Amongst the pioneers of a new movement or enterprise, one often finds those who have a particular concern for its relationship to existing institutions and schools of thought. This has, in part, to do with an interest in that which is also alive in the surroundings and in an openness for dialogue, building bridges across which a stimulating exchange and growing point can develop for all concerned. Equally it can be someone in an existing institution who reaches out for dialogue with that which is new. An example of such a bridge builder was Arthur Shepherd, better known as A.P. Shepherd, and perhaps best known in Christian Community circles for his book “The Scientist of the Invisible”, a biography of Rudolf Steiner, written in 1954. He was ordained into the Anglican Church in 1911, where he remained active all his working life. In about 1940 he became interested in the work of Rudolf Steiner in relation to Christianity. From that point onward all that had already lived in him found its re-affirmation and its expression in much of his writing and in the talks and sermons he gave. He contributed regularly to the newspaper, articles on the Christian path, as well as for BBC broadcasts. One such article is included here, taken from his book, published posthumously, entitled “The Battle for the Spirit”.
Ascension – Whitsun – Trinity
The three last festivals of the Church’s year follow one another so swiftly in the space of two and a half weeks that one may wonder why they are so crowded and fail to see their intimate relationship as the highest peak of Christian revelation. The life and death of Christ were over, and in the victory of His resurrection He had banished for ever the fear that man is only a creature of space, whom death annihilates; and had revealed to him the indestructibility of that inner soul-experience of which he is conscious, yet finds so fugitive and uncertain. Yet still the scene of Christ’s action was directed earthwards, to the human soul-life of His apostles, to whom He showed Himself alive and whom He taught truths of the spirit that only now their hearts could comprehend.
Suddenly the scene expands from earth to the pure spirit realm of Man’s true being. “In their sight He ascended up into heaven.” The description of that last physical manifestation is applied with too literal concepts, as of a material body that can only be in one place at a time, as though Christ, having ascended, has left the earth for His seat at the right hand of God. But Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians (Ch. 4:7) gives the true picture. “For that He ascended, what does it imply but that He descended, even to the lower parts of the earth, that He might fill all things.” In the spirit world, movement is not a change of location, but the expansion of consciousness and activity. The divine-human being of Christ, which had been manifest in physical form, is now exalted to fill the whole realm of being from the physical to the divine.
And from this realm of Man’s true being He poured down its spiritual faculties and potentialities. “He ascended up on high and gave gifts unto men.” Not only, for a while, the strange unearthly gifts of diverse tongues of power over sickness and the evil forces of nature, but above all like a sea engulfing them the downpouring of that divine love which is the foundation of spirit being, “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost.” Not only deliverance from the taint of our earthly past, and from the fear of the certain end of death, but now a foretaste of our true being and existence.
“Because ye are sons of God, God hath sent forth the spirit of His son into your hearts.”
Finally, with that foretaste of heaven in the gifts of the spirit, our vision is lifted up beyond ourselves and our earthly existence to the mystery of the Godhead itself. Trinity Sunday is not the feast of an incomprehensible dogma, but a vision of the source and fount of our Redemption which is expressed to us in the Mystery of the Trinity in Unity; or as Christ Himself spoke it: “I in them and Thou in me, that they may be perfected into the one.” It is the crowning vision of the Christian revelation.
God Almighty and with Him Cherubim and Seraphim, Filling all eternity. Adonai Elohim!