At first glance, there seems little reason to connect the Christian Lord’s Prayer with the Apocalypse. But there is more kinship than meets the eye. Both the prayer and the book are travel companions for humanity on its way to its future destination. Although there is a great deal of literature to be found for this, we will limit ourselves to a few sources as illustration.
Judith von Halle (Das Vaterunser, 2006, Dornach: Verlag für Anthroposophie) mentions a number of arguments for this relationship, such as the fact that the primal form of this prayer in Aramaic consists of 50 words. The 50 is the conclusion of the 49, the 7×7, which describes the course through earth time. After all, the earth’s time consists of passing through 7 cultural periods in 7 epochs. Then we stand at the end of the earthly path and enter the realm of the 50, the realm of the Revelation, the Apocalypse, which depicts the completion of the solid mineral world.
Another aspect is that the Lord’s Prayer was given to man by Jesus Christ at the beginning of the development of self-consciousness, the awakening of the consciousness soul in the disciples and the women around Jesus. As the consciousness soul continues to develop, man will increasingly come to understand the spiritual depth of the simple words of the Lord’s Prayer. According to Von Halle, the prayer, when uttered sincerely, will provide a spiritual shelter from the influence of the three dark powers described in the Apocalypse, and thus this prayer will acquire an increasingly apocalyptic dimension. As we continue to delve into the content of the Lord’s Prayer, more clues to the Apocalypse will emerge.
The sevenfold human being
Rudolf Steiner (GA 96, p.202-236) pointed out in a lecture delivered in Berlin on January 28, 1907, that the Lord’s Prayer is the expression of the sevenfold man in the form of the seven requests. Just as access to the spiritual world is sought in the East through thought, by yoga, so within Christianity this primal prayer applies as a helping hand to find the way to the spiritual world through feeling. The construction of the prayer, like the construction of the human being, is based partly in the spiritual and partly in the earthly world.
Many versions of the text of this prayer circulate. I will reproduce the text as I learned it from my parents as a child, a version derived from Matthew 6: 9-13.
OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN,
HALLOWED BE THY NAME,
THY KINGDOM COME.
THY WILL BE DONE IN HEAVEN, AS IT IS ON EARTH.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD,
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTERS,
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL.
And then follows a prayer of praise to which we will return later.
Steiner shows how in this prayer the sevenfold man can be found, the first part referring to the divine aspects and the second to the earthly aspects of man. The great goal of the Apocalypse, the unification of man with God, is also found in this prayer which seeks to lead the two parts of man to union. Through the awakening of the higher spirit germs of Manas, Buddhi and Atman, man growths into unification with the Holy Spirit, the Son and finally the Father, and attains the Unio mystica. In other words, embedded in the Lord’s Prayer is the unification of the divine triad with the earthly quadruplet of our being. Steiner uses the figure below to explain this.
Figure 1. Hidden triangle and square in the Lord’s Prayer.
The seven aspects of the human being also emerge as hidden aspects of the seven rays in the spiral figure shown at the Home page of this website on the Apocalypse. The first ray, consisting of the first community, the first seal, the first trumpet, etc. refers to the physical body. The second ray to the etheric body, etc.
Below a description is given of Steiner’s explanation of the triangle and the square shown in figure 1.
In the school of Pythagoras (570 – about 500 BC), the triangle was chosen as the symbol for the spiritual parts of man and the square for the earthly parts. The three spiritual germs in man lie hidden in the Self and were inculcated in man as gifts from higher angelic hierarchies in the so-called Lemurian era, which preceded the Atlantic and the present Post-Atlantic era. Before Lemuria, man was more of a higher evolved group animal of which each individual possessed a physical, etheric and astral body and some form of self-awareness. It was only through the indwelling of the three spirit germs that man gained what is eternal in his nature, his individuality or higher self. The individuality is different from the personality or lower self, which only exists during a particular lifetime and then dies. Steiner gives as an image of the indwelling of the three spirit germs, which are constantly developing, the comparison of a sponge placed in a bucket of water.
‘Imagine a number of small sponges in a bucket of water. Those sponges will each soak up a little of the water. What was first a unit of water is then distributed among the many sponges. Before this event, those sponges rested unaided in the womb of the divine primordial spirit, without individuality, but by sucking in the water, the spirit germs of Manas, Buddhi, Atman become individualized.’ And until our time and the further future, these spiritual germs are developing more and more. This is the secret that is revealed in the Apocalypse and that wants to start revealing itself through the Lord’s Prayer. These divine germs are, on the one hand, the eternal sparks that burn in our being and, at the same time, they are parts of the divine being that were allowed to be poured out as germs in man. Thus, we carry God within us as a call to unveil our Creator, identifying ourselves with Him and reuniting with Spirit, Son and Father, together forming the Godhead.
How can we recognize this in the seven principles behind the Lord’s Prayer? We will first examine this for each part of the triangle.
OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, THY WILL BE DONE IN HEAVEN, AS IT IS ON EARTH.
Steiner has combined the first and fourth sentence of the prayer in the figure of the triangle because they deal with the same aspect. The highest principle in man is the Atman. It is operative in us as our will. Although at present this principle is still weakly developed compared to our thinking and feeling, in later times the will is destined to be the most excellent principle in man. When spiritual development has progressed further, our will can unite with the divine will from which we have emerged. The will becomes more and more powerful until man reaches the stage of so-called sacrifice (Steiner, GA 96, p.209). This is the stage where man can give himself away completely to the all-encompassing being, pour himself out into the material world. Steiner mentions as an example of this sacrifice the situation that occurs when you look at your image in a mirror. This image is an illusion that looks completely like you. Now imagine that you die because you sacrifice your whole being, your feeling, your thinking, your being, to give your life to this mirror image. In doing so, you make your image into that which you are yourself, you give your life to that image. This is called in spiritual science the pouring out, the emanation. When the will has arrived at that level, the will creates a new universe, big or small, and that universe is a mirror image that obtains its mission through the being of the creator himself. That is the characteristic of the creative will in the divine being.
THY KINGDOM COME
The second principle that flows from the Godhead into humanity is the Buddhi. It is the universe or realm in which the will of the Godhead multiplies in infinite mirror images. Imagine the center of the universe as a point, the divine center of the will impulse, and this center surrounded by a mirrored hollow sphere, like the inside of a silver Christmas ball, then this will center is mirrored from all sides in the hollow sphere. These mirror images represent the image of the Godhead. The universe is no other than the infinitely repeating mirror image of the Deity. That the universe is alive and weaving is the result of the permanent emanation by the Godhead of the Buddhi that gives life to the set of mirror images. This continual multiplication of the life-giving Godhead is called the Kingdom in the language of mystery, according to Steiner. The Atman, the center, is the will, the mirror of the will is the Kingdom, the Buddhi.
HALLOWED BE THY NAME
In the kingdom, the infinite multiplicity of beings reflects the divine. We find this idea in the designations of the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom and the human kingdom. And every mineral, every plant, every animal and every human being is an imprint and expression of the Godhead. And they are, from a spiritual point of view, an emanation of the Godhead in that they have each been given their ‘Name’. The Name is that which only man can think and by which the multitude of beings are distinguished from one another. The Name is the third principle that flows from the Godhead and corresponds to the Manas that has been emanated into man. The concept or idea behind things is represented in the third principle of the Godhead as the Name. In Manas we also recognize the name MAN (‘Mensch’ in German, or ‘Mens’ in Dutch).
In the ancient mystery schools, it was taught that every creature in nature is made up of name, kingdom and will, which have flowed in from the Godhead. They constitute the three higher parts of the human being and at the same time are an eternal part of the Godhead.
The square represents the lower four parts of man that are impermanent. These are the four parts of nature around us: the material body, the etheric body, the astral body and the (lower) self. These are equally reflected in the Lord’s Prayer.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
Our material body is composed of the same substances and forces as the seemingly lifeless world around us. In fact, according to Steiner, our material body is a constant transit station for substances which temporarily build up our body from the environment and then leave our body again. Every seven years our body renews itself. Therefore, we must feed ourselves with new building materials by eating our daily bread.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTERS
The material body lives because in it the etheric or life body works and the still higher bodies: the astral body and self, about which more later. In the etheric body are anchored the enduring tendencies of man, the temperament and habits. These enduring tendencies and habits usually recur not only in the human individual, but also in his family and people. That is why it is said that the one who goes the inner schooling path must break away from these habits and become a person without a home or community of his own, because his or her etheric body is going to change. From time immemorial, people have considered the mistakes they make toward their immediate community to be guilt. It concerns the moral debt one has towards the other by sinning against the rules of this community by, for example, not taking on certain duties. Debts are wrong characteristics or habits of the etheric body. The prayer: forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, refers to the purification of our etheric body.
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
The prayer ‘lead us not into temptation’ does not refer to the etheric body but to the astral body. The astral body is the bearer of urges and desires and focuses less on its relationship to the customs of the surrounding community but on the personal level. Examples are: stealing or cheating or exercising power over another in order to satisfy one’s own cravings, for example, by overeating, using drugs, or any addiction. Steiner (GA 96, p.212) compares the developments of the etheric body to the small hand of the clock and those of the astral body to the big hand which has faster changes in the individual state of mind. A wrong characteristic of the astral body is indicated by temptation, it is the characteristic through which an individual takes on a personal sin. Therefore, the prayer ‘lead us not into temptation’ denotes the virtue of cleansing and keeping the astral body pure.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Finally, a wrong characteristic of the self, the personality, is discussed. The self too can commit errors within itself. Man, in order to become independent and free, must pass through the phase of selfishness. He has descended from the Godhead as an inauthentic member of the Godhead but must now come to independence in freedom through selfishness. The personality first begins to follow all the urges and tendencies of the body, to eat his fellow men literally or figuratively. This has been described as the fall from paradise. Then the self lapses to evil. Evil always indicates an aberration of the self, temptation indicates an aberration of the astral body, and guilt indicates an aberration of the etheric body. The self can only sustain itself if it does not lose out in the confrontation with the evil one. The self only obtains true independence by consciously practicing selflessness.
When the human being will have fully developed the divine qualities that have been placed in him or her, then his or her own being will have changed into what Christianity refers to as the ‘Father’. Then the triad and the quadruplet in man will have developed in such a way that the etheric body no longer knows guilt, and the astral body no longer falls prey to temptation and the self no longer submerges in evil. Through the three higher parts of being, man will strive for union with the Name, Kingdom and Will of the Father in heaven. Because of the primordiality that lies in this prayer, it has its effect through the ages and millennia.
The praise at the end
Judith von Halle (Das Vaterunser, p.50) points out that the divine will in man knows no ego. Once man has embraced the selflessness of the will, the divine will begins to have a beneficial effect on him or her. The Lord’s Prayer is a selfless prayer of peace that expresses a request for the good of all people. The four lower, earthly, parts of the human being are connected to the four requests of the Lord’s Prayer. The three upper parts of being, the divine-spiritual, are connected with the prayers of praise, in which we can recognize the elements of the Jewish sephiroth tree, the tree of numbers:
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM
AND THE POWER
AND THE GLORY
Figure 2. The Lord’s Prayer and the sephiroth tree
The praise makes the connection with the sephirah’s (divine attributes) 10, 9, 6 and 1 indicated in figure 2, which form the trunk of the sephiroth tree. From the earthly realm (Malkuth), the sephiroth tree’s trunk carries us upward. Originally, the sephiroth tree grew from heaven to earth, but when the divine comes to life in the human self through the coming of the Messiah, the tree grows upward in man and man begins to gain independent insight into the spiritual world. Both the Lord’s Prayer and the Apocalypse testify to this. First man descends into the deepest earthly realm, Malkuth, the physical matter, in order to find within himself the strength to return to the etheric world, Jesod. Von Halle sees this choice reflected in the path of Parcival and Siegfried, the dragon slayer, who manage to cross the threshold into the spiritual world, by passing the Guardian at the threshold. Then the path continues upward to Tipheret, the sixth sephira. Tipheret stands for the Sun, man goes from dream consciousness to Christian initiatory consciousness, but is also exposed to the danger of coming not to Christ but to Lucifer. Through the Sun God man finally comes to the Father God, the One, the first sephira.
This upward passage along the trunk of the sephiroth tree is also reflected in another, more familiar, symbol: the Jewish Menorah candelabrum, as Judith von Halle describes (see figure 3). In this figure, the 3rd angelic hierarchy represents the Angels, Archangels and Archai, the 2nd represents the Exousiai or Elohim, the Dynameis and the Kyriotetes, while the highest or 1st hierarchy consists of the Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim.
Figure 3. The Jewish Menorah and the praise from the Lord’s Prayer.
In this interpretation of the Menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum, the previously discussed seven rays hidden in the Apocalypse emerge. But also the place of man as a being between Earth and Heaven, dust and spirit, is presented. And we see how in the being of man the three earthly realms are connected to the three heavenly realms, while the three nodes on the middle axis represent the divine trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the ascending order.
Thus, the Menorah is a symbol of the Our Father and the Apocalypse that can guide humanity for a long time to come.