Why Reverse Ritual ? some thoughts by Hazel Archer Ginsberg
The Reverse Ritual has its origins in the realm of the highest, deepest & most comprehensive world reality in which the human being, the gods, & the cosmos existentially live, weave, & are present.
For the human being the experience of the highest divine unity is threefold.It is not just a passive thinking, feeling & willing – it is an active, creative, co-thinking, co-feeling, & co-willing with the Godhead.
The body of the Reverse Ritual consists of human thoughts, words & deeds that are ever striving to grasp & further spiritual knowledge, vis-à-vis a cosmic-artistic enlivening, creating paths in the eternal being of the human soul.
Ritual itself can be structured in an archetypal process that has come to us from the ancient mystery schools. We can understand these in phases, styled as:
- parts of a whole,
- as sequential stages,
- & also as simultaneous activities in which the other activities are always present & active.
The Ritual process changes as human evolution does. We see this change enacted as the ‘New Sacrament’ by the Christ Being himself at the Last Supper:
And when Rudolf Steiner re-founded the ‘New Mysteries’ through Anthroposophia he laid the foundation for a new ritual, which he called the “Reverse Ritual”. Steiner also referred to it as: the “Ritual of Knowledge”, the “Spiritual Communion of Humanity”, the “Cosmic Communion”, the “World Ritual”, &”the “Cosmic Ritual”.
And as you can see below, it is a reversal of the Sacramental Ritual:
- Communion as pure thinking – “Spiritual Knowledge is a real communion, the beginning of a cosmic ritual that is suitable for human beings today”. We rise in our thinking to meet the spiritual world behind sense perception.
- Transubstantiation or Transformation, from matter to spirit
- Offering a meeting Ego to Ego “That good can become”
- Revelation of destiny unfolding as “Christ in Me”
The Mystery of Reversal was explained by Steiner as a way of understanding the workings of the Spiritual Worlds. One way to think of it is like this: When we die on earth, we are born into the spiritual world, & vice versa.
The birth mystery, as seen from both sides, becomes a series of little developmental ‘births’ –the 7-year rhythms of our biography, & as the journey thru the 7 planetary spheres between death & rebirth.
The Reverse Ritual arises out of the sense-free thinking of human beings connecting to the Christ impulse – working in harmony with the order of the universe – to further imbue the world with the Christ Being. It belongs to both the inner spiritual striving of the individual & to the cultivation of Anthroposophy within the community. This group endeavor, as seen for instance, in the celebration of a festival, creates a container for spiritual beings to work with us.
In mutual consecration we experience the co-operation of the Hierarchies with the Ego of the human participants, appearing as a Ritualistic-Karmic event, a cosmic/earthly ritual.
The cycle of the year lives in the rhythmic system of the human being, as an active reverence, enlivening the life of thought & directing the force of will.
The giving & receiving is happening simultaneously on both sides – this is true Communion.
Receiving is a Transformation, both of the one who gives, & of the one who receives.
The nature of giving is an Offering, a delivering up or giving away – which becomes a source of Revelation.
When we put our spiritual scientific research into practice with the 6 basic exercises etc…& begin to filter our cognition thru imagination, inspiration, & intuition, our thoughts become ‘entities’ that enliven the dead & dying matter surrounding us. This is a communion experience, which leads to a spiritualization of nature herself.
Communion also opens us to the path of karma that we share with our fellow human beings,; awakening us to what is veiled in our encounters, so we can participate consciously. We must ask: Why is this meeting taking place? What does this sympathy or antipathy mean in my life? Thru communion we can become collaborators in this realm.
In explaining the stage of Transubstantiation or transformation, Steiner gives these verses which he named: “Spiritual Communion”
“In Earth-activity draws near to me,
Given to me in substance-image,
The Heavenly Being of the Stars:
In WILLING I see them transformed with love!
In watery life stream into me,
Forming me through with power of substance-force,
The Heavenly Deeds of the Stars:
In FEELING I see them transformed with Wisdom.”*1
Steiner tells us that the “Cosmic Ritual” brings about a transformation in our physical & etheric bodies thru our willing & feeling.
Everything that is mirrored in our being is related to the resting stars, which stand in the signs of the zodiac. We are connected in our physical organism with these constellations in space.
The etheric organism lives in the fluids of the body. Thru them we are connected with the deeds of the stars. These deeds are the movement of the planets.
The experience of the connection of the earthly with the fixed stars & the watery with the wandering stars can become the equivalent of receiving the bread & wine that has been Transubstantiated.
The above mantra points to the earthly & watery life in our physical organism & how, thru the effect of the Reverse Ritual they can be transformed into Love & Wisdom.
He goes on to touch on the next stage of Offering, by saying: “When knowing human beings summon up powers of will & feeling, they become sacrificial beings. The fundamental relationship of the human being to the world rises from knowledge, to Cosmic Ritual. The first beginning of what must come to pass if Anthroposophy is to fulfill its mission in the world is that the human being’s whole relationship to the world must be recognized to be one of Cosmic Ritual.”*1
It’s interesting to picture that as these words were being spoken, on that fateful NYE in 1922, the torch had already been thrown onto the roof of the south wing of ‘White Hall’ in the 1st Goetheanum.
On that New Year’s Eve, the building burned to the ground – The offering was given.
One of the hardest sacrifices the Anthroposophical Society had to make – Due to the fact that the members were not able to make a sufficient inner offering , an outer offering was required.
Since then, the Goetheanum burns as a sacrificial flame within our hearts, as a reminder to make the Reverse Ritual our own.
Spiritual Science must go beyond knowledge – Only in the human being striving also in their feeling & willing, perceiving & co-thinking the spiritual content of Anthroposophy, transforming & offering themselves up, does Spiritual Science become a living ritual, a cosmic ritual, a reverse ritual in the world.
How does the Offering become the leading principle in Anthroposophy? Thru an attitude of tolerance, of brother & sisterhood – thru the support & loving connection of community.
We can find Communion in our relationship to nature & to the karma we share with each other.
We can experience Transformation in the workings of our own body, doing our part in fulfilling the grace given to us by the Spirits of Form.
But the Offering, can only come to pass when there is a selfless relationship between human beings, “from soul to soul”. Steiner brings this theme up again & again in “Awakening to Community” (GA 257) In these lectures he stresses the importance of branch life, how it must become a vessel or chalice for the Reverse Ritual.
In the 10th letter of “The Michael Mystery” Steiner compares the Sacramental ritual with the Reverse Ritual in regards to the mystery of community building – how the Sacramental Ritual prepares the way from Heaven (in relation to the Ascension) to Earth for the cosmic-spiritual beings. And that the community receives a kind of awakening to the teachings of Christ, as well as memories they had in common in the life before birth, in the presence of the community angel.
In contrast to this, the Cosmic Ritual leads to what Steiner called the “awakening onto the other human being as divine” & that the forces of this awakened meeting lifts the participants up to the spiritual world. It leads from Earth to Heaven, & in this way it allows spiritual beings to become part of the human community by participating in our thinking.
“No religion exists yet. If you believe religion to be possible, it must be made, & brought forth out of the union of souls” ~Novalis
Rudolf Steiner spoke about the 4th phase of the Reverse Ritual by pointing to the connection between the Michael Mystery & the Christ Mystery. “We must find the path to Christ within”- The connection of the human “I” with the Christ “I”. Only then do we arrive at the Word, the Logos – The Revelation
The “festival of Knowledge” that Michael brings becomes an inner revelation. The sphere of Revelation has an apocalyptic character; an apocalypse in the “I”. And from this dark night, the lonely soul gains the forces to say ‘not I, but Christ in me’, grasped in freedom as insight, realized in love.
Renewed from within, this Revelation then radiates out to others, nurturing the seed impulse in the “Christened” inner being of humanity, streaming out into the cosmos, for the future. Here we see how “Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe”
This can generate a radical capacity to understand the world, our fellow human beings, & world evolution. A force of warmth lives in this. Borne of love, it activates the will, to compassion.
The Sacramental Ritual flows from Revelation thru to Communion in a closed, self-contained form.
The Reverse Ritual moves from Communion, over Transformation & Offering to Revelation. Its form is open; the community can start from any stage or can cultivate a specific one, while maintaining its connection with the whole.
The sacrament proceeds out of the sphere of the Son, from the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Reverse Ritual, in every case, proceeds out of the sphere of the human being.
Anthroposophy itself traces its own source back to events that are connected with the evolution of humanity, both on Earth & in the spiritual world, especially in connection with the destinies of the Sun forces of Cosmic Intelligence, & its leader Michael, in the continuing work of the Christ Being Himself.
The cosmic origins of the Reverse Ritual & Anthroposophy are the result of Michael’s participation with specific streams of humanity in preparation for the guidance of Michael as Time Spirit in 1879. Through this we see a connection with the cosmic rituals that occur before birth & after death, as well as the cosmic ritual of the Hierarchies on the sleeping human being. Here we also perceive the cosmic event of karma formation. (Reveled especially in the Offering stage of the Reverse Ritual)
“Every earthly ritual is a symbolic image of this cosmic ritual. This cosmic ritual is higher in comparison with every earthly ritual” (GA 219)
Working with the Calendar of the Soul & the Foundation Stone Meditation can lead to Communion with the forces & spirits of the cosmos which can then work into our physical being in a homeopathic way to transform us.
In the big picture we can see that the Reverse Ritual encompasses all human creative activity. It can be attained in the world of pure thought, in all the arts, in the care of nature & its creatures, in therapeutic work, & in group meetings dedicated to the science of the spirit.
In particular, I use the formula of the Reverse Ritual in our Festival life. This range reaches down into the sphere of head, hands & heart – enhanced thru our connection with spirit beings in nature, in the cosmos, with living & departed souls, with the beings of the Hierarchies, & with the Christ Being.
“Living together with the course of cosmic life becomes a happening different in character from his connection with the facts of everyday life. It becomes a ritual, a cult. And so the cosmic ritual comes into being, in which man can have his place at every moment of his life” *1
“Our whole life is an act of worship. In ordinary life, we serve like priests at the altar.” ~Novalis
*1. Spiritual Knowledge is a True Communion: The Beginning of a Cosmic Ritual Suitable for the Present Age Dornach, New Year’s Eve, 1922-23 GA 219 (The fire that destroyed the 1st Goetheanum was discovered 1 hour after this lecture ended)