Contrary to Pergamon, where the old Acropolis was located outside modern Bergama, remnants of old Thyatira and its first Christian community are overgrown by new developments and hard to find. Only in a little square neighborhood in the center, which is preserved as a cultural spot, some memories of the time of John are present. Thyatira, the present Akhisar, is a middle-sized and reasonably modern looking agricultural municipality of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Thyatira was not as famous as the cities mentioned before. It was a small insignificant municipality in rural territory. But notably, the longest letter John has to write to the angels of the seven communities is written to this small community.
The fourth or Greek-Roman cultural period
Thyatira represents the fourth or Greek-Roman cultural period. As our present time still is full of memories that go back to the Greek-Roman cultural period, it is relatively easy for us to imagine life in those days.
The Greek-Roman cultural period is a reflection of the Atlantean epoch, which was the center of the era of our mineral Earth planet. The bodies of the Atlanteans were more dense than those of the Lemureans and gradually a bone structure was starting to emerge, although it was still flexible at the start (Steiner, GA 104a, p.98). Their bodies are difficult to detect in archeology, contrary to animals which produced more outspoken bone structures.
The fourth letter stands for the middle of the seven letters. In this cultural period the central event of the Post-Atlantean epoch is taking place: the Spirit of the Sun incarnates as the Son of God in a human body, the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
The liberating mission of the Christ resulted in the gift of the free I to the human being, the eternal aspect of his nature. The essence of his being is presented as the Son of God with eyes like flames of fire and feet like melting gold-ore. He is the love aspect of God which created man and all that exists. In the fourth cultural period man is, as a result of the Christ force descending from the Sun sphere, loosened from his family and tribal connections and starts to become an individual person. The descent of the Christ from the Sun to the Earth, a process that started in the middle of the Atlantean epoch, is needed to save man which was more and more clinging to material matters. This would without the coming of the Christ ultimately prohibit his return to the spiritual world and to his divine origin, according to Steiner (GA 104a, p.84).
The awakening of the human self-consciousness
During the Greek-Roman cultural period from 800 BC – 1400, man’s love for the material world comes to its highest expression in the Greek and Roman art of sculpture, which shows the divine beauty and perfection of the human figure. The coming of the Christ awakens the self-consciousness, the I. The impact of the Christ impulse becomes visible in the Roman empire in the birth of citizenship, the rights of each Roman citizen as an individual for the law. Here the I-consciousness, which was earlier only present as a seed, descends and starts to grow. The personality enters the global stage. An example is the introduction of the concept of a testament (Steiner, GA 104a, p.89). Schult (p.55) recognizes the Christ impulse in Thyatira in the qualities of love, faith and serving patience. In Thyatira, contrary to Pergamon, the last works are more than the first. The last works are greater in Thyatira because the love from the Christ has started its renewing activity in their personalities and the new works they perform.
The ability to say ‘I am’ results in the responsibility for our own deeds. That is why the Christ says in the letter to Thyatira of himself he who searches the reins and hearts. The I consciousness, the ability of self-reflection, becomes the pivot from which the temptations of the soul are going to be controlled and purified.
The birth of the I is at the same time accompanied by the disappearing of the last remnants of the consciousness of the spiritual world, of the awareness of being a spiritual being before one is born as a child on Earth.
Human existence becomes clasped between birth and death on Earth (Steiner, GA 346, p.74). This tragedy of losing the entry to the spiritual world is for instance shown in the drama of the Greek poet Aeschylus, in which Io, who became insane, appears to Prometheus. Io is, according to Steiner (GA 104a, p.90) symbol for the old clairvoyant ability that can no longer manifest itself in this cultural period during the normal consciousness, and only could present itself in a state of insanity.
The Greek develops philosophy, but is not aware of the future ascending into the spiritual world. And the Roman develops, besides science and civil and criminal justice, a large skepticism for spiritual affairs (Steiner, GA 104a, p.91). The science of the Egyptian culture, which reached in its spiritual astronomy till the stars, disintegrates in the fourth cultural period and this results in an inability to search and find the spirit behind the external appearances. As a result, man easily comes to deifying his own lower self, as found in the cases of tyrannical Roman emperors. Schult (p.56) shows that the monumental religious buildings like the pyramids of the Egyptians and ziggurats of the Babylonians are still expressions of the consciousness of the macrocosm, and the astral-cosmic beings of the gods. In the case of the Greek-Roman art the temples are shrunk to the human size. The kingdom of heaven now lives in the inner world of man. The gods have become human. Even the Son of God becomes human. From the eternity of the sphere above the cosmos, the world Logos descends, first in the sphere of the zodiac, than in the sphere of the solar system and finally on Earth and in the I consciousness of man. In the I of man the ‘Light of the world’ starts to shine.
Evil is represented in Thyatira by prophetess Jezebel. This name refers to the assertive Jezebel (living around 900 BC), daughter of king Ethbaal of Tyre and Sidon, who married Israeli king Ahab. After Ahab died, she became queen-mother. She made worship of Baal and Ishtar (Astarte) state religion and had Israel’s prophets killed. Her great opponent was prophet Elia (1 Kings 18 and further). Bock (p.66) suggests that nine centuries later followers of queen Jezebel will not have been so much the problem, but that the text refers to the widespread use of prophetesses, so-called Sibyls, who, like Jezebel, were inspired by the same forces. Sibyls play in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea during many centuries an important role as ecstatic mediums which give oracle proverbs to their visitors. Like the somnambulists, mentioned in the letter to Pergamon in relation to the followers of Balaam, the community of Thyatira is called not to associate itself with these ‘followers of Jezebel’. They all represent forces which oppose the spiritual awakening of man. Man has from now on the task to find his or her own way and make their choices with an awakened self-consciousness.
Schult (p.57) shows that the name Sibyl has a Persian-Chaldean background. It is related to a Sambethe-sanctuary that existed in Thyatira and was known as ‘Home of stars’ or ‘Home of the sun’. Sambe is the name for the Persian-Chaldean Sibyl. This Sibyl sanctuary must have been connected with the sun and star religion of the Sabaeans. The name sibyl obtained in time the meaning of prophetess, but was originally a reference to the cosmic lady, the zodiac sign of Virgo, which will give birth to the solar Son. The Sibyl sanctuary is characterizing Thyatira as a city representing the old sun and star culture. Close to Thyatira was also situated the city of Apollonia. This shows that Thyatira and its environment were worshipping the mysteries of the Sun, as well as those of Venus.
In the first century, these mysteries were in decay, but the influence of Sibyls was confusing the Christian community in Thyatira, particularly by their luciferic ecstasy and sexual rites. Those who fall for the demon of Venus, the illusionary light spirit Lucifer, are soon also victim of the demon of the Sun, the spirit of darkness, Ahriman-Satan, according to Schult.
He who searches the reins and hearts
The Christ states in the letter to Thyatira: And all the communities shall acknowledge, the I AM, he who searches the reins and hearts. In astrology, the reins are positioned under the sign of Venus, the Morning star, while heart and blood circulation are under the sign of the Sun. Christ leads according to the Apocalypse the total of human development and the wholeness of our solar system. Heart and reins of man show microcosmically what appears macrocosmically in Sun and Venus. When man is not able to find in his own Self the true Lucifer, the Morning star of the Holy Spirit, he will revert to the illusory light of the fallen Lucifer, here portrayed as Jezebel, according to Schult.
Steiner connects the quoted sentence of the Christ also with the new impulse that the Christ leads man upward and away from the material world (GA 104, p.87). The solar spirit which Zarathustra called Ahura Mazdao has allied itself since the crucifixion with planet Earth to fulfill its mission (GA 104a, p.93).
The rod of iron
The rod of iron to rule over the nations refers to forces of Mars which are needed to bring life into the physical reality. In plants this is reflected by the iron containing chlorophyll that is needed to make out of sunlight and carbon dioxide organic matter and oxygen. In animals and man iron plays a key role in the red blood-cells which fixate the oxygen in the lungs and exchange it for carbon diode. In case the Mars force is too strong, it kills and hardens life processes. And in the realm of culture, Mars leads to a domination of machine forces. In case the Mars sphere is illuminated by the light of the Christ, the I-force of the spirit can lead the nations. This is what the iron rod represents.
The sphere of the Sun lies spiritually between those of Mars and Venus. When the solar sphere illuminates the sphere of Venus, it becomes the divine sphere of Sophia and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Illumination of the Mars sphere by the light of the Christ results in the sphere of archangel Michael with his iron armor which conquers the demon of the Sun.
The Morning star
The letter to Thyatira ends with Christ’s promise that those who overcome will not only receive the rod of iron but also the Morning star. The Morning star indicates a decisive change in the fate of man and the Earth. During the fourth, the present mineral Earth era, a transformation takes place among the seven Earth eras. This fourth era is first characterized by a descending episode, called the Mars episode, while after the incarnation of the Christ an ascending episode arrives, the Venus episode. Venus shines clearly at the morning sky before the Sun arises above the skyline and starts to over-glow Venus. That is why the Christ mentions the Morning star which will be given to man when he is moving back to the spiritual world. The Morning star represents the ascending line in human evolution once he or she is able to overcome with the new I-consciousness the immoral temptations in his or her soul. A new future perspective grows, as after the Morning star the Sun, the Son of man, arises. This all shows why, according to Schult, Thyatira is characterized by the Sun.