Holy Supper symbolism - apostles

From Anthroposophy

This page covers various aspects of Symbolism of the Holy Supper, such as the bread and wine, the circle of twelve with Christ as the thirteenth in the middle, and the nature of what the apostles represent.


  • Symbolism of the circle of twelve in initiation (principle, see 1908-10-29-GA107 below)
    • in ancient mysteries (see 1906-02-03-GA097 – Q&A)
    • see also: twelve initiators around Christ on Old Sun, around Christian Rosenkreutz's initiation, twelve knights of Arthur.
    • (note: link with the 12 petalled heart chakra and zodiac, see eg Schema FMC00.279 on The human heart)
  • Christ and the Twelve apostles
    • Twelve apostles and twelve cultural ages (see Schema FMC00.020 and 1906-02-13-GA097, 1909-08-31-GA113 below)
    • The twelve apostles as members of the etheric body of Christ (see eg 1905-08-13-GA091 and 1906-07-27-GA244 - Q&A 105.1 below, see also Discussion Note [2])
    • "Christ was surrounded by the twelve-fold activity of the Bodhisattvas, indicated - though indeed it was a reality - in the twelve Apostles" (1923-08-28-GA227)
  • the bread and wine - see also Holy Supper symbolism - bread and wine
    • how it was used in ancient Mysteries
    • .. as it relates to the mineral and plant kingdoms
    • and also to the nourishment 'food for spiritual travellers' (Ganganda Greida) in The Holy Grail
  • Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci


Schema FMC00.430 is a drawing made by Rudolf Steiner, recorded by Mathilde Scholl in a private conversation where she asked Rudolf Steiner how the aftereffects of an important Individuality such as the apostle Paul were related to the effects of the Earth's inner layer called the 'shatterer'. See also Schema FMC00.004 on Earth's inner layers. More comments under the 1905-08-13-GA091 and Note [2] in the Discussion area.


Schema FMC00.020 gathers clues from various lectures stating that [1] each apostle represents a cultural age (or sub-race), [2] the first and last of the sequence of twelve is given, and [3] certain apostles are mapped to certain cultural ages.

Compare with Schema FMC00.092 on Development of the chakras


Schema FMC00.021A shows an attempt towards interpretation (by DL) of the symbolism of the apostles in Da Vinci's Last Supper painting. It includes FMC00.169A and FMC00.020 for ease of reference. This is continued with Schema FMC00.021B on Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci


Schema FMC00.233A is a horizontal timeline variant of Schema FMC00.233 focusing on the I-development.

It shows at the bottom the two interpretations of the apostles as representatives of the cultural ages on the Last Supper painting by Da Vinci.

  • Option A is the most common version, certainly with regards to the figures of John, Peter, Judas etc. (see FMC00.020 and FMC00.021A above). However it does also raise questions such as a) why does the sequence stop early, in the second age of the Sixth epoch, and b) what is happening on the painting on the left of Christ with Peter and Judas and the famous hand and knife.
  • Option B has a (different) underlying rationale (also) based on statements in certain lectures. The resulting schema for Option B then correlates regarding the end goal in the Sixth epoch with Schema FMC00.373A or FMC00.373B on Christ in the future cultural ages and next epochs (as well as with the statement in 1909-05-21-GA104A that the spiritualization will happen in the fourth, fifth and sixth ages of that epoch). The outer left apostle rises, is upright. When reading the interpretation of the apostles (rectangles on the schema represent the triads on the painting), one notices that sequence number 8 below maps to the Judas figure (Schema FMC00.373 mentions evil comes to power in that second age of the sixth epoch) whereas John maps as sequence number 6 to the golden sixth cultural age of the current epoch. For more on this, see Sixth epoch#Father impulse and spiritualization.

Schema FMC00.401A is a study scheme that combines various perspectives that show the impulse from the Lemurian to the Sixth epoch, for the development of the I-principle in Man and the spiritualization through the Christ impulse.


Lecture coverage and references

Symbolism of the twelve in initiation in ancient mysteries

1906-02-03-GA097- Q&A

A specific part of the old form of initiation consisted in the pupil being taken to the temple, and in a `three-day death', which meant that the ether body was also loosened and taken through astral and spirit world experiences.


One of these was that every part of the body became a human figure. There were twelve parts, and the pupil would see twelve figures, with himself the thirteenth, the soul of the twelve.

The twelve apostles as members of the etheric body of Christ

The twelve apostles are the etheric bodies of Christ as a group soul, and Christ worked through them (1905-08-13-GA091 explains this on the basis of a twelvefold etheric body). It is described how Christ acted and spoke through the various apostles at different times, Jesus himself not saying so much or even not being around (1913-11-18-GA148).


The source below are handwritten notes and typoscript transcription by Olga von Sivers with double quotes addition by Marie von Sivers who both attended the private lessons in Haubinda in the summer of 1905 (pictures on page 320 in GA091 volume)

An intriguing statement in 1905-08-13-GA091 goes (translated by DL editor):

At his birth, Christ emanated new physical matter, and he was able to previously emanate the twelve ether bodies, the twelve separates members of the Christ that preceeded.

[ [ The twelve ether bodies of the apostles are the twelve separated members of the preceeding ether body of Christ.] ]

He kept control over these twelve. What is the consciousness that directs them? That is Christ. Christ is the group soul of the twelve apostles. Christ is the consciousness, the twelve apostles are his limbs, the twelve ether bodies.

Jesus is a single Personality that gave his physical body to Christ. The body of Christ are the twelve apostles and Christ really worked through these twelve limbs.

Regarding the last phrase, see also 1913-10-06-GA148. The extract is so astounding that the german phrasing is added here

Christus strahlte bei seiner Geburt neue physische Materie aus, also ist er imstande gewesen, vorher die zwölf Ätherleiber auszustrahlen, die zwölf getrennten Glieder der vorhergegangen Christus. [ [Die zwölf Ätherleiber der Apostel sind die zwölf getrennten Glieder des vorhergegangen Christus-Ätherleibes.] ]

The 'vorhergegangen Christus-Ätherleibes' may be read as the etheric body for the Christ that preceeded, and Schema FMC00.430 then may position what is meant.

1906-07-27-GA244 - Q&A 105.1

see summary on Schema FMC00.430


The following quote from 1908-10-29-GA107 puts the above in perspective. This quotes follows a description of the entry of the I into Man in the (last third of the) Atlantean epoch when the etheric body was still, to a certain extent, outside the physical body.

All the other members gradually developed out of a soft mass, so that we can say: Where was the human I then, in reality? Where was the present I? It was not really within man at that time but still in his environment. We can say: the upper members of man harden through the entry of the I's. Because the I was outside Man, it was still endowed with a quality which later became different. Through entering the physical body, the I was enabled to become an individual I, whereas before it was still a kind of group soul.

I will here give a picture of the facts of the case. Imagine a circle of twelve men are sitting somewhere. These twelve men are sitting in a circle. Through evolution as it is today, each of these men has his I within himself. Thus twelve I's are sitting in this circle.

Let us consider such a circle of men in the Atlantean age; then the physical bodies sat thus around, but the I is only in the etheric body which is still outside. The I is thus to be found in front of each one.

This I, however, has another characteristic. It is not so centralized.

It develops, as it were, its forces and unites with the I's of the other men so that they form a ring which again sends its forces towards its centre. Thus we have here an etheric circular body which forms a unity in itself, and within it, the I's.

Thus there is a circle of physical bodies, and within an etheric circular surface, which forms a unity because the I's are caught up in it, and the single I is enclosed. Through this image we come to a pictorial idea of the group souls.

See also to the concept of Nirmanakaya. For example, at the birth of the Jesus child, Buddha operated through his Nirmanakaya (1910-01-04/05-GA117A or 1909-09-18-GA114). His working the astral body of the Nathan Jesus-child is what was seen by the shepards. But he also worked also worked through John Baptist (1909-09-20/21-GA114).

An opportunity to learn more about this is the feeding of the five thousand in the Gospel of Matthew and Mark, when Christ-Jesus expects the apostles to see the relationship between cultural ages (fourth and fifth, hence the feeding of the four and five thousand) and the zodiac constellations (seven day and five night) with the fishes as the dividing line between five and seven.


He reproaches them severely because they cannot understand the meaning of these revelations. Why does He do this? Because the thought was in His mind, “Now that the spirit of Elijah has been freed, he lives in you, and you must gradually prove yourselves worthy of his penetration into your souls, so that you may understand things that are higher than what you have hitherto been able to understand.” When Christ Jesus spoke to the crowd, He spoke in parables, in pictures, because there was still in their souls an echo of what had formerly been perceived in the super-sensible world in imaginations, in imaginative knowledge. For this reason He had to speak to the crowd in the way used by the old clairvoyants. To those who came out of the Old Testament people and became His disciples He could interpret the parables in a Socratic manner, in accordance with ordinary human reasoning capacities. He could speak to the new sense that had been given to mankind after the old clairvoyance had died out. But because Elijah's spirit as a group soul came near to the Twelve and permeated them like a common aura, they could, or at least it was possible for them to become in a higher sense clairvoyant. Enlightened as they were through the spirit of Elijah-John they could, when the Twelve were united together, perceive what they could not attain as individual men. It was for this that Christ wished to educate them.

The schema FMC00.041 below provides the relationships and references, more on this on the topic page for zodiac streams: seven and five


Noch anderes Bedeutsames zeigt uns die Akasha-Chronik: Da die Christus-Wesenheit nicht gleich eng verbunden war mit den Leibern des Jesus, sondern nur lose und äußerlich, so konnte in der ersten Zeit folgendes vorkommen: Zuweilen war die Christus-Wesenheit äußerlich verbunden mit den drei Leibern des Jesus von Nazareth, war in solcher Verbindung unter den Jüngern und nächsten Anhängern, sprach mit ihnen. Aber das war nicht immer notwendig. Es konnten die äußeren Hüllen an irgendwelchen Orten sein und die Christus-Wesenheit konnte sich von ihnen entfernen; sie konnte dann als geistige Wesenheit da oder dort weit weg erscheinen. Viele Erscheinungen des Christus sind so, daß nur die Christus-Wesenheit den Jüngern, den Bekennern und auch anderen erscheint. Später wandelte er mit den Jüngern vielfach im Lande umher, lehrend, sprechend, heilend. Während er so mit zehn oder fünfzehn oder noch mehr Anhängern wandelte, und die Christus-Wesenheit sich immer mehr in seine Leiber hineinpreßte, kam wieder eine andere Erscheinung zum Vorschein. Da zeigte es sich mehrfach, daß der eine oder andere der Jünger sich plötzlich von Inspiration ergriffen fühlte. Dann verwandelte sich sein Gesicht, so daß man auch von außen sehen konnte, wie er eine ganz andere Physiognomie bekam. Und wenn so etwas eintrat und er die herrlichsten Christus-Worte sprach, da verwandelte sich die wirkliche äußere Erscheinung des Christus Jesus so, daß er wie der Schlichteste im Kreise ausschaute.

Twelve apostles and twelve cultural ages

The twelve apostles also represent the twelve stations that humanity still has to go through, and the apostles can thus be mapped to cultural ages. Judas being the first, representing humanity having to fight egotism in the current fifth root race in the Postatlantean epoch.


We are now in the fifth epoch or root race of our Earth existence. This has seven cultural ages, the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egypto-Babylonic-Chaldean, the Graeco-Roman-Semitic, the Germanic, the Slavonic and the seventh age. The last three sub-races of the fourth root race, which was the Atlantean one, were particularly important. From the third from last, the ancient Semitic race, has come the fifth root race. This sub-race dwelt in the region where Ireland is today. lt migrated from there, letting itself be guided to the Gobi desert or Shamo. This is the region where the present, the fifth root race originated.

Three sub-races of the Atlanteans, seven sub-races of the Aryan root race and two of the sixth root race, belong together in some respect. When humanity has gone through all these races it will have reached a point where a great part of humanity will have achieved what it is meant to achieve. The twelve apostles are symbols of those twelve sub-races.

Jesus has evolved from the twelve apostles. In the washing of the feet he bows before the races to whom he must bring salvation.

In the parable of the vine, the Christ feels himself to be connected with all races; he provides them with the spiritual life blood.

Many different images also come into this in the higher world. We are told of Judas Iscariot's betrayal. He represents one of the races, the race which is now bringing everything down on to the material level, our own fifth sub-race, which is materialistic.

In the process of evolution in which humanity first lived in direct spiritual perception and then had to be taken into the physical world it was perfectly natural for the representative of this fifth sub-race to be the betrayer. Judas Iscariot represented the race that descends deeper than any other. The gospel of John continues to be valid beyond space and time for the very reason that it must be seen in symbolic terms. The act of Judas forms an organic part of the Christ's mission. Judas went through a form of martyrdom. He was the traitor and in a sense also a martyr. He brought about the sacrifice of the Christ. ..

.. The historical betrayal of the Christ was to happen in the future in the race of which Judas was the representative.


Christ is surrounded by twelve Apostles in whom we see the prototypes of man living side by side, co-existing in space.


In the ancient days of Earth evolution, the Moon-influence was closely connected with the Earth, and cared for its spiritual element, with the participation, direct or indirect, of the Bodhisattvas.


Then, when the time was ripe, after the first third of the fourth Postatlantean age had expired, the effects of the Mystery of Golgotha, the working of the Christ, came in. This work of the Christ was surrounded by the twelve-fold activity of the Bodhisattvas, indicatedthough indeed it was a realityin the twelve Apostles. Thus the Christ, incorporated in the body of Jesus, is the power who, coming from spiritual existence in the Sun, has now united Himself with the Earth.


[1] - Man's pathway for development of the I and the working of the Christ Impulse

This note explores the sub-races and cultural ages that are 'counted together' for the pathway that Man has to go through for the development of the I, and the working of the Christ Impulse upto spiritualization.

The whole trajectory goes from the Lemurian to the Sixth epoch, but not all sub-races are ages are counted along, or matter to the same degree.

There are two main perspectives (or flagpole statements) that can be considered:

a) the twelve apostles representing each one such sub-race or cultural age


Three sub-races of the Atlanteans, seven cultural ages of the [current Postatlantean or] Aryan epoch and two of the sixth epoch, belong together in some respect. When humanity has gone through all these races it will have reached a point where a great part of humanity will have achieved what it is meant to achieve. The twelve apostles are symbols of those twelve sub-races.

b) the sixteen paths of perdition, or the different ways that the normal ideal development can go 'off-track' because a developmental goal is not reached in one of the substation sub-races or cultural ages. Indeed the ideal scenario is that the soul leverages the development capabilities of each period to fully develop the bodily principle goal for that period, but it cannot be expected that this always goes right.



If spiritual life is possible, it must also be possible to go astray.

see Human races#Note .5B1.5D - The sixteen paths of perdition or better: Sixteen paths of perdition

Enter the schemas

The schemas can form a basis for discussing how the multiple perspectives contained and represented in them go together in a single consistent line of development. Some examples:

  1. Whereas the 1906-02-13-GA097 ends with the second cultural age of the great Sixth epoch, the Book of Revelation lectures clearly stipulate the sixth cultural age in that epoch. How do these two views relate in terms of what this means or implies?
  2. How to understand the sixteen paths of perdition specifically taking into account the relationship with animalistic passions (1909-05-17-GA104A on Human races#Note .5B1.5D - The sixteen paths of perdition), re the way these sixteen are drawn on Schema FMC00.233 (tentatively, based on Heindel)?
  3. What does the previous point imply for the current fifth cultural age, considering what Rudolf Steiner wrote about the link between this age and the betrayal of Judas as representative of this age, and the task of the age being to come to grips with evil?

[2] - The Apostles and the Christ - Schema FMC00.430

This note discusses 1905-08-13-GA091 and 1906-07-27-GA244 - Q&A 105.1 (Schema FMC00.430)

On the side, please note that the first edition for GA091 was published in 2018, for GA244 this was 2022. So it is only more than 110 years later that students of spiritual student got access to these to re-integrate these elements of the puzzle by concatenating statements of 1905 and 1906.

Please read the comments on the original German phrase in 1905-08-13-GA091.

To contemplate this mystery, the following schemas may be studied as context: Schema FMC00.004 on Earth's inner layers (read also the descriptions for the 'earth-mirror' layer) Schema FMC00.128 on Human 'I' and Schema FMC00.141 on Overview Golden Chain.

Below some intuitive draft notes that could be used to 'feel oneself into' certain aspects.

There is a correlation between Schema FMC00.430 and the description of the layers in Schema FMC00.004.

The 'shatterer' layer carries a relation to the ether, and the morality of Man. As a spirit incarnates, it requires the building material to gather and constitute one's Personality (manas of spirit-self, higher spirit world) and threefold soul (three lowest levels lower spirit world). Therefore for a high being (a spirit of the highest purity) to incarnate, a certain purity has to exist also in the available 'layers' populated by humanity .. from which the building materials are gathered to descend.

With high beings we refer to beings such as Boddhisatvas that operate on the budhi and nirvana planes, with high purity we refer to the budhi and atma principles of Man's higher triad, part of the monad, which can be related to the highest levels of the spirit world.

The principle explained here

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