Anthroposophy and the Second Coming of Christ
A presentation of the work of Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon
This autumn Cognitive Yoga by Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon was published. The publication of this book is an event in the development of anthroposophy. The following text, which presupposes familiarity with anthroposophy, is meant as an introduction to Ben-Aharon´s work as a whole in order to see the new publication in the stream of which it is a continuation, and to help those not yet familiar with Ben-Aharon with an overview of his work.
The Fully Individualized Etheric Christ experience
Rudolf Steiner pointed out in 1910 that the most important spiritual event of the future would be the natural awakening of new supersensible faculties. This would begin 1933 and grow into the future. By means of this development the Christ becomes visible again after 2000 years, now in an etheric form. This natural development would happen to a few people at first, then grew to include more and more individuals. The Ur-phenomenon of such a transformative event is St. Paul´s experience of the risen Christ at the gates of Damascus. Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon´s anthroposophical work is the first spiritual scientific research that embodies this Ur-phenomenon in our time. At the beginning of his conscious spiritual path stands an imaginative experience of Christ in the etheric world. As Ben-Aharon describes, this meeting takes place in all spiritual concreteness, experienced through fully conscious natural supersensible-imaginative faculties. This meeting with the etheric Christ reveals to man his own Higher Self, who is also our future human being and becoming.
The book The New Experience of the Supersensible presents Ben-Aharon´s experience and research on this meeting. It was published twenty years after his first experience and is, as he writes, a fully conscious recapitulation of the original meeting. After having first been there by grace and through naturally given imaginative faculties, he went on to develop renewed faculties of his own volition through anthroposophy. Twenty years of anthroposophical work on self-transformation enabled him to meet the etheric Christ again in the etheric world through his own spiritual work. The New Experience of the Supersensible is the fruit of an individualization and spiritualization of the naturally given supersensible, imaginative consciousness, and presents a fully developed example of spiritual scientific research.
Ben-Aharon shows how the meeting with the Christ, when studied through anthroposophy, reveals three stages. I will give a short summary of these stages here:
In the first stage the Luciferic-Ahrimanic forces responsible for the separation and isolation of human consciousness from the spiritual-cosmic worlds are seen and transformed. By taking them into his Being, Christ reveals to man the process by means of which death becomes new life, after the original cosmic life was killed and transformed into human individual consciousness and thinking. Thereby the intellectual forces are transformed into forces of living spiritual cognition. Death now becomes the life-giving cognitive force of spiritual seeing. Death becomes the fountain of new eternal life. This first stage is an awakening from the modern death of consciousness and cognition. Christ takes into his heart our death forces in order to resurrect our consciousness to spiritual seeing.
The second, deeper level of the experience, reveals how He takes into himself the human soul. Because humanity is crossing the threshold to the spiritual world in our time, thinking, feeling and will are losing their natural connection. The soul forces are no longer naturally kept together. In the Christ experience this fragmentation and separation is transformed and healed by the inner words and gestures of the Christ. Out of this healing a new self-identity and consciousness is born. Here not only the cognitive foundation of consciousness, but the very identity and core of our being is transformed.
Based on the transformation of the death of cognition into conscious life-forces in the first stage, and the new spiritual integration of the soul forces in the second, a third stage is realized. Now an awakening and spiritual descent back into the physical body is experienced in a spiritual way. Ben-Aharon describes how the Christ forces of resurrection penetrate the spiritual foundations of the physical body, unite heaven and earth, and overcome all differences between spirit and matter. This experience means living through, for an eternal “moment”, that future when the difference between spirit and matter, the human being and God is overcome. This spiritual moment is at the same time the sowing of a seed for future transubstantiation of all material-physical substance in the human body and the earth. The transformation of the human being which is here experienced is at the same time a transference of the creative impulse for future evolution from Christ to humanity.
Each of these stages represent a deepening knowledge of how the Christ takes into Himself and transforms – as spiritual teaching and demonstration – the whole human being, in spirit, soul and body. To each of these levels a mystery of incarnation is revealed; the mystery of death, the mystery of evil and the mystery of the resurrection and spiritualization of the body.
The knowledge drama of the Second Coming
Soon after the original meeting with the Christ, which Ben-Aharon experienced in his early twenties, he was led to anthroposophy. He studied it as thoroughly as possible and, as is shown in the book, used every aspect of anthroposophy in order to develop a suitable method of research in order to recapitulate the supersensible experience independently. If the fourth chapter of The New Experience of the Supersenisble is a result of research of the given Christ-experience, then the fifth chapter is an exposition of the conscious transformation which can lead to such an experience. This process is termed the knowledge drama of the Second Coming. The method, which was created by Steiner, is a combination of two interrelated anthroposophical methods. First there is what Steiner called “the Pauline method”. This is based on the Christ event as well as on the Philosophy of Freedom and its relation to the Christ-experience. The other is the Michaelic Yoga, the new spiritual scientific method that Steiner introduced in 1919-1920. This method brings together a spiritualization of thinking by means of the Philosophy of Freedom with an anthroposophical transformation of perception, to create a soul-spiritual “breathing” between sense-perception and thinking.
In general, the main anthroposophical work starts from our modern, wide awake, daily cognition, and transforms its forces to supersensible forces of cognition. As Ben-Aharon shows, this happens by making thinking more and more into will-activity, until it completely merges with the will. This transforms thinking into fully conscious spiritual activity. This spiritual self-conscious will force can also be applied to sense-perception, bringing it also to full spiritual consciousness. During this process, the representation-forming-faculty of ordinary, brain-bound consciousness, is transformed. By means of the new supersensible Christ-forces, those cementing and deadening forces which are responsible for the constitution of normal consciousness are penetrated. Via this transformation of memory, can we reach into the spiritual source of thinking and sense-perception. We then experience them as free flowing forces, as they are prior to being condensed into objectified thoughts and perceptions.
This corresponds to the first stage in the Christ-experience described above, leading to an inner illumination of how the Christ takes into Himself the death-process which constitutes our normal consciousness. Death is transformed into self-conscious cosmic life.
By means of the transformation of thinking and perception into will, a liberation of the soul-forces also gradually takes place. When thinking and perception are transformed and become cosmic processes, the I-experience is also spiritualized. In this spiritualization of the I-centre of consciousness, the second stage of the Christ-experience described above is consciously reached. Ben-Aharon describes how this inner drama culminates in an experience of standing over against one´s own nothingness and annihilation. This situation gives birth to a questioning feeling-being between the externalized thinking and will. This feeling-question of “who am I” becomes now the new, open and non-fixed spiritual identity. Out of this self-created transformation of the earthly personality, the Christ is revealed as taking into Himself the evil tendencies and forces of man, transforming them into a new spiritual self-less self-consciousness.
The transformation of thinking and sense-perception, and then their mutual combination, gives birth to the capacity to bridge the abyss between the spiritual world and the earth. Ben-Aharon shows in the next chapters how this spiritual work takes part in creating the future transformation of the earth as a whole. Here the transformation of the human being grows into a macrocosmic metamorphosis, where the metamorphosis of thinking into will is experienced as flowing from the centre of the earth, and the transformed perception is experienced as heavenly cosmic thinking. In this way, the human being connects the new heaven and the new earth, and begins the creation of a future Earthly-Human-Sun. In chapter seven, entitled, The Appearance of the Christ between I and Thou, Ben-Aharon shows, in a remarkable and touching way how the etheric Christ is working in the human meeting as the new lord of Karma.
The spiritualization-process is depicted in its many stages in great detail, clearly based on personal experience but at the same time with exceptionally thorough references to Rudolf Steiner´s work. Especially the modern spiritual scientific entry-point given in Philosophy of Freedom and Riddles of the Soul is used, but one can also find all of the stages and processes presented in How to Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds.
The Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century: The Occult Significance of the 12 Years 1933-45 in the Light of Spiritual Science
Above I described Ben-Aharon´s research on the transformation of ordinary cognition into fully conscious imaginative cognition through which the etheric Christ can be perceived and researched. This path also opened the way to research the relation between the Christ and humanity from a macrocosmic perspective. One the one hand, the Second Coming must be understood as an inner realization of the human soul when it unites itself with the Christ. But on the other hand, it is also a macrocosmic event that took place in the etheric world in the 20th Century, and which lives as a growing Being in continuous relation to historical earthly time. From this perspective, it is clear that the life-stream which leads to a perception of the Second Coming, as presented above, also flows from the Second Coming of Christ. The occurrence of the Second Coming in the macrocosmic etheric world and the relation between the earthly and spiritual sides of the Second Coming is the subject of the book, The Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century: The Occult Significance of the 12 Years 1933-45 in the Light of Spiritual Science. Originally this book was supposed to be included as the eight chapter in The New Experience of the Supersenible, but has been published as a separate book. It has been translated into many languages, and is Ben-Aharon’s most well-known book in anthroposophical circles.
It is difficult to refer the content of this book in such a short text as this, as the cosmic perspectives that are revealed in The Spiritual Event of the 20th Century can only be appreciated by an intimate reading. Nevertheless, by giving some of the outlines, the reader can hopefully be stimulated to look into the work for himself. Through this book one can indirectly become a witness of the spiritual event of the 20th century here on earth, and approach deep unconscious memories of the greatest spiritual event that one took part in before birth. The Spiritual Event of the 20th Century shows how the reappearance of Christ happened as a cosmic revelation, while it was completely ignored on earth. In the spiritual world next to the physical, a birth of what had worked embryonically in humanity since Golgotha took place. A new sphere revealed itself in which all the forces created on earth by humans striving to unite themselves with the Christ-impulse were gathered and formed as the seed for a new cosmic Earthly-Human Sun. To bring about this birth of a new being in the universe, a being in which Christ and humanity are united, was the task of the Michael school in the etheric world, led by Rudolf Steiner and all the spiritual teachers of humanity. This is portrayed in the book as a human-cosmic creation, where human souls for the first time in evolution became active creative agents cooperating with the spiritual world. Cosmically speaking humanity therefore went from being created to become creators; “…man shapes increasingly the sheaths of the Christ Being Himself. Human creation and His life and appearance merge as never before in human evolution.”
But to this light-filled and uplifting creative becoming, a deep and shattering moral wound is revealed when we follow Ben-Aharon´s description of the imagination of the middle of the 20th century. This human-cosmic birth also meant a splitting of humanity as a whole. On the earth evil took over as a consequence of humanity´s ignorance and rejection of its own spiritual origin and evolution. This meant that the original unity that tied all humans together to their cosmic origin was broken. The original Christ-nature was destroyed on earth by evil, and this cosmic situation became for the followers of Christ a burning question of how the original unity of humanity could be re-established and kept alive through evolution. To this world-question only a Michaelic human answer could be given: it is here that humanity for the first time became a creative agent of freedom in the universe. This is portrayed as a bridging of the abyss between the spiritual revelation in the etheric world and the evil deeds on the earth. And it was this moral response which made it possible for Christ to fulfill His sacrifice, in which He entered the evil core of humanity so that it can be transformed to the highest good in the future. It was to this sacrificial drama that Rudolf Steiner referred when he said that around the middle of the 20th century a repetition of the mystery of Golgotha would take place, in which Christ would now take upon Himself evil, as He transformed death at Golgotha.
The macrocosmic imagination of the Second Coming of Christ thus complements the depiction of the microcosmic process of the spiritualization of consciousness. It is from this Event that those forces in which we unite ourselves with the Christ spring forth, and for our anthroposophical work it is therefore not indifferent whether we see and understand this relation or not. This understanding brings us in contact with our social and spiritual history, and the esoteric connection between history and spiritual impulses. If we aspire to raise ourselves to the Second Coming, we need to re-member this spiritual event of the past century. And this is also a pre-condition for working with the spiritual event of the 21st century, which is already influencing every moment of our contemporary lives.
The Coming Spiritual Event of the 21st century
Especially since 2009, Ben-Aharon has spoken and written much about the coming spiritual event of the 21st Century. How does this event belong to the Second Coming as the event of the 20th Century? Are there two events, or only one, or perhaps a different one in each century? Before entering into some of the future perspectives let us try to clarify this question.
As mentioned above, the Second Coming of Christ is the individualized birth of what was planted in Earth evolution on Golgotha, and which lived in an embryonic state until our time. This birth is thus both a continuation of Golgotha and a new cosmic beginning. And this new beginning will be growing through the rest of human evolution, as an ever-increasing mutual penetration of heaven and earth, Christ and humanity, future and past. Every century can be pictured as the historical unfolding of a cosmic heartbeat from this growing Earthly-Human-Sun being. As such each century is both a new impulse, and belongs to one and the same stream of growing life. The time in which we live as earthly humans unfolds chronologically, but history becomes through a meeting between the continuation of the past, and the future time-stream that comes from the spiritual world. What happens on earth is a direct result of how this in-streaming is received.
A further understanding of the relation between the 20th and 21st century is given in the book The Event in Science, History, Philosophy & Art in the chapter on history. Here Ben-Aharon refers to how the Apocalypse prophesizes that the first beast (mentioned in Revelations) will inflict a deadly wound on humanity, before a second beast will return as if the great healer. This false healer will promise and demonstrate a healing of the wound of mortality. This plan to seduce humanity depends on the possibility of misusing the spiritual forces which are currently streaming into evolution as potential for real spiritualization in and through the human I. Only by taking these forces into themselves can humans connect to the Christ-future, and resist the civilization of the beast. The false healer, who will heal mortality and sickness, requires that humans give up their inner spiritual-moral compass, and their connection with the spiritual world, and surrender to a purely technological “salvation”. This second beast, coming in our century, will make sure that humans can merge their consciousness with machines which will make them immortal.
The Spiritual Event of the 21st Century is an increase in spiritual growth, an acceleration of evolution, emanating from the Earthly-Human-Sun born in the 20th Century. A truly spiritual culture and community is becoming possible. But as long as this potential of the first Event remains unused, as long as the forces and grace which rain down on earth are not taken into human souls, these forces will be co-opted for other means. There is therefore an intimate connection between what Ben-Aharon calls the spiritual event of the 20th century, and the spiritual event of the 21st century, as well as a direct link between the historical reversal of the first as the wound of mortality (the Holocaust, the Gulags and the explosion of the Atomic bomb), and the reversal of the second as the false healing of mortality (the Technological Singularity).
The vision of human life and civilization that comes from the Technological Singularity is an earthly life closed in upon itself, where every aspect of the human being can be “improved”, and death ultimately overcome by reversing aging. As a consequence, the transformational cycle of karma and reincarnation will be terminated, and humans will thereby bind themselves to an earthly existence which in reality is sub-human. In order that humanity will not completely embrace this civilization grounded on the beast, we need to open ourselves to the future which streams from the Christ-being. But to do this we must find a way to the Second Coming which lives both within us, and as an objective Being and becoming in the spiritual world. To achieve this, we need to create a fully conscious link between the two first Michaelic centuries, the 20th and the 21st. This link alone, if realized by at least a small group of human beings, will, according to Ben-Aharon´s spiritual research, allow the realization of the future plans of Michael. The next great incarnation of the future Michaelic movement on the earth in the course of the 21st century depends on this!
Working with Michael as a way towards the Second Coming
The three books America´s Global Responsibility (2004), The Event in Science, History, Philosophy & Art (2011) and Spiritual Science in the 21st Century (2013) can, among other things, be seen as a help to find the time-spirit at work in history. Whereas America´s Global Responsibility is about social three-folding in relation to the question of inner responsibility and global consciousness as a precondition for social transformation, The Event in Science, History, Philosophy & Art goes into some detail about how the event finds expression in the four areas of the title. The event is a generalized expression of the transformation of consciousness that flows from the Second Coming. In both books Ben-Aharon finds that in all walks of life, sprouts of a new consciousness can be spotted by those who have the eyes to see them – of a new world-view in science, of new modes of thinking, of new expressions in art and of new configurations in the social. These future impulses are framed within a historical perspective of individuation, where the process of incarnation, discussed above in relation to the Christ-experience, is seen as a historically necessary reversal of spiritual reality into earthly consciousness. But as necessary as this reversal is for the creation of human freedom, just as necessary is the reversal of this reversal, and only spiritual science can bring about such a spiritualization of incarnation. This is the task of truly living an actual spiritual science in our time. We need to realize that in our time fruitful impulses from the spiritual worlds will always be reversed to their opposite, if they are not grasped in full spiritual consciousness and realized on the earth in the right way. In this way, these books are a great help in working with the positive time-spirit, the Michaelic impulses which lead the way to the Christ-impulse of the Second Coming.
Meeting the Guardian of the Threshold
Among the most important aspects in spiritual work is the consciously striven for meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold. This is reflected in Ben-Aharon´s work in that the expansion and transformation of consciousness always goes hand in hand with an aspiration for deeper self-knowledge. In Spiritual Science in the 21st Century this is thematized in a number of ways. The lecture on “The Beast and the Reversal” is a potent tool for self-knowledge. Here Ben-Aharon shows, via the example of physical consumption of food, how each stage in the individualization of something has its exact counterpart in the objective independent world: What I experienced as a connection with the cucumber when I meet it and pluck it, is for the cucumber a separation from its wholeness. What increases my life, is death for the cucumber. What is for me a revelation of its being, hides in reality its real inner essence. For each step in the process of appropriation the reversal is increased, and I become more and more oblivious of how I grow through forgetfulness, suppression and reversal of the other. This reversal is not something which we happen to do every now and then with certain things, it constitutes us at every moment of our lives; we are this reversal. Only when we have grasped this truth can we work on reversing elements of the original reversal and spiritualize our soul-life. To try and see and experience how we are an exact reversal of truth is to strive to approach the Guardian of the Threshold.
Ben-Aharon´s Cognitive Yoga. Making Yourself a New Etheric Body and Individuality (2016) is his most recent publication. It is, as the title already indicates, a full exposition of the Michaelic Light Yoga. As mentioned above this method was already created and applied in The New Experience of the Supersensible, but is now presented in a more general and accessible language which does not presuppose knowledge of anthroposophy. In Cognitive Yoga Ben-Aharon actualizes, in all practical detail, what Steiner introduced for the first time in 1919 and 1920 in his lecture cycle about The Mission of Michael (GA 194) and in the lecture cycle at the beginning of the High School of Spiritual Science in 1920, The Boundaries of Natural Science (GA 322). The book explains step by step in an exceptionally lucid way how the separation between thinking and sense-perception, indicated by Steiner as the new yoga, can be realized. This purification leads to a supersensible experience of the forces behind normal thinking and sense-perception, a process called etherization. In this process, which extracts the formative forces of perception and thinking, a gradual penetration and release of the forces active in the physical-etheric body takes place. Since to begin with thinking and sense-perception are given only via the physical organization, the purification and release of these forces necessarily implies a beginning spiritualization of the physical. As an answer to this spiritualization of thinking and perception, free cosmic forces flowing from the Second Coming can fertilize the released individual forces. This process where individual and cosmic forces meet and merge gives birth to a new etheric body.
The creation of a new etheric body leads to the spiritual birth of a new individuality which has the task of learning to live consciously in the etheric world. This is the subject of the four last chapters, leading to an “essence exchange” with the cosmic source of creation, or in more traditional anthroposophical terms, a meeting with the Etheric Christ. The form of the book is a combination of a clear explanation of the spiritualization process and a meditative text in itself. There is a wealth of extremely interesting and challenging descriptions of spiritual transformations; for example, of the activation of the third eye, the two petalled lotus flower, and its relation to the etherization of the whole body, or of how to learn to think, speak, and walk in the spiritual world.
I experience this book as a creative repetition of The New Experience of the Supersensible. It is a wholly new book, with new and fresh terminology, but the feeling I get in reading this new creation leads me to say that it is of the same substance as The New Experience of the Supersensible. The two books together are, as far as I can tell, the most comprehensive living explanation and exposition of a clear and rigorous transformation of consciousness through contemporary living anthroposophy. In this way Ben-Aharon fulfills Rudolf Steiner’s expectation, that in the future ordinary human beings endowed with the new natural supersensible faculties given through the Etheric Christ will unite them with true spiritual science. Anyone who aspires to do anthroposophy will surely benefit enormously from studying this material.
The Social nature of the work
In this short presentation, I have not said anything about the community of people working together with the help of Ben-Aharon. One of the central aspects in spiritual schooling is the necessity of working together. Spiritual schooling accelerates the release of soul-forces as discussed above, and brings out the one-sidedness of each individual. We therefore need each other as balancing, challenging and comforting partners in this adventure. For this purpose, Ben-Aharon founded an extended anthroposophical community in Harduf in Israel, in 1980, and has since then worked to renew the Free School of Spiritual Science in the spirit of a modern anthroposophical community based on brotherhood and mutual empowerment. His contribution to the School for Spiritual Science as well as the founding of The Global Event College are both expressions of this. However, a presentation and description of Ben-Aharon’s social and spiritual community building endeavors and contributions to the school of spiritual science must be left to another occasion.
I would like to thank Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon for helpful suggestions for the text, and Scott Hicks and Hester Renouf for help with the English language.
List of publications by Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon:
Cognitive Yoga: Making Yourself a New Etheric Body and Individuality (Temple Lodge Press, 2016)
Spiritual Science in the 21st Century: Transforming Evil, Meeting the Other, and Awakening to the Global Initiation of Humanity (Virtual Bookworm Publishing, 2013. Parts translated into Norwegian)
The Event in Science, History, Philosophy, and Art (Virtual Bookworm Publishing 2011. Translated into German, Spanish and parts into Swedish)
America’s Global Responsibility (Steinerbooks, 2003. Translated into German)
The Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century: The Occult Significance of the 12 Years 1933-45 in the Light of Spiritual Science (Temple Lodge Press 1995. Translated into German, Spanish, Swedish, French, Russian, Bulgarian, Portuguese, and more)
The New Experience of the Supersensible: The Anthroposophical Knowledge Drama of Our Time (Temple Lodge Press, 1995, Second edition 2007. Translated into German)
See more on Ben-Aharon´s webpage: http://www.ibecoming.co.il/eng