From Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts by Rudolf Steiner, edited & compiled by ~hag A Christmas Study: The Mystery of the Logos. Christmas, 1924
“…If the consciousness soul is able to strengthen itself sufficiently, to look back in inner vision to its divine-spiritual origin, it finds the cosmic Logos, as the Being who can lead it back. It fills itself with the mighty picture which reveals what took place on Golgotha.The beginning of this understanding is the loving comprehension of the Cosmic Christmas, the World Initiation Night, the festive remembrance of which is celebrated each year.
…The warmth of love is present in its highest form when it goes out to the
Jesus child who appears on Earth during the World Initiation Night. In this way the human being has allowed the highest earthly spiritual fact, which was at the same time a physical event, to work upon his soul; he has entered upon the path on which he may receive Christ into himself…
To turn the human heart in love to these great cosmic facts: this is the true content of the festival of remembrance approaching the human being each year when he contemplates the World Initiation Night of Christmas. If such love as this lives in human hearts, it permeates the cold light-element of the consciousness soul…
To feel and experience Christmas in this way will enable the soul to realise how the glory of the divine-spiritual beings – whose images are revealed in the stars – announces itself to the human being, and how the human being’s liberation from the powers striving to alienate him from his origin takes place within the precincts of the Earth.”
Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival Berlin, December 17, 1906 GA 96, by Rudolf Steiner, edited & complied by ~hag
Many people who today merely know the Christmas tree with its candles believe that to have a tree symbolizing Christmas is a traditional custom dating from ancient times. This, however, is not the case. On the contrary, the custom of decorating a tree at Christmas is most recent and does not date back more than a few centuries. The custom of decorating a Christmas tree is a recent phenomenon, but the celebration of Christmas is old. The festival at Christmas time was known in the most ancient Mysteries of all religions everywhere, and has always been celebrated. It is not merely an outer sun festival, but one that leads man to a divination of the sources of existence. It was celebrated annually by the highest initiates in the Mysteries at the time of year when the sun’s force was weakest and bestowed least warmth upon the earth. It was also celebrated by those who were unable to participate in the entire celebration, but were permitted to experience only the outer pictorial expression of the highest Mysteries. This imagery has been preserved throughout the ages and has assumed forms in accordance with the various religious confessions. The celebration of Christmas is the festival of the Sacred Night, which, in the great Mysteries, was celebrated by those personalities who were ready to bring about the resurrection of the higher self within their inmost being. Today we would say, “Within their inmost being they gave birth to the Christ.”
Thus, in the meaning of the Christmas Festival, we feel something echoing to us from the most ancient ages of mankind, and it has come down to us in the special coloring of Christianity. In its symbols we find images for the most ancient symbols of mankind. The Christmas tree with its candles is one of them. For us, it is a symbol of the Tree of Paradise, which represents all of material nature. Spiritual nature is represented by the tree in Paradise that encompassed all Knowledge, and by the Tree of Life. There is a narrative that imparts clearly the significance of the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. Seth stood at the Gates of Paradise and begged to be allowed to enter. The Archangel guarding the portal let him pass. This is a sign for initiation.
Seth, now in Paradise, found the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge closely intertwined. The Archangel Michael, who stands in the presence of God, let him take three seeds from these intertwining trees, which, standing there as a single tree, pointed prophetically to the future of mankind. Then the whole of humanity shall have been initiated and shall have found knowledge. Only the Tree of Life will still exist and death will be no more. For the time being, however, only the initiate may take the three seeds from this Tree, the three seeds that signify the three higher members of man.
When Adam died, Seth placed these three seeds in Adam’s mouth, and from them grew a flaming bush. From the wood cut from this bush, new shoots and green leaves continually burst forth. Within the flaming circle of the bush, however, was written, “I am He Who was, Who is, Who is to be.” This points to the entity that passes through all incarnations, the force of evolving man repeatedly renewing himself, who descends from light into darkness and ascends from darkness into light.
The rod with which Moses performed his miracles was carved from the wood of the flaming bush. The portal of Solomon’s Temple was fashioned from it. This wood was carried to the waters of the pool of Bethesda, and from it the pool derived its power.
From the same wood the Cross of Christ Jesus was fashioned, the wood of the Cross that shows us life passing into death, but which at the same time bears the power in itself to bring forth new life. The great world symbol stands before us here — life, which overcomes death. The wood of this Cross grew out of the three seeds from the Tree of Paradise.
The Rose Cross also expresses this symbol of the death of the lower nature and, springing from it, the resurrection of the higher. Goethe expressed the same thought in the words:
As long as you have not Died and been reborn, You are but a gloomy guest
Upon the darkened earth.
What a wondrous connection there is between the Tree of Paradise and the wood of the Cross! Even though the Cross is a symbol of Easter, it also deepens our Christmas mood. We feel in it how the Christ Idea streams toward us in new welling life on this night of Christ’s Nativity. This idea is indicated in the living roses that adorn this tree. They tell us that the tree of the Sacred Night has not yet become the wood of the Cross, but the power to become this wood begins to arise in it. The roses that grow from the green symbolize the Eternal that grows from the Temporal.
The square is the symbol of the fourfold nature of man: physical body, ether body, astral body and ego.
The triangle is the symbol of the higher man: Spirit Self, Life Spirit and Spirit Man.
Above the triangle is the symbol of the Tarok. Initiates of the Egyptian Mysteries knew how to read this sign. They also knew how to read the Book of Thoth, which consisted of seventy-eight cards on which were recorded all world events from beginning to end, from Alpha to Omega, and which could be read if they were joined and assembled in the right way. The Book of Thoth, or Hermes, contained in pictures the life that fades in death and again sprouts forth anew into life. Whoever could combine the right numbers with the right pictures was able to read it. This wisdom of numbers and pictures has been taught since primeval ages. In the Middle Ages it still played an important role, but today there is little left of it.
Above the Alpha and Omega is the sign of Tao. It reminds us of the worship of God by our primeval ancestors because this worship took its origin from the work Tao. Before Europe, Asia and Africa were lands of human culture, our ancestors lived on Atlantis, which was submerged by a flood. In the Germanic sagas of Niflheim, the land of the mists, the memory of Atlantis still lives. For Atlantis was not surrounded by pure air. Its atmosphere was filled with enormous masses of mist similar to the clouds and mists in high mountains. The sun and moon were not seen clearly in the sky, but were surrounded by a rainbow, and sacred Iris. At that time man still understood the language of nature. What speaks to him today in the lapping and surging of the waves, in the whistling and rushing of the wind, in the rustling of the leaves, in the rumbling of thunder, is no longer understood by him, but at that time he could understand it. He felt something that spoke to him from everything about him. From the clouds and waters and leaves and winds the sound rang forth: Tao (the I am). Atlanteans heard it and understood it, and knew that Tao streamed through the whole world.
Finally, all that permeates the cosmos is present in man and is symbolized in the pentagram at the top of the tree. The deepest meaning of the pentagram may not now be mentioned, but it is the star of mankind, of mankind developing itself. It is the star that all wise men follow as did the priest-sages in ancient ages.
It symbolizes the earth that is born on the Night of Consecration, because the most sublime light radiates from the deepest darkness. Man lives on toward a state when the light shall be born in him, when one significant saying shall be replaced by another, when it will no longer be said, “The Darkness does not comprehend the Light” but when the truth will resound into cosmic space with the words, “Darkness gives way to the Light that radiates toward us in the Star of Mankind, Darkness yields and comprehends the Light.”
This shall resound from the Christmas celebration, and the spiritual light shall radiate from it. Let us celebrate Christmas as the festival of the most lofty ideal of the Idea of Mankind, so that in our souls may rise the joyful confidence: Indeed, I, too, shall experience the birth of the higher man within myself. The birth of the Savior, the Christos, will take place in me also.