The community of Smyrna, presently the harbor town Izmir, was in John’s time the most important trade and harbor city of Asia Minor. For this reason it is in Turkey still known as the ‘Eye of Asia Minor’. Besides Athens, Smyrna was also known for its rhetoric school. Schult (p.44) sees this as an indication for its mercurial character. Mercure is not only the god of trade and trafficking, but also the god of poets, thinkers and orators. All mercurial thinking is based on the division of things in opposites. The community of Smyrna no longer is representing the unity of the light world, but the polarity, which also characterized the old Persian culture, of the battle between the god of light Ahura Mazda or Ormazd, and his opponent, the god of darkness and matter, Angra Mainyu or Ahriman. Also Smyrna was in history a spectacle of this struggle. The city was destroyed several times but also rebuilt. This struggle between good and bad, light and darkness, life and death was described by Zarathustra and experienced during the Roman empire in the Mithras mysteries. The suppressive counter force of Ahriman will accompany man till the end of his evolutionary path, although Christ has overcome this dark force by his crucifixion, his descent in the depths of hell and his resurrection.
The polarity between light and darkness as the second phase in larger evolutionary cycles
The old Persian cultural period is placed in the time that the vernal point of the sun was in the zodiac sign of Gemini, 5000 – 2900 BC. Ruler of Gemini is planet Mercure. This cultural period also mirrors the second large evolutionary cycle which preceded the present Post Atlantean epoch, according to the mystery schools. Before our present epoch, the solid mineral Earth era knew the epochs of Atlantis, and going further back in prehistory, respectively the epochs of Lemuria, Hyperborea and Polaris. Physical circumstances were completely different from what we are nowadays used to. During the Polaris epoch the present Sun and planets were still united in a large sphere of warmth. In the Hyperborea epoch the warmth sphere was differentiating into warmth, light and air and the light radiating Sun was separated from Earth and Moon, which were still one celestial (air) body. The dramatic separation between the light radiating Sun and the dark Earth and Moon body is what still resonates in the old Persian culture and the community of Smyrna (Steiner, GA 104a, p.96).
After Hyperborea, the epoch of Lemuria followed in which the Earth was not only separated from the Sun, but the Moon also was separated from the Earth. During Lemuria matter not only consisted of the elements of fire and air, but a further condensation took place delivering water, the liquid element. In the next epoch of Atlantis the solid element precipitated from fire, air and water. Here the continents developed and at the end of Atlantis the thick and cloudy air started to clear up and the Sun began to shine on the surface of the Earth. After our Post Atlantean epoch and the coming Seal and Trumpet epochs the large planetary cycle of the solid mineral Earth will be completed, as summarized in my books Gaiasophia (1989) and Gaia Logica (2009). After the planetary era of the solid mineral Earth is completed, a next or fifth era, the so-called Jupiter earth, starts. The Jupiter era is indicated in the Apocalypse as the New Jerusalem.
The overall picture of cosmic evolution underlying the Apocalypse
Let us extend this detour a bit further and sketch the larger picture of cosmic evolution that is in the mind of all initiates.
The figure of Cycles in cycles shows how larger and smaller cycles are interacting. Each cycle is in principle sub-divided in 7 smaller cycles. Starting in the middle below and moving clockwise we go from what is called the first earth or old Saturn world, than to the Old Sun world, followed by the old Moon world and at the top arrive at the present solid mineral world or the Earth as we know it. These are all esoteric names for previous world constellations.
Starting again in the top circle of the Earth world at the middle below, we move clockwise in the same way as before and go from Polaris to Hyperborea, to Lemuria and arrive at the top or fourth cycle in Atlantis. From Polaris to Atlantis a repetition of the previous three worlds is taking place, leading to increasing density of the elements from fire to earth. So Atlantis is the top in the top circle, the center of the overall evolution, where the new element is the solid matter.
We leave here aside the seven subdivisions in the Atlantis cycle and move to the fifth or Post-Atlantean cycle. Following the filled sub-cycles we move from the Indian, to the Persian, Egyptian, Greek-Roman cultural periods, till we reach the fifth cultural period, the present Anglo-Saxon one. The last two cultural periods still have to come, and are therefore represented by two open circles to be completed before the Post-Atlantean epoch ends.
After passing through the next Epochs of the Seals and Trumpets, the large cycle of the solid mineral Earth world is completed and we will move to the three new Worlds (New Jerusalem) to come: Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. These three worlds will be increasingly less dense and end in a world of only warmth or fire. The pool of fire is, according to the Apocalypse, also found as the physical element that remains after the overall evolution nears its completion.
Faust and Mephistopheles
The old Persian culture was reflected in the mission of Zarathustra or Zoroaster, who lived much later, probably around 1400-1200 BC. He pointed at the task of man to cultivate the field without becoming imprisoned in matter, as Ahriman wants. Cultivating the field also means cultivating the physical expression of the divine. There is a continuous danger that man does not distinguish between light and dark in himself. Then the synagogue of satan emerges from the synagogue of the god of light. According to Schult, we have to penetrate death in us with life and spirit, resulting from the force of love that flows from the heart of Christ. He who is not doing so, does not take any fruit from life on Earth into the spiritual world and consequently has to fall into the hands of death for the second time.
Hebrew tradition calls Ahriman: Mephiz-Tophel. It is the same Mephistopheles who calls to Goethe’s Faust when he is searching for the spiritual world: ‘You come to nothing’. But Faust calls back to him: ‘In your nothing I hope to find all’ (Steiner, GA 104a, p.83). The sentence ‘the devil will cast some of you in prison’ means that this Mephistopheles will try to chain parts of mankind to the material world by having them connect too strongly to material things.
Ten days of being tormented
The community in Smyrna will be seduced and tormented during ten days. It is a warning that these trials are part of the path of initiation to purify one’s desires. Why ten days and not for example seven or twelve ? The number ten represents in Kabbalah completion. The tenth sephira (a sephira is one of ten emanations or expressions of God) is the sephira Malchuth. Malchuth is the consonance of all nine sephirot which represent the Kingdom of God’s presence on Earth (Schult, p.45). Moreover, the old Zodiac knew not twelve but ten spheres. After the seven planetary spheres followed the eighth sphere of the fixed stars, while the ninth sphere was the crystal sphere and the tenth the final sphere of fire. That is why life is led through time in ten days from trial till completion.
Schult characterizes the letter to Smyrna as a preparation for martyrdom. Dullaert (p.41) finds that the members of the Smyrna community have to learn to raise the courage to face the impacts of evil.
Who overcomes will not be hurt of the second death.
The letter to Smyrna shows that the writer of the letter is the First and the Last, that he is first light spirit only and subsequently descends into the world of matter where he experiences the death of his body, but finally resurrects as light spirit (Steiner, 20 June 1908). Because the light god imbues matter through man, matter is embedded in spirit and is animated again. That is why man, although heavily tested in this period, does not go down in death. The fruits of his acts of love make that man, after the dying of the body, stays alive as soul and in this way is saved from the second death. The second death means that not only the physical body dies but also the human soul. Or as Schult (p.45) summarizes: The first death separates the soul from the physical body, and the second death aims to separate the spirit from the soul, which will lead to being tormented in hell. Who overcomes, and stands up to the temptations of Satan, Ahriman, will be crowned with the salvation of his soul, his light body.
Here we see that those which are not damaged by the second death keep the perspective of further consciousness growth and becoming ultimately unified with their Creator.