1560Initiation, New Birth---Death & Rebirth
- Jan 17, 2003*******
When you undergo initiation on the spiritual path, you awaken the eternal element in you, and this makes your experience after death completely different. It also completely transforms the "little death" we experience each night: sleep and the dream state. The experience of initiation into the mysteries is both a death and a new birth. We give birth to a new self, after the old one dies. The soul itself is its mother, while the spirit is the child. This can happen to each and every one of us, if we seek to awaken the higher man within us---in fact, it MUST happen to us, if we would be truly human.
Goethe: "And so long as you do not have this, 'Die and become!'
You are but a troubled guest on this darkened earth."
This self can be called the Christ within-- -- and the awakening of it, a giving birth to the Divine Child. Here is one meaning of the Trinity: Nature is the Father, the soul is the Mother, and the Spirit Is the Child.
As the mystic Angelus Silesius said,
"Were Christ born in Bethlehem a thousand times, and not in you, you are lost eternally."
This is what all this has to do with Christianity. This symbols and rituals of the ancient Christian religion we have had handed down to us are, on one level, symbols of the inner re-birth that we can experience on the spiritual path.
What we were reading about in the book "Christianity As Mystical Fact and the Mysteries of Antiquity" was, first, about what in ancient times was called "initiation." Every ancient religion had some form of initiation, about which almost nothing is known by ordinary history, because it was extremely secret. In Egypt, this took the form of the "temple sleep", where, after preparation, a person was placed into a deathlike trance state for several days -- -- -- while his body lay in the coffer which is still in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid -- -- -- and his soul was sent into the astral world, after which experience he would emerge reborn as a new person.
In later lectures, Steiner goes into greater detail about how this was done and about how initiation is different today. A full explanation requires the use of anthroposophical terminology. We human beings are mainly composed of the physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. At night when we sleep, the etheric body of life forces stays with the physical, while the astral body and ego go out and experience the astral world, which is the dream pictures we remember each morning. The reason why we forget our dreams so quickly, however, is that the etheric body is what gives us memory, and it has stayed with the physical body to keep it alive. In the moments of waking up, the astral body is reconnecting with the etheric body, and we have only those few moments in which to impress what the astral body has experienced into the etheric body: if we don't do so, the memory slips away.
In the Temple Sleep, the etheric body also was separated from the physical and sent out with the astral body, with the result that the person would be able to remember all his experiences in that astral world. This was done by men who were already initiates and had some control of their life forces, keeping the person's body alive even without the etheric body in it. As a result of the preparation which had been done, the person initiated this way would meet up with higher spiritual beings on the astral plane, and would be brought back to life as a different person. He was then called the "twice-born."
This was what the Hebrew priests were attempting to do with Lazarus. but in the centuries leading up to the time of Christ, this kind of initiation was becoming more and more difficult to accomplish, because we human beings were becoming more and more solidly anchored in our physical bodies, as evolution required. When this process was attempted with Lazarus, it failed, and he actually died. His ego and astral body were lost in the astral world, because the priests did not have enough control over their life forces to keep his body alive.
It was at this time that we were coming more and more solidly into the physical body and the old initiation practices were becoming impossible, that the prophesied one, the messiah, the Christ, came into the world. When He was told that Lazarus was dead, He said that he was only sleeping. Christ then went to the tomb, and with his own superior grasp of the life forces, he finished the initiation and brought Lazarus back.
This not only transformed Lazarus's life, but it had a symbolic meaning, as did every action that Christ took. The Christ came into the man Jesus at the very time that the actual human ego was coming into the physical body of mankind completely for the first time. The knowledge of ourselves as individuals, the Ego, is the gift of the Christ to us by his incarnation amongst us. Just as the Christ completed the initiation of Lazarus directly himself, so, because the ego is now within we human beings, we are able to initiate ourselves directly, within our everyday lives, without the need for a priesthood or being put through something like the temple sleep. Instead, the process of dying and being born again is something that happens to us individually, within our individual lives, in a way which is unique to each of us.
In its extreme form, it still can involve a literal Death and Rebirth, such as people have gone through who died on the operating table and then came back to life, but a new, transformed life. But it doesn't do have to be so extreme or violent: the meditation exercises we have been given as part of spiritual science have the same effect, of causing a gradual death of the old self and the birth of the higher self in us. which can take a multitude of different forms in our lives.
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