Flowforms in the garden of the church in Johannesburg
by Rev. Michaël Merle
The time of St John has passed, and we move into a ten-week period between the end of St John’s Tide and Michaelmas. There is still a strong connection that St John’s Tide has with our region – the current crisis in water management in the Cape provinces, the dry desert of Namibia, and the wet eastern parts of South Africa: Water! With the lighting of great bonfires in Waldorf Schools at St John’s it is often fire that is most strongly associated with John the Baptist, yet water was the great medium he used in baptising. A deeper appreciation for water may prove informative and inspiring. Water powers our minds and bodies more elementally than any other substance. Without water, there would be nothing. Nothing flowing through the intricate network of veins and arteries on the Earth’s body, lubricating its soils, shaping its cavities, and depressions and fuelling its inner store of fertility. Without water there would be nothing to quench thirst, nothing to bathe in, nothing to wash away impurities. No green shoots, no animal or insect life, no fish, no fowl, no milk, no blood, no growing embryo.
There is something about water, of course, that defies categorisation. It is present in everything. In all stages of the plant for example: root, leaf, flower and fruit. It flows through everything that has life, it is truly the bearer of life. Yet, it also evades our grasp as quickly as we try, both physically and metaphorically, to catch and contain it. It erases as much as it creates and is in constant flux and change.
Water itself, in its intrinsic nature, has no smell, taste or colour. It is given these only by the substances it dissolves in its continuous journey, its percolations and permeations, its evaporations and condensations. It is transparent and selfless, assuming the imprint of what it passes through, absorbing and releasing substances but never binding or owning them. Through this journey, water also remembers the substances it has encountered. As Howard Dobson remarked over a decade ago in an article on Water Flowforms: “One compelling enigma of the natural world is the amazing ability of water to store memory. It cannot be fully explained scientifically, and yet this quality manifests itself in very practical ways. With homeopathic preparations, for example, extracts from plants, with known medical qualities, can be diluted repeatedly in water. While this not only seems to enhance the effectiveness of the extract, it reaches a point where practically nothing of the original extract substance remains in the water, and yet the effectiveness continues. It is as if the qualities of the substance originally diluted in the water have been ‘memorised’ within the matrix of the water itself. And the ‘potency’ may remain in the water for an indefinite period.” Theodor Schwenk’s studies on water reveal that water drops made different drop pictures depending on the quality of the water. Fresh spring water produces images like flower petals, lesser-quality water produces pictures that look like flower stamens, while waste water gives rise to concentric circles in no “living” pattern.
In the article on flowforms, Howard Dobson describes how often “farmer have observed the lack of ‘vitality’ in irrigation water taken shortly after its passage through hydro-electric turbines. Water appears very fluid and structureless, but it is evident here that a natural structural quality needs to be present in water before it can administer vitality and nourishment to growing plants. Hydro-electric turbines effectively chop up any water structure, thus rendering it fragmented, and we could say confused.”
Water enables all things to reveal their innate character. From a saturated solution, for instance, salts emerge as crystalline formations. So water becomes the symbol of the soul quality that brings out the very best in others. This is the art of listening so completely that others are able to reveal their true nature. In this way, if we are like water, we are able to absorb but not own, reflect but not distort. It is that quality that truly sustains us on a spiritual level, just as water sustains all physical life.
The water researcher John Wilks provided some remarkable insights into the movement of water in the early 1970’s. His research and insights seem to have been largely ignored but they have produced the “path-curved surfaces” now referred to as flowforms. Wilks observes that in living things water expresses a rhythmic movement flow outside in the world. This formed the foundations of the flowform designs. Water has a laminar flow pattern – a pulse if you like. When channelled, water tends to swing and on a large scale, when not inhibited by too steep a gradient, a river naturally meanders. For the past half century research has continued to perfect flowforms which both scientifically and aesthetically maximise the life-enhancing qualities of water.
In discovering the natural potential of water, may we also discover our natural ability to symbolically be water to each other.
Greetings from Edinburgh!
Church garden on St John’s Day
It is two months after our departure and I thought I’d send a few lines to let you know how we’re getting on. Judy, Johnathan and I had a few weeks with Judy’s mum in Sussex to catch our breath and get a taste of life in England before moving to our new country.
My induction into the Edinburgh congregation on St John’s Day was a fine event. The Lenker, Tom Ravetz, was present and conducted a counter-ceremony to Reingard’s releasing of me from your community. He elaborated on what the Sending is and spoke of the priest’s work in relation to Whitsun, as well as to the sending out into life of the congregation after every Act of Consecration of Man. I celebrated and, I must say, experienced a strong and substance-filled aura around the altar that reminded me of my first ever celebrating in Stuttgart in 1995. It was a special confirmation of the rightness of this move for me. Music, Scottish poetry and speeches were followed by a (rare) bring-and-share lunch in the warm, sunny church garden.
There are so many blessings to count! The large, lush garden – part wild and colourful, part cultivated – the nearby canal for walks, warm, welcoming people and a fascinating city with its rich history to explore. I have bought a bicycle and enjoy speeding around with the thousands of other riders in this cycle-friendly cathedral town. We have a fine home in the basement of the church and part-time caring support for Judy. Many challenges face us, but we are well-placed to meet them.
Johnathan is getting to know the countries: a road trip with me to Scotland and now some weeks in Northern Ireland before he starts as volunteer trainee at a small Camphill community in south-east England have introduced him to his new land of residence. He is managing well, so far, and certainly enjoyed watching World Cup football in an Irish pub!
My thoughts are often with you and our life in Alvestone. I wonder who will live in the flat, what events you are enjoying with your new priest and how the property generally is faring. I hope the new altar will soon be installed: please send a photo! Our 10 years in KZN were formative and taught me much. Our family will always have a warm memory of being there. Let us remain united in spirit, especially when we gather around the altar.
Warm greetings Peter
June 2018 Articles
FROM THE SERPENT TO THE LAMB - THE NEW FORM OF THE ETHERIC
John the Baptist from Chartres Cathedral
by Rev. Michaël Merle
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature God has made. He said to the woman …” (Genesis Chapter 3)
So begins one of the best-known stories in the world. By what happened the human race is affected in its very depth, not one of us is not concerned in it. The writer of Genesis only gives it six verses, under two hundred words.
The tempter is represented in the form of a serpent. Serpents did figure in many early myths, legends and religions. Babylon’s god, Ea, was often pictures with a serpent’s head. Egypt’s Atum (in one story) was to become a serpent at the end when all else had gone out of existence.
In Canaan, a serpent was the symbol of the healing god; his healing implement was a rod with a serpent turned round it. In early myths and religious legends serpents did not act as tempters, but as defenders of things or places which were especially sacred or gave power beyond the human measure. The temptation of Eve in the Genesis story was to seek satisfaction in an experience outside of her essential self, to taste the fruit that would take her out of her inner experience and one that would disturb human relationships from then onwards. With this story the serpent tempts Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In this way humanity grabs the power of discernment prematurely. The proper evolution of humanity is disturbed. All these images of serpents seem to aptly apply to the apparently harsh words of John the Baptist (‘Brood of Vipers’) addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to where he baptized people. John’s message: “Change your ways, the Kingdom of heaven is near”, heralded a new and unusually powerful symbol: the Lamb. In St John’s Gospel we read, “John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. I came baptising to prepare for him’.”
In pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God, John was identifying the self-offering and sacrificial nature of Christ’s essential self. The gift of Christ to us is for us also to be like the lamb – able to give of ourselves and oppose the self-centeredness of the serpent. This Christian quality of empathy and concern for others is the practical demonstration of love.
As part of lectures Steiner gave in November 1909 which were collected into a small booklet –Deeper Secrets of Human History in the Light of the Gospel of St Matthew, he explains how before the baptisms of John in the River Jordan the formation of the etheric body of human beings looked serpent-like. This could be correlated to the image of the rising kundalini in the practice of yoga: two intertwining ‘serpents’ of rising energy. In John’s Baptism of Jesus the etheric body could now be seen by initiates under the image of the Lamb. This formation of the etheric body as the Lamb could not arise out of man’s old serpent-like etheric body. It was to be the gift of Christ made manifest in Jesus.
The fundamental feature of the etheric world is the inter-relationship of all its parts, and the capacity of the soul to experience itself in other souls and to receive them into its own experience. This is the etheric expression of man’s true nature. In the physical world, it is realised in sacrifice and self-offering of which the Lamb is the symbol.
Report-Back on the Community Forum of Sunday 20 May 2018
A good number gathered after the service on Sunday 20 May to hear about and to contribute to some immediate plans leading forward.
Michael was presented with a gift of the book ‘The Isenheim Altarpiece’ in appreciation of his sending to our community, and we received his gift to us of a beautiful amethyst crystal, which we have on display now in the community room.
He explained new changes planned for the chapel, such as a properly designed altar which is currently being made by Ken Lehman, as well as the new backdrop cloth which will be hung when we receive the altar. The altar pictures will also be reframed in keeping with other Christian Community chapels around the world.
It will be necessary to do some maintenance work on the flat, our new name for the Holman family’s home, before we can let that space out. It is our intention to fit a dry wall in the passage, dividing the two sections, and including the third bedroom on the church side which can be used as a library and space for the children on Sundays. That would leave a two-bedroom flat, both en suite, with a lounge, kitchen and entrance foyer for a tenant or tenants. The income received from this would contribute greatly towards our running costs, particularly maintenance.
On the matter of finances, Michael explained that as he has been sent to two communities, the Johannesburg community have agreed to pay him a modest stipend, and he proposes that we will pay for his airfares back and forth and to synods. Our monthly costs have gone down in some areas with the departure of Peter, but other costs will be incurred. There will be an amount to pay Sharon as church secretary, and we will also need to improve the security of the property; we will need, too, to become more conscientious regarding the maintenance of the building and garden.
Michael will be available for planned sacraments such as Baptisms and Weddings and for appointments during the week when he is not scheduled to be at The Roseway Waldorf School, and the Community Gatherings will continue on the Sundays that he is out of town. He also wishes to suggest to the next confirmation class that they learn the server’s duties immediately upon confirmation, thereby increasing our base of servers.
Fiona offered to take the Music portfolio, and looks forward to developing group singing among the community. She also volunteered to restring the lyre. Sincere appreciation is extended to all as we go towards a promising future.
May 2018 Articles
Rev. Peter Holman in the garden of the church shortly before leaving to take up his new Sending.
Transfiguring Earthly Being
by Rev. Peter Holman There is a beautiful image of the difference between the butterfly and the petal, or blossom. The butterfly is a blossom released by the cosmos; the blossom is a butterfly held by the earth. The butterfly, fluttering in airy, sunlit realms, may wonder why the blossoms do not join her in her joyful dance. Rooted in the earth, the flowers know no other existence.
The Christ, in leaving the cosmic realms of the sun, gave up much of His power and infinitely expanded light-being, and entered into earthly incarnation. His was a long journey from ages past. At the Baptism He took on flesh; He entered an earthly body. The Gospels tell us that He repeatedly “set His face towards Jerusalem”, towards the event of the Deed of Golgotha.
And with the Transfiguration Christ again committed to His purpose of entering into full earthly incarnation. Three of the disciples witnessed His sun-like countenance and cosmic being. In Raphael`s well-known painting, with its blue and white, light-filled upper part and the dark earth-valley of human suffering below, there is a real point of decision. The skill of the painter depicts a moment when it is open as to whether the hovering Christ is ascending from the earth or descending onto it. It is a Buddha moment. The Christ could have said He had achieved enlightenment; there was no necessity or compulsion for Him to dwell further on the earth. But at this decisive moment He re-committed to full earthly incarnation. And in doing so, He was looking beyond Easter to the time of Ascension, when He would “transfigure earthly being with heavenly being”.
This time of Ascension is twofold: it was the culmination two millennia ago of Christ`s process of connecting deeply with the earth: His deed 40 days after Easter was to forever root the centre of His working in the earth, while at the same time expanding once again in the fullness of His being into the wide, sunlit realms of the cosmos. And, secondly, each year at Asceniontide we look to the sphere of His immanence, His presence-with-us, the sphere of Revelation, of His revealing Himself ever more to us from where He now dwells. He is, and we are, spiritual beings who are rooted in the earth for our working. It is our place to “be, grow and become”. If we consider again the Transfiguration on the mountain, we see how Christ performs the truly Christian gesture of embracing the suffering and pain of the earth, of setting His face to transform it, out of freedom and in love. He touched His disciples to awaken them, and together they descended to the plane of earth, the place of turmoil and darkness. He brought healing and balance to what was being pulled apart.
We have all stepped into incarnation on this earth. It requires courage, especially nowadays. Rudolf Steiner spoke of how the existence of butterflies on earth can inspire courage in human souls as they journey down. It requires something quite extraordinary to step from cosmic widths and heights into being rooted on earth.
We often face challenging thresholds and dark abysses, pain and great need. Often the way through is to recognise that when we leave something behind, sacrifice it, give it up, as Christ did, we have new possibilities to step into a new place, to go though transformation to new wholeness. We can do this through the power and with the help of the Christ in us: the One who carries us up to places of inspiration, spiritual enlightenment and nourishment, who touches us to bring consciousness and who walks with us down into the valley of suffering in this world to bring about healing through courage and love. This is possible because Christ “dwells with us, in that He dwells with” the Father. He holds us in this grace-filled balance of being rooted in the earth, and yet living in, and nourished by, the sunlit realms of cosmic weaving. (Matthew 17)
Reflections on the Farewell
by Rev. Peter Holman My family and I were feted on Sunday 22 April! For once I had no idea what to expect, so I just did what I was told to do after the Act of Consecration of Man had finished. That was basically to sit in the front row of chairs that had been placed to face the piano, along with Judy, Mark, Johnathan, Matthew and his girlfriend, Gabi .
It truly was a farewell fit for a king! A number of community members spoke, all saying very kind things about me and what has taken place in this decade, and giving due mention to Judy and the children and how they had been such a big part of the last 10 years. In particular Judy`s piano playing was lauded and one of the pupils who had been in the class Judy led from class 3 to 7 paid tribute to her teaching. Indeed a number of youngsters were there that morning, all of them whom I had confirmed, and several primary school children.
I had neither the words nor the opportunity (as Judy was agitating for cake and tea as the speeches drew to a close!) to respond to all that had been said. It was maybe just as well, as I was close to tears at moments and deeply moved and grateful for the whole of the farewell session. It is not just that kind words were spoken, and that things were said that are sometimes reserved for the eulogy at a person`s funeral (!), but it was the heart-warming realisation that all the ups and downs of the past 10 years had somehow been worth it. More than worth it. Together we have built and achieved much and the whole congregation has moved forward in wonderful ways. I have had a role in all that, and, yes, I have usually given of my best, but others have played their roles in very big ways as well. This community is now well ready to enter a new phase, where individuals will be stepping up and taking more ownership. Indeed everyone has a role to play. I could have done more to allocate more people a task, for that leads to empowerment and ownership. Of course individuals have come forward to take tasks on. This will need to happen more at the Community Forum on Whit Sunday. It can lead to a stronger community, as Michaël will not be resident as I was and he will not be here every day or every Sunday. It doesn`t mean less will happen. But in other ways, more and new things can happen. I urge and encourage you all to support Michaël as he serves, guides and inspires the KZN congregation.
I am certainly grateful for the years here and all that I was part of. I have grown, as we perhaps all have. I shall never forget the connections here, nor cease to be grateful that my children could live here for important years of their childhood. Many in the congregation have taken a loving interest in my family, and that means more to me than words can say. The friendships as well as working relationships I have established here are precious, and to have been your priest for these years has been an honour!
We shall remain united in one way or another. Farewell is never Goodbye forever!
The Great Novena
by Rev. Michaël Merle
The Great Novena refers to the nine days between Ascension Thursday and Whit-Sunday (Pentecost). What great and wonderous fulfilment and culmination took place in this contemplative time between Ascension and Whitsun? How are these two great festivals joined in the Great Mystery of Easter?
The deep significance of the Ascension is that in the spiritual vision of the disciples who see the Christ rising heavenwards, the essence of the experience is, in fact, that Christ remains in union with the earth. Thus the Christ impulse holds man securely on the earth. "In this picture of the Ascension, something more is manifest to the disciples.… Through the Mystery of Golgotha Christ brought to pass within earth-evolution a cosmic event. Christ came down from the heights of spirit, linked Himself with humanity in the man Jesus of Nazareth, fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha, united His evolution with that of the earth. It was a cosmic Deed accomplished for the whole of humanity." [Rudolf Steiner, 7th May 1923] In the vision of the disciples, with their inner eye of soul that sees the resurrected Christ ascend into the heavenly sphere, the true depth of this event was understood by the soul-spirit of the disciples. The Ascension is a uniting of Christ with the earth experience so that the physical-etheric nature of man could continue its development. Our place as man is not just in the heavenly spheres, but also, and very importantly, here on the earth.
After the spiritual vision of the Ascension, the disciples withdraw in deep contemplation. "For in their awakened souls is the knowledge that through the Mystery of Golgotha complete provision was made for the physical-etheric nature of mankind as a whole. But what happens, they wonder, to the being of spirit-and-soul? Whence does man acquire the power to receive the Christ Impulse into his nature of spirit-and-soul, into his ego and astral body? The answer is found in the Whitsun festival. Through the Mystery of Golgotha the Christ Impulse has taken effect on the earth as a reality which is within the comprehension of spiritual cognition alone. No materialistic knowledge, no materialistic science can understand the Mystery of Golgotha. Hence the soul must acquire the power of spiritual cognition, of spiritual perception, of spiritual feeling, in order to be able to understand how, on Golgotha, the Christ Impulse was united with the impulses of the earth.
Christ Jesus fulfilled His Deed on Golgotha to the end that this union might take effect, fulfilled it in such a way that ten days after the event of the Ascension He sent man the possibility of imbuing also his inner nature of spirit-and-soul, his ego and astral body, with the Christ Impulse. The permeation of the human spirit-and-soul with the power to understand the Mystery of Golgotha is the sending of the Holy Spirit. This is the picture of the Whitsun festival, the festival of Pentecost. Christ fulfilled His Deed for all mankind. But to each human individual, in order that he may be able to understand this Deed, Christ sent the Spirit, in order that the individual being of spirit-and-soul may have access to the effects of the Deed that was accomplished for all men in common. Through the Spirit man must learn to experience the Christ Mystery inwardly, in spirit and in soul.
Thus these two pictures stand side by side in the history of the evolution of humanity. That of the Ascension tells us: The Deed on Golgotha was fulfilled for the physical body and the etheric body in the universal human sense. That of Whitsun tells us: The single human being must make this Deed bear fruit in himself by receiving the Holy Spirit. Thereby the Christ Impulse becomes individual in each human being.
And now something else can be added to the picture of the Ascension. Spiritual visions such as came to the disciples on the day of the Ascension always have a bearing upon what man actually experiences in one or another state of consciousness. After death, as you know, the etheric body leaves the human being. He lays aside the physical body at death, retains the etheric body for a few days, and then the etheric body dissolves…. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, man beholds, together with this departing etheric body, the Christ Who has rescued it for earthly existence through the ages of time to come. So that, since the Mystery of Golgotha there stands before the soul of every human being who passes through death the Ascension picture which the disciples were able to behold that day in a particular condition of their soul-life.
But for one who makes the Whitsun Mystery, too, part of his being, who allows the Holy Spirit to draw near to him – for such a one this picture after death becomes the source of the greatest consolation he can possibly experience: for now he beholds the Mystery of Golgotha in all its truth and reality….
The Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled for mankind as a whole, in respect of the physical body and etheric body only. The sending of the Holy Spirit, the Whitsun mystery, signifies that the soul and spirit of man can partake of the fruits of the Deed on Golgotha only if he finds wings to bear him to actual understanding of the essence and meaning of that Deed.
But because this essence and meaning can be fully grasped by spiritual knowledge alone, not by material knowledge, it follows that the truth of the Whitsun festival can be grasped only when men realise that the sending of the Holy Spirit is the challenge to humanity more and more to achieve Spirit-knowledge, through which alone the Mystery of Golgotha can be understood.
That it must be understood – this is the challenge of the Whitsun Mystery. That it came to pass for all mankind – this is the revelation given in the Ascension." [Rudolf Steiner, 7th May 1923]
Confirmation - 5th April 2018
From lt to rt: Rev. Peter Holman, Olivia (Lilli) Christensen, Gary Dunsdon and Rev. Reingard Knausenberger (Lenker)
The confirmands Olivia (Lilli) Christensen and Gary Dunsdon
New Sending for Rev. Peter Holman
Confirmation of our youth on Sunday, 7th May 2017
The confirmands from lt to rt are James Siepker, Daniel Hale, Emily Howard, Leah Schroeder and Cameron Macfarlane with Rev. Reingard Knausenberger (Lenker) and Rev. Peter Holman behind