From Anthroposophy

Epiphany is celebrated on 6th of January as the date of Christ's descent into the body of Jesus of Nazareth during the Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan river.

It is also the Festival of the Three Kings, which in a Christian form of the ancient Festival of (the re-finding of) Osiris which was celebrated in ancient Egypt but also among the Assyrians, the Armenians and the Phoenicians. It is a Festival connected with a kind of universal baptism, a rebirth from out of water.

Epiphany concludes the special yearly period of the Thirteen holy nights that take place between Christmas and Epiphany.


  • the three Magi are guided by a star to the place where the Jesus child was born to bring their offerings. These three kings represent the Lemurian, Atlantean and current fifth Postatlantean or Aryan epochs
    • Caspar (portrayed as an African Moor) represents the Lemurian epoch and root race, and brings Myrrh as the symbol of the sacrifice and death of the earthly lower life in order that the Higher may come to life. Myrrh represents the virtue of self-consummation and self-development, or the preservation of the eternal in the self. Or put differently: the gift of the victory of life over death, in the power and development of the eternal in the self.
    • Balthasar (portrayed as an Indian/Asiatic) represents the fourth Atlantean epoch and root race, he brings frankincense, the universal symbol for an offering that has something to do with Intuition. The Atlanteans were more directly united with the Godhead through a hypnotic suggestive influence. Frankincense represents the virtue of self-surrender in pious devotion (or piety of the innermost self).
    • Melchior (portrayed as white European) brings gold, the symbol of wisdom and intelligence which comes to expression in the Fifth epoch. It represents the virtue of self knowledge.
  • In the first three centuries the day of supreme commemoration for those who understood something of the deep wisdom relating to the Mystery of Golgotha, was the 6th of January, as the descent of Christ. This was the case upto 353 AD, the festival of Jesus' birth was celebrated for the first time in Rome in the year A.D. 354.
  • Rudolf Steiner also mentions 6th of January as the date of birth of the Solomon Jesus child - see a.o. 1915-12-27-GA165 (there are other references, to be added) and Schema FMC00.043 on The two Jesus children.
  • in art:
  • other: in the English language (based on the term in Greek and Latin), 'epiphany' also means a moment of sudden great revelation or realization.


Lecture coverage and references


You will remember that I have spoken of the meaning of the Christmas Festival in its connection with the evolution of races, or, better said, the epochs of civilisation, and indeed the significance of the Festival lies in this very connection both in respect of the past and of the future.

I want to speak today about a Festival to which in modern times less importance is attached than to the Christmas Festival itself, namely, the Festival of the Three Kings, of the Magi who came from the East to greet the newly born Jesus. This Festival of the Epiphany (celebrated on the 6th of January) will assume greater and greater significance when its symbolism is understood.

It will be obvious to you that very profound symbolism is contained in the Festival of the Three Magi from the East. Until the 15th century, this symbolism was kept very secret and no definite indications were available. But since that century some light has been thrown on the Festival of the Magi by exoteric presentations. One of the Three Kings, Caspar is portrayed as a Moor, an inhabitant of Africa; one as a white man, a European: Melchior; and one, Balthasar as an Asiatic; the colour of his skin is that of an inhabitant of India.

They bring Myrrh, Gold and Frankincense as offerings to the Child Jesus in Bethlehem.These three offerings are full of meaning and in keeping with the whole symbolism of the Festival celebrated on the 6th of January. Exoterically, the date itself throws some light; esoterically, the Festival is pregnant with meaning.

The 6th of January is the same date as that on which, in ancient Egypt, the Festival of Osiris was celebrated, the Festival of the re-finding of Osiris. As you know, Osiris was overcome by his enemy Typhon: Isis seeks and eventually finds him. This re-finding of Osiris, the Son of God, is represented in the Festival of the 6th of January. The Festival of the Three Kings is the same Festival, but in its Christian form. This Festival was also celebrated among the Assyrians, the Armenians and the Phoenicians. Everywhere it is a Festival connected with a kind of universal baptism — a rebirth from out of the water. This in itself points to the connection with the re-finding of Osiris.

What does the disappearance of Osiris signify?

It signifies the transition from the epoch before the middle of the Lemurian race to the epoch after the middle of that race. Before the middle of the Lemurian race, no human being was endowed with Manas. It was not until the middle of the race that Manas came down as a fertile seed into men. Manas (Spirit-Self) was now disseminated among men and in each single individual a grave was created for Manas — for the dismembered Osiris. The Divine Manas was disseminated and thereafter dwelt in men. In the Egyptian Mystery-language, the bodies of men were called the ‘graves of Osiris’ Manas was fettered until it was freed by the new revelation of Love.

What is the new revelation, the new manifestation of Love?

The descent of manas somewhere around the middle of the Lemurian epoch, was accompanied by the penetration into mankind of the principle of desire, or passion. Before that time there had been no desire-principle in the real sense. The animals of the preceding epochs were cold-blooded; even man himself at that time, had no warm blood. In the Old Moon stage and, correspondingly, in the third Earth-round, men may be likened to fishes, in the sense that their own warmth and the warmth of their environment were equal in degree. Of this epoch the Bible says: ‘The Spirit of God brooded over the waters.’ The principle of Love was not within the beings, but outside, manifesting as earthly Kama (that is to say, earthly passion or desire). Kama is egotistic love. The first bringer of Love free of all egoism is Christ Who appeared in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.

Who are the Magi?

They represent the Initiates of the three preceding races or epochs of culture, the Initiates of mankind up to the time of the coming of Christ, the Bringer of the Love that is free of egoism — the resurrected Osiris. The Initiates — and so too the Three Magi — were endowed with Manas. They bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as their offerings.

And why are their skins of three colours: white, yellow and black? One is European — his skin is white; one is Indian — his skin is yellow; one is African — his skin is black. This indicates the connection with the so-called Root Races. The remaining survivors of the Lemurian race are black; those of the Atlantean race are yellow; and the representatives of the Fifth Root Race, the Post-Atlantean or Aryan race, are white.

Thus the Three Kings or Magi are representatives of the Lemurians, the Atlanteans and the Aryans. They bring the three offerings.

  • The European (Melchior) brings gold, the symbol of wisdom, of intelligence which comes to expression paramountly in the Fifth Root Race.
  • The offering of the Initiate representing the Fourth Root Race (Balthasar) is frankincense, connected with what was intrinsically characteristic of the Atlanteans. They were united more directly with the Godhead, a union which took effect as a suggestive influence, a kind of universal hypnosis. This union with the Godhead is betokened by the offering. Feeling must be sublimated in order that God may fertilise it. This is expressed symbolically by the frankincense, which is the universal symbol for an offering that has something to do with Intuition.
  • In the language of esotericism, myrrh is the symbol of dying, of death. What is the meaning of dying and of resurrection, as exemplified in the resurrected Osiris? I refer you here to words of Goethe: “So long as thou hast it not, this dying and becoming, thou'rt but a dull guest on the dark earth.” Jacob Boehme expresses the same thought in the words: “He who dies not ere he dies, perishes when he dies.” Myrrh is the symbol of the dying of the lower life and the resurrection of the higher life. It is offered by the Initiate representing the Third Root Race (Lemurian). A deep meaning lies in this. Jesus of Nazareth is a very highly developed individuality. In the thirtieth year of his life he gives up his own life to the descending Christ, the descending Logos. All this the Magi foresaw. The great sacrifice made by Jesus of Nazareth is that he gave up his ‘ I ’ to make way for the Second Logos. There is a definite reason for this sacrifice. Not until the Sixth epoch will it become possible, and then only gradually, for the human body to receive into itself the Christ Principle from childhood onwards. Only then, in the Sixth epoch, will mankind have reached such maturity that the body will not need years of preparation but will be able from the beginning, to receive the Christ Principle. In the fourth cultural age of the Fifth epoch it was necessary for a body to be prepared for thirty years. (In the Northern regions we find something similar, in that the personality of Sig was so prepared that he could place his body at the disposal of a higher Being, and, in fact, did so). In the Sixth epoch it will be possible for a man to place his body at the disposal of a sublime Being, as did Jesus of Nazareth when Christianity was founded. At the time of the founding of Christianity it was still necessary for an advanced individuality to sacrifice his own ‘ I ’ and send it into the astral realm, in order that the Logos might dwell in the body. This is an act upon which light is shed by the last words on the Cross. What other meaning could these words contain: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” These words give expression to the mystical fact then consummated. At the moment of Christ's death, the Divine Being had departed from the body, and it is the body of Jesus of Nazareth that utters these words — a body so highly developed that it could voice the reality. And so these words give expression to an event of untold significance. All this is represented by the myrrh. Myrrh is the symbol of sacrifice, of death, the sacrifice of the earthly in order that the Higher may come to life.

In the middle of the Lemurian epoch, Osiris came to his grave; manas drew into human beings. Men were educated under the guidance of the initiates until the principle of Love (budhi) could shine forth in Christ Jesus. Budhi is the heavenly Love. The lower, sexual principle is ennobled through the Christ Love. Kama is purified in the fire of the Divine Love.

  • Melchior is the representative of the principle of wisdom, of intelligence — the task of the Fifth epoch. This is symbolised by his offering: gold.
  • The principle of sacramental offering is represented by the frankincense. This offering symbolises the principle that was dominant in the Fourth Atlantean root race.
  • The task of Christianity is fulfilled in the Sixth epoch, when material existence will be fraught with sacramentalism and sacramental deeds. Sacraments have very largely lost their meaning today; the feeling of their significance has disappeared. But this feeling will be kindled to life again when the higher man is born. It is this that is symbolised by the frankincense.

In the Lemurian epoch, Osiris meets his death, in the Sixth epoch, Osiris is resurrected.

Thus the offerings made by the Three Kings indicate the connection of the Festival with the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Root Races.

By what are the Three Holy Kings guided, and whither are they led?

They are guided by a star to a grotto, a cave in Bethlehem. This is something that can be understood only by one who has knowledge of the so-called lower, or astral mysteries. To be led by a star means nothing else than to see the soul itself as a star. But when is the soul seen as a star? When a Man can behold the soul as a radiant aura. But what kind of aura is so radiant that it can be a guide? There is the aura that glimmers with only a feeble light; such an aura cannot guide. There is a higher aura, that of the intelligence, which has, it is true, a flowing, up-surging light, but is not yet able to guide. But the bright aura, aglow with budhi, is in very truth a star, is a radiant guide. In Christ, the star of budhi lights up — the star which accompanies the evolution of mankind. The light that shines before the Magi is the soul of Christ Himself. The Second Logos Himself shines before the Magi and over the cave in Bethlehem.

The grotto or cave is the body wherein dwells the soul. The seer beholds the body from within. In astral vision, everything is reversed — for example, 365 instead of 563. The human body is seen as a cave, a hollow. In the body of Jesus shines the Christ Star, the soul of Christ. This must be conceived as a reality, taking place in the astral world. It is an enactment of the Lesser Mysteries. There, in very truth, the Christ Soul shines as an auric Star, and it is by this Star that the Initiates of the three Root Races are led to Jesus in Bethlehem.

The Festival of the Three Kings is celebrated every year on the 6th of January, and its significance will steadily increase. Men will understand more and more what a Magi is, and what the great Magi, the Masters, are. And then understanding of Christianity will lead to understanding of spiritual science.


If you were in the Cathedral last night you could have seen written there in illuminated lettering: C. M. B. .. these letters represent the names of the so-called Three Holy Kings, according to the tradition of the Christian Church: Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar.

These names awaken quite special memories for Cologne.

  • An old legend tells us that some time after they had become bishops and died their bones had been brought here.
  • Another legend relates that a Danish king had once come to Cologne, bringing with him three crowns for the Three Holy Kings. After he had returned home he had a dream; in his dream the three kings appeared to him and offered him three chalices: the first chalice contained gold, the second frankincense, and the third one myrrh. When the Danish king awoke the three kings had vanished, but the chalices remained; they stood before him; the three gifts which he had retained from his dream.

In this legend there is profound meaning. We are to understand that the king in his dream attained a certain insight into the spiritual world by which he learnt the symbolic meaning of these three kings, these three wise men of the East who brought offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh at the birth of Christ Jesus. And from this realisation he retained a lasting possession: those three human virtues which are symbolised in the gold, the frankincense and the myrrh:

  • self-knowledge in the gold;
  • self-piety, that is the piety of the innermost self — which we can call self-surrender — in the frankincense;
  • and in the myrrh self-consummation and self-development, or the preservation of the eternal in the self.

It was possible for the king to receive these three virtues as gifts from another world because he had endeavoured to penetrate with his whole soul into the profound symbol lying concealed in the three kings who brought their offerings to Christ Jesus.

There are many features in this legend which lead us a long way towards understanding the Christ-principle, and what it is to bring about in the world. Among its profound features are the Adoration and the Presentation by the three Magi, the three Oriental Kings, and only with the deepest understanding may we approach this fundamental symbolism of the Christian tradition.

Later the idea was formed that the first king was the representative of the Asiatic races; the second, the representative of the European peoples; and the third, the representative of the African races. Wherever people wanted to understand Christianity as the religion of earthly harmony they saw in the three kings and their homage a union of the different lines of thought and religious movements in the world into the One principle, the Christian principle. When this legend received this form those who had penetrated into the principles of esoteric Christianity saw in Christianity not only a force which had affected the course of human development, but they saw in the Being embodied in Jesus of Nazareth a cosmic world-force — a force far transcending the merely human that prevails in this present age. They saw in the Christ-principle a force that indeed represents for mankind a human ideal lying in a far distant future, an ideal which can only be approached by our understanding the whole world more and more in the spirit.


We see that all forms of life which desire to unfold their external physical power look up to the sun when the sun rises in the sky in Spring and strive to receive the external physical power of the sun. But when, on a summer noon, the sun's physical power pours most lavishly on to the earth, its spiritual power is weakest. In the winter midnight, however, when the sun rays the least physical power down to the earth, man can see the sun's spirit through the earth, which has become transparent for him. The esoteric Christian felt that through absorption in Christian Esotericism he approached more and more that power of inward vision through which he could imbue his feeling, thinking and his will-impulses in gazing into this spiritual sun.

Then the Mystery-novice was led to a vision of the greatest importance: As long as the earth is opaque the separate parts appear inhabited by people of different confessions, but the unifying bond is not there. Human races are as scattered as the climates. Human opinions are scattered all over the earth and there is no connecting link. But in the degree in which men begin to look through the earth into the sun by their inner power of vision, in the degree in which the “star” appears to them through the earth, their confessions will flow together to one great united Brotherhood.

And those who guided the great separated human masses in the truth of the higher planes, towards their initiation into the higher worlds, were known as “Magi.” They were three in number, as in the various parts of the earth various powers express themselves. Humanity had, therefore, to be led in different ways. But as a unifying power there appears the star, rising beyond the earth. It leads the scattered individuals together, and then they bring offerings to the physical embodiment of the solar star, appearing as the star of peace. Thus was the religion of peace, of harmony, of universal peace, of human brotherhood, connected cosmically and humanly with the ancient Magi, who laid the best gifts that they had in store for humanity before the cradle of the Son of Man incarnate.

The legend has retained this beautifully, for it says: The Danish king attained an understanding of the Wise Men, of the three Kings, and because he had attained it they bestowed on him their three gifts:

  • first the gift of wisdom, in self-knowledge;
  • secondly, the gift of pious devotion, in self-surrender;
  • and, thirdly, the gift of the victory of life over death, in the power and development of the eternal in the self.

For centuries and centuries men could not bring themselves to believe that the symbol presented to the world in the Christmas Festival ever had a beginning. They felt in it the hallmark of eternity. Christian ritual has for this reason clothed the intimation of eternity in what takes place symbolically on Christmas Night, in the words: ‘To us Christ is born anew!’ It is as though every year the soul is called upon to feel anew a reality of which it is thought that it could happen once and once only. The eternity of this symbolic happening is brought home to us with infinite power if we have the true conception of the symbol itself. Yet as late as 353 A.D., 353 years after Christ Jesus had appeared on earth, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated, even in Rome.

The Festival of Jesus' birth was celebrated for the first time in Rome in the year A.D. 354. Before then this Festival was not celebrated between the 24th and 25th December; the day of supreme commemoration for those who understood something of the deep wisdom relating to the Mystery of Golgotha, was the 6th of January. The Epiphany was celebrated as a kind of Birth-Festival of the Christ during the first three centuries of our era. It was the Festival which was meant to revive in human souls the remembrance of the descent of the Christ Spirit into the body of Jesus of Nazareth at the Baptism by John in the Jordan. Until the year A.D. 353 the happening which men conceived to have taken place at the Baptism was commemorated on the 6th of January as the Festival of Christ's birth. For during the first centuries of Christendom an inkling still survived of the mystery that is of all mysteries the most difficult for mankind to grasp, namely, the descent of the Christ Being into the body of Jesus of Nazareth.

What were the feelings of men who had some inkling of the secrets of Christianity during those early centuries? They said to themselves: The Christ Spirit weaves through the world that is revealed through the senses and through the human spirit. In the far distant past this Christ Spirit revealed Himself to Moses. The secret of the human ‘ I ’ resounded to Moses as it resounds to us from the symbol on the Christmas Tree from the sounds I A O — the Alpha and the Omega, preceded by the I. This was what resounded in the soul of Moses when the Christ Spirit appeared to him in the burning bush. And this same Christ Spirit led Moses to the place where He was to recognise Him in His true being. This is described in the Old Testament where it is said that the Lord led Moses to Mount Nebo ‘over against Jericho’ and showed him what must still come to pass before the Christ Spirit could incarnate in the body of a man. To Moses on Mount Nebo, this Spirit said: But thou to whom I revealed myself in advance, mayest not bear what thou hast in thy soul into the evolution of thy people; for they have first to prepare what is to come to pass when the time is fulfilled.

And when, through many centuries, the evolutionary preparation had been completed, the same Spirit by Whom Moses had been held back, did indeed reveal Himself — by becoming Flesh, by taking on a human body, the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Therewith mankind as a whole was led from the stage of Initiation signified by the word ‘Jericho’ to that indicated by the crossing of the Jordan.

The hearts and minds of those who in the early centuries of our era understood the true import of Christianity turned to the Baptism in the Jordan of Jesus of Nazareth into whom Christ descended, Christ the Sun-Earth-Spirit. It was this — the birth of Christ — that was celebrated as a Mystery in the early Christian centuries. The insight for which we prepare ourselves to-day through Anthroposophy, through the wisdom belonging to the fifth Post-Atlantean epoch of civilisation, flashed up in the form of vision from the vestiges of ancient clairvoyance still surviving during the age when the Mystery of Golgotha took place; it flashed up in the Gnostics, those remarkable, enlightened men who lived at the turning-point of the old and the new eras, whose conception of the Christ Mystery differed in respect of form but not in respect of content, from our own. What the Gnostics were able to teach trickled through into the world and although what had actually come to pass in the event indicated symbolically by the Baptism in the Jordan was not widely understood, there was nevertheless an inkling that the Sun Spirit had been born at that time as the Spirit of the Earth, that a cosmic Power had dwelt in the body of a man of earth. And so in the early centuries of Christendom the festival of the birth of Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, the festival of Christ's Epiphany, was celebrated on the 6th of January.

But insight, even dim, uncertain insight into this deep Mystery faded away more and more as time went by. The age came when men could no longer comprehend that the Being called Christ had been present in a physical human body for three years only. More and more it will be realised that what was accomplished for the whole of earth-evolution during those three years in the physical body of a man is one of the very deepest and most difficult Mysteries to understand.


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