Reflections of the Seven Christian Initiations in the Gospel of St John

2003 – 2004

The Mystical Death 2 – 9 May 2004 – We die to live

Read John 19:23- 42 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 19:28-30

When a person or a thing dies we are told that it no longer exists except as ashes or refuse. Close scrutiny reveals that the opposite is true.

Consider this text in John 12 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:23-24

This seems to suggest that death brings life. How can death bring life? when we liberate the spirit from the physical. One of the ways we liberate the spirit from a grain of wheat is by using it to nourish our body. The liberation is more intense when we give thanks for the nourishing grain of wheat.

At the last supper we hear the words “when he had given thanks for it he blessed it and broke it and said take and eat this is my body.” This love feast, this agape meal is to remind us of the mystical death. Whenever we sit with friends or family for a meal it is good to start the meal by blessing and sharing a piece of bread and sip of wine.

It is interesting to consider a grain of wheat. Its total focus is to reproduce itself, just as our total focus is to have enough money to live a comfortable life. Now what would happen if every grain of wheat reproduced itself? Pretty soon all the arable earth would be covered with wheat and there wouldn’t be much room for anything else.

Because of human beings the grain of wheat realises its higher purpose. It undergoes a mystical death so that it may rise again as bread to feed us. The sustenance in the wheat is liberated from the physical grain and it gives life … to us. It is sacrificed so that we may live.

Another aspect of the mystical death is that our I AM must enter into this world of death. A world where we kill so that our physical life is sustained. We kill the oxygen that we breathe, we kill the plants and animals that we eat. We even kill the cells in our own body everyday. In this sense we are death beings.

So our I AM must enter this region of death and to do so it must die to the spiritual worlds and appear here, in the physical world. It must be nailed to the cross of the physical. It must dare to enter into this world fully only to die. The trouble is that we don’t go through with it, we back out. The tension that builds up between what is spiritual in us and what is earthly in us is hard to bear. And, there are too many things at our disposal to release this tension. The ONLY relief from this tension can be Christ. To be conscious of the etheric presence of Christ will resolve the tension.

We can say, but the Christ is present in the air we breathe and the food we eat so why don’t we just get on with our cosy life. If only it was that simple. Christ is there all right but we must become conscious of him. We must experience him as a reality in our life.
Our knowledge of Christ is actually very abstract; we cannot experience Christ in all his reality. Rudolf Steiner tells an excellent story about the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.

In Genesis 3 we read: Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” — therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. Gen 3:22-23

We have eaten of the tree of knowledge; we can know many, many things. But we cannot experience the life of the things we have knowledge about. Imagine experiencing the life of a wolf, the ferocity of the wolf. Imagine experiencing exactly what a snake experiences.

The fall separated us from our I AM. When we are reunited with our I AM again we will have eaten from the Tree of Life and we will return to our spiritual inheritance. We will experience Christ is if we were him. These are the marvellous stories of the mystical death. Through Christ we can face this death as part of our initiation. So shall it be.

Ideas developed from “On the Meaning of Life”, Rudolf Steiner 23.5.1912