Kees Zoeteman

The book by Friedrich Benesch (1907-1991) about the Apocalypse (Stuttgart: Urachhaus, 1981) was already almost forty years old when I got my hands on it in a shop for second-hand books in Zeist, The Netherlands. The special thing about it is that it deals with a theme I had wanted to study for a long time: the precious stones from which the New Jerusalem is built.

Friedrich Benesch, a physicist, theologian and anthroposophist, was like few others able to offer a deeper insight into this subject. Moreover, very few people have ventured into this special subject. Among other things, he was a priest in The Christian Community and from 1957-1985 he led the priest training center of The Christian Community in Stuttgart, Germany.

The book is not easy to read and requires perseverance. In the Foreword, the author’s aim is to try to make man’s mutual encounter with the nature of the minerals possible in a way that their being and future can lighten up. The book consists of four parts:

1. A sketch of the Apocalypse,

2. The spiritual character of the mineral kingdom,

3. How the inner qualities of the human being and the minerals work together, and

4. The individual mineral building blocks of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

The sketch of the Apocalypse

Friedrich Benesch sees in the Apocalypse the supernatural becoming visible in four major streams of revelation, going from ‘source to stream, river, and estuary’. The first flow starts from the being of the Son of Man who sends the seven letters to the seven angels of the seven communities. The second flow originates from the sealed book showing the flowing contents of its seven seals which the Lamb successively opens. From the seven angels in front of the altar the third flow of the contents of the seven trumpets comes forth. And finally, the seven angels coming out of the temple empty the seven golden bowls with God’s wrath. A man, a book, an altar and a temple are the four initial images of the four seven-fold streams. He elaborates on these four streams, from what he calls the source images to the images of the final out-flowing.

The spiritual beings of the mineral kingdom

Benesch starts his search for the essence of minerals from the premise that the outer characteristics of a mineral reveal a being that is not material at all. In the weight, hardness, transparency and chemical composition of the mineral, qualities that have a willpower character are revealed. In the color, smell and taste, the mineral shows its sensory or soul nature. And the spiritual mental nature shows itself in the characteristic crystalline form, such as the mathematical-geometric shapes. The crystal shows a calmed life, a pure soul quality or virtue, and in its appearance it shows an individual pure spiritual entity. In former earth states the mineral was still permeated by life forces, as is the case with living organisms at our present planet earth. 

According to spiritual science, all the natural kingdoms have a common origin. This also applies to the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of man. The similarities can still be found nowadays. The sun corresponds with the human heart and the self, which experiences itself in the heart. The earth with the four natural kingdoms corresponds with the human head and the consciousness which is linked to it. The planets with their typical constellations correspond with the organs of man. The fixed stars, and the zodiac in particular, correspond with the parts of the total figure of man.

Microcosmos Melothesia by Benjamin A. Quad (

And the animal kingdom with its specializations expresses the drives in the human soul, just as the plant kingdom shows the collective of human vital forces. The mineral kingdom also has its similarities with man, such as the relationship between certain metals and human organs. Metals also have relations with certain planets as a result of their spiritual history. Gold is attributed to the Sun, silver to the Moon, copper to Venus, iron the Mars, etc. Gems can be attributed to zodiacal signs and the months of the year, although their association is more complex than that of metals. Jasper is attributed to the constellation of Pisces, after which, according to the course of the vernal equinox of the Sun according to the platonic year, all 12 gemstones, as mentioned in the Apocalypse, can be assigned (see table at p.439 of the book).

According to Benesch, the common ground for gems, man and the star constellations lies in the Cherubim (Spirits of Harmony, from the so-called first angelic hierarchy). Their creative impulses were differentiated by lower spiritual beings and appeared as a material cosmos. The 12-fold structure that can be found in the natural kingdoms and in humans was caused by this. Examples are the twelve senses of man named by Rudolf Steiner. The minerals are the last creations of the Cherubs and the gemstones are the purest representations of these high beings in which they are physically embodied. The twelve high spiritual beings of the zodiac appear for the supernatural perception as animal-like imaginations. In the Apocalypse this is also found for the four most important of them (Taurus, Leo, Eagle and Aquarius) (Rev.4:6-8). In the image of the future New Jerusalem the twelve zodiacal beings can be found in the twelve gemstones that are used as foundation stones. Together with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the names of the twelve apostles, the future of the cooperation of high beings from the angelic hierarchies, the mineral cosmos and man is revealed.         

Furthermore, in this image of the Heavenly Jerusalem the water refers to the ethereal, the crystal to the light quality of the cosmos and the gold to the solar being. In the sensory perception of the gemstones in particular, man meets the revelations of the pure will of the Thrones (Spirits of Will), of the Cherubim (Spirits of Harmony) and Seraphim (Spirits of Love), all three belonging to the first angelic hierarchy. They are the creative gods of the zodiacal realm, evoking our reality. The minerals show the end (the lowest level) of their activity, and call upon us to elevate ourselves to them through the will to develop pure virtues. 

How the inner qualities of man and the minerals work together

In this third part of the book, I was struck by how Benesch discusses the future resilience of the mineral world. The mineral is pre-eminently an appearance of selflessness. Selflessness is not the absence of an I. An I-less being is not selfless because it does not determine its selflessness. Benesch sees in selflessness the highest human ideal, in which the Christ being leads him. In the stream of all currents – the water-, in the crystal of all crystals – the diamond -, in the metal of all metals – the gold -, in the virtue of all virtues – the twelve precious stones – selflessness is manifest everywhere. This selflessness makes the gemstones future-proof and makes them suitable to be transferred to the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, in transformed form. Finally, the material mineral of our human body will also be transformed by our selflessness. Because of this selflessness the highest deity can appear in images borrowed from the mineral kingdom.

Particularly interesting is Benesch’s vision on the relation of the mineral kingdom with the forces of evil or the so-called subnature. These are forces that express themselves in electricity, magnetism and nuclear radiation and are opposed to supernature, which is characterized by life, soul and spirit, including the planet spirits and the beings of the stars. The mineral, as a being, has entrusted itself to the forces of subnature. However, the subnature is not the essence of the mineral but a set of circumstances and possibilities through which the mineral can take its supernature into the realm of physicality. What brings the mineral into appearance qualitatively is selflessly dependent on the help of the subnature. The mineral is so selfless that it can entrust itself to the circumstances of evil without becoming part of evil itself. It is the image of life in the realm of death, the image of the spirit in the realm of the counterpowers. The counterpowers are forced to selflessness by the selfless being of the minerals. However, if man intervenes in the mineral world in such a way that his physicality disintegrates and his qualitative character disappears, and man uses only his subnatural form, then evil can rise from the dust and thwart and confuse life, soul and spirit of nature and man. Only then does the power of evil become effective. The power of evil tries to put itself in the place of nature and to chain man to the self-induced mock nature or partial nature. In this way man prevents the mineral from fulfilling its destiny: to form the germ of a new cosmos. Then the image of Babylon arises, where the sub-natural part has been torn out of the mineral world with the help of mankind and with which soul and spiritual forces have been connected. 

The other road leads from nature to the future of supernature. Supernature uses subnature to reveal the living, the soul and the spiritual in a physical existence. The future depends on man’s choice to use the virtues represented in the mineral realm as a guide for his actions.

The individual mineral building blocks of the Heavenly Jerusalem

The fourth part is the largest in volume. It goes too far to discuss all the individual minerals in detail here. Benesch discusses the water, the crystal, the experience of the mineral in relation to the name, the twelve precious stones, the gold, the pearls and finally the wood. Some of these elements will be briefly explained as an illustration.

Benesch discovered that we shouldn’t think in the first place of the physical appearance of a gemstone mentioned in the Apocalypse. Sometimes different looking gemstones were indicated with the same name. An example is jasper that is used in different meanings. In ancient times the name of a gemstone was not only used for the object, but also for the inner experience that man had at the sight of the object. Therefore, the ancient name could be related to several, mineralogically different, gemstones. The term ‘jasper’ refers to a certain experience. On the one hand there is the ‘experience of jasper’ in the form of luminous hardness and clarity as shown by the diamond, but it also refers to the experience of purification and bringing peace as represented by the stone we nowadays call jasper. And the differentiation of that ‘jasper experience’ extends to an even further differentiation leading up to heliotrope. In the Apocalypse jasper is the primary representative of the essence of the Father-god as a source of light, life and love. But at the same time the jasper experience is the deepest unity of the triple deity, which encompasses all the creative power of the Father, all the virtue of the Son, and all the luminous power of Consciousness. To translate the term ‘jasper’ correctly in the Apocalypse, diamond or rock stone can often be used. The minerals are associated with the highest divine workings, while they have descended to the deepest regions and have remained noble there. As a result, they contain a germinating power that enables them to ascend to the highest. This mystery of descent and ascension is the true content of the jasper experience.

Below, a brief description will be given of the soul related virtue that Benesch connects to the twelve gemstones mentioned as the foundations of the wall around the Heavenly Jerusalem in the Apocalypse.

Jasper (here Benesch sees the appearance as heliotrope as most fitting): heliotrope is bright to dark green and means striving for the sun; related to all-encompassing magnanimity to want to see in the seemingly meaninglessness the meaningful; activity of Christ.

Sapphire: means purifying, organizing, harmonizing; the transparent forms are often red (ruby), and blue to violet; ruby red lights up in man’s heart when man’s will balances the thinking, the feeling and the willing; the virtues of discretion and silence show themselves in the sapphire blue. 

Chalcedon: the name refers to a city on the Bosporus; the celestial blue of noble forms of Chalcedon is very different from the deep dark blue of sapphire; the celestial blue represents the courage of self that can overcome the fear of a doubting and poorly incarnated self.

Emerald: the name is related to lightning, flickering; in the pure green flashes the pure power of thought which enables man to control his thoughts and the words he speaks; from this comes the inner truth for man himself and for acknowledging the spiritual world.  

Sardonyx: the name is a composition of sardar and onyx; in ancient times sardonyx was thought to be three-colored: red sardar accompanied by black onyx and in between the white or light grey Chalcedon; sardonyx is related to the image in the Apocalypse of the eagle or the inner elevation of the scorpion to the spirit aspect of the eagle.

Carnelian or Sardar: Sardar refers to the Persian word Serd which means yellow-red; stands for inner satisfaction with who one is, inner balance and true resignation; inner freedom.

Chrysolite: means golden stone; related to the origin of the eye; stands for courtesy, without coveting selfless looking into the world.

Beryl: derived from the Indian name Verulijam which means stone; promotes the transition from self-awareness to co-awareness of the mind and soul of other beings; opens up to true compassion.

Topazes: named after island Topazes (probably the same as St. John’s Island) in the Red Sea; pure topazes is colorless to light yellow and translucent; the ability to hear spiritually; purification to selflessness.

Chrysoprase: which means something like golden leek crop; the color is more light green than yellow; represents the strength of perseverance and fortitude to reach maturity of the higher being.

Hyacinth: named after the hyacinth plant that owes its name to the son Hyakinthos of King Amyklas of Amyklai; the son, beloved by Apollo, was killed by an unfortunate discus throw after which the hyacinth plant blossomed from his blood; every year the Spartans celebrated the feast of Hyakinthos, the feast of a god’s love for a human being; yellow-red stone that stands for inner balance between will and thought and thus for the source of inner freedom.

Amethyst: means being able to resist the intoxication; violet of color through a mixture of red and blue that both hold back; connected with the virtues of reverence, devotion and modesty.

Benesch ends these gemstone descriptions with the call not to consider the gemstones as objects but to learn to see them with their inner soul and spiritual life and thus to experience which unity is behind their twelve appearances. The twelve Cherubs that light up from the gemstones as Spirits of harmony are unified at the higher hierarchy of the Seraphim, the Spirits of love. Here John shares with us his highest ‘Jasper experience’ of all-encompassing and all-penetrating divine love.

A very creditable book by Friedrich Benesch for those who want to fathom the Heavenly Jerusalem and take the trouble to delve into the sometimes rather specialized descriptions.