Christ Module 6 - Principle in image and story

From Anthroposophy

This Module follows from the Guided study approach to Christ and Proposed segmentation in study modules, and approaches the subject of the Mystery of Golgotha and the Christ Impulse along two main threads.

Scope and aspects

  • [1] looking at nature and the plant kingdom along the yearly cycle of the seasons; and specifically the symbolism of the plant in the sun that:
    • [1.1] was used in the old Mystery center teachings,
    • [1.2] and whose deeper meaning was intuited by Wagner (re the opera Parsifal)
  • [2] looking into the linked storylines of the three legends of Arthur stream, Holy Grail, and Parsifal. These legends also have several dimensions, or layers of meaning (see Schema FMC00.118 below):
    • [2.1] an exoteric storyline: stories with characters that experience adventures (and where many elements have deeper symbolic meaning, wrapped in the storyline).
    • [2.2] we can also lift out the symbols and challenges that these characters face, to contemplate their deeper meaning
    • [2.3] from a spiritual scientific perspective, most importantly, the symbols map to what takes place in Man - and thàt is ultimately what is described and wants to be conveyed here
    • [2.4] furthermore, also in a spiritual scientific framework, the characters (and their challenges) symbolically represent a historical stream of humanity along its development. This aspect is closely related to the previous. Reference 1922-03-25-GA211 below gives a concise summary of the evolutionary stages of the 'natural' Christ experience in nature (which we find back in the Arthur stream and pagan Christianity), to 'the Christ in me' after MoG (which we find back in the Parsifal stream: Man needs to look inside of him instead out in nature to find the Christ).
    • [2.5] historical figures in the stories, that have really existed, so one can do historical research into locations and individualities of Arthur, Parsifal, Klingsor etc.
    • [2.6] last, given the fact these legends are 1000 years old and many versions abound through the centuries, the works of art themselves also represents a thread of historical art research. The first written copies date from 12-13th centuries but were changed and added to, with a revival in the 15th and 19th centuries. And even Wagner's opera is morphed to contemporary staging and presentation.


1/ In this module we will not go into [2.5] and [2.6]. The remaining subthreads will be combined, once their relationships are made explicit in this introduction they can studied alongside.

2/ The stories [2] are not there just to tell us a nice story about the adventures and mundane life of the characters, but are a format for packaging and conveying the meaning [2.3] and [2.4]. Study of the legends of Arthur-Holy-Grail-Parsifal can become complex and/or confusing, as authors and studies focus on one or a combination of perspectives without making the various threads - or their mapping - explicit.

3/ Integrated approach of [1] and [2]

Often the legend of the Holy Grail, or Arthur and his knights, or Parsifal, or studied separately. In this Module we take an integrated approach as they belong together (re: [2]), ànd: we combine them with another major thread [1] coming from the symbolism of the plant chalice. Because, what both threads have in common is the grail chalice.

Making abstraction of the subthreads for a moment, the two main threads above are connected through

  • the chalice of (in the first thread) the plant, and
  • (in the second thread) the grail that uses the symbol of the cup used at the Mystery of Golgotha to really mean the chalice of Man.

Hence by combination, the symbol of the chalice is used to describe the process that takes place in the plant in nature, but also the process that takes place in Man. In the framework of modern spiritual science, both can be described in the language of the higher ethers.

The three streams

This module aims at an integrated meta-level approach on top of the "Arthur-Holy-Grail-Parsifal" stories, and all that these encompass.

For more detail on each of them, refer to the following three pages:

In a conversation with von Keyserlingk (see Parsifal page), Rudolf Steiner mapped three streams (literal quote):

  • the golden Arthurian knights or Michael/Sun knights;
  • the silver knights, who guard the Grail through the holy wisdom of the Moon; and
  • the iron knights, who, in black armour and with the diamond lance, tarry in mortality until, conquering death, Christ with His light will penetrate the darkness.

This was before he described Parsifal as Son of Light (= Abel), Feirefis as Son of Fire (= Cain), both sons of God and divine brothers of Man, and Seth as son of Earth.

See also note [2] on Franz Bardon and initiation for a remark on the direct and indirect paths (Hermes and Moses) comparing hermetics and anthroposophy.


The two main threads above are:

  • the essence of the Christ Impulse conveyed in a symbolism of metaphoric imagery inspired on nature: the plant in the sun.
  • elements that play a role in this symbolism are the chalice and the plant, the sun and the moon, the challenges faced by Parsifal and Amfortas.

[1] the metaphor of the plant chalice

Sunrays into the plant chalice bring life energy and the higher ethers into the plant (carried on the warmth ether of the sunlight). Man is like a reversed plant, but also the Christ Impulse ethers now come from the Earth. Christ has become the spirit of the Earth. In the process of the etherization of blood, Man can awaken the spirit.

[2] the stories

Now as the Christ power was first in the Sun, it worked on Earth externally, and could be perceived in nature, in nature's elements. This was the pagan christianity represented by the stream of Arthur (and his twelve knights).

The story of the grail - as in 'the physical chalice in which blood of christ was collected' - is not about the physical cup but really about the symbol of true esoteric christianity, hence the Holy Grail. In the middle ages the truth about the Christ Impulse was a secret kept by initiates of the Templars stream, which contrasted with the exoteric or wordly catholic Christianity of a Church that was more focused on running the empire of the largest center of worldly power in the Middle Ages.

Parsifal who goes on a quest to look for the grail, the essence of Christianity - of the Mystery of Golgotha and the Christ Impulse - has to go through learnings and come to a new way of finding it. Because: he represents the newborn consciousness soul, and has to learn how to ask questions. Why? He is the modern man that has the spark of the Christ Impulse inside, but is not aware of it because it is lurking subsciously as a latent power awaiting awakening. So it does not make sense to look for the essence of Christianity in the outside world any more, it is to be found in oneself, in one's Self.

This therefore flows logically into the beginning of the Rosecrucian movement and way of initiation which was, then, the modern way to set up the path of initiation for the individual who did this out of conscious free will - out of the then-new consciousness soul. It brought the new way of initiation, in contrast with old mysteries that were based on the authority of a master.

From the above follows that the topic pages of the Holy Grail and Parsifal really belong together and have to be studied together, also the reference literature will overlap.

Notes from old site

[1.1] - The plant in the sun as a symbol the ancient Mystery teachings

Preparatory study topics
  • Man as an inverted plant- Wagner's inspiration for Parsifal
  • plant chastity
  • Pentecost as a festival of flowers, see 1923-05-07-GA224 on that topic page

- the two streams meeting eachother - see 1924-08-27-GA240, and the related point: Christ Impulse travelling from East to West and then North

The link with the plant kingdom also directly links to

  • The Earth's cycle of the year - see Rhythm of a year - and Christ as spirit of the Earth.

Earth's cycle of the year

This is covered in depth in Christ Module 17 - The experience of the year

Since MoG the Christ, Logos has become the spirit of the Earth. This links to the Last Supper (this is my body, this is my blood) and to the rhythm of the year. The latter has multiple aspects, but not in the least the 'soul mood' of the human being, and the alchemycal processes of nature in the four seasons, the archangels. Imagine the role that the H3 plays in our own being on the one hand, and on nature and earth and its kingdoms on the other (re study elementary kingdoms and interface with etheric formative forces) .. and realize how closely the two are intertwined and connected.

- four seasons, two equinoxes and solstices, link nature and four archangels -> representation as lemniscate

- weekly linked to the above: the anthroposophical calendar of the soul

- twelve months, zodiac signs, virtues

- three meetings: astral body with life spirit, around Xmas, archangelic connection, Son principle meeting with Christ

1/ There is a link between nature budding in spring, as we see it each year in the plant kingdom, and the Mystery of Golgotha. The link may seem far fetched at first, but it simply has to do with a) the fact that what brings nature to life are etheric forces, and b) ever since the MoG, also the Christ has merged with the earth and thereby 'perfused' the earth with additional new chemical and life forces that were previously not there for Man.

From 1906-07-29-GA097 (Wagner lecture):

When we look back to these ancient schools of initiation, what sort of a teaching do we find there?What was the Mystery that was taught in them?.. the secret of how the new budding life of nature in Springtime is connected with the Mystery of the Cross

In 1906-09-16, the plant kingdom is put forth as the kingdom of Life (Christ principle) and as an example for learning about evolution and involution.

From here, contemplating the Christ as the spirit of the Earth, there is a link between the yearly rhythm of the Earth and the process in Man related to getting to know the Christ. Re quote Steiner to Rittelmeyer. Link with three yearly meetings

From the above, the symbolism becomes clear. The cup is a symbol for the sun, hence the spiritual sun and its etheric forces, shining into the plant. The inverted cup is the symbol of Man, with the higher etheric Christ forces now streaming into Man from the Earth.

[1.2] - Wagner's intuition of 1857 that gave rise to Parsifal

see also Christ Module 4 - Mystery of the Blood

[2.3 and 2.4] - the spiritual scientific meaning in the legends of Arthur, Holy Grail and Parsifal

The three stories and aspects [2.1] and [2.2] are covered on the separate topic pages of Arthur stream, Holy Grail, and Parsifal.

This section summarizes the spiritual scientific or esoteric meaning or message.

  • [2.3] - the process that takes place in Man (and how it related to the symbolism)
  • [2.4] - the historical development of humanity (and its relationship to the three stories)

There are three stories: Arthur, Grail and Parsifal. To understand why and how they are used, we need to get familiar with the storylines but more importantly their spiritual scientific context.

  • King Arthur and his twelve knightsrepresent the 'old' tradition, , to connect to the spiritual Sun via the elements of nature. It is related to the Hibernian mysteries going back millenia ago, but also to Pagan Christianity. The trwelve knights represent the zodiacal influences streaming in.
  • The Grail represents the struggle with the new Cosmic Intelligence, now human and earthly and no longer cosmic. It is also the story of a castle in Spain where the cup was guarded, etc.
  • Parsifal represents the new and future way whereby in Man awakens the Christ's influence (as the Earth spirit) .. it represents Christ in the heart and blood of people. The point being that Parsifal and people may not even be aware of it, despite what is happening. A key lesson is that Parsifal ought to have asked questions: Man should ask questions as a way to aid the development of the new consciousness. Asking is the right attitude towards the spiritual, and it is necessary. Hence the link with spiritual science, and don't seek Christ where he is not (the grave after death, the crusadors in Jeruzalem, etc)


Schema FMC00.118 simply depicts four layered levels of meaning. Below: the storyline we get through poems, novels, operas of the Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail and Parsifal. The symbols and challenges of the characters have a deeper meaning. They map to the two esoteric levels above. On the one hand what is happening in Man's spiritual constitution (ennobling the astral body, the food in the cup of the grail, ..) and the developmental phase for the whole of mankind (developing the consciousness soul).

Schema FMC00.118A is an extended version linking to the structure of different logical angles or perspectives with the section references used on this page. Click to enlarge.


Schema FMC00.114 is an overview table with the key names for the three stories, and the link to the threefold soul (see 1913-02-07-GA144)


Schema FMC00.110 depicts the metaphoric imagery of:

  • the sunray and the flower chalice .. how the plant takes the energy (and higher ethers) contained in the light of a sunray
  • the symbol of the spear and cup directly relating to the same image

Schema FMC00.270A is for contemplation on the image analogy of the chaste plant in the sun, used in ancient mystery schools. See also Schemas FMC00.270 below, and FMC00.354 on Holy Grail


Schema FMC00.270B is an illustration from 1906-07-27-GA244 Q&A 105.3, which depicts the same as the composition Schema FMC00.270A on the basis of Schema FMC00.270. Drawing made by Rudolf Steiner, recorded by Mathilde Scholl in a private conversation. Compare oa with Schema FMC00.354 on Holy Grail.


Schema FMC00.111 illustrates 'Man as an inverted plant', that is: how the three functional subsystems in Man (left) correspond to the same subsystem functions in a plant (right). See also Man as a threefold being.


Schema FMC00.113 depicts the meeting of two streams of Christ experience: the old 'outer' pagan christianity seeing the spiritual sun in nature's elements, and the new 'inner' christianity living in the hearts of Man. This leads to the struggle and change symbolized by the Parsifal story. Parsifal does not have to search or find the grail externally but in his own heart, symbolized by the 'asking questions'. See also: Christ Impulse - meeting of two streams where this is put in a timeline perspective.


Schema FMC00.183 on the left has the blackboard illustration to "not I but the Christ in me". Reference 1922-03-25-GA211 below gives a concise summary of the evolutionary stages of the 'natural' Christ experience in nature (which we find back in the Arthur stream and pagan Christianity), to 'the Christ in me' after MoG (which we find back in the Parsifal stream: Man needs to look inside of him instead out in nature to find the Christ). On the right is the link with Old and New Mysteries, see Mysteries of the Spirit, the Son and the Father

Schema FMC00.270 illustrates in [2] how Luciferic principles closed themselves off and kept inside what normally rays forth and through as the workings of the higher spiritual hierarchies [1].

Regarding [3] versus [1], the following extract of 1907-05-21-GA284 can also be read together with this schema:

.. it then transforms itself into the downward-turned pure chalice or cup. The plant "cup" is chaste today and is turned openly upward. With the human being it is reversed. In the future the human cup will become chaste and will turn itself downward; hence is the Grail shown here as a chalice turned downward.

The extract is from an explanation of the seventh apocalyptic seal, see Book of Revelation.

Lecture coverage and references

General coverage

In overview, the story of the Grail was covered

  • in lectures in the period 1905-1907, focusing on the symbolism of the ancient mystery teachings and the link with nature (inverted plant chalice, chaste plant, mystery of the blood), some of the clearest info is in the lectures covering Wagner.
  • then there was a period in 1913-14, eg the summary of the threefold soul in 1913-02-07-GA144, 1913-03-25/26-GA145, and then 1914-01-01/02/06-GA149 on ganganda greida, Parsifal in the subconscious, the name in the stellar script
  • and in the 1924-08 lectures the story of the streams is sketched.

Source extracts

Friedrich Schiller

Are you seeking the highest, the greatest?

The plant can teach it to you.

What it is will-lessly, you must be will-fully — that's it!



Look at the plant, it chastely holds the fruiting organs up to the sun. A fruit can only develop if the flower is kissed by the sun.

Man is an upside-down plant. Man's substance is interwoven with desires. His flesh is lower than the flesh of a plant.

The cosmic soul is crucified on the cross which is the Earth: it goes through plant, animal and man.

Later, Man will be without desire again and chastely offer himself to the rays of the spiritual sun.


talks about the experience of the I, and the 'hollowness' (SWCC)

What could still be found in the soul-constitution of pre-Christian times, and even - more or less - in the Greek soul of the Christian era, has fallen away from Man and been lost, it vanished from the being of Man. The human organism is a different one today from that of ancient times.

When the human being turned inward in ancient times, he found his I. Even though obscurely, dimly sensed and not in fully conscious concepts, man nevertheless found his I.

That does not contradict the statement that, in a certain sense, the I was first born with Christianity. As active consciousness it was indeed first born through Christianity.

Nevertheless, the man of old did find his I, for something of this real, true I remained in him after he was born.

You will ask: Then does the man of today not also find his I?

No, he does not find it. For when we are born the true I comes to a stop. What we experience of our I is only a reflection. It is only something that reflects our pre-natal I in us. We actually experience only a reflection of our real I; only quite indirectly do we experience something of the real I. What the psychologists speak of as I is only a reflection that is related to the real I as the image you see of yourself in the mirror is related to you. The real I, which could be found in the time of atavistic clairvoyance, and even down into the early Christian era, is not to be found today by looking into Man's own being — insofar as this being is united with the body.

Only indirectly does the human being experience something of his I: namely, when he comes into relation with other people and his karma comes into play.When we meet another person and something connected with our karma takes place between us, then some impulse of our true I enters into us. But what in us we call our I and designate by that word, is only a reflection.

Through the very fact of experiencing this I merely as a reflection in this fifth Postatlantean age, we are being made ready to experience the I in a new form in the sixth cultural age.

It is characteristic of the current age of the consciousness soul that the human being has his I only as reflection, so that he may enter the coming age of the Spirit-Self and be able to experience the I in a new and different form. But he will experience it in a manner that now in our time would be unpleasant. Today he would call it anything but 'I' (what is going to appear to him as his I in the coming sixth cultural age). People in the future will seldom have those mystical inclinations that are still experienced by some individuals today, to commune with themselves in order to find their true I — which they even call the Divine I.

They will have to accustom themselves to seeing their I only in the outer world. The strange situation will come about that every person we meet who has some connection with us will have more to do with our I than anything enclosed in our own skin will have to do with it. We are heading toward a future age in which a person will say to himself: "My Self is out there in all those whom I meet; it is least of all within me. While I live as a physical human being between birth and death, I receive my self from all sorts of things, but not from what is enclosed in my skin." This seeming paradox is already being indirectly prepared by the fact that people begin to feel how little they themselves really are in the reflection which they call their I.

I remarked recently that anyone can discover the truth about himself by reviewing his own biography — factually — and asking himself what he owes since birth to this person or that. In this way he will gradually resolve himself into influences coming from others; and he will find extraordinarily little in what he usually considers his real I (but which is really only its reflection, as has been said).

Speaking somewhat grotesquely, we may say:

At the time that the Mystery of Golgotha took place, the human being was hollowed out; he became hollow. And it is important that we learn to recognize the Mystery of Golgotha as an Impulse that has a reciprocal relation to this hollowed-out condition of man.

If we speak truly, we must make it clear that the hollow space in man, which indeed could be found still earlier, for example in the Egypto-Chaldean Mysteries, had to be filled up in some way. In that ancient time it had been partly filled by the real I; but this now comes to a stop at birth or at latest in early childhood; there is some evidence of its presence in the first years of childhood. This hollow space has been filled by the Christ Impulse.

There you have the true process. Here on the left are human beings before the Mystery of Golgotha; in the middle, the Mystery of Golgotha; on the right, human beings after that Event.

  • Before the Mystery of Golgotha a human being had something in him that was found through initiation, as has been said, (red)
  • Since that time it is no longer there; he is hollowed out, as it were, (blue)
  • The Christ Impulse descends (lilac) and fills the empty space.

The Christ Impulse is not to be conceived of as a theory or doctrine, but must be comprehended in accordance with facts. Only one who really understands the possibility of this descent in the sense of ancient Mystery initiation, will grasp the inner significance of the Mystery of Golgotha. A man cannot today become a Christ-bearer forthwith, as he could in the ancient Egyptian royal initiation; but in any event he becomes a Christ-bearer in that the Christ descends into the hollow space within him.


Loss of the ability to behold the spirit in nature gave human beings a sense of self, the possibility of experiencing "I"-ness. If nature had not become "dead" to human perception, we would never have inter­nalized the "I am" experience. Having done so, however, we needed a spiritual outer world, which the Christ supplied. Nonetheless, it remains true that the "I am," "I"-ness, is founded on the corpse of the natural world.

Let me draw you a diagram. [see Schema FMC00.183 above]

  • At an earlier stage in humankind's development, human beings experienced the natural world around them as pervaded with soul and spirit. This is what Saint Paul sensed. Let us attempt to reconstruct it. All around him was the corpse of what people had once beheld in ancient times as the body of the divine, of the soul-spiritual element. These people beheld mountains in the same way that we behold our own fingers today. It would not have occurred to them to think of mountains as lifeless natural objects, just as it would not occur to us to consider our fingers lifeless objects. They rec­ognized the Earth as a being of spirit and soul and mountains as its "limbs."
  • Later, however, when people experienced the internalized "I," they perceived nature as dead. We would all stand here like hermits on an Earth that is un-ensouled and devoid of divinity if we could not look to the Christ.
  • But instead of contemplating the Christ only from the outside, we must now take him into the "I." Like St. Paul, we must lift ourselves out of the everyday "I am" and say, "Not I, but the Christ in me." In later times, people still experienced the natural world, but they also experienced the personal "I am" in contrast to un-ensouled nature. For this, however, they needed the image of the god-in-man, which they experienced in the god Dionysus as presented in Greek drama. Still later, when the cross was erected on Golgotha and the drama became a historical reality, people again experienced ensouled nature in the "I am." What human beings had lost reappeared within them and radiated outward: "Not I, but the Christ in me."

What was the experience of the people of ancient times? They would not have been able to formulate it in words, but what they experienced was "Not I, but the divine spirit around me, in me, everywhere."

We lost this all-embracing experience, found it again within ourselves, and can now consciously formulate the originally unconscious experience as "Not I, but the Christ in me." The orig­inal reality—experienced unconsciously when human beings were not yet conscious of the personal "I"—became a conscious fact in the experience of the Christ within, in the human heart and human soul.

I hope these inadequate pictures will help you see what we must now formulate in ideas.

Can you see the whole cosmos filled with the Christ-Spirit and how that spirit then descends from the cosmos to come to life within human beings?

We must not underestimate the importance of sunlight in our lives. Without sunlight all around us, we would be physically unable to live. Perhaps this will help you understand when I tell you that in the ancient times I talked about today, human beings experienced themselves as light within light. They felt that they belonged to the light. Instead of saying "I am," they perceived the rays of the Sun striking the Earth and did not make a distinction between themselves and those rays of sunlight. Wherever they perceived light, they also perceived themselves, because they experienced themselves as existing within the light. Whenever light appeared, they felt themselves carried on waves of the Sun's light. This same light worked within the being of the Christ. Through him, it also works in us. Of course, there are many passages in the Bible that compare the Christ to light, but our anthroposophical attempts to draw attention to the reality of this connection are usually rejected ..


Schema FMC00.116 can be contemplated in many ways, eg as sign of the resurrection and the etheric Christ appearing out of the physical Christ .. even if the sunlight is not there like with full moon, the spiritual spirit force is there. The dark vs light symbolizes the spiritual vs the physical, and the physical (crescent moon) is like a cradle that holds the spiritual .. from which the spiritual will arise.

Related pages

References and further reading