Diego Velazquez, Saint John at Patmos, 1609-1610, www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/diego-velazquez-saint-john-the-evangelist-on-the-island-of-patmos
John writes to the seven communities or churches in Asia Minor, which mark his geographical working area. But these communities represent more than just the churches or communities which are situated close to Patmos at the Turkish main land, which is visible from Patmos when the weather is clear. Rudolf Steiner (GA 104, 20 June 1908 and GA 104a, 10 May 1909) interprets these communities as representatives of the seven cultural periods that started after the ending of the last ice-age and the simultaneous submersion of Atlantis, some 10,000 years ago. Emil Bock (p.59) calls the communities silent representatives of larger periods in the history of man’s evolution.
Seven cultural periods
The time episode of the Post-Atlantic epoch consists of seven cultural periods of about 2160 years each, which represents the time spent by the vernal point of the sun in a sign of the zodiac during its regression. These seven cultural periods include the old Indian, old Persian, Egyptian-Babylonian, Greek-Roman, the present fifth or German-Anglo-Saxon cultural period (1413-3573) and two future periods called the Slavic and American cultural periods. The total Post-Atlantic epoch encompasses about 15,000 years. During the old Indian culture the cosmic world of the zodiac could spiritually still be experienced as was reflected in the writings of the holy Rishi’s. The old Persian culture was characterized by the school of light and darkness, good and evil, as found in the teachings of Zarathustra. During the Egyptian-Babylonian culture scientific observation started and the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus played a dominant role. During the Greek-Roman culture great initiates lived such as the prophets Elia and Jeremiah in the Jewish culture, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in Greece and Seneca and Plotinus in the Roman culture. Steiner points out that John’s ability to see the seven cultural periods in the flow of time resulted from his first initiation which opened the world of feelings, the astral world, and the imaginative consciousness. Later in the Apocalypse (chapter 17: 10), the same seven cultural periods are indicated where they are called the seven ‘kings’ that succeed each-other in time.
For us readers, the letters John wrote to the seven communities represent the time of preparation by study, learning to better understand the impulses coming up in ourselves, the purification of our soul in order to prepare ourselves for the first initiation in the world of imaginations and visions, the astral world or world of feelings (Dullaert, 31).
He, which is, which was, and which is to come
The content of the whole book is condensed in this small prologue of fragment 2 of the Apocalypse, like a tree is present in its seed. For this reason, it is impossible to fully interpret the notions referred to in this text fragment. We just have to make ourselves acquainted with these notions and trust that they will gradually unfold their meaning while reading the book. We read about the plan of creation by God, and his Son, the Messiah, both positioned above time. Schult (p.25) deduces from the gracious salutation ‘which is, which was, and which is to come’ that it represents a ritualistic description of the divine trinity. He which is, is the ‘I am’, the Son aspect of the Father. The ‘I am’ is the revelation of God in the human I and leads man on the road to the Father and the Spirit of God (Schult, p.27). He which was, is the Father himself. And he which is to come, refers to the coming Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Father and Son are one, Father and Holy Spirit are one. In the Son, Father and Holy Spirit are united.
The throne of God
Then, we read about the center of creation, shown by the image of the throne, where time emerges in the seven spirits for his throne. Again and again, the Apocalypse brings us back to this point of the throne of the Father. It is the in-between space which can be found at the eighth ray of the spiral of this website. The seven spirits before God’s throne show, according to Schult, the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Seven is the number of time, like twelve is the number of space. The number seven is pointing at the evolution of creation in seven phases, the seven marks a cycle that is developing further and further in the shape of a spiral, like the days of the week which are part of larger evolution rhythms. Seven times seven weeks are approximately a year. And four times seven weeks is approximately a month. Four is the number positioned in the middle of one and seven. The seven is the basis of all time processes in the universe and the four shows the essential new evolution step of each cycle emerging from Gods throne.
The central theme of this prologue is the Son, the Messiah or Christ aspect of God. He is the first born of the death, he is the faithful witness, the martyr. Being the first-born refers to all others who will be born of the death after him. That will be us, when we are further developing our consciousness and spiritual qualities. He leads us way up. Man is called to overcome death. That is the magnificent message of the Apocalypse. But this fruit is not coming to us automatically, it requires the fulfilment of our moral development. We human beings have a divine vocation, but what would be the value of the realization of this vocation if we would not voluntarily take upon us this vocation by developing the needed abilities. This inevitably requires overcoming related moral tests. There are no drugs that eject us permanently into heaven. There are no tricks that bring us to the spiritual world without becoming awake for the spiritual causes of material existence. Eternal life is not a matter of being frozen in and waiting till future medical advances become available to cure our physical illnesses forever. It are our life experiences over the incarnations which bring us bigger insights in our inner constitution. Wisdom, patience and modesty are pillars for initiation instead of smartness, recklessness and power. Love is a stronger force than mechanical powers. We can learn from the Son how to control the counter-forces of selfishness and materialism by empowering our will and our ability to love. The counter-forces are our educators and they will therefore be presented with their full potential later in the Apocalypse.
The key sentence of text fragment 2 is ‘He, which unselfishly loves us, and has washed us from our sins with his blood and has made us to a kingdom, to priests of his God and Father, him the glory and the power from aeons to aeons’. A sentence again full of notions that are hard to understand at first glance. Only after reading and grasping the whole book, this summarizing text begins to reveal its meaning. The Son leads the way for us in loving each other and all that lives. This is still relatively understandable. The sentence that he has washed us from our sins with his blood, however, hides many esoteric mysteries. Superficially seen it states: because Jesus Christ died on the cross, I will not be accounted for my sins. This would be an easy way out for us. Whatever we have done, be it theft, deceit, murder and other crimes, Christ’s death has erased their consequences and we can start over and over again with a clean slate. That is a little bit naïve, one may think. But the meaning of this sentence is not so free of engagement as the earlier line of thinking suggests. The historic act of the Christ, his voluntary incarnation as divine being in a human body and his resurrection from the death, has created a way back for mankind to the divine world, as will be explained later. It is up to us to qualify for making use of this newly created possibility. Each human being can individually become a priest of the kingdom of Christ (Schult, p.26).
We also hear for the first time the notion of aeons. What are these? They entail more than the usual translation ‘in eternity’. Schult (p.328) explains that the fulfillment of creation knows four aeons which describe the completion of the Earth and the resurrection of human souls at increasing higher levels of consciousness under the leadership of the Son. This will be discussed in more detail in relation to the final chapters of the Apocalypse.
He comes with clouds
Verse 7 presents another aspect of the Messiah besides being the first-born of the death. He comes with clouds and every eye shall see him. Bock (p.30) points out that this does not mean that Christ is coming to judge man, but it indicates a moment that is near in each of us. It is the moment that clouds which hide the spiritual world will break apart like veils while Christ awakens in us. This means that the higher self does ignite in us due to our fire of love, which makes us merciful and thinking inclusively. This evolution path is made free for us by him which is connected with the fate of mankind from the beginning of our conception till the completion of our journey: the voluntary giving of love as the highest fulfilment of our existence.
The Dutch reverent Miskotte points in his flamboyant preaches on the Apocalypse in 1943 on the link with the vision presented in the Old Testament, in Daniel 7, where the worldly kingdoms come up from the sea like beasts, like monsters, while Gods kingdom appears like a man, not from the sea, but with clouds.
Alpha and Omega
The final sentence ‘I am Alpha and Omega’ refers to the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet. Steiner (GA 346: 46-53) explains that letters had in the past not such an abstract meaning as at present. They represented living aspects of our existence. Together they constituted the ‘creating world word’, in which the acting force of the gods was present. Alpha remembered of the very first beginning of creation of man. The letters of the alphabet represented all divine aspects which first were outside man and which will at the end of creation be inside man. When the evolution from alpha till omega is completed, man will equal the God which created him. All that first was found outside him in the world, will finally reside in him. At the beginning God was what man will become at the end. The gospel of John starts with ‘In the beginning was the Word’, and here in the Apocalypse the same creative Word is referred to when the Christ says: I am Alpha and Omega. This is the old language of the mystery schools that is heard in the Apocalypse, but now publicly.