Death Becomes Life

On Good Friday, 1857, Wagner was sitting in the Retreat, “the sanctuary on the green hill.” Looking out over the fields watching the plants come to life, sprouting from the earth, an inkling arose in him of the Power of the germinating force emerging from the Earth in response to the rays of the sun: a driving force, a motivating force that permeates the whole world and lives in all beings; a force that must evolve, that cannot remain as it is; a force that, to reach higher stages, must pass through death. Watching the plants, he felt the force of sprouting life, and turning his gaze across the Lake of Zürich to the village; he contemplated the opposite idea, that of death — the two polar concepts to which Goethe gives such eloquent expression in his poem, Blessed Longing.

And until thou truly hast,
This dying and becoming,
Thou are but a troubled guest
O’er the dark earth roaming.

Goethe rewrote the words in his hymn to nature saying: “Nature invented death to have more life; only through death can she create a higher spiritual life.”

On Good Friday, as the symbol of death came before humankind in remembrance, Wagner sensed the connection between life, death and immortality. He felt a connection between the life sprouting from the earth and the Death on the Cross, the Death that is also the source of a Christian belief that life will ultimately be victorious over death, will become eternal life. Wagner sensed an inner connection between the sprouting life of Spring and the Good Friday belief in Redemption, the belief that from Death on the Cross springs Eternal Life. This thought is the same as that contained in the Quest for the Holy Grail, where the chaste plant blossom, striving towards the Sun, is contrasted with human desire filled nature. On the one hand Wagner recognized that human beings are steeped in desires; on the other he looked towards a future ideal — the ideal that human beings shall attain a higher consciousness through overcoming their lower nature, shall attain a higher fructifying power, called forth by the Spirit.

Looking towards the Cross, Wagner saw the blood flowing from the Redeemer, the symbol of Redemption, being caught in the Grail Chalice. This picture, linked itself within him to the life awakening in nature. These thoughts were passing through Wagner’s soul on Good Friday, 1857. He jotted down a few words that later became the basis from which he created his magnificent Good Friday drama. He wrote: “The blossoming plant springs from death; eternal life springs from the Death of Christ.” At that moment Wagner had an inner awareness of the Spirit behind all things, of the Spirit victorious over death.

For a time other creative ideas pushed those concerned with Parsifal into the Background. They came to the fore once more near the end of his life, when, clearer than before, they conveyed to him a person’s path of knowledge. Wagner portrayed the path to the Holy Grail to show the cleansing of a human beings’ desire nature. As an ideal this is depicted as a pure holy chalice whose image is the plant calyx’s chaste fructification to new creation by the sunbeam, the holy lance of love. The sunbeam enters matter as Amfortas’ lance enters sinful blood. But there the result is suffering and death. The path to the Holy Grail is portrayed as a cleansing of the sinful blood of lower desires till, on a higher level, it is as pure and chaste as is the plant calyx in relation to the sunbeam. Only he who is pure in heart, unworldly, untouched by temptation, so that he approaches the Holy Grail as an “innocent fool” filled with questions of its secret, can discover the path.

This idea led to his wonderful artistic interpretation of the Good Friday tradition, so that it can truly be said that Wagner has succeeded in bringing religion into art, in making art religious. 

In his artistic new creation of the Good Friday tradition, Wagner had the ingenious idea of combining the subject of faith with that of the Holy Grail. On the one hand stands the belief that humankind will be redeemed, and on the other, that through perfecting its nature humanity itself strives towards redemption; the belief that the Spirit permeating humankind — a drop of which lives in each individual as his higher self — in Christ Jesus foreshadowed humanity’s redemption. All this arose as an inner picture in Wagner’s mind already on that Good Friday in 1857 when he recognized the connection between the legend of Parsifal and Redemption through Christ Jesus.

We can begin to sense the presence of the Christ within mankind’s spiritual environment when, with sensitivity and understanding, we absorb the story of the Holy Grail. And it can deepen to concrete inner spiritual experience when we sense the transition from the midnight of Maundy Thursday — events of Maundy Thursday — to those of Good Friday, which symbolize the victory of nature’s resurrection.

Wagner’s Parsifal was inspired by the festival of EasterHe wanted new life to pour into the Christian festivals, which originally were established out of a deep understanding of nature. This can be seen especially in the case of the Easter festival, which was established when it was still known that the constellation of Sun and Moon affected human beings. When the spirit was regarded as a reality it was sensed in all things. If we could still sense what was bequeathed to us through traditions in regard to the festivals, then we would also have a feeling for how to celebrate Good Friday. Richard Wagner did have that feeling, just as he also perceived that the words of the Redeemer: “I am with you to the end of the world,” called human beings to follow the trail that led to the lofty ideal of the Holy Grail. Then people who lived the Truth would become redeemers.

Mankind is redeemed by the Redeemer. But Wagner adds the question: “When is the Redeemer redeemed?” He is redeemed when He abides in every human heart. As He has descended into the human heart, the human heart must ascend. Something of this was also felt by Wagner, for from the motif of faith he lets sound forth what is the mystical feeling of mankind in these beautiful words from Parsifal:

Greatest Healing Wonder – Redemption for the Redeemer!

These words truly show Wagner’s deep commitment to the highest ideal a person can set himself: to approach that Spiritual Power that came down to us and lives in our world. When we are worthy, we bring what resounds at the dose of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal: Redemption for the Redeemer” ~ Rudolf Steiner, Supersensible Knowledge, Lecture XII, Richard Wagner and Mysticism  From death comes life

From death comes life ~Hazel Archer Ginsberg

15 April 2022 – “Speaking with the Stars”: This evening Bella Luna is not quite full – It will be exact at 1:55 tomorrow afternoon CDT. Look below the Moon after dark for Spica glimmering through its glare. Much farther to the Moon’s left shines brighter Arcturus. During dawn tomorrow morning the 16th, spot Venus shining in the East. Upper right of it are Mars and then Saturn, much fainter. Lower left of Venus Jupiter is also coming into view. WOW The Spiritual world is lining up for an Easter Parade!

Alexandra Tomorskaya

Rudolf Steiner’s Lectures on this day


The Feast Day of Archangel Raphael

1452 – The Birthday of Leonardo da Vinci – According to the spiritual scientific research of Rudolf Steiner this individuality incarnated before as Augustine, Judas Maccabee & then…

“What is inscribed in the Akasha Chronicle between the earth and the moon is of special importance because it is there that among other things all imperfections are recorded. It should be realized that the inscribing of these imperfections is governed by the view that every record there is of significance for the individual’s own evolution, either furthering or hindering his progress. Because it is there inscribed in the Akasha Chronicle between earth and moon, it also becomes significant for the evolution of the earth as a whole. The imperfections of really great men are also recorded in that sphere. One example of tremendous interest for clairvoyant observation is Leonardo da Vinci. He is a spirit of greatness and universality equaled by few others on earth, but compared with what he intended, his actual achievements in the external world in many respects remained incomplete. As a matter of fact, no man of similar eminence left as much uncompleted as Leonardo da Vinci. The consequence of this was that a colossal amount was inscribed by him in the Moon sphere, so much indeed that one is often bound to exclaim, “How could all that is inscribed there possibly have reached perfection on the earth!”

At this point I want to tell you of something that seemed to me quite significant when I was studying Leonardo da Vinci. I was to give a lecture about him in Berlin and a particular observation made in connection with him seemed to be extremely important. It fills one with sadness today to see on the wall of the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan the rapidly disappearing colors that now convey no more than a faint shadow of what the picture once was. If we remember that Leonardo took sixteen years to paint this picture, and think of how he painted it, we gain a definite impression. It is known that he would often go away for a long time. Then he would return to the picture, sit in front of it or many hours, make a few strokes with the brush and go off again. It is also known that many times he felt unable to express what he wished in the painting and suffered terrible fits of depression on this account. Now it happened that a new prior was appointed to the monastery at a time when Leonardo had already been working at the picture for many years. This prior was a pedantic and strict disciplinarian with little understanding of art. He asked impatiently why the painter could not finish the picture, reproached him for it and also complained to Duke Ludovico. The Duke repeated the complaint to Leonardo and he answered, “I do not know whether I shall ever be able to complete this picture. I have prototypes in life for all the figures except those of Judas and Christ. For them I have no models, although in the case of Judas, if no model turns up I can always take the prior. But for the Christ I have no prototype.”

What I want to say is that when one looks today at the figure of Judas in the picture that has almost completely faded, a shadow is to be seen on this figure, a shadow that cannot be explained in any way, either by the instreaming light or by anything else. Occult investigation finds that the painting was never as Leonardo da Vinci really wanted it to be. With the exception of the figures of Judas and the Christ he wanted to portray everything through light and shadow, but Judas was to be portrayed in such a way as to give the impression that darkness dominated the countenance from within. This was not intended to be conveyed by external contrasts of light and shadows. In the figure of Christ the impression was to be that the light on His countenance was shining from within, radiating outwards from within. But at this point disharmony beset Leonardo’s inner life, and the effect he desired was never produced. This affords a clue when one is observing the many remaining inscriptions made by Leonardo in the Moon sphere. It is an example of something that could not be brought to fulfillment in the earth sphere.

When the period following that of Leonardo da Vinci is investigated, it is found that Leonardo continued to work through a number of those who lived after him. Even externally there can be found in Leonardo’s writings things that later on were demonstrated by scientists and also by artists. In fact, the whole subsequent period was under his influence. It is then discovered that the inscribed imperfections worked as inspirations into the souls of Leonardo’s successors, into the souls of men who lived after him.

The imperfections of an earlier epoch are still more important for the following epoch than its perfections. The perfections are there to be studied, but what has been elaborated to a certain degree of perfection on the earth has, as it were, reached an end, has come to a conclusion in evolution. What has not been perfected is the seed of the following divine evolutionary process. Here we come to a remarkable, magnificent paradox. The greatest blessing for a subsequent period is the fruitful imperfection, the fruitful, justifiable imperfection of an earlier period. What has been perfected in an earlier epoch is there to be enjoyed. Imperfection, however, imperfection originating in great men whose influences have remained for posterity, helps to promote creative activity in the following period. Hence, there is obviously tremendous wisdom in the fact that imperfections remain in the neighborhood of the earth, inscribed in the records of the Akasha Chronicle between earth and moon.

This brings us to the point where we can begin to understand the principle that perfection signifies for the different epochs the end of a stream of evolution, and imperfection, the beginning of an evolutionary stream. For imperfection in this sense men should actually be thankful to the gods.” ~Rudolf Steiner Life Between Death and Rebirth Man’s Journey through the Cosmic Spheres after Death

‘The Devil Presenting Saint Augustine with the Book of Vices’; painting by Michael Pacher, fifteenth century
Judah Maccabee by Arthur Szyk

“Among the five sons of Mattathias is one who is already called Judas in the Old Testament. He was the one who at that time fought more bravely than all the others for his own people. In his whole soul he was dedicated to his people, and it was he who was successful in forming an alliance with the Romans against King Antiochus of Syria (I Maccabees, Chap. 8). This Judas (Maccabeus =The Hammer) is the same who later had to undergo the test of the betrayal, because he who was most intimately bound up with the old specifically Hebrew element, could not at once find the transition into the Christian element, needing the severe testing of the betrayal. Again, if we look at the purely artistic aspect, how wonderfully do the two figures stand out: the grand figure of the Judas in the last chapters of the Old Testament and the Judas of the New Testament. It is remarkable that in this symptomatic process, the Judas of the Old Testament concluded an alliance with the Romans, prefiguring all that happened later, namely the path that Christianity took through the Roman Empire, so that it could enter into the world. If I could add to this something that can also be known but that cannot be given in a lecture to an audience as large as this, you would see that it was precisely through a later reincarnation of Judas that the fusion of the Roman with the Christian element occurred. The reincarnated Judas was the first who, as we might say, had the great success of spreading Romanized Christianity in the world. The treaty concluded by the Judas of the Old Testament with the Romans was the prophetic foreshadowing of what was later accomplished by another man, who is recognized by occultists as the reincarnation of that Judas who had to go through the severe soul-testing of the betrayal. What through his later influence appears as Christianity within Romanism and Romanism within Christianity is like a renewal of the alliance concluded between the Old Testament Judas and the Romans, but transferred into the spiritual.” ~Rudolf Steiner, Gospel of Mark: Lecture 2

“If we let his “Last Supper” work on us, we find two things of which we can say that they do not altogether agree with Leonardo’s view of the principles of painting. One is the figure of Judas. From the reproductions and also to a certain extent from the shadowy painting in Milan, one gets the impression that Judas is quite covered in shadow — he is quite dark. Now when we study how the light falls from the different sides, and how with regard to the other eleven disciples the lighting conditions are represented in the most wonderful manner in accordance with reality, nothing really explains the darkness on the face of Judas. Art can give us no answer as to the wherefore of this darkness. This is fairly clear as regards the Judas figure. If we now turn to the Christ Figure, approaching it not according to Spiritual Science but according to the external view, it only produces, as it were, something like a suggestion. Just as little as the blackness, the darkness of the Judas figure seems justifiable, just as little does the “sunniness” of the Christ Figure, standing out as it does from the other figures, seem to be justified, in this sense. We can understand the lighting of all the other countenances but not that of Judas nor that of Christ Jesus. Then, as if of itself, the idea comes into one’s mind: surely the painter has striven to make evident that in these two opposites, Jesus and Judas, light and darkness proceed not from outside but from within. He probably wished to make us realize that the light on the face of the Christ cannot be explained by the outer conditions of light, and yet we can believe that the Soul behind this Countenance is itself a light force, so that It can shine of Itself, in spite of the lighting conditions. In the same way the impression with respect to Judas, is, that this form itself conjures up a shadow which is not explained by the shadows around it.

This is, as already said, a hypothesis of Spiritual Science, but one that has developed in me in the course of many years and we may believe that the more we considered the problem the more we would find it substantiated. According to this hypothesis one can understand how Leonardo, who strove to be true to nature in all his work and study, worked with trembling brush to present a problem that could only be justified with respect to this one figure. We can then understand that he might well be bitterly disappointed, indubitably so, because it was impossible by means of the then existing art to bring this problem to expression with complete truthfulness and probability. Because he could not yet do what he wanted, he finally despaired of the possibility of its execution and had to leave a picture behind him which still did not satisfy him, and the question as to the feelings with which Leonardo left his picture can be answered in full accord with the whole figure and spiritual greatness of Leonardo. He left it with a feeling of bitterness, realizing that in his most important work he had set himself a task, the execution of which could never be satisfactory with the means available to man. If in the centuries to come no eye will see the picture Leonardo had conjured on to the wall at Milan — that, in any case, was certainly not what lived in his soul. If we picture him thus before his most important creation, we are indeed tempted to ask: What secret really lay behind this figure?

“…We see very little of Leonardo by looking at his external creations; we get the idea that this soul has still to carry out something in a super-sensible existence and we say to ourselves: Oh! We understand! In order that this soul, in the whole course of its collective existence, which runs through many earth lives, could always reveal something to mankind, it had in its Leonardo existence to pass through a life in which it was only able to bring to expression the very smallest part of what lived within it. Such souls as Leonardo are world riddles and life riddles — world riddles incarnate… Leonardo’s greatness only becomes evident to us when we get an inkling of what he could NOT accomplish. ~Rudolf Steiner, Leonardo da Vinci – His Spiritual and Intellectual Greatness At the Turning Point of the New Age

Kaysha Siemens

Velsum’ (Victory in Wholeness) an Anthroposophical Musical Initiative created by Lucien Dante Lazar & Ultra-Violet Archer performing New Nightingale, New Rose on Easter Sunday

Live streaming from the Rudolf Steiner Branch Chicago. Join us in-person or online.

(Please disregard the last notices & use the new link to register for this event even if you think you have already registered – sorry for the confusion) 

This offering will not be recorded – it is meant for Easter Sunday only.

These 2 Christened voices came together for the “Building the Temple of the Heart” 2021 ASA AGM conference & have gone on to co-create a new musical genre that they call: Ancient Futurism. This past year they have been workshopping this initiative at Angelic Organics Farm graciously hosted by Haidy & Farmer John Peterson, who have put culture back into Agriculture by building a Temple stage to host Anthroposophical events in their glorious Barn building. The Debut of Velsum occurred there on Lazarus Saturday 2022.  

Easter Sunday 17 April 2022
Doors open at 12:30 pm CDT 4249 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, Il. 60618
NEW TIME: Performance 1-2pm CDT
Potluck Easter Feast 2-3 pm CDT

$10 or more suggested donation goes to the artists –

Chicago Friends – Please Bring Hardy Festive Food & Drink to Share please indicate that it is for EASTER

Topic: Easter: New Nightingale, New Rose
Time: Apr 17, 2022 01:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

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6 thoughts on “Death Becomes Life

  1. Hi Hazel, readers of your blog use it for personal contemplation and/or as a source for further study. For the latter, it would be helpful to give sources and also to distinguish between first-hand and second-hand sources.
    The source for Judas Iscariot and Augustine is -if I understood it correctly- Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who had the inner experience of a karmic connection between Judas Iscariot and Augustine and Leonardo da Vinci at a lecture of Rudolf Steiner on April 3, 1917. Rudolf Steiner confirmed to him the correctness of this experience. This reference was handed down by Madlen Hauser, the assistant of Wilhelm Pelikan, who then wrote it down. See the magazine Der Europäer, April 2002 (available free on the internet) and February 2013.
    Personally, I trust such personal traditions very much, but there are also skeptics who dispute some statements with equally good reasons.

  2. Dear Hazel, Rudolf Steiner discussed many incarnations in his Karma lectures. Beside these quite reliably documented reincarnation statements, there are many hearsay or “apocryphal” statements of Steiner, which cannot be proclaimed with the same certainty. To these belong the incarnation statements to Judas Iscariot, Augustin, but also many others, like those of Moses and Goethe.
    I ask you Hazel, to indicate in each case the sources for your reports, i.e. whether it is about stenographed statements of Steiner or sources from 2nd hand.

      1. Neither Augustine, or Leonardo seem like viable candidates for being the reincarnated Judas Iscariot, who had been the one that had arranged the pact with the Romans against Antiochus IV as Judas Maccabeus. In fact, all twelve disciples of Christ had formerly been the Maccabees.

        In my research, the more likely candidate for the third betrayal in which “Romanism is brought into Christianity and Christianity into Romanism”, is the figure of Emperor Constantine. He kept the Palladium, which was promised to be returned to Troy, and transferred it to Constantinople when the Roman Empire expanded.

        1. Rudolf Steiner often spoke in admiration of Augustine of Hippo, and here is a really good one from “Christ and the Human Soul”, lecture one:

          “There is a well-known Christian Church Father who was not afraid to speak of the Greek philosophers, Heracleitos, Socrates and Plato, as Christians who lived before the founding of Christianity. Why does he do this? As we know, the doctrines professed today obscure much of what was at first an illuminating Christian teaching. St. Augustine himself said: “All religions have contained something of the truth, and the element of truth in all religions is what is Christian in them, before there was a Christianity in name.” St. Augustine dared to say that. Nowadays many a man would be regarded as a heretic if he were to say something similar within certain Christian congregations.

          We shall most readily understand what this Church Father wished to convey, when he called the old Greek philosophers Christians, by endeavoring to enter into the feeling of those souls who in the first Christian centuries tried to determine their personal relationship to the Christ. These souls did not think of Christ as having had no relation to the Earth evolution before the Mystery of Golgotha. The Christ has always been concerned with the evolution of the Earth. Through the Mystery of Golgotha, however, His task, His mission, in the Earth-evolution was changed. It is not Christian to seek Christ in the evolution of the Earth only since the Mystery of Golgotha. True Christians know that Christ has always been connected with the evolution of the Earth.”

          Doesn’t sound much like Judas Iscariot could be involve here.

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