision
    [Seven Stages of Trial by Triumph and Judgement]

    1. 19:1-10 “Hallelujah” after Babylon’s Fall – 4th Beatitude (Those called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
    2. 19:11-16 The White Horseman triumphant
    3. 19:17-21 Triumph over the Beast and its Vassals
    4. 20:1-3 The Dragon chained
    5. 20:4-6 The Thousand Years – 5th Beatitude (The First Resurrection)
    6. 20:7-10 Satan’s Last Struggle and his Defeat
    7. 20:11-15 The Last Judgment
  • Final Vision
    [New Jerusalem]

    1. 21:1-4 A New Heaven and New Earth
    2. 21:5-8 God’s Promise
    3. 21:9-17 The Heavenly City, Lay-out and Measurements
    4. 21:18-21 The City’s Fundament, the twelve jewels and twelve gates
    5. 21:22-27 The Residents of the City
    6. 22:1-5 The River of the Water of Life and the Tree of Life
    7. 22:6-7 Christ’s Coming – 6th Beatitude (To keep the words of this book)
  • Conclusion

    1. 22:8-9 I John (affirming) – the Angel
    2. 22:10-12 Voice of the Lord … “I am coming soon” – “Recompense”
    3. 22:13 Voice of the Lord God
    4. 22:14-15 7th Beatitude (Those with washed robes – Tree of Life and City)
    5. 22:16-17 I Jesus – Voice of the Lord : “I have sent” – “Come”
    6. 22:18-19 The Seer on the words of this prophecy
    7. 22:20-21 Voice of the Lord : “Surely I am coming soon” – Prayer and Blessing
  1. Here following Christoph Rau, in his article on the Structure of the Revelation to John, in Ich sah den Himmel aufgetan, pp 37-52 (ed. Johannes Lauten), Urachhaus, Stuttgart 2006.
  2. “After this” which means “After these things”, indicates a beginning after a longer interval in time. See for instance 4:1, 7:1, 7:9, 15:5, 18:1 and 19:1.

    In Alfred Heidenreich, The Book of Revelation (Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1977) there has been posthumously published a series of lectures held by him in 1968, the year before his death in 1969, on the invitation of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. A translation of The Revelation to John by Heidenreich has been added. Rudolf Frieling, in the last chapter of his Christianity and Reincarnation (Floris Books, Edinburgh 1977, pp 90-117) describes “Human Evolution in the Apocalypse of John”, with the intention to see what it has to say about mankind’s Christian progress.

Cosmic Lights

The universe offers us two kinds of cosmic light—the sun by day, and the stars by night. The one is all round and full, shining everywhere equally, with its great embracing light joining everything visible in its benevolent glow. The other is all distant sparkling points, individual, distinct, and separated in the cold darkness from one another.

When the Community of Christians was founded on the earth, these two kinds of light were brought into a new world-historical connection. For each of us is distinct, in our own space, with our own perspective, experiencing aloneness and the dark as we strive and suffer, regret and rejoice, learn and love. This is how we evolve, becoming ourselves and more enlightened on our path. But human history moves forward as well, through the destiny of communities to which everyone belongs by birth, by upbringing, by choice. And through communities, something greater than the individual can work, for better or for worse.

Eighty years ago, a free religious community, without rules or dogma, came into being, to be worthy of modern individuals and of the Spirit at work in our time in community-building ritual.

The Act of Consecration of Man, said Rudolf Steiner, is more real than anything in Nature. It will outlast everything material. As an eternal sun, it generates spiritual community, blessing and nurturing our common human essence, consecrating human beings on either side of the threshold in divine deed.

Our life weaves between these two forms of light—the sparkle of individual destiny and the destiny of the Christ-centered community, shining through, in, and around us. So may we together play a crucial benevolent role in the history of community life and world evolution.

Easter Sunday

The magnificent meaning and significance of Easter is to overcome matter and death! Easter is also always mankind’s victory over heaviness and inertia.

And this is true even if we do it in a completely unconscious way. Whenever we try to overcome heaviness and inertia, we bring the spirit of Easter to the world.

Some families have begun an Easter tradition of walking to a spring to obtain Easter water. They start very early in the morning before sunrise. They have to agree beforehand to be absolutely quiet on their way until they scoop the water from the spring. Beginning this practice meant for all who took part in it, an overcoming of this sense of heaviness and inertia. They had to get up very early, at an unusual time, and hold back their usual flow of words. Both mean overcoming the pull of convenience.

But there are other situations where we try to overcome these feelings of inertia and paralysis. Every morning, when we get up, we need inner power to straighten ourselves up and overcome our body’s stiffness and affinity for gravity.

There is also an inner inertia when we have to do things we do not enjoy doing. Each and every one of us knows our own inertia. But when we have enough strength and do what is necessary, we can experience a wonderful sense of completion and support. Then we may get help from another side, perhaps what we asked for long time.

On Easter Sunday morning, when the women were on their way to the tomb with their aromatic spices, they needed great strength and power to overcome their mourning and fear, for what they anticipated seeing at the tomb. And they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” And when they then looked at the large stone in front of the tomb, they saw that it had already been rolled to the side. The help was there when they needed it.

And the people who went to the spring on Easter morning may have experienced the joy of a wonderful sunrise, which they would never have seen, had they been asleep. Or they may have had a special encounter with an animal and heard noises that nature produces around us before they started their daily activities. All this happened, because they overcame the paralysis of convenience.

Perhaps, after a long silence, people use their words more carefully. And if they repeat such an experience, they may get an important thought and impulses for a question that they have lived with for a long time.

Easter is a wonderful celebration each year, but Easter can also be with us every day if we allow it and become aware of help from the spiritual side, once we overcome the weight of inertia.

April 22nd, 2006


Christ did his most significant work in the time between the temptation and the crucifixion, or better said – his sacrifice. Temptation and sacrifice belong together like night and day.

As adults, we know temptations very well. We struggle with it almost every day. Sometimes it is alcohol, sometimes it is caffeine, or chocolate, sometimes it is another drug. It has to do with our yearnings and cravings, and with the instability of our inner balance. We mistakenly believe we come to an inner balance through fulfilling our desires. The outside world stimulates these desires hundredfold in many different forms. Mostly we think we cannot do without them and our will is too weak to battle against them on a daily basis. We each have our very own individual temptations and problems that are caused by them.

Looking at society as a whole, temptation is present everywhere. It is bigger and perhaps more dangerous than we have recognised up to now. Many people have forgotten how to differentiate between fanatical faith and faith that you develop through the experience and effectiveness of the spiritual world in our daily life. It is a tragedy. Some young people think religion has brought so much deceit, distress and warfare for mankind that it cannot be trusted. And, on the other hand, temptation has become extremely materialistic. The power of the adversary is immense and hard to resist. Most people cannot recognise the daily effectiveness and protective power of the spiritual world. In our daily struggle it could arrive through their guardian angel, or through their already deceased loved ones.

But now, we have to pose the question: is there a chance to manage this limitless temptation, in the personal and also for society, so that it is not so overwhelming? Let us return for a moment to the beginning. I said that temptation is closely connected to sacrifice. But who likes sacrifice? In a short time, we will see – in our church [in Toronto] – the tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily by Goethe. The main theme in this story is sacrifice. The pictures point us towards a distant future. At that time it will never be night. Then we will always have day. It is important that each figure has their dealings in the tale in order that the sacrifice can work. So it is also important that we prepare the future now, otherwise one day society may collapse.

One way to get ready for the future is to practice small sacrifices. Can’t we try to give up something we desire intensely? For example, if we are totally addicted to chocolate, or alcohol, or other things, we could begin with that, only one time in the week. Perhaps one day we can learn how not to give in to another craving, perhaps a bigger one. Then one day, perhaps, we can resist a more intense temptation.

But how can society resist the temptation of having only materialistic thoughts without spiritual connection? Today, many people cannot distinguish between fananticism, and the fact, indeed the reality, that the spiritual world is continuously present. One can experience that when one is a little awake to it. Through the guidance of the spiritual world a new morality is arising for which each of us is responsible. Then we can hope that we will remind ourselves about the biggest sacrifice of and for all times, the mystery of Golgotha.

It is our hope that in the future, society will achieve the right form of harmony. But, harmony is only possible when the physical and the spiritual worlds mutually interact and influence each other. The physical world connects with the spiritual world and vice versa, when antithesis of day and night are cancelled. Of course it is something for the far future, but we have to prepare it now.

If we celebrate our daily service as a community, and give up our excessive desires, our materialistic thoughts and superfluous cravings, then we are already making possible the mutual penetration of both worlds. Our small sacrifice will build the foundation and show the way to reject temptation when it comes as a dark feeling and attacks our soul.

Workers in the Vineyard

Our embedded childhood memories often echo the voices of our parents, or teachers calling on us to perform various tasks. Most of the time, we heard them and did what they asked. But sometimes, when we didn´t want, or pretended not to hear them, we either faced punishment, or faced difficulties.

Later on in our life, if we were awake enough, we could hear an inner call, which we felt we should listen to, because it might have had something to do with our task on earth, and in the wider sense, our destiny. For various reasons, we could not always respond to this call. And afterwards, we did not always notice the effect that this unresponsiveness may have caused. The call of destiny may have tried to reach us again and again. When we could not or would not hear it, we experienced difficulties in our life, but didn´t connect the difficulties to these calls.

And sometimes, in our everyday struggles, we may have heard about a very wise person, who wanted to lead us toward new concepts and ideas at the appropriate time. These ideas could bring fairness and brotherhood into the social life of human beings, because they came from a higher wisdom. But these ideas have to be grasped by influential persons, for example people in the government. If they are not fully accepted and implemented, life in society does not come to pass, social life becomes more and more difficult.

The workers in the vineyard all followed the demand of the master of the house, they heard the call. They were all paid the same wages, as agreed before-hand, no matter who ended up working less or more. It was fair and just, because it was agreed upon beforehand. But then they were troubled about it and felt it was unfair.

How do we feel about it? Yes it is unjust for those, who worked the whole day. They have had to put in much more effort and push themselves. Yes, we always look at work from the point of view of money. Mostly, we forget that work also has its creative and regenerative effect.

When we work in freedom by way of inner effort, in meditation, prayer or in the Act of Consecration of Man, we transform our soul and our whole being. We can certainly count on the assurance that through our inner work, if we also work through feeling such freedom in the outer world, we continually transform the earth, even if we cannot always see it. We shouldn´t forget, that we were born to do transformation on the earth. And if we forget the real reason and impulse, we will be called upon by destiny. But also, society shouldn´t walk out on the task of transforming society; otherwise, there will be more conflicts between people, or groups of people. Of course this cannot be achieved by individuals. Such tasks require the strength of whole groups of people, because after death, in the spiritual world, there is no possibility to work in freedom. Our only chance is to start our transformation while we are on earth, so that we can then enter the spiritual world fully prepared.

It could be a great help to learn this already in the childhood when we are called for necessities.

The Sower and the Seed

In paintings by Vincent van Gogh, it is not unusual to see a farmer sowing seeds with a typical one-arm gesture. Even though it is only a painting, we can recognise the devotion of the farmer.

In the past a farmer would pray before going into the fields to sow. The ritual of the seeds in his warm hand and the rhythm of his light steps did not change for centuries. The old farmers working in their fields were in perfect harmony with nature, and as they went through the process of growing the grain, they understood that nature was communicating God’s Word to them.

Today, we hardly ever see a lone farmer sowing seeds in his field. It was our parents’ generation that last witnessed the love of the farmer for the earth.

Nowadays we are accustomed to seeing big heavy machinery with great wheels and blades grinding through the ground. The seeds drop into the soil through a cold metal funnel. We can feel the artificiality of this process. And we can also feel this is not really progress, but rather a procedure now without heart. The devotion towards God’s creation has totally disappeared. But it is “the new reality.” We cannot change it. And so, this transformation and development has become a challenge for farmers and for us as consumers. We are no longer aware of the process. We do not always know what we are consuming, or better said: what we are fed. Our produce and our bread don’t come anymore from the loving hands of the old spiritual farmer.

What we now have to do is express our love for this earth. It is ours. But– do we love the earth with all its beauty? Do we love it in the spring, when we see the first green buds peaking out from the ground? Do we love it in summer, when the wind makes it dance? Do we love the droopy and slowly wilting plants in the last days of autumn? All these thoughts become relevant, only if we are aware that the earth is a spiritual entity.

Today, the word of God can speak to us through different pictures and in many different ways. But the question is always: are we open to God’s spiritual Word when we relate to nature? The truth is, we should not reap the gifts of nature and then forget about it.

Let’s think for a moment how it is said during the service for children: they can lift up their thoughts and feelings to the spirit, to the spirit that lives and works, that lives and works in stone, plant and animal, that lives in human thinking and human doing.

It is obvious that nowadays the children are already learning to appreciate these thoughts and feelings. During the Sunday Service for Children they are given this wonderful chance. And for us, as adults– could we become responsible for the word of God as it speaks to us in all these different forms? Then we can find in our soul a new morality towards all living things on this earth. In prayer we can also pray for the earth, that it will not be destroyed before its time. Only on earth can we– as human beings– fulfil our task for the future in order to become spiritual beings.

The paintings of van Gogh have given us the possibility of looking at both sides, of looking at the morality in his art and also of looking at how it was in the past with the old farmers. From both we can learn and understand how God’s Word speaks in the world, and now we have to find our own way of seeing and hearing it, of becoming connected with it.

A Few Thoughts on Membership and its Relationship to Other Paths

I am sometimes asked what it means to be a member of The Christian Community. It means that an individual has taken part in the sacramental life of the congregation for a sufficient length of time and has come to experience the Act of Consecration of Man, the Communion service as his or her “spiritual home.” Among those seeking for answers to the question of meaning and wholeness in a fractured world are those who find help through communion, through participation in Christ. Such communion is union with a being who is the bearer of one’s “real” self, one’s “higher” self. We experience a kind of unification for a time, the world appears a bit more coherent. Having found a “spiritual home” one can then feel more at home in the earthly world.

Yet membership does not mean that one’s only access to the spirit is in the sacraments, nor need it signify one’s decision that the Christ can be found only in one Church. Christ is at work everywhere in the world and would be heard in the depths of every human soul. Communion with him, which will always be holy whenever it really occurs, can take place in different ways. And it is in the nature of Christ himself that no single path to communion with him, be it meditation, the sacraments or the largely unconscious path of destiny can claim exclusiveness or greater validity for a modern human being. Any path that leads to Christ is worthy, for he said “I am the way …” Yet every path also has its dangers: meditation: spiritual vanity; ritual: spiritual indolence; destiny: resentment and refusal to wake up. These risks are not unique to each path but overlap in large measure just as the various paths can overlap in the lives of individuals. Anyone following a path of spiritual discipline and meditation will be only strengthened in those endeavors by an inwardly active participation in ritual, in the sacraments. But only if, for personal reasons residing deep within the should, they themselves want to participate in ritual. There is no question of should. On the other hand, regular attendance at the Act of Consecration of Man, or any other valid form of the Eucharist, when accompanied by a fervent heart filled with an “active receptivity,” will serve to stimulate one’s thinking by way of the heart. With thinking thus become more lively and flexible it is natural then for an individual to seek for an expanded understanding of the ideas heard, thought and prayed in the ritual. This may lead people to study, for example, the spiritual researches of Rudolf Steiner. Thus, as one would expect of two paths leading to the same goal, Christ himself, the two ways serve to complement and support one another.

Rudolf Steiner was once asked whether an initiate, someone able to directly commune with beings in the spiritual world, would also take communion in the form of bread and wine. He responded that the answer depended entirely upon the initiate, that there is no general principle. In this most personal area there are no rules as to which path or combination of paths any individual or type of individual should follow in seeking communion with Christ. The only certainty is that everyone is individually responsible for deciding which paths are fruitful for him or her.

An individual who has experienced the sacraments in The Christian Community can come to the insight: “Yes, here is reality, here is healing and help for life. Here I find the strength that helps me to help others. Here is a source of THE GOOD in and for the world. I want to unite with this community that the Good endure, that the Good be spread further in the world.” When anyone come comes to this conclusion and wants to become a member of the Christian Community he or she should arrange to meet with a priest to discuss the next step.

The Social Form Implied in the Lord’s Prayer

One of the first things to be noticed in contemplating the Lord’s Prayer is that it immediately extends beyond the personal needs of an individual supplicant. Rephrasing it into a personal supplication is actually unthinkable; the phrase “My father, who art in the heavens” is already repugnant, but “Give me this day my daily bread” is even more so. Anyone who knows the Lord’s Prayer will instinctively cringe away from these expressions of egotism set before the spiritual world.

The larger we make the circle included in the words “our” and “us” in the Lord’s prayer, the truer we are to its intent. Ultimately, it is meant to be prayed on behalf of all creation; but it especially includes all of humanity, those on earth but also those who are not at present on earth. And through its inclusion of humanity it brings to expression the picture of how the structure of human society is built.

When, at the end of the First World War, concerned people asked Rudolf Steiner for guidance on how to rebuild society, he responded by describing what we may know as the Threefold Commonwealth or the Threefold Social Order. It is tempting to classify his indications as yet another blueprint for a Utopian society, but those who have done so have failed to realize that Rudolf Steiner actually did nothing except describe things as they are. Human society is threefold, and the crises that arise from time to time spring largely from people’s failure to recognize the fact. Each realm of society, the spiritual-cultural life, the sphere of rights, and the economic life, has its own laws which operate like laws of nature; and when one sphere encroaches with its laws upon another sphere, then certain pathological conditions arise in society.

The seeds of the threefold social organism are already to be found in Genesis. At the beginning of human development, God gives to humanity three tasks. The first task was the naming of the animals. Then, with the creation of Eva, the second task was for Adam and Eva to take up mutual responsibilities towards each other. Finally, with the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the third task was to toil at raising crops for food. Furthermore, Adam and Eva have three sons who are named in Genesis: Cain, who becomes a farmer; Abel, who becomes a shepherd; and Seth, who establishes the line of the patriarchs. Thus we recognize, not once but twice, the archetype of the threefold social organism. To give things names and then to know their names is a fundamental phenomenon of the spiritual-cultural life. The basis for the economic life is in the cultivation of the soil. In the relationship of Cain and Abel we have the archetype for the recurring problem in the relationship of the economic life to the spiritual-cultural life. And it is the task of Seth, the third son, to take responsibility for the whole.

It is then possible to recognize how the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer can help us to shape the threefold social organism. The first petition, “Hallowed be thy name”, gives us the underlying impulse of the spiritual-cultural life. The source for the spiritual-cultural life is the world of ideas, and all ideas are aspects of the name of God. For the ideas to enter into the spiritual-cultural life they must be taken up as ideals. To bring our ideals to expression we need freedom; and each expression of an ideal contributes to the hallowing of God’s name.

The next petition reads “Thy kingdom come.” The moment we speak the word “kingdom” we find ourselves in a political-legal context. Every kingdom has its laws. By calling for the approach of the kingdom of our Father in the Heavens we are resolving to accept the laws of that kingdom.

Next come the words “Thy will be done.” To begin with, we could imagine this as a rather passive acceptance bordering on fatalism—one speaks of “acts of God”; if something happens that I cannot control, I call it “God’s will.” The matter becomes more complicated when I add the effects my own actions into the whole of the world processes. Can other people consider my deeds as an aspect of God’s will? This can become an essential question for each of us, and the prime area of concern that it raises for us is in the economic life, where universal brotherhood is the ideal that we strive for.

Our Father, Who Art in the Heavens

To whom am I speaking when I say, “Our father, who art in the heavens”? Many of us will have spoken these words often without spending much thought on whom we have been addressing. Perhaps a visual image may pass quickly by, such as Michelangelo’s representation of the Father God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But again the image is not often followed through to its consequences.

The first aspect of this question that must be considered is the word “Our”. Whom do I include when I say “Our father”? Again, we face a question that we do not often ask. What happens if I simply say the words without thinking on whose behalf I am saying them?

There are several possible answers to this question, and each of them may be the correct one at different times. The first is that I may be speaking for myself only. If this is true, then I can only reach that spiritual being who is specifically related to me. In traditional nomenclature, this is my angel, or, which comes to the same thing with slightly different emphasis, my guardian angel. It is a good thing to meet and address one’s guardian angel, but in a prayer with the scope of the Lord’s Prayer there is a great risk to us if we cannot reach further than to our angel. At this level we remain isolated in our relationship with the spiritual world and may develop a self-centered spiritual life. To be thus cut off would lead us to become less than human beings. We can therefore recognize the great wisdom in the fact that the Lord’s Prayer begins with the words “Our father”, and not “My father”. At least to a large extent we are protected from the first danger.

The second possibility is that I include into the word “Our” not just myself but all of the people with whom I associate myself. How far I reach depends on how large I can make the circle. It could be as narrow as my family, or it could reach out to include all the people with whom I regularly associate, be it in my place of work, my home town, or my local church. It can extend to people I have never met, most commonly to people who share my religion or nationality. Out of such an attitude I will be addressing that spiritual being who stands in relationship to the group of people whom I have included in the circle with me. These spiritual beings are the archangels, who according to their stature take responsibility for smaller or larger groups of people. Here also there is a risk. I cannot fall into the egotism of “My father”, but there is the very real danger of sectarianism or nationalism. It can be even more significant whom I do not include into “Our” as whom I do include. And from such an exclusion it is only a short step into a war where both sides use the prayer against each other.

The third possibility is that I include all of humanity on earth as I say “Our father”. Now I am addressing the spiritual being who is responsible for the guidance of humanity in the present time. This is the being we know by the name of Michael, one of the time spirits or archai. When we reach this level we can come into a relationship with the spiritual world which is much less likely to cause harm in the world. There does remain a small risk that we will not be able to find a right relationship to what comes before or after us.

This is overcome in the next possibility, which is to include into one’s circle also those human beings who are in the spiritual world between death and a new birth. Now our prayer connects us beyond the spiritual beings of the third hierarchy to those of the second hierarchy, to begin with, with the exusiai or elohim. And a further step, including not only human beings but all of the created world when we say “Our father”, brings our prayer to the first hierarchy, to the thrones, cherubim and seraphim.

The image then is this: I speak the words “Our father who art n the heavens”. I speak from a point which I must imagine as the center of the world, but I include into the word “our” all of creation. I feel my kinship with all creation — we have the same father; we have come from the same creator. Through having thus overcome all egotism I can address the place where I may at last find my true I.