The end of the seventh letter to the community of Laodicea made us aware of the existence of God’s throne. Seeing the throne is only possible with a higher level of consciousness. Text fragment 11 shows beings and actions that are present at this higher consciousness level. We arrive at the intermediate 8th ray in the spiral, where time dissolves in eternity and the higher reality overflows physical perception. It allows us to look as it were along a corridor into heaven. John already received a first glance of this higher reality when he perceived the overwhelming image of the ‘Son of man’ in text fragment 3. Here, after one tour along the seven rays in the spiral, he arrives at the same ray of higher experience where he started. God’s throne is the central place of action, recurring after each tour in the spiral. And after completing a cycle we come closer to the origin of the rounds of evolution, closer to the Almighty, in which time, space, and the river of life find their roots. At this realm, above time and space, past, present and future merge in eternal being. We do not yet completely realize ourselves this context, but it will disclose itself more and more during the cyclic tours of increasing consciousness that are awaiting us.     

The opened door

John, and with him each man prepared for the initiation, stands before an opened door in heaven. He can at first not see behind it. Schult (p.95) calls this moment the most meaningful threshold crossing in the Apocalypse. The voice, talking to him as a trumpet, which is according to Schult the voice of the Christ, takes John further upwards to show him what will follow, after the seven cultural periods that reflect our present physical existence come to an end. Now John is experiencing the Holy Spirit and with the higher consciousness, and being uplifted in the spirit, he is able to perceive heavenly pictures. For his first vision of the Son of man it sufficed to turn around, but now John has to ascend in consciousness above time and space, and cross the door to heaven.

A multitude of symbols are shown to him and us, each of which has a deep background. Some of these esoteric backgrounds are still recognizable in the organization of our daily life, given to us by earlier esoteric schools. Examples are the number of twenty four hours in the natural day, the names of the seven days in the week, the number of twelve months in the year, etc.  The impression of the pictures John perceives, and their deep background, may first overwhelm us and confuse us. But the initial confusion may gradually transform into an amazing harmony of a grandiose spectacle.     

View of the throne by John at Patmos, from Triptych of the mystical wedding of Saint Catharina of Alexandria, Hans Memling, 1479;


The throne of God

The seven communities were typified by the seven planets, but this new spiritual realm of the throne is characterized by symbolic images of not only the planets, but also the signs of the zodiac, the fixed stars, and the wider universe. John perceives a throne and seated on it One. In the earlier picture the One was identified as equal to the Son of man. Here that addition is lacking. Instead it is said that he had an appearance like a jasper and a sardine, and an aureole round about the throne looking like an emerald stone. The throne is the center of the picture and the one sitting on the throne is only described by the colors of precious stones.

These precious stones are a reference to the level of intuitive consciousness or the higher mental world where the group souls of minerals like the precious stones are found and where the throne is manifested. The group souls of plant species are found at the lower mental world, while those of the animal species are found in the astral world. In man the consciousness is individualized and found in the physical world.

Bock (p.80-81) and Schult (p.96) characterize the colors of the precious stones as white and red. This implies that the One on the throne is the very source of light which spreads as light and warmth, as spirit and soul, as wisdom and love. The first circle round about the throne is like an aureole with the color of an emerald. This points at the life-giving green color of the emerald which is the middle color in the seven colors of the rainbow. The One on the throne identifies himself by the color radiations. White, red and green indicate the threefold of spirit, soul and body or thinking, feeling and willing (Schult, p.96). White radiates the light of the Holy Spirit, red glows the love of the Son, and green is the supporting foundation of the Father.

This text fragment 11 also gives an imprint of time. Steiner (GA8) points out that the rainbow symbolizes that after Atlantis a time has come for Earth in which man can for the first time physically perceive his surroundings. For the first time the sun starts to penetrate the thick cloud cover of the earth, and as a result of these changes at the end of the Atlantean epoch, the rainbow can be seen by man. It is a symbol for the key evolutionary step in the Post-Atlantean epoch in which individual man will receive the I-consciousness. For the first time the sun will rise in man’s consciousness. This all waits to be revealed in the heart of the picture of the throne. However, John first tells about events which preceded this moment. Somewhat more remote from the light center of the throne, a larger circle of 24 thrones is present. On these thrones 24 elders are seated, wearing white raiment, and on their heads are crowns of gold. Who are these elders? All these elements described by John are reflections of the grandiose design in which the evolution of man is embedded. This will become clearer when we look for the meaning of these images.

The 24 elders

The origin of Being is, for those following the path of wisdom, encircled by 24 highly developed beings (Steiner, GA 8, p.120). In his lectures on 22 and 27 June 1908, Steiner explores the descent of the 24 elders, the directors of time rounds. Each elder is a human figure which looks back at us from an earlier phase of human evolution and which in the meantime has developed further. To understand this, we have to consider the different incarnations of our planet, seven in total. From eternity and duration, before the existence of time, a first planetary incarnation of Earth emerged as a planet of warmth. The second was characterized by light and air. The third by the more condensed element of water, and the present incarnation showed the arrival of solid minerals, the earth element. Three more, less condensed, incarnations will follow. The seven planetary incarnations can also be described, in accordance with Hinduism and Theosophy, by seven levels of consciousness. These are trance, dreamless sleep, dream state, awake, and the following future levels of higher consciousness: clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairsentient. These seven incarnations of the planet have earlier been characterized by the names ‘Old Saturn’, ‘Old Sun’, ‘Old Moon’, Earth, ‘Jupiter’, ‘Venus’ and ‘Vulcan’.

The consciousness development, that is typical for a planetary incarnation is prepared each time in seven smaller cycles. The Old Saturn incarnation knew seven small cycles, like did the Old Sun and the Old Moon planetary incarnations. In our present Earth incarnation three of such smaller cycles have been passed and we have arrived at the fourth one, the mineral kingdom. Behind us are therefore 3×7=21 plus 3, in total 24 small cycles. (Zoeteman, Gaiasophy, 1991, Hudson, USA, Lindisfarne Press, p.79, after R. Steiner). These 24 small cycles or ‘life conditions’ or ‘kingdoms’ that have passed, are described here as the 24 elders. The elders represent the high beings which directed the evolution rounds that have already passed. They are the directors of the human evolution.

These 24 elders also refer to the number 12 that we pass through twice during a natural day. By day we pass during 12 hours the exterior side of events and by night their interior side. The twelve also appears in the twelve months of the year. The months of the earth year do reflect all time cycles (Schult, p.97). The number twelve points at the plenitude and the larger whole, such as reflected in the twelve zodiac signs at the starry heaven, the knights at the round table of King Arthur, the twelve disciples of Jesus, etc. 

The seven Spirits before God’s throne

John not only perceives an image of the throne, he also hears thundering and voices that accompany the light that appears as lightning. Schult (p.97) recognizes in these three  expressions the divine trinity. In the lightning shines the light of the Spirit, in the voices speaks the majestic creating word of the Son, and in the thunder the Father god reveals himself. And then, John notices the seven Spirits which radiate light as fiery torches.  In his lecture of 22 June 1908 Steiner explains that these seven Spirits are the Elohim or Exousiai, the light spirits that direct the development of man during the fourth or Earth incarnation of our planet. These Elohim stand above the Angels, Archangels and Archai. They are the creative Powers of the biblical account of the Creation (Schult, p.98). Steiner gives an example of their activities. At the start of the fourth incarnation of our planet, the Sun, the Moon and the Earth were still united. The seven light spirits worked in such a way through the cosmic circumstances that man could evolve with the right pace. Then the Sun was separated from the still combined Moon and Earth. Six light spirits withdrew on the Sun which retarded the human development pace, that would otherwise take a too fast course. After a while, however, human evolution tended to slow down too much and the seventh light spirit, known as YHWH or Yahweh, separated the Moon from the Earth and withdrew on the Moon. In this way the seven light spirits direct the cosmic developmental conditions in order to favor the right evolution of mankind.     

The sea of glass

The throne of God rests on a sea of glass. In esoteric tradition the sea of glass is called the heaven of crystal. Dante calls in his Divina Comedia this the ninth sphere that vaults above the spheres of the fixed stars and of the planets. The ninth sphere is enclosed by only one still higher sphere, the super spatial sphere of eternity, the so-called empyrean. The heaven of crystal is the first spatial sphere which is a world of pure crystalline formation forces (Schult, 99), carrying the archetypes of all that exists in space. Here consciousness transforms in being, love in movement, and willing in space.

The four living beings round about God’s throne

Many new entities become perceptible in John’s vision on the throne in heaven. One group of such entities are the four living beings in and round about God’s throne. They resemble a lion, a cow, a being with a face like a man and an eagle flying. These four beings refer to different fundamental aspects of the evolution of mankind.

The four beings are the most important of the twelve signs in the zodiac: Leo, Taurus, Aquarius, or the angelic man, and Scorpio or Eagle (Dullaart, p.48-51). They are the keepers of the four corners of the world, the four directions in space. They represent a square in a circle of the twelve zodiac signs in which the Lamb is the center, the quintessence. The main portal of the famous cathedral of Chartres in France shows a beautiful image of this view of the throne with the four apocalyptic beings. The four beings represent all spatial distances, like the 24 elders are the directors of time cycles (Schult, p.97).

The throne with the 4 apocalyptic beings and the 24 elders, main portal at the main entrance of Chartres cathedral, France, appr. 1140;  photo: Kees Zoeteman

Steiner explains how the four beings refer to the consciousness condition of the people living in the Atlantean epoch. They were, -differently from our present condition-, spiritually more awake during sleep and felt being part of their group soul. During the day they stayed in their soft jelly-like bodies and they could physically hardly perceive a thing in the very nebulous environment. Man had in the middle of the Atlantean epoch not yet an individuality like we have, but belonged to one of four groups. Within such a group people looked very similar. The four living beings represent these four dominant groups of man in which either the head (eagle), the chest (lion) or the belly (cow), or a combination of the three dominated. Steiner explained in Oslo (GA 104a, p.76) that the cow-people were the first to solidify their body. The digestion of food was most developed here. The lion-people, in which the etheric body dominated, were most aggressive and aimed at developing their physical strength. The heart and blood circulation was outspoken in this group. A third group developed in particular the astral body. They became later the predecessor of present mankind. They had a balanced combination of the characteristics of the other three groups. Finally a fourth group, the eagle-people, already developed their self-consciousness, which made them able to dominate the other three groups. They developed the sensory perception abilities in particular.

Bock (p.87-91) explains that the four groups of humans were directed by high spiritual beings. They were Cherubim, in whose lap man still dwelled in those days. A sign of their high consciousness is that they were full of eyes. They are the same beings which jointly make up the Egyptian sphinx and the Babylonian cherubs. Their characteristics are the abdomen like a cow, the chest like a lion, the wings of an eagle and the head like a man. The cherubs mentioned in Ezekiel (1:10) are composed in the same way. Each of these high beings prepared an aspect of future man. The Cherubim with the eagle image prepared the ability in man to think, the one with the lion image prepared the ability to feel and the qualities of the heart, and the one with the image of the cow prepared the ability to will. The fourth group soul prepared the later ability to combine thinking, feeling and willing under the direction of man in Gods likeness, of the immortal God-I in man. In Atlantis man feels still  part of his family stream, that goes back till a patriarch who was overshadowed by such a high spiritual being. The later phase of the birth of individualism and the I is expressed by the Lamb. The Lamb is not only king as Lion, but when the vernal equinox falls in the new zodiac sign of Aries, the Lamb takes the image of voluntarily sacrificing itself to open again the possibility of the upward movement of creation to the spiritual world. 

The divine character of these four beings is, besides the many eyes, also represented by their six wings. The heaven of crystal on which the throne rests, is carried by their wings (Schult, p.98).

The vision of the throne and its surrounding beings has brought us beyond the realms of time and space into the realm of eternity and duration. God not only supersedes the world, he is the cosmic possibility of her existence (Schult, p.100).