being human online - december 2016 - john beck, editor

The meaning of
the “twelve holy nights”...

In these last stressful days of a consumer culture focused on our biggest traditional holiday, it's helpful to look ahead to what were known as the "twelve days of Christmas." Out of Rudolf Steiner's research we understand that something truly great stands behind them. So we don't need to succumb to "winter blues" or the letdown of having opened all our presents and gotten bored already.

That which only begins at Christmas carries us to Epiphany, the "feast of lights," and the cosmic celebration is the path from the all-too-human to the sublime and divine. Steiner's important lecture cycle From Jesus to Christ looks at this same evolutionary path. We are born into an imperfect world and across a dozen steps discover the path to an awakening by which we become real architects of this world, in Gandhi's phrase becoming the change we want to see in the world.

Many groups and branches of the Society, and many individuals opening their homes, observe these twelve nights from December 25th to January 5th, reading a book or lecture series together, or bringing individual contributions each evening. Check with your nearest group (websites and contacts here) and begin to restore the elevation to this transitional time of the year.

Some thoughts for the season...

Facebook has many individual and group initiatives around anthroposophy; just search for "anthroposophy" or "Rudolf Steiner" to get a long list. Two of the more active ones are "Anthroposophy and Art - a working group" and "Anthroposophy Alive."

For more focused thoughts on the Holy Nights the late William Bento used to provide a small book each year. Lynn Jericho has offered "Inner Christmas" for many years, adding resources and expanding across the year and into the whole question which she calls "imagine self." Her short YouTube video, posted seven years ago, captures the special mood of these twelve nights.

Hazel Archer Ginsberg has an astonishing blog "Reverse Ritual" which is doing quite abundantly the work suggested by Rudolf Steiner's original Calendar of the Soul. That first edition explored the history of each day and the aspects of the starry world. The Calendar of the Soul most of us know today is a potent extract, the key verses about the human soul's development with the seasons, but Hazel's blog which you can receive as daily updates is a great initiative of history, biography, star wisdom, art, plants, plus events at the Chicago Rudolf Steiner Branch.

A few good books

Especially if you do not have a group with which to share "holy nights" experiences, a significant book can be very helpful. In the next print issue of being human we will have several reviews. Robert McDermott's Steiner & Kindred Spirits has been out a while now, but it takes a broad mind to like Terry Hipolito's to write about it. Robert has been a very important introducer of Rudolf Steiner through his two Essential Steiner volumes, but S&KS explores a whole field of culture and both Steiner's unique contributions and his congruence with others of humanity's cultural leaders.

We will also have a review of a book from a familiar source, Professor Douglas Sloan, on an unexpected topic: The Redemption of the Animals. With widespread extinctions, factory farming of food animals, and by contrast the huge importance of animal companions in our lives, this book is a striking and scholarly inquiry. Its subtitle: "their evolution, their inner life, and our future together."

From Christian Marks we will have a review of Honeymoon of Mourning, a volume of poems by Maarten Ploeger, a retired Dutch Waldorf School teacher, written in the months after his wife's death and translated by Matthew Dexter. John Barnes of Adonis Press observes that "In our information age, poetry can act as an antidote that lifts us into a world of experience which we are otherwise constantly distracted away from." Which is very much the thought of the holy nights.

I myself have hoped to find time to write a review of Revelation: A Cosmic Perspective, the final volume in Edward Reaugh Smith's very important series on the Bible and anthroposophy. Each volume in this series stands on its own, and each combines Ed Smith's decades of Bible study with the widest perspectives of Rudolf Steiner's theosophical-anthroposophical research on humanity's origin and destination. Out of the series as a whole I will carry always the insight that the parable of the "prodigal son" is perhaps the master parable of the whole Bible and the human path. There are also intriguing thoughts on the path of that individuality who was Moses and later Goethe.

We will also have a review of Cognitive Yoga, the latest book by Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon. The subtitle explains the scope of this work: "Making Yourself a New Etheric Body and Individuality. Ben-Aharon came to wide notice over twenty years ago with his book researching the "second coming" of Christ predicted by Rudolf Steiner for 1933; he continues to explore essential questions of the present and near future. As we face a technological "virtualization" of the human being in this century, this new and very readable volume suggests how we can work to achieve instead a healthy and humanistic transition into our fuller humanity. And Ed Smith's Revelation makes clear why this will be a necessity!

With warm greetings for the season,
John Beck, editor

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