The Grail Mystery and the Seven Liberal Arts by Frans Lutters

5 June 2021 | Apocalypse in discussion, Blog, Context and roots | 0 comments

Book Review

Kees Zoeteman

Over the past thirty years Frans Lutters, teacher at a Rudolf Steiner school in the Netherlands, has spoken frequently on the mysteries of the sevenfold nature of man and creation. He explained how the sevenfoldness also has played a role in education since ancient cultures and the Middle Ages until our time. In 2006 Lutters reworked an earlier version into this book (Nearchus C.V., Assen, in Dutch). His main theme is the doctrine of the Seven Liberal Arts as practiced in the Medieval school of Chartres, France, and being inspired by the search for the Holy Grail.

Lutters refers to the church father Martianus Capella (p.15), a contemporary of Augustine (354-430), who was the first describing that the Seven Liberal Arts were experienced as direct inspiration from seven celestial ladies. The famous teacher of Chartres, Alanus ab Insulis (1128-1203), was one of the last who described in Anti-Claudian these celestial ladies as images of seven inspirational forces. This Alanus ab Insulis (Alain de Lille) plays a central role in Lutters’ book. In a footnote (p.156) it is stated, based on statements by Rudolf Steiner, that he is a great executor of the aims of Archangel Michael and is the same as Mani (216–276) who returned later to earth as the historical Parcival.

The book by Frans Lutters makes one curious about the connection of the seven liberal arts with the sevenfoldness that emerges in the Apocalypse as the rhythm of all time processes.

Historical sources

In Part I, Lutters discusses historical sources on the importance of the sevenfoldness. In Indian culture, it are the seven Rishis who reveal the wisdom of the cosmos. In the old Persian culture, it are the seven good spirits who serve the great solar spirit Ahura Mazdao. In Egypt there is a description of Isis, documented by the Greek Jamblicus, in which the goddess is composed of seven equal parts made up of the seven planetary metals. In Jewish culture we find the seven solar Elohim. In the Old Testament, the seven liberal arts also appear in the encounter of Moses with the seven daughters of the priest Jethro at a well in the desert. Then, in the Middle Ages, we find the virgin Maria-Sophia in the West Portal of Chartres Cathedral, as the Queen of Heaven amidst the seven liberal arts. In Chartres, the Egyptian Isis wisdom revived within Christianity (p.20).

An important role was played by Charlemagne and his advisor Alkuïn, who around 800 laid the foundations for a new European education system based on the seven ‘Artes Liberales’, as expressed in Martianus Capella’s work The Wedding of Philologia to Mercury. Here the central theme is the connection between human consciousness and Mercury, the messenger of the gods. During the wedding of the learning human soul (Philologia), the seven female godesses appear with their cosmic star wisdom.  

During the Renaissance, monastic abbots such as Basilius Valentinus (Von Meisterschaft der sieben Planeten) and Trithem of Sponheim make connections between the seven liberal arts and the planetary intelligences as the basis for the development of virtues.

With the view of sevenfold man, as brought by Rudolf Steiner at the beginning of the twentieth century, a basis is found to connect the seven liberal arts and the evolving human being, who still has to develop the higher qualities of Manas, Buddhi and Atman in himself (p.30). Lutters concludes the first section with an extended account of the conversation between the teacher Trevrezent and Parcival-Schionatulander, as described by Walter Johannes Stein in a lecture at Glastonbury on July 25, 1932. In this lecture, the seven numbers emerge as the musicality that sounds through inner listening in the plant world. These sounds are echoes of the sounds emanating from the universe by stars and planets. Every budding flower is a little sun. Every swaying plant a movement of planets. And when you look at the tree, its entire being becomes a sound. In the hardened trunk sounds the prime. In the first branches on the trunk the secondus. And so the sounding continues with further branching. Most plants find their conclusion in the quint. If you want to find the sext then you have to listen to what sounds up when the flower opens and then the sept sounds when the insects carry the pollen on to other plants. The new germ, the seed, forms the octave. 

Next, he describes the female teachers of the liberal arts found in nature. The first is the Moon, who selflessly views and reflects everything from all sides, and is teacher of the art of Dialect. Gabriel is the intelligence that animates the Moon. The second teacher is Mercury, the sphere of the world of numbers, the Aritmetic, where images disappear and only numbers remain. This sphere is animated by Archangel Raphael, the Archangel of medicine who works with the secret arithmetic and the number 3 which stands for the harmony between opposites. Then follows the sphere of Venus where Music is the liberal art under the inspiration of Anael. Michael is the solar prince who orders and regulates the passage of time and is the inspirer of Grammar. Next comes the sphere of Mars, the teacher Samael of Geometry, who can create forms that can serve the living. Jupiter is the sphere where Archangel Zachariel teaches the art of Rhetoric through which life is poured out in the geometric forms taught by Samael. Mars forms the air form of the word, but Jupiter gives it life.  And the outer sphere of Saturn, animated by Oriphiel, is the area where man in the afterlife reverses his path and begins again the descent into a new life. Here, in addition to the ability to live, the new form is animated with spiritual power and the soul learns the art of Astronomy. In the star writing the primordial impulse becomes visible. The seven liberal arts are a path through which soul and spirit become free from physicality.

And thus we have arrived at the same goal to which the visions of the Apocalypse refer. In the sequence of the seven liberal arts and their planetary intelligences outlined here, we recognize the same planets that are connected to the seven communities in the Apocalypse, from Ephesus to Laodicea.

Characteristics of the seven liberal arts     

Part II of the book introduces us more deeply into the nature of the inspirations to the seven liberal arts. At length Lutters deals with Grammar, the art of the creative word, with Rhetoric, the art of the spoken word, and with Dialectic, the art of logic. These three form the so-called Trivium headed by lady Grammar. They work in three spatial directions. Grammar works in the front and back planes of the body and brings balance to the will. Rhetoric works in the upper and lower planes of the body and brings balance to the emotional life. Dialectic works in the left and right planes of our body and leads to discernment. These three arts lead man to his true humanity.

The next four arts, the Quadrivium, lead man to insight into his connection with the four kingdoms of nature (p.103). Lutters compares us humans to Parcival after he has encountered the Grail Mystery for the first time and with his newly acquired ability re-enters the world of the four natural realms. The mineral realm is explored with the Arithmetic, with what is measurable, weighable and countable. Geometry expands the countable world into that of the active formation principles that underlie all life processes, as in plants, and are manifested in the water element. The Music focuses on the area of the soul found in animals and humans. The musical world lives primarily in the air element. The Astronomic focuses on the world of man and the stars, and appears only as a point, in the fire element. It is related to the I of man. Just as the primal image of man lies in the Trivium, so in the Quadrivium man is found anew from the realms of nature, the fourfold construction of physical, etheric and astral body and the I.

Applications of the liberal arts

The final section discusses applications of the liberal arts in various fields. First, Lutters discusses the seven liberal arts as a modern way to practice the path of the Grail. In doing so, he makes the connection between the liberal arts and the seven chakras (p.130).

The free arts and the chakras

Liberal ArtInspiring planetBody partAbilityChakra
GeometryJupiterForeheadThinking powerTwo-Petalled
RethoricMarsLarynxSpeaking powerSixteen-Petalled
GrammarSunHeartProtective powerTwelf-Petalled
MusicVenusSolar PlexusLove powerTen-Petalled
ArithmeticMercuryLimbsConnecting powerSix-Petalled
DialecticMoonReproductionLife forceFour-Petalled 

Parcival is the archetype of the knight who travels the path of the grail by developing the chakras from the head downward.

Lutters furthermore discusses issues such as the relationship with the primal teachers in Hinduism, the life of man between death and new birth, the connection with the planets, with the angelic hierarchies and the heavenly intelligences.

In the conclusion, he emphasizes that his aim has been to bring the Chartres impulse back into our time by developing new forms of learning. In short, he aims at renewal of the grail mystery.

Thus a goal is formulated for our time that merges with the purpose of connecting with the Apocalypse. I therefore gladly endorse his appeal at the end (p. 152): ‘…our time needs people who can approach the world spiritually without becoming alienated from the mundane’.  


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