Pergamon, now called Bergama, is situated north of Smyrna, some 25 kilometers inland from the coast where it nears the island of Lesbos. Also Pergamon is a very important city in the Roman empire. It has a majestic Acropolis, located at the top of the hills, overlooking the surrounding wide landscape. Pergamon is the most important art city of Asia Minor. The crown treasures of Alexander the Great were brought to Pergamon after 332 BC, which made the later kings of Pergamon the wealthiest of the Greek world of those days. It resulted in beautiful temples, halls with columns, and a gigantic alter honoring Zeus. King Attalos III gave at the occasion of his death in 133 BC all the treasures of Pergamon to the Roman empire. Somewhat lower than the Acropolis was built the famous sanctity of Asclepius, where sick people were given a cure based on their dreams. A bath with healing water, built of marble stone, is still in use. The most famous physician of antiquity, Galenos, came from Pergamon.
Schult (p.48) sees in all these phenomena the Venus character of Pergamon. Pergamon carries the remembrance of the third cultural period, the Egyptian-Babylonian, in which man recognized in the scripture of the stars and the forces of nature the actions of angel hierarchies. The start in this period of the observations of the surrounding physical world is seen as the start of science based on observing the exterior phenomena. The assembled knowledge was reflected in the libraries. Pergamon was zealous to outperform Egyptian Alexandria with respect to its library. The Egyptians started to boycott Pergamon by no longer exporting papyrus for its books, but Pergamon invented parchment, made from dried animal skin to continue building their library. When the library of Alexandria was damaged by an attack of Julius Caesar in 48 BC, Marcus Antonius compensated his beloved Cleopatra by sending the library of Pergamon, some 200,000 books, to Alexandria.
During the reign of emperor August (27 BC-14), a temple was built in Pergamon to honor him as a god.
The world of light fades more and more
The Egyptian-Babylonian cultural period (2900 – 700 BC) reflects the earlier Lemurian epoch, and more remotely reflects, within the even larger cycle of the planetary eras, the era of the Old Moon in which Earth and Moon remained united. As the Moon reflects materialistic forces these play a dominant role in all phases characterized by the number 3.
In the first part of the Lemurian epoch the difference between life and death does not exist, because Sun and Earth/Moon are still united. Man is not yet divided in a soul and a physical body. But once the Sun separates, man’s body condenses to an air-damp type of shape which floats like a cloud above the surface of the Earth/Moon. Once the Moon separates from the Earth in the second part of the Lemurian epoch, man starts to perceive his own soul and the life surrounding him as two separate things. Higher spiritual beings donate at this moment to him the seeds for his higher spiritual abilities of Manas, Buddhi and Atman, which will start to grow in later phases when man has become self-conscious.
The difference between being awake and asleep begins. During the day man sees more and more the external physical world and during the night, when the Moon reflects the Sun, he is still able to perceive in a clairvoyant way spiritual beings. The inner life of the Egyptian reflected this situation which originated in Lemuria. The spirit of the Sun, called Ahura Mazdao by the Persians, was called Osiris by the Egyptians, and the human soul searching the spirit of the Sun was called Isis.
Religious life in Egypt became therefore a Moon service. The Sun god Osiris lived on the Moon according to the clairvoyant perception of the Egyptian priests. But with increasing emphasis on the material world the Egyptians lost this ability to experience Osiris. That is why Isis became ‘a widow’. This cultural period is characterized by increasing domination of the external world and by the number 3: Sun, Moon and Earth, or Osiris, Isis and their son Horus (Steiner, GA 104a, p.98). The fading away of the light world and its spiritual beings was a matter of great concern for the priests which tried to find practical solutions to deal with this situation. An example is the Egyptian Book of the Death. It described rules for finding the light of Osiris after death to give hope to searching man (Horus) (Steiner, GA 104a, p.84).
The vernal point of the Sun was in the zodiac sign of Taurus during the third or Egyptian-Babylonian cultural period. The bull was for his reason the holy animal in Egypt, worshiped as the Hapis or Apis bull and the Hathor cow. Hathor is the animal symbol for Egyptian Isis and Babylonian Ishtar. Ruler of Taurus is Venus.
The Egyptian-Babylonian culture was based on the astral forces of the soul and the movement of the planets in the solar system and the constellation of the zodiac. The Babylonian astrology is a reflection of this connection, as well as the design of the Egyptian pyramids. Also megalithic stone circles of the Celtic druids of around 3000 BC were born from the astral wisdom of the stars (Schult, p.52).
The two-edged sharp sword
The letter to Pergamon starts with the two-edged sharp sword from the mouth of the Son of man. This sword comes from the mouth of the wise man which is able to speak words through which the spiritual force works in the material world. The two-edged sword points, according to Steiner, also at the need to discern between the creative word that leads to the glory of the spiritual world and that which serves the dark side. It refers to the wisdom man can acquire and which speaks from his words and reflects the consciousness of his mind, and which brings the distinction between white and black magic. The sword from the mouth is our ability to discern between these two types of magic. The symbol of the sword also points at the process of the divine creative word becoming human. This divine force which flows to man is called ‘manna’ in the bible. But it points at the same time at a danger, the danger that scientific knowledge, which is making its entry, is abused and leads to black magic (Steiner, GA 104a, p.86).
Schult (p.51) sees the two-edged sharp sword in the mouth of the Son of man as a symbol for the word of creation at the very beginning and as the divine word of judgement at the very end. The divine word that creates and divides everything is the inner word of God’s spirit which works purifying in man’s soul. It forms what the Indian calls the antahkarana, the bridge between the eternal spiritual being and the transitory soul of man.
The throne of satan
The magnificent city of Pergamon also houses the throne of satan. This not only points at the glorious temple of the emperor which pretends to be a god, but also at dark movements that circulate in Pergamon. A sensuous cult of bodily care, fashion and dressing up developed in the bath and cure facilities. Like Mercure dominates the thinking, Venus dominates the feeling and sexual life (Schult, p.48). By fanning passions and desires the soul is torn up to pieces which weakens its ability to maintain balance and peace of mind. The resulting disharmony in the soul leads to all kinds of illnesses, according to Schult.
A pure expression of the sphere of Venus is found in spiritual healing and real art, in which the spirit penetrates as a builder of matter and desires. But in a darkened Venus sphere, the spirit is continuously polluted by egoistic desires. Instead of the mystical wedding of soul and spirit a spiritual divorce occurs and the consequence is what the Apocalypse calls fornication. This means that the spirit, under the influence of passions, is abused for pleasure bringing self-interests. This was taking place in Pergamon. In this mundane city the worshipping of gods, of Zeus, of Asclepius and of the emperor, is decadent. The reference to the throne of satan will in particular have concerned the monumental altar for Zeus, which by the way has been moved by German archeologists to Berlin. Schult (p.49) suggests that for the inhabitants of Pergamon the buildings were more living symbols of their superstition and black-magical religion than cultural expressions.
The doctrine of Balaam
The central third part of this Pergamon’ text fragment points, as a manifestation of its Venus character, at the followers of the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, which were also present in Ephesus. Balaam or Bileam is an Aramese prophet from the city of Pethor, who lived around 1500 BC. He was familiar with the god Jahveh of Israel. The bible (Numbers 22-25) describes how king Balac of the Moabites tries to seduce prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel, which have put up their tents at the border of his land after leaving Egypt. Balac promises to reward Balaam richly. But Balaam first makes Balac very angry as he follows Jahveh’s instruction to bless the people of Israel instead of cursing them.
Later, however, as can be read (Numbers 31:16 and II Peter 2:15), Balaam still granted the wish of Balac. He advised him to seduce the blessed Israelites by the Moabite and Midianite woman (Revelation 12:14; Numbers 25). Many Jewish men associated themselves with these women and also worshiped their idols. According to Steiner (GA104a, p.81) Balaam was a black magician. Black magic was very common in Egypt after the doctrines of Hermes Trismegistos became decadent and material powers were used egoistically. Moses had to execute an enormous clean-up, resulting in the death of 24,000 members of the people of Israel. After this the people of Israel defeated as yet the Moabites. Since this drama, Balaam is used as a deterrent example for the Jews of the subtle way evil works. Balaam is the symbol for the danger that we become a pray of the counter-forces which want to deviate us from our divine vocation.
Bock (p.65) mentions a related meaning of what the Apocalypse calls a follower of Balaam. Under these followers it was a habit to listen to the words of somnambulists in a trance state, as was often the case in antiquity. At present we should only act with an awake consciousness. Bock sees in the followers of Balaam and in the sect of the Nicolaitans the activity of the same counter-force which wants to prevent that the human soul is elevated.
The white touchstone
The letter to Pergamon calls us to turn around our inclination, and to acquire the sharp insight, that is represented by the two-edged sword. Then, man will receive the white touchstone and written on it his new name. Man does not receive his new name in a large collective event. It is an intimate individual experience in which the individuality has an encounter with the Christ, calling him by his unique name. That name is the calling, the unique mission of each individual.
Bock (p.71) elaborates on this by showing that each community receives its own promise. Ephesus receives the promise of the gift of the spirit to the physical body (eating from the Tree of Life), Smyrna the promise of continuity of life forces after physical death (protection against the second death) and Pergamon the promise of the gift of manna. Eating the hidden manna is the symbol for feeding of the soul with food from heaven in order to transform the lower astral passions into Manas, the higher Self (Schult, p.51). The hidden manna is the way by which man learns to develop the inner spiritual strength to know the unspeakable name of god Jahveh (I am who I am) as his own name: I.
Every human I is in its origin part of the Christ-I. On the white touchstone we read the word ‘I’, which nobody else can say but he or she which is the carrier of this I. The result of the action of this I is that the human being can elevate himself above the animal by transforming the animal desires (Steiner, GA 104a, p.49). Satan’s temptation is: seducing man to not purify his animal passions and desires and elevate them, but indulge in them and become a victim that sinks outside the sphere of influence of the I. That is where ‘satan lives’.
Dullaart translates this in three actions to withstand the temptations of Pergamon: 1) have the courage to recognize the evil actions in society and in your own social environment, 2) recognize with the two-edged sword these evil impulses also in your own mind and soul, and 3) do not flee back into illusionary securities of the past, but move forward to what has future potential.