Bastiaan Baan (1949) has been working as a priest in the Christian Community since 1981 and since 2012 also as a teacher at the theological schools of the Christian Community in Germany and the USA. Since the age of 18, he has been practicing the methods described in his book Ways into Christian Meditation (2015, Floris books). Other books include: Sources of Christianity: Peter, Paul and John (by Bastiaan Baan, Christine Gruwez, John van Schaik and Philip Mees (translator), 2017, FLO) and The Lord of the Elements; Interweaving Christianity and Nature (2013, Floris Books). He just concluded a series of lectures on the Future of the Earth, in which the Apocalypse plays an important role. See, for example, the May 7, 2021 lecture (in Dutch) on the Apocalypse by John: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iGY3oIxga8.
Our conversation takes place on December 8, 2021 in his special study in Driebergen, The Netherlands, a room full of large crystals, precious books and special portraits. He sits in front of the window in the winter sunshine and immediately manages to evoke a special atmosphere through the intensity and warmth of his voice. His gaze holds something of looking at heavenly distances, even as his kind eyes look at you from beneath his gray bushy eyebrows.
How did your interest in the Apocalypse develop?
My first conscious confrontation with the Apocalypse was when I was 19 years old and read The Antichrist by Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900). That struck me like lightning. And in my boyish naivety I thought: if I meet this Antichrist later, I’ll kill him! That was the primary reaction at that moment, which I still see before me. Then I started reading the Apocalypse, albeit not systematically at that age. Then came a lot of other things. I finished my teacher training. I went to the USA for a year, where I studied at the University of Los Angeles as a 21-year-old. There I experienced ‘apocalyptic conditions’. Here I came to work for a practicum in what was called a ‘ghetto school’, the ‘roughest place in the world’. There I received repetitive dreams that made it clear to me that Christ is a living reality. Or as Zeylmans (psychiatrist and anthroposophist Willem Zeylmans van Emmichoven, 1893-1961) put it, Christ is the reality in which we live. These dreams arose from the confrontation with evil. I encountered the evil in children who at a young age had been destroyed for the rest of their lives…. I don’t need to go into details. The apocalyptic motif was very present there. Then I worked in India for a number of months in Gandhi schools in the slums of India in Madras, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. Because of those experiences in America, I knew I wanted to be a priest. I mentioned that, when I came for an application to the Bergen Free School, after working in India. I worked at that school for seven years and then went to Stuttgart for priestly training. I was 31 years old when I started studying and 33 when I was ordained. I then taught several courses on the Apocalypse. I noticed that there was a lot of interest at the start and that gradually through the year, when the demons came around the corner, not everyone stayed on board. Then you were left with a hard core of participants who were deeply interested.
The value of my experience in Los Angeles was that my confrontation with evil evoked dreams in which the Christ appeared in his most perfect form. The confrontation with the evil did not make me see more of the evil, but rather the opposite. I did not disappear in the fear of it. Since then I say, perhaps somewhat overconfidently: I’m not afraid of the devil.
Did you have important teachers?
Absolutely. You barely get through such a confrontation with evil on your own, if at all. Or you have to be a half or whole initiate. In the first place, Rudolf Steiner is my teacher. In the second place, for me, it was Rudolf Frieling (1901-1986), one of the founders of the Christian Community. He was schooled as a theologian and well acquainted with Greek, Latin, Hebrew. He knew Anthroposophy inside and out, and could shine his light on the Apocalypse with his courses, in which he brought all the elements together. He was an absolute master for me in this field. The same is true of his other work. He stands the test of mainstream theology, which can be rather dismissive of anthroposophy.
Is the interest in the Apocalypse increasing or is the group that feels addressed becoming smaller?
The interest around apocalyptic predictions of world downfall is increasing. The interest in the real Apocalypse , I don’t know yet. Nowadays everything has to be called Apocalypse and placed in the context of world destruction. But it’s about the Apocalypsis Jesu Christi (the Revelation of Jesus Christ, KZ). You see the fascination with doom and gloom. There is something very real about that too, which is intriguing. But if you don’t recognize the actual Apocalypse, then it only becomes frightening. The actual message of the Apocalypse is to recognize Jesus Christ in and through the confrontation with evil.
Is the greatest evil from which we suffer the darkening of conscience?
There are all kinds of means to stifle that conscience, you might say. Alcohol and drugs, countless forms of intoxication and untruthfulness. I know of an impressive example of an offender with whom I have been in regular contact since my last stay in America. Someone who emailed with me from prison because he had experiences with the Christ. He told me that after a horrible childhood and adolescence, in which he lived on the streets as a thirteenth child from the age of three, he got into drugs and alcohol and crime, up to the point of almost killing someone and his imprisonment. And then he writes: “how lucky, that for the first time in my life, I came to isolation and no longer had the possibility of reaching for drugs and alcohol”. In that isolation, where he is not even allowed to interact with other prisoners, he comes to silence. And then conscience begins to speak and he has inner encounters with the Christ. These begin when one night he notices in a lucid dream that his feet are washed and that the next morning he is ‘clean’ in a certain way. Then he goes to the prison library and asks the librarian if he has anything to read about the washing of feet. The latter gives him lectures by Rudolf Steiner on the seven stages of Christian initiation. I wrote an entire article about that continued encounter in the quarterly journal of the Dutch Christian Community (Bastiaan Baan, 2020, Vrijheid in Gevangenschap [Freedom in Captivity], in: ‘In Beweging’, September, p.5-8; see also anthroposophyforprisoners.org). To me, this is a special example of how conscience can begin to speak.
Is the white robe, that is promised in the letter to the cummunity of Sardes, the result of inner processes that change one’s appearance? You also write that you should see the white robe as the ether body of man. Angels also have a white robe as their outer garment. How can you see in yourself, or in another person, how white the robe has become?
Is it something you have to work on yourself or do you receive it?
Yes. The priest, of course, does not HAVE the white robe, but receives it at ordination. It is not a personal merit. In the language of the Apocalypse it almost always sounds that the white robe is given. It is given as a promise to Sardes, but it is worth pursuing the motif of the white robe throughout the Apocalypse. Consider the curious expression, “The hundred and forty-four thousand have washed their robes radiantly white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7). I understand the white robe in this way: it is a quality that you must make your own in part by continually working at purification, but the actual is bestowed by Christ, the ethereal Christ. It is an interaction between the two. Why the ethereal? Traditionally, the alba longa (that is the name for it in ancient Rome and in the Apocalypse it is called leukè stolè), is connected with the ether forces. The black robe is the expression of the physical body, the white robe of the ether force, and the colored robe of the astral force. The colored robe, the casula, was called planeta in ancient Rome. This has been a given throughout the ages. The protestant reverend has a remnant in that white collar at the neck, everything else is black. That white collar is a remnant of the alba, usually without them knowing it yet. How is the ether body purified? By working very hard on yourself. Everything that has to do with cultivating ether forces is accomplished through repetition. A thread every day is a shirt sleeve in the year, is the saying. Greek monks on Athos have a saying ‘the mind always wants something different, the heart always wants the same thing’. A wonderful example of this in the tradition of the Greek Orthodox and Russian churches is the so-called everlasting Jesus prayer, ‘das immer-währende Herzensgebet’. That, to me, is the epitome of continual work on the ether body. It was made famous in Russia by Saint Seraphim of Sarow (1759-1833). It is about this one sentence of the blind beggar: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. This sentence is spoken infinitely often and at one point connects with breathing. The monks recite this sentence every day until the sentence starts to speak itself in the regions of the heart. And in time, because the prayer is spoken day and night and accompanies the monks even in sleep, it generates a certain warmth in the heart, calor. Finally, it begins to pronounce itself in the heart: canor. By the way, they also know this in the monasteries in the Netherlands. That to me is a textbook example of working in the sphere of repetition, in such a way that the ether body is slowly transformed.
So, that is another way than working on the astral body, by purification of the wishes and desires that live in the astral body, as a result of which the astral body is slowly transformed and this then settles in the ether body too.
Indeed: the transformation of the ether body must come about by directing from the higher part of being, the astral body. The way of these monks is no longer entirely of this time. These monks can only do so by rigorously withdrawing from this world.
They are applying an extreme form of the key of David by completely closing the door to the world.
Right. Nevertheless, this prayer is a precious thing that you can give a place in your life. I practice it at all times when there is nothing to do. When you’re walking in the middle of New York or standing in a traffic jam. In such situations I use the wording “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us”.
Can one see Christ as the root from which all humanity has come?
That is the message of John’s prologue. Christ is ultimately the one from whom everyone and everything has become and towards whom everything and everyone grows.
And the white robe is the sign of a developed Manas?
And the human being who has developed the Manas has actually become an angel?
Like an angel. The German language says: Engelgleich.
And all these Manases together form the eternal humanity that is slowly forming?
Yes, but of course you have to supplement that with the Buddhi and Atman. Those are the building blocks for the New Jerusalem, the next Jupiter incarnation of the earth. That is not yet the end. Then comes the next thing, where the question is what happens to evil, after it first exists as a dark consort of the earth, like a slag, accompanying the future creation. In the future it will have to be integrated again by humanity, when it has has developed further. Then you go to the next stages of the Venus and Vulcan earths.
Charles Kovacs sees the New Jerusalem as the last stage, the Vulcan earth. He says in his book Betrachtungen zur Apokalypse (p.161):
“Auf der Vulkan verschwindet überhaupt der Unterschied zwischen Leben in der physischen Welt und Leben in der geistigen Welt, wie er jetzt besteht….Und dass ist, was sich der Seher Johannes offenbarte und was er nennt und beschreibt als das ‘neue Jerusalem’. Und deshalb ist seine Beschreibung ganz auf die Zwölfheit aufgebaut und er gebraucht, um diese himmlische Stadt zu schildern, die Namen der zwölf Edelsteine. Die Edelsteine sind ja, in der Tat, das Abbild der Mächte und Kräfte des oberen Devachan. Da ist das Menschen-Ich nach langer Wanderung ‘heimgekommen’.”
Are you familiar with this?
Does Kovacs give a reference to a lecture by Steiner on this? I only know the reference to the Jupiter earth as the New Jerusalem from Steiner’s lectures at Nuremberg and what Kovacs says I cannot reconcile with that. What I could imagine is that, if the New Jerusalem can be connected to Jupiter, this is at the same time a preparatory stage for the two later earth incarnations. For in the Apocalypse, the question of evil remains unresolved. Unresolved in the sense of: the evil forces are thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, but of course one wonders what happens to the evil after that. And there lies the beginning of Manichaeism. Steiner makes it clear that it is not over with the New Jerusalem. After that, the hardest work only begins, the transformation of the evil. Last week, in the series “On the Future of the Earth,” I gave a lecture (in Dutch) together with Jesse Mulder on Manichaeism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2oG5Pit6oo) in relation tot his question.
The fact that no more is communicated about what comes later, may be related to the fact that even an initiate cannot see beyond a certain dimension. After that and before that it remains a mystery. I can imagine that the New Jerusalem is also an imagination for various stages that still follow Jupiter.
Can we dwell on John the writer of the Apocalypse? He is apparently a very composite being, spiritually seen.
The three of us, Christine Gruwez, John van Schaik and I, once gave a series of lectures published under the title Sources of Christianity: Peter, Paul and John. The question was: where does Johannine Christianity begin, where does Petrine Christianity begin, and where does Pauline Christianity begin? My task was to describe the three forms of Johannine Christianity in the past, present and future. The question of who John was, is a huge theme. John goes through various initiations. We know the question in anthroposophy, and also in ordinary theology, of how Lazarus is connected to John. With Lazarus, Christian initiation begins. Furthermore, at the beginning of the Apocalypse John goes through another initiation: ‘I fell as dead at his feet, but he laid his hand on me and spoke’. The connection between John the Evangelist and John the Baptist is cautiously indicated by Steiner when, after his final speech with the physician Felix Noll, he walks back to his home and, when asked if the two are one and the same, he says: “No, John the Evangelist is inspired up to the consciousness soul. With John the Evangelist there is no incarnation but incorporation by John the Baptist.” The two must be distinguished. But then, if you are concerned with the individuality of John the Evangelist and the writer of the Apocalypse, how does that proceed? Then comes one of the most important subsequent incarnations, that of Christiaan Rozenkreutz. Look at the initiatory motif in the life of Christiaan Rozenkreutz. If you read the Fama by Valentin Andreae, you will see that Christiaan Rozenkreutz is found completely intact in the tomb, many years after he died. There are also found the words, ‘A grain of wheat in the heart of Jesus’. At the Last Supper, the disciple whom Jesus loved lies at the breast of Jesus. He is listening to the secrets of the heart of Jesus. That is why he is the only one able to write down those farewell conversations. He goes from listening to the heart of Jesus to the grain of wheat planted in the heart of Jesus, an even deeper connection with Jesus. We have to give up all our separating discursive thinking there, to be able to recognize who he is. It is not an either-or but it is continuous and-and. It is an uninterrupted metamorphosis of the process. Think about the initiation of Christiaan Rozenkreutz: it takes 12 initiates to put him through that initiation. Our intellectual thinking has no access to that.
Are there ways to make the message of the Apocalypse more accessible in our time?
In my daily work, I regularly use very small fragments, perhaps a single sentence, to show what the precious things in the Apocalypse are. A single sentence that you then try to fathom completely. Let me give some examples.
-The Key of David
I live very strongly with the sentence from the letter to Philadelphia: I will give you the key of David, which opens and no one closes, which closes and no one opens. To me, that is the Apocalypse that you can apply daily. In fact, you must apply it in order to be able to stand firm in practice. The whole world rushes around us. From all sides we are besieged with information, with disinformation, etc. Now you can do two things. The primary reaction is that people either shut themselves up in their own cocoon and no longer want to have anything to do with the outside world, or they leave the tap wide open and are overwhelmed by everything, ripe and green, that comes at them. No, says the Apocalypse, the key of David is the faculty within yourself that is capable, if you use it well, of opening the door wide to anything or anyone that you let in at that moment, and at the next moment you say: now I’m closing the door and I’m going to examine myself. It is the ability to create a harmonic balance for yourself, a precarious balance between the world that enters you from the outside and the world that lives inside you. Steiner, during the cycle in Nuremberg, used the expression ‘Das Ich, dass in sich selbst sich gefunden hat’ [The I that in its self has found itself] for the latter. A great expression. That is something you have to handle constantly in order to remain standing upright in our society. That is one of the many precious things from the Apocalypse with which I live and also work in pastoral care.
-The double-edged sword
Another example is the double-edged sword. You can cut with that in two ways. The word has a divine origin. The word is a miniature of the one who is himself the Word or the Logos… with which to separate and with which to bring about a separation. And that brings us to a crucial motif of the Apocalypse, that many people today do not want to deal with: the separation of spirits. There are countless people alive today who have the quiet hope or illusion that we will all end up in the same boat on the other side. But our whole zeitgeist shows that the separation is beginning to occur more and more between a part of humanity that is trying to perfect itself and a part that is falling away, whereby of course that separation also runs right through ourselves. It is very easy, as the fundamentalist churches do, to construct the axis of evil and say, the 144,000 chosen ones are us! But actually the whole motif of the double-edged sword is a motif that you have to understand existentially: how do I live with that reality? How can I use the double-edged sword to recognize in myself the source of the so-called evil and how can I deal with it in a hygienic way, for example in a retrospective of the day. A great help with this was, and for me this is Apocalypse in practice, when during a lunar node in my life (planetary position that occurs once every 18 1/2 years, KZ) I went through my entire biography with the psychiatrist Bert Welman and he gave me the task: try to look at your daily retrospective, not only: where was I, but where was Lucifer today, where was Ahriman today, where was the Christ today? That’s a great exercise for retrospection, to get to know the evil within yourself. It’s very easy to see that in the other person. But the task is mainly to apply that double-edged sword to yourself.
-I stand at the door and knock
Another exercise that touches me, and that can also be applied to daily life, is the sentence from the letter to Laodicea: “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and have dinner with him and he with me”. Such a phrase can be applied to your inner life. Christ does not enter our closed personality uninvited. He does not enter it without us opening the door ourselves. It is that unconditional…. respect for the free personality that Christ shows…. Am I trying to listen to the voice of Christ? It is expressed in our conscience. It is not about the learned or conditioned conscience. To check with yourself, create quiet moments and listen when you close the door….. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…. and have the meal with him… The presence of the Christ creates substance, eating and drinking… And he with me. It is a mutual meal. To me, those are phrases that are among the most precious of the Apocalypse. And that I live with in some way. What that means for pastoral care is that you allow moments of silence to arise. That it’s not a question and answer game with quick responses. But that you give yourself and the other the opportunity to taste … what … is the afterglow of something. Or that in pastoral care, before you meet someone, you hold back for a moment. For the person who is dying right now, I spend the night before preparing for the ordination of death. And after the moment of meeting or consecrating death, that you give the opportunity to let it resonate and listen to the voice of conscience. For me, those are all practical consequences of living with such a sentence from the Apocalypse.