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Steiner and Christmas

Dec 14, 1994 11:46 AM
by Arthur Patterson

I realize that I have not completed my Silence musing but I did
have some thoughts on Christmas that I wanted to share with the
listserv.  I hope I am not out of line putting a brief Christmas
missive concerning a kind of different variety of theosophist on
line.  I especially want to be sensitive to those of other
faiths, who could read this as advocating for Christianity.  It
is not.  I hopefully am suggesting a way of consciousness which
is more universal than the Christian way.  Let me know whether my
thoughts are clear.

Please indulge the formatting problems while I learn my new
system.  There may be the occassional distraction S and R for
apostrophe and =3D20 at the end of some of the paragraphs.  I am
working on it.

Light's Winter Wrapping

To be quite frank, I ordered Rudolf Steiner's The Christmas
Festival in the Changing Course of Time., because I was having a
difficulty contemplating how to enter the spirit of Christmas
this year.  I was hoping that Steiner would bring a bit more than
the standard fare by way of interpreting Christmas, and he has!

The first problem I encountered was the weather.  It may seem
ridiculous but because it was unseasonably warm for a few weeks
in November my rhythms were knocked silly.  It was as if my
internal weather receptors were tell me that I was approaching

Standing outside wearing a sweater in Winnipeg, in November, is
very rare.  You will not be surprised when I relate the startling
effect when I found, in the Steiner meditation, a reference to
the psycho-spiritual effect of winter.

Into deepest night-enveloped darkness has the physical sunlight
descended during autumn.  More outer darkness has come about.
Long have the nights become, shortened are the days.  We stay at
home much of the time.  During other seasons we go outside, to
the fields, where we would feel the golden rays of the morning
sun coming to meet us, where we could work with our hands during
the long days of summer.  But now we sit inside much of the time,
we must feel much , much darkness around us, and we must often
see , as we look through the windows, how the earth is being
covered with its winter garment.

Even thought this was a 'mock' peasant response of yester-year
something in this description moved me.  I am not rural and do
not work outside, nor do am I entirely cognizant of the changing
seasons but I do experience subtle shifts of consciousness during
winter that parallel Steiner's description.  Winter is a
saturnalian time of introspection, re-evaluation, winter's icy
wrap reminds me of my love of life in contrast to the seasonal
death around me.  The frozen tree branches make me think of the
time wh en sap ran through those trees resulting in a budding and
blossoming that was the tree's goal.  I feel that when I see my
frozen self in winter I am reminded of my aliveness, my freshness
of spring feelings that contrast the long Winnipeg wait...  until
spr ing.  It is not that Winter is not beautiful, it is but it is
sometimes a melancholy beauty.  Winter's comfort blanket had not
yet arrived so I had not enough time to set my inner clock for
its arrival.  The snow has arrived now.  As I look out the window
an d see the light dancing on my lawn I am reminded that the time
has come to move inside in search of another light in the midst
of Winter's darkness.

Steiner is correct that in the coming of Winter there is a
potential to be connected to times and seasons.  I am not so sure
that he is correct when he says that modern humankind is beyond
the grace of those intuitions.  Our disinclination to be cyclical
pe ople like our forbearers is not a sign of evolutionary
development, rather is a sign of our forgetfulness and the
numbness overindulged senses.  Seasonal subtleness is hard to see
when we are on the run to the next meeting.

Steiner's meditation reminded me of a former time in my life,
when the seasons were more clearly differentiated.  When I was a
minister, I found that the Church Yearly Calendar was a perpetual
reminder of the cycle of time.  Beneath the explicit dogma and
references to the life of the Christ lay a pagan penchant for
time and its rhythms.  It was as if the Church could not find it
in its human heart to ignore the eternal rhythms, as the apostle
Paul suggested, when he saw cyclic worship as a reversion to a
unredeemed path, "how is it that you are turning back to those
weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to enslave yourself
all over again? You are observing special days and months and
seasons and years!" Gal.4:9,10  A few short years after this
the Church herself had to acknowledge the human need for seasonal
rhythm.  Being a modern person, I am out of rhythm because I am
not participating in the calendar whether that calendar is
ideologically Christian or pagan makes little difference.

Thanks to Steiners reminder, my intuitions are heightened to the
times and seasons.  They, in turn, link me to the idea of waiting
for the light.  In response, I plan that part of my New Years
reflection will be on a more concerted effort to record and exp
lore ways to have the seasons be part of my life this year.  I
plan to combine the Celtic Year with the Christian year in order
to pay homage to the human inheritance of rhythm.

This year I find myself not only out of step with the time but
also estranged from the significance of Christmas.  No longer to
do I look to any historical manger scene to the provide spiritual
sustenance, and yet, I cannot look away from the incarnation.
What occurred in this "myth-come-true" life of a Galilean
peasant whic= h has formed the consciousness of Western
spirituality? Steiner calls this event," the most powerful
impulse in the evolution of humankind".

In the Christ event are the seeds of a new spiritual approach
that is as much a new anthropology as it is a theology.  The
recognition of this has given me the idea that Steiner's
spiritual science, called Anthroposophy, may be the creative
blending of the se formerly separate disciplines.  Such a
blending of theology and anthropology would result in a new mood
for doing spiritual research.  Steiner describes the practical
and emotional effects of the realization of the Christ Event,

" Through the celebration of this festival the souls used to
blossom fort= h with hope-filled joy, with the hope-borne
certainty, and with awareness of belonging to a spiritual Being.
Who descended from Spiritual heights, and united Himself with the
earth, so that every human soul of good will may share in His
powers.  Such moods and feelings can awaken in us too, if we
consider what can be born in our own soul when our innermost
wellspring is so well attuned to what is sacred, so purified
through spiritual knowledge, that this wellspring can take in the
holy mystery of the Christ impulse."

What happened in Christ is a promise for what can happen for all
humankind.  Humanity can feel and perceive a different realm of
consciousness, which is not know directly through the senses,
but, is a gift from the new nature.  Steiner reminds us that we
ca n be supported in this belief, filled with the joy of it, and
the assurance of it, when we look at the life of Christ and his
attunement with the Source of spirit.  Our old Adamic nature is
not unredeemable; it is caught up in a new creation, in a new Ada
m and that Adam incognito came in the form of Jesus Christ.  But
not exclusively so - humanity is called to celebrate and
participate in this New Being.  Christmas is the celebration of
the physical manifestation of the spiritual which will eventually
lead back to the spiritual manifestation of the physical, when we
have developed the eyes to see.

Steiner declares this to be the essential message of Christmas
whatever the outward forms.  Whether peasant or modern, perhaps
even post-modern, we can participate - if we are reminded.
Steiner says that we become desensitized to Christmas, and its
messa ge, through a materialism that blurs our vision.  He spoke
of being detracted by electric trains trundling between the
evergreen trees, and the madness of compulsive gift giving.
While he speaks of the future being one of flight in balloons, I
cannot help but be overwhelmed by the possibilities of
omniscience within the seconds it takes to make the keystroke
Control X.  We need again to allow ourselves to be wrapped in
winter in order to retell the story of our "return".=

Our foreparents were in touch with the spirit of ascent and
descent in the new creation through nature which touched their
feelings.  The primary way for this to occur was in theatrics and
fine arts.  Steiner is critical of the modern attempt to imitate
th e pageantry of the past through mechanistic training; instead
he exhorts us to become heart-felt in our spiritual aesthetic.
To wed our morality and character to the pursuit of this
Christmas affect.  The receptive mood was created in the simplest
manner then and now.  Drama, particularly household drama, is
part of the evocation of the spirit.  I can not help but to
recall the play The Cricket on the Hearth which our community put
on last Christmas.  Dickens the founder of the modern feeling for
Christmas certainly is a contemporary version of Steiners Star
Singers or Christmas performers.  Reading and preparing for this
play by our group enabled us to catch the spirit of descent and
ascent which this year seemed at least from my vantage point
slightly lac king.

I am more than impressed with Steiners refusal to become cynical
due to our temptation toward materialism and the struggle to
conjure the same spirit of Christmas our forefathers did.  He
rightly debunks the feigned return to nostalgia,

Only an enemy of evolution would want to drag what was great in
one time over into other times.  Each period of time has its own
special mission.  In each period we must learn how to enliven it
in ever new ways what should enter the souls and hearts of hu

Some of the old ways of evocation remain relevant, like the tree
and the pageant but what of new ways? Steiner gives us a hint by
declaring the new manger is our everyday work, and that Christmas
is the time when we are to evaluation the spiritual work do ne in
the name of the rise of consciousness throughout the year.  So I
am left to ponder the nature of our collective rebirth by seeing
my own face reflected in the infant in the manger - this
Christmas can I see even mirrored vaguely the face of Christ m y
own human work, my struggle to love, to care and perceive the
life of the Spirit?

Under the Mercy,

Arthur Patterson

Winnipeg, MB
Canada R3E 1Y5

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