Moving Beyond Aristotle and Plato

In response to a question from a friend (“What is the School of Archangel Jesus?”), I decided to go back and revisit a lecture from Valentin Tomberg that I hadn’t read for quite a long time. Tomberg’s first lecture from the series Inner Development, “The New Michael Community,” given in Rotterdam in 1938, begins with his extremely brief outline of the new Grail Community, a Community whose motto is to be Michael Sophia in Nomine Christi. He spends a good deal of this lecture describing the nature of the School of Michael and its relationship both to Sophia and to the threshold between the spiritual and material worlds.

For those of us involved with the Sophia Foundation or any of Robert Powell’s work, this lecture is key. This lecture planted the seed for two perspectives which lie at the heart of our work and our approach to spiritual life. The first perspective is hidden in the motto of the Grail Community:  Michael Sophia in Nomine Christi. What is contained in this simple phrase is the following:  the 20th into the 21st century witnesses the advent of Christ’s second coming. In order to facilitate this, three great Teachers of Humanity came to establish three spiritual schools on Earth. These three schools satisfy completely different needs of the spirit, yet are meant to be complementary to each other.

The first school was founded by the first great teacher, Rudolf Steiner, over the course of the years 1902-1925:  the School of Michael. The primary aim of this school is to enable human beings to rise to the Cosmic Thinking of Archangel Michael:  it works for Wisdom.

The second school was founded by the second great teacher, Valentin Tomberg, over the course of the years 1940-1967:  the School of Christ (represented by Archangel Jesus). The aim of this school is to bring human beings to a higher level of morality and experience of conscience:  it works for Goodness. (Although to be clear, this School was unable to incarnate fully as intended by Valentin Tomberg. More on this later, perhaps).

The third school has been developing under the guidance of Robert Powell and Karen Rivers, inspired by the third great teacher, the reincarnated Novalis, since the year 1994:  the School of Sophia. This school works on the heart forces of the human being in order to promote feelings of love and community:  it works for Beauty. This school, like the Michael School, has properly incarnated, and has attained its mature manifestation in the Grail Priesthood of the Sophia Foundation. (A much clearer and thorough description of the three Great Teachers is given in Robert Powell’s Most Holy Trinosophia).

In fact, we might characterize these three schools in relation to the three classes of the Middle Ages:  the workers, the priests, and the knights. The Michael School consists of laborers in the fields of Thought, of Wisdom. The Sophia School is made up of priests in the church of Beauty and Love. And the Christ School is meant to be composed of knights on the battlefield of Good and Evil.

This is of course a woefully brief characterization that could be discussed at length, but it will suffice for now.

So much for the first perspective (that of three teachers and three schools) that has become a guiding light in the work of the Sophia Foundation and of Robert Powell. It is the second perspective that has become somewhat more entrenched and divisive—and as we will see, is very likely based on a misunderstanding of the words of Valentin Tomberg. This perspective has to do with the so-called “Aristotelian” and “Platonic” karmic streams, and their respective relationship to Michael and Sophia.

Tomberg refers to Sophia and Michael each guarding different sides of the Threshold to the spiritual world. Sophia wishes to administer revelations from the spiritual to the earthly, but stands as a warning to the spiritual beings who wish to bestow their revelation upon human beings. Michael, on the other hand, stands as guardian of human beings towards the spiritual world, only allowing those who are adequately prepared to cast their gaze across the threshold. He is the guardian of the revelatory content bestowed by Sophia, and simultaneously puts out the call to “Michaelites” who are ready to investigate and research beyond the threshold.

For readers who have the English edition of Inner Development, it is especially between pages 28-31 that the core characteristics of these Michaelites are presented. On the one hand, there are Aristotelians, those who research and bring to conscious understanding the spiritual realities operating behind the manifestations of nature. On the other hand, there are Platonists, those who research and bring to conscious understanding the spiritual realities operating behind human history, particularly in the realms of karma and reincarnation.

Note that both of these streams are Michaelites. The following quote from the lecture has led to a certain level of confusion:  “The men and women of Sophia, of revelation, will walk the path together with the men and women of knowledge; the Platonists will stand guard together with the Aristotelians at the threshold of the spiritual world.” Here two separate ideas have been merged into one. It ought to read as such:

“The men and women of Sophia, of revelation, will walk the path together with the men and women of knowledge.

The Platonists will stand guard together with the Aristotelians at the threshold of the spiritual world.”

You see, Tomberg is making a sharp distinction here:  the Sophia School will be a revelatory stream. Meanwhile, the Michael School, which is composed of both Aristotelians and Platonists, is a stream dedicated to knowledge. Both the Aristotelians and Platonists must stand together as Michaelites, as “men and women of knowledge” to guard the threshold of the spiritual world.

A dangerous misunderstanding of the above has come about in certain circles. There has developed a false equivocation between “Sophian” and “Platonist,” as though the Platonic stream of Michael were the same thing as the Sophia stream of revelation. This is not the case. This way of thinking only breeds divisiveness. One begins to imagine that all mainstream or traditional Anthroposophists are Aristotelians; that they are stuck in a one-sided version of Anthroposophy; and that they have “missed the boat” and rejected the Platonic element, which Steiner foretold would come to Anthroposophy at the turn of the 20th to the 21st century. He emphasized the need for these two groups to work together to bring Anthroposophy adequately into the world. One begins to identify all Sophians as Platonists, and that they carry the “next level” of spirituality that has been rejected by mainstream Anthroposophy.

True as the above may be on some level, the reality is (as reality tends to be) much more complicated.

There was of course discord and enmity for a time between the Aristotelian and Platonic streams of Anthroposophy. The rejection of Elisabeth Vreede, and along with her much of the Free Anthroposophical Groups, Valentin Tomberg, Willi Sucher, and others, more or less entailed a rejection and ejection of the Platonists from Anthroposophy (in April 1935). But this only held true for a time. The work of many of these Platonists has been recognized and integrated into mainstream Anthroposophy. Other Platonists have incarnated and work in a very strong way in modern Anthroposophy. Whether or not those Platonists are also Sophians, or for that matter whether all Sophians are Platonists, is another matter all together.

No, when we look at the Sophian streams, we are not looking for two different branches of knowledge. We are looking for two different forms of revelation, of mystical experience. And this is an important distinction to make. When we read Meditations on the Tarot, or Christ and Sophia, which were written by Valentin Tomberg (who described himself as a Platonist), and we compare these works to, for example, Through the Eyes of Mary Magdelene by Estelle Isaacson, we can feel that we are working with two different schools of spirituality. The former are Michaelic—certainly Platonic, but one could not say “revelatory.” They are books of knowledge. The works of Estelle Isaacson, on the other hand, are mystical and revelatory. It is not the knowledge conveyed, but the message that is being transmitted, the mood that is living, which is of primary import here. Isaacson’s works are, therefore, Sophianic par excellence. 

Clearly “Aristotelian” and “Platonist” are inadequate, indeed incorrect, titles to associate with the Sophianic stream of revelation. But if we reflect for a moment, we may find two other streams that we can characterize as the two streams which must work together in order to accomplish the mission of Sophia. Let us look to the Letter-Meditation on The Sun for a clue in this direction. Tomberg characterizes the experience of mystical revelation as such:

“According to the case, it can take either the character of a ‘conversation through forces’ or that of a ‘conversation through words.’ In the former case it is not precise and articulated thoughts or images which are communicated to you, but rather ‘forces’ or impulses—spiritual and psychic seeds impregnated germinally with moral ideas and judgements. In the case of the ‘conversation through words,’ a revelation of articulated thoughts and representations takes place. The revelation to the shepherds at Bethlehem can be considered as a prototype of the meeting whose character is ‘conversation through words’ and the experience of the mages of the Orient—who saw the star of the ‘king of the Jews…in the East,’ but who had to ask at Jerusalem, ‘where is he who has been born king of the Jews?’ (Matthew 2:2)—is an example of the meeting whose character is ‘conversations through forces.’ The ‘star’ of the king of the Jews gave them certainty concerning the coming of Christ and gave them the impulse to go and search where he was awaited, but it did not give them information with respect to the place and parents, whilst to the shepherds of Bethlehem is was revealed that ‘to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’ (Luke 2:11-12), i.e. precise and complete information was given to them with respect to time, place, and external circumstances.”

Ah, and here we find more than clue, but a clear outline of the two revelatory streams of Sophia:  the Shepherds and Kings. The Shepherd stream of Sophia experiences revelatory content with sound and color, with precise and complete information. This is the type of revelatory experience had by Estelle Isaacson or Judith von Halle. On the other hand, the Kingly stream of Sophia experiences revelation on a more intuitive level, without sound and color, and must apply research and effort in order to come to clarity. One might characterize the mystical experience of a Carl Jung or St. John of the Cross as such.

Is there a uniting factor between the Shepherds and Kings, beyond the fact that they both came to see the newborn Jesus, and beyond the more-or-less arbitrary connection we have made between them by naming them the two streams of Sophian revelation? Both of these streams are related strongly to the individuality who incarnated as Mary Magdelene. In her incarnation as Abel, she was the primal Shepherd; in her incarnation as Solomon, she was a great King. (Note that the Solomon Jesus, visited by the Kings, is a product of the Solomon line—a kingly stream; while the Nathan Jesus listed by the Shepherds is the product of the Nathan line—a priestly stream. This brings us back to the Sophia School as a Grail Priesthood.)

So, life is not so simple as we thought it was. It is not only that Aristotelians and Platonists must learn to work together; Shepherds and Kings must also learn to cooperate. Above and beyond this, Michaelites and Sophians must unite their complementary forces: not just respecting, but honoring and revering each other’s differences, as members of different streams, yet learning to work together. And of course, there are many of us who belong to both schools (I might consider myself a Platonic King, for example). This is very important; in fact, ultimately it will be important that there are individuals who are members of all three schools, who have integrated them into a harmonious unity.

Which brings us to the third school, the School of Archangel Jesus (or Christ). What is this school? Are there two representative streams who must work together here? This is harder to answer, as I believe this school was a sort of miscarriage. It has been preserved  in two ways:  through the notes of the Lord’s Prayer Course which was held between 1940-1943 in Amsterdam, and through the anonymously written Meditations on the Tarot, which for all intents and purposes founded the Christ School in the heart of anyone who lovingly devoted their attention to the 22 Letter-Meditations contained within this text. It was an ingenious move, really:  to unofficially found the Christ School amongst an enormous spectrum of spiritually striving individuals. A very strong foundation is laid for the existence of this school, and in a way it does exist, but informally, stealthily. It remains to be seen whether it is the destiny of this school to incarnate in a formal, external way, as has the Michael School (in the form of the First Class of Spiritual Science, which has been in existence for 94 years) and the Grail Priesthood (which has been in existence in a limited sense for 24 years, and a broader sense for 12).

But in spite of all this, can we discover two streams active within this School? Well, we have looked at the two streams of Abel in reference to Sophia:  Kings and Shepherds. The Kings represent the human/spiritual realm (awakening the Ego); the Shepherds the animal/astral (awakening the Spirit Self). Might we find two streams in the Christ School related to the plant/etheric realm (awakening the Life Spirit) and the stone/physical realm (awakening the Resurrection Body)?

For this, we must look to the individuality who incarnated as Lazarus. Who did this individual incarnate as during the times of Abel and Solomon? At the time of Abel, he incarnated as Abel’s older brother, Cain—a Gardener; and during the time of Solomon, the architect of the Temple, he incarnated as Solomon’s partner and rival, Hiram Abif, the actual builder of the Temple—a Mason.

And so, with the Christ School, we are dealing with another stream altogether. In fact, we find that we are dealing with nothing less than the Rosicrucian stream—for Lazarus incarnated in the 14th-15th century as Christian Rosenkreuz. This stream is deeply associated with the Freemasons, with the Tarot, and with the Knights Templar—bringing us back to the characterization of the Christ School as a school of Grail Knights.

This school has less to do with knowledge or revelation, but with deeds, both inner and outer. It has to do with the overcoming of evil inwardly, overcoming the double, in order to create new and ever higher forms of Goodness within; and it has to do with overcoming evil externally, in order to create new and ever higher forms of Goodness without. The only other individual to have traversed the path through the nine sub-earthly spheres other than Christ himself was Lazarus. He is our guide in the navigation and transformation of Evil. Lazarus was given Christ’s ether body (Life-Spirit) when he was raised from the dead; and we are all given a new physical body, the Resurrection Body, through Christ.

Here we do not look to the Nativity of the Christ Child to find the archetypes of Gardener and Builder:  we look to his Entombment and Resurrection. For he was entombed in a grave belonging to Joseph of Arimethea, a stone-mason. And when he rose from the dead, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene in the form of a groundskeeper, a gardener.

Michael guards this side of the threshold, the side of human beings. Sophia guards the other side, that of the spiritual world. But the Threshold itself is Christ—it is Conscience. The aim of the Christ School is not to stand guard over one side or the other, but to be the Threshold itself, to cultivate ever deeper levels of Conscience that the Threshold may open ever wider between the spiritual world and humanity, between Heaven and Earth. Its members are the cultivators and builders of the future—the New Jerusalem.

And this third stream is in the same situation as the others. It must find a way to enhance cooperation between the Gardeners and Masons; and it must find a way to properly engage with both the Sophianic and Michaelic streams. I reiterate that it will be of great importance for there to be individuals who feel themselves to be active members of all three streams, in order to bring about the Grail Community of our time:  Michael Sophia in Nomine Christi.

As a final note, and keeping in mind that Tomber described the upper chakras as chakras of knowledge, and the lower chakras as those of revelation, here is how these streams might relate to the seven chakras of the human being:

Crown—Plato

Brow—Aristotle

Larynx—Michael (Mason)

Heart—Christ

Solar Plexus—Shepherd (Gardener)

Sacral—King

Root—Sophia

 

Death and Rebirth in the USA

In my last series of articles (“The Seven Miracles”), I made the observation that the time period from 2028-2040 would be the ideal time for the 4th Miracle of the Etheric Christ to come to fruition. This miracle would be analogous to the Feeding of the Five Thousand, and would be the organic metamorphosis following upon the founding of the Michael School (within the vessel of the General Anthroposophical Society), the Christ School (within the vessel of Meditations on the Tarot), and the Sophia School (within the vessel of the Sophia Foundation).

However, in an earlier series of articles (“The Cosmic Communion of Fish”), I observed that the year 2018 might be the beginning of a time period analogous to that of the 40 days the Risen Christ was with his disciples after the Resurrection, following up on a period analogous to the first five Stages of the Passion (1879-1928) and a period analogous to the sixth stage, that of Entombment (1928-2018).  I also made the observation that just as there was confusion, fear, and anxiety around the phenomenon of the empty tomb subsequent to Christ’s Resurrection, there may be a similar mood on a wider scale next year.

The question may arise as to whether there is a connection between the year 2018 and the years from 2028-2040, and if so, what that connection is. In fact, it is my observation that these are not two isolated periods; that there is a bridge connecting the two; and that both time periods point in the direction of a third:  that of the year 2047, which according to Robert Powell is the end of a Cosmic 40 Days of Temptation, in which every day of the life of Christ has transformed into one Saturn year of 29.46 years. From this perspective, the entire time period from 869 AD through 2047 AD is analogous to 40 Days of Temptation, with 2018-2047 marking the last “day.”

Before we can make sense of the connection between the three time periods 2018 — 2028-40 — 2047, we will have to look more closely at the three prior “days” of temptation, those during which the three temptations recorded in the Gospels occurred on a global scale for humanity. From 1929-1959, humanity was faced with the temptation of the will to power, with Lucifer offering all the kingdoms of the world at the price of us worshipping him. From 1959-1988, both Lucifer and Ahriman approached with the temptation to throw ourselves down from the pinnacle, to rely on blind instinct rather than conscience. Finally, from 1988-2018, the temptation proceeding from Ahriman has been to turn stones into bread, to create a completely technological/materialistic culture.

The three temptations involved a roving spotlight, one that first cast its focus onto Middle Europe (particularly Germany), then onto the USSR, and finally onto the USA. We can see a progression from the current and into the future cultural epochs spoken of by Rudolf Steiner and others: the 5th (European – Age of Pisces), 6th (Slavic – Age of Aquarius) and 7th (American – Age of Capricorn) cultural epochs.

During the first temptation, it was primarily a question of the world at large under threat from Germany. The crumbling of the world situation occurred primarily in the first 4 years of the “day” of temptation (1929-1933). This time period saw both the Great Depression as well as the rise of Adolf Hitler to power. The threat reached a fever pitch and a turning point 10-16 years into the “day” (1939-1945), the time period during which World War II was fought. Finally, it was during the shift into the next “day” of temptation that cultural breakdown and punishment of Germany took place, primarily on the part of the USSR in the splitting of Germany into East and West and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

We see here that now Germany (and the rest of Europe) experienced something from 1959-1963 akin to what the world at large experienced from 1929-1933. Rather than Fascist Europe threatening the whole world, Communist Russia became the threat to a broken Germany. And once again, 10-16 years into this tension between Europe and Russia, a turning point was reached: from the years 1969-1974, the Prime Minister of Germany was Willy Brandt, whose “Ostpolitik” aimed at relieving tensions between East and West Germany. (There are of course other geopolitical events happening parallel to these, reflecting the same core shift. For example, the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy between 1959-1963 on the one hand, and on the other the Nixon administration and its failure in Vietnam between 1969-1974).

So we can see that between 1929-1959, the entire globe went through a kind of death and renewal process via the threat emanating from Germany. Subsequently Germany herself experienced a death and renewal via the split into two pieces and the construction of the Berlin Wall. The first four years of the next day of temptation (1988-1992) saw the renewal of Germany come to a certain level of fruition:  as Communism began to lose its grip as a cultural impulse in the USSR, the Berlin Wall came down, and Germany was once again a whole nation.

Now it was Russia’s turn to die. Between 1988-1992, there were massive upheavals in the USSR; the entire country experienced a breakdown and descent into chaos and poverty. This was brought about primarily through the covert operations of the USA in their attempts to destabilize the USSR as a world power and a threat to global hegemony. Once again, 10-16 years into this “day” of temptation (from 1998-2004) a turning point was reached. With the election of Vladimir Putin to the Presidency in the year 2000, Russia became a new nation. In the time since he was first elected President, Putin has directed and facilitated a miraculous turn around of his culture.

And now where do we stand, here at the threshold to the last “day” of temptation, when Angels are meant to come and minister to us as they did to Christ on the 40th day? Is the USA really getting ready to have nuclear war with Russia? Is the world completely doomed?

This was my fear for quite some time, but now I see it differently. The Resurrection event alluded to above, one that will leave confusion and fear in its wake for a time, will primarily be the Resurrection of Russia coming to its fruition, the time period 1988-2018 being analogous for Russia what 1959-1988 was for Germany. The recent sanctions on Russia on the part of the USA will have the unintended consequence of welding Russia and China further together, and driving the EU into their waiting arms. In fact, the USA may have inadvertently written sanctions against themselves. On the other hand, the time from 2018-2022, which will be a resurrection for Russia, is also a time of the death of the American Empire. Whatever and whoever Donald Trump is on the level of personality, it is clear what his task in the cosmic drama is:  the demolition man. It is in the destiny of America at this moment in time that all of the false systems, ideology, and culture that we have cultivated for the last 70 years will be exposed for what it truly is. The phenomenon of Trump is the unveiling of what has been there all along, what needs to come to the light of day and evaporate. His complete lack of competence will only more quickly dissolve the utterly inadequate structures upon which the Empire has been built.

This is a tragic time for America; tragic to the same degree 1929-1933 was for the world, as 1959-1963 was for Germany, and as 1988-1992 was for the USSR. But just as when one has an upset stomach, one can only avoid purging for so long, so the United States has reached the end of its tether. At the same time, this is a glorious time for the rest of the world, a time during which the unilateral hegemony of the USA can potentially give way to the more multilateral and cooperative approach of a nation like Russia.

As tragic as this time period is for the USA, however, it bears within it the seed of a great hope. We can look forward to the time 10-16 years into this “day” of temptation as a turning point, a time when renewal might begin to occur. This falls on the years 2028-2034, which also happens to fall during the time in which the 4th Miracle of the Etheric Christ has the opportunity to unfold (2028-2040). This time period also bears the 2000th anniversary of the three and a half year ministry of Christ, from 29-33 AD. It may be that during this time period, the American people will be given the opportunity to find the spiritual impulses which have been buried under the atrocities committed by Empire, the original spiritual impulses which lay behind the founding of many Utopian communities early on in America’s history.  Many of these found their place in Pennsylvania, such as the Quakers in Penn’s Woods, the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness (who settled in Germantown, PA), the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster, PA, the Harmony Society (who settled in Butler County, PA), and the Moravian Brotherhood, a Pietist movement that settled in Bethlehem, PA. One could also look to the founding of places like New London, Connecticut; John Winthrop, Jr., the founder of New London, based his life around the resurgent Rosicrucianism and alchemy of the 17th century. In fact, all of the Utopian communities above can trace much of their origin back to the Hermetic stream of Jakob Boehme.

The uniting threads of these communities, the founding impulses of a true America, consist in 1) the intention to infuse traditional Christianity with the forces of the Heart, 2) an appreciation of the Divine Feminine, 3) an eye for the spiritual in Nature (Pan-en-theism), and 4) a direct and unmediated experience of the spiritual world (specifically, Christ). We could see modern forms of such communities in this country in the Camphill Movement as well as the Sophia Foundation.

As the Cosmic Days of Temptation finally come to a close in 2047, we may find a very different arrangement of world leadership compared to what we now experience. And we can make it our hope and intention that we will find a completely reformed American culture in the United States; one that is ready to bear a folk-soul. Valentin Tomberg, in his Lord’s Prayer Course, makes the observation that the USA does not have a folk-soul; it suffers the tension between a Luciferic (backward) Archai and an Ahrimanic elemental. What if the long and difficult road of redemption we are to take in America over the course of the next 30 years is meant to overcome these two opposing forces and midwife the birth of our folk-soul, Columbia?

The year 2047 will mark the time that the turning point reached between 2028-2034 (the 4th Miracle) can fully flower, placing America back on its feet as a member of the world community. And so we have come to our bridge:

2018 — The beginning of the 40th Cosmic Day of Temptation; the Resurrection event of the Grail Stream; full re-emergence of Russia, demise of American Empire

2028-2034 — The 4th Miracle of the Etheric Christ; The beginning of American Reform

2047 – The end of 40 Days in the Wilderness; America reborn, birth of Columbia.