In text fragment 3, John starts to say that he is one of us and explains where he received his vision: he was on Patmos and it was Sunday, the day of the week devoted to the sun and to its ruler, the Christ. He was in a meditative state, which allowed him to perceive spiritual images and sounds by his higher senses. Then, he heard behind him a mighty voice like the sound of a trumpet. He is overwhelmed by this voice, a sound coming from beyond time and space. It is a sound not presenting itself in opposition to him and us, but carrying him and us from within, now and into the future. This sound is a divine assignment to John of the First and the Last to write down what he is going to perceive, in order that we, travelling through our epoch of seven cultural periods, can receive knowledge of John’s experiences about the future of mankind.
The seven communities
John is instructed to write a book, on the basis of what will be shown to him, and send it to seven communities. Earlier the seven communities were mentioned as a group, now they are mentioned individually by name. What was kept hidden in the esoteric schools of those days is now going to be revealed and made public. What was only kept for the initiated in the mystery schools after they passed the appropriate tests, now will become accessible for all people searching the initiation through their inner master, the Christ. The messages to the seven communities reveal what has to happen in the outer world in order to pave the way towards the inner, spiritual world. John, being initiated, experiences in imaginations what will happen in the future (Steiner, GA 8, p.119). In this context we should not see the angels of the seven communities as equal to these communities, but as cosmic spiritual beings which are only partially incarnated in these communities (Schult, p.33).
Steiner (GA 346, 8 September 1924, p.68) points out that the number of seven communities indicates that communities of people have in principle seven nuances and not more. These seven nuances describe all possible types of human communities, like the twelve knights of king Arthur represent all possible individual ways of observing nature. The seven communities represent the seven ways of specialization of the old Jewish culture and the seven ways in which communities can develop themselves in the future. Schult (p.29 and 37) shows that the seven communities also refer to the great world days, the large periods in the evolution of mankind and the solar system, which will later be further explained in the blog on text fragment 5.
The position of the Son of man
After John has heard the mighty voice, he has to turn around to see, and he sees the Son of man. We have to make the same inner turn, away from the outer materialistic world, to be able to experience the inner spiritual world. In the midst of seven candlesticks John sees a radiant figure which resembles the heavenly archetype of man, the Son of man. The Apocalypse reveals right at the start its central theme. The Son of man is a description which Jesus often used for himself. Bock (p.39) explains that the picturing of the Son of man is more than the image of the resurrected Christ. This is also the image of man created by God in the beginning. It still exists, but because of what the Bible calls the Fall of man, the way back to this divine state has been blocked for us. The reason for the Christ to incarnate on Earth was to open up the way back for us, and after we purify our mind, heart and will following his inspirations, we will be able to go consciously the way up to the image we once held. John is able to see the Christ and the ultimate destination of man. Man receives from the Christ again the possibility to develop as a spiritual being and to ultimately become unified with man’s Creator.
This third text fragment at the start of the Apocalypse summarizes the key message of the whole book. The Son of man holds time and human evolution in his hand, as tell the seven stars in his right hand. These seven stars are the angels of the seven communities. Steiner explains at 20 June 1908 that the seven stars are symbols for the high spiritual beings leading successively the seven cultural periods. On 22 June 1908 Steiner adds that the seven Spirits of God also represent seven principles which constitute the human being: physical body, etheric body, astral body, the I, and, as seeds, the transformed astral body or Manas, the transformed etheric body or Buddhi and finally the transformed physical body or Atman. These three inner seeds will open and develop later in human evolution. Bock (p.43) reads in the stars the first vocation of future man to master the desires which the stars (astra, in this case the planets circling the sun) generate in the human soul (astral body).
Steiner showed 9 May 1909 that the Son of man represents in the old Hebrew initiation the final stage. Here the initiate has an inner vision of the sun-being, that incarnates in a physical human being. The same experience of John at Patmos occurred to the apostle Paul on his journey to Damascus (The Acts 9). From these events we know that the Messiah, the Christ, is not to be expected in the future, but is present now (GA 104a, p.68). On 13 May 1909 Steiner also points at the seven Holy Rishis from the Old Indian culture period, who see Vishvakarman, son of Brahma, as the being holding the seven stars in his hand.
According to Schult (p.34), the Son of man, is the pure human being, created in the image of God, man from before the Fall, the perfect man, the ‘man in God’. And this human being, created in the image of God, was for the first time incarnated on Earth in Jesus as the Christ. That is why he could be torn from death, says Schult. The image of the Son of man wants to show us how the new creation emerges through man. Man is the wind in cosmos and the spirit can only be unfolded when the fallen earthbound man can find a lively connection with his original idea, with the idea of ‘man in God’.
The Son of man is male nor female, but androgynous. Future man is above the male or female manifestation of the human spirit. This concerns a developmental stage beyond the story of Paradise and the Fall of man. Also in the Tarot we find this androgynous image of the Son of man in the final card of the Greater Arcana. The androgynous man has lost everything and won everything, has become one with the universe, with the Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Father. Here, the cycle of cycles is completed.
Characteristics of the Son of man
Let us now have a more detailed look at this impressive Son of man. Bock (p.42-44) sees three groups of each three characteristics of the Son of man. These in total nine aspects are reflections of the qualities which angels of the nine hierarchies above man have given to man during his evolution.
The long garment till his feet, the golden girt at his chest, and the head with white hair like white wool, symbolize the first triad of aspects. They point at the spiritual dignity of the Son of man. The long garment in which man strides symbolizes the purity of the will. The golden glow of the girt at the chest represents the emphatic feeling qualities and at the same time the controlling of disharmonic impulses of the heart. The snow white head with white hair stands for the wisdom of thinking of man which has realized his vocation, according to Bock. This man has purified his soul and consciously masters his thinking, feeling and willing.
The second triad of qualities consists of the eyes as flames of fire, the feet glowing as molten copper and the voice sounding as a multitude of waters. These point at the creative inspiring forces flowing from the Son of man. The earthly animating fire of man has to be purified in the fire of the spirit in order to become itself a burning and transforming fire. In the fire flames, which make the eyes of the Son of man vivid, we find the expression of the enthusiasm to achieve insight. The flames purify a vision that is only the observation of exterior things to the perception that sees into the inner qualities of things. The feet, like glowing metal ore, show a man not walking indifferently on the surface of the Earth, but a man acting to achieve benefit for society as well as melting the solid earth with the fire of his spirit. By spiritualizing matter the Son of man transforms the mineral Earth to a new liquefied Earth, later called the New Jerusalem. And the voice sounding like a multitude of waters represent the Son of man which has the power to handle the force of the creative word. That is not the word of propaganda that stirs up, says Bock, but the creative word in which angelic beings from the higher hierarchies co-speak and thus are creating new phenomena. These three spiritual forces of the Son of man are emanating from his being while transforming the environment of the earth.
Finally, we look at the third triad of characteristics of the Son of man: the seven stars in his right hand, the two-edged sword from his mouth and his countenance shining like the sun. They represent his authority to also reign the cosmic life forces. They refer to even higher potencies than mentioned before. The seven stars in his right hand show that the purified man not only is influenced by the stars since his birth, but that the spiritual essence in his true Self is able to choose his own ideal and purpose from the impulses coming from the stars into his soul. The sharp two-edged sword coming from the mouth of the Son of man points at the empowerment man can acquire to mount spiritually charged words against good or bad disputes. This not only concerns the magic of the word which can be put into service for the good or the bad. But it also means that when man’s awakened consciousness acts in service of the Christ, the spiritual forces have to confess their true nature, according to Bock. The two-edged sword therefore is one of the important symbols of the Apocalypse (Steiner, 25 June 1908). The ability to discern by the loving Self is a central power needed to safeguard and develop mankind. Schult (p.31) points at places in the Old Testament which also refer to the two-edged sword, such as Isaiah 11:4 and 49:2. The two-edged sword is the cosmic judgement between light and darkness. Finally, the countenance, shining like the sun, points according to Bock at the future man which can ultimately become a sun. When mankind carries internally the Lord of the spiritual sun, man can become a source of light which enlightens the world and conquers darkness.
In this way the nine characteristics of the Son of man show the ideal of future man, reflecting man as created before the Fall, -which, however, was needed to obtain his self-consciousness-, and man returning with an awakened consciousness back to the spiritual world.
When John faces the Son of man, he starts to experience some of the elevated state of the vocation of mankind and it frightens him terribly. He falls as dead at the feet of the Son of man. He has a death experience. But the Son of man touches his shoulder and tells him not to fear. In Steiner’s translation he says: ‘and I was death and see: alive I am from time cycle till time cycle and I have the keys to the kingdom of death and the underworld’ (Steiner, GA 8, p.119).
Then John receives his instruction to write to the seven communities what he has seen and will see.
Like the seven communities represent the seven cultural periods in the physical history of our Post-Atlantean epoch, we will read subsequently about the seven seals in the Epoch of the Seals, which follows after the Post-Atlantean epoch. And later we will read about the seven trumpets which represent the next Epoch of the Trumpets, the last one of the present mineral Earth (Steiner, GA 104a, p.69). But we will come back to these later.