The Year as a Being
The following excerpt from a St. John’s lecture is part of a collection of lectures and essays by Karl König about the seasons and festivals that we have just published. A theme running through the volume is that of the breathing process of the earth and the cosmos and how we connect to these rhythms. We find this totally significant for our times of climate crisis and destruction of healthy rhythms. Maybe you will also be surprised what Karl König already spoke about 60 years ago!
For the Karl König Institute,
The book, The Seasons and Their Festivals: Human, Earthly and Cosmic Rhythms, should now be in your bookstore. You can order the book from the Karl König Institute’s website.
Excerpt from the lecture by Karl König:
The Year as a Being
in Camphill Hall, June 23, 1963
And now St. John’s time has come, and we again stand, as I have pointed out, at the question “What is St. John’s?” And with that I mean St. John’s as a festival. You see, from the first Advent Sunday onward until the time of Whitsun, we are graced by the power of the Christian festivals. If we want, our soul can be imbued with the grace, with the wonder, of these Christian festivals that follow each other. Preparing during Advent the coming of Christmas, experiencing with Christmas the birth of the light, the birth of the Logos; and after Christmas accompanying the Logos through the deeds here on earth, through the darkness of the earth, through the way towards Golgotha, experiencing Golgotha, the descent into the earth, the resurrection, and then the glory and the wonder of the forty days between Ascension and Whitsun, and the shedding of the Holy Spirit onto those who are the Disciples of the Lord. This is the Christian year; this is actually the true spiritual year, which takes place every year anew. But after Whitsun this comes to an end, and to try to build the bridge from Whitsun to St. John is rather a futile attempt – it cannot work, and even if there are only a few days remaining between Whitsun and St. John’s. Last year we had a few weeks, but however late Whitsun is, due to a late Easter, there is a break, a complete hiatus, because with St. John’s something entirely new begins. We must learn more and more to understand what this means.
Let us ask what happens now at St. John’s time. It is the solstice of the sun; the sun begins to sink lower and the days become shorter, and although the height of summer is still to come, nevertheless the sun begins to withdraw from the earth, and the earth withdraws from the sun. This is what happens after Whitsun, after the glory and wonder of Whitsun. And yes, it has to happen. And even if it is not immediately clear what I mean – it has to happen because every time a human being comes to birth it has to undergo nine months of development within the motherly womb before it is born. We cannot forgo this of course. Every time we come down to earth, for every new incarnation, we have to undergo this process. We have to dive into the depths, filled with the powers of the cosmos, to build up our own body again. But with specific purpose the body is then born, and then, after the steps of birth and further development we can walk on for a few decades again in fulfilling our task here on earth. This has to happen, and not just to human beings, but it also has to happen each year.
Now let us try to understand that the year is a being. 1960 is a being and 1961 is a being. Since the birth of Christ nineteen-hundred and sixty-three yearly earthly beings have been born into the becoming of mankind, into the becoming of history, into the becoming of an evolution. This is the cycle of the year; the year is born between Whitsun and St. John’s. This year [spoken whilst drawing on the blackboard] – 1960 – becomes, from Christmas onward, the year 1961. The year 1961 goes on and grows into the year 1962, which in turn is also born. And again 1962 goes on and now we are at the time when the year 1963 – as a spiritual aptitude, as destiny of millions of karmic events – is born into the world, is born into the evolution of mankind, and is preparing the future of human kind.
(Drawings reconstructed from the listener’s notes)
You will understand what I mean if I try to be more explicit. Let us say that this is the year 1963 [the second drawing] which is born just in this time between Whitsun and St. John. One part of 1963 – let me call it the “natural” part of 1963 – is now turning downwards. The spiritual part of 1963 has turned upward. It is born. From now on the year 1963 is freed up, it is going upwards; it has its destiny. But the earthly year now, during the time of the three months from St. John until Michaelmas, prepares the reception of the seed of the coming year, 1964. From Michaelmas 1963, within the womb, the year 1964 will be born, will develop, unfold and be born after Whitsun 1964. One year within the other, one year beside the other, with all its beinghood, with all its destiny, with all its weakness or power. This is the mystery and the riddle of this time between Whitsun and St. John’s. St. John’s day takes the natural year and plants it down into the course of the earth, into the course of the seasons: thus the spiritual year is born with human beings and their destiny, with all its events – this is born. And now we can read the words of the Uriel Imagination in a new way, and imagine the Trinity, the spiritual Father, the Mother down in the earth with the words:
Behold our weaving,
the kindling radiance,
the warming life.
– it is all filled with light and warmth in expansion. And down below:
Live in the earth’s sustaining,
and in the form-giving breathing,
with the power of true being.
And in between is the human being with his own soul:
Feel the limbs of Man,
from the heavens illuminated,
in the strength of worlds united.
Dear friends, what can this mean? Within the cloak, the garment of this trinity in nature, this trinity within the substance of light and warmth, of stone and water – within this bounty of all nature, filled with the powers of the Father, held by the threads of the Mother – within this the new seed for the coming year, the new being of 1964, is implanted into the womb of the earth; and there it rests. It waits until July, August, September have gone, until humans have harvested the fruits they have planted, until the plants have given thanks through their fruits to the powers of health. As soon as in the coming autumn the earth begins to contemplate its own being, the spirit which has been implanted into this trinity of existence, the spirit which has spread around us, begins to unfold. The embryo of the new year begins to develop step by step. At Christmas it begins to spread its wings; at Easter it already tries to be born, but only at Whitsun is the shell broken open, and all our destiny, all our deeds, all our faults, all our sins are born with this year. And here these words sound:
Substances are densified,
errors are rectified,
hearts are sifted.
Here it appears, becomes apparent, because into it our deeds, our words, our reasoning are all inscribed. From now on they go out into the world, unredeemed – until we ourselves, when being born again, meet them and can redeem what we have done wrong or gather as fruits that which we have done right. Karma, dear friends, personal karma is born within the spiritual body of the year, it comes to birth during these days between Whitsun and St. John‘s. St. John points in this direction, saying: “Start again! Begin anew, become humble, natural; try again and never give in!” In this way we can begin to understand how John in his twofold being prepares within himself all that happens to his other being. Every year in August the beheading of John is repeated, because the earth draws away from the sun, and the sun draws away from the earth. John has to start anew – but every year again his spirit is born and rises to become the group soul of the disciples; he enters into Lazarus and becomes the other John. This is his “other being” – John-Lazarus. And now you can read again the introductory words of the Gospel which this John has written, and read it with this background:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of man. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man, sent from God, whose name was John.
But John the Baptist, though he starts again and will be beheaded again, is every time succeeded by the writer of the Gospel who knows “In the beginning was the Word,” but who also knows that “there was a man, whose name was John,” knowing that it was he himself.
In this the mysteries of this time of the year are embedded, as the time now comes when our soul will so to speak be given up to the light, will be transformed within nature, and only towards Michaelmas, when also the new seed, the new germ for the coming year begins to unfold, only then our search for the lost word can start again. I have the impression that it should more and more become a custom, a habit, to look back to the last nine months after we have reached the summit of the year on St. John’s Day. We can look back in order to learn what we need to understand: the shape and form of this destiny, the destiny of the being that is this year, which has just been born at this time. And we look forward to the coming year – now to the year 1964 – which spiritually is already formed out within the vast image of the trinity around us, finding its place within the womb of the Mother Earth.
With this we can conclude with words by Rudolf Steiner which might help us in our search for the lost word:
Stars spake once to human beings;
It is world destiny that they are silent now.
To be aware of the silence
Can become pain for earthly humans.
But in the deepening silence grows and ripens
What mankind speaks to the stars.
To be aware of this speaking
Can become strength for spirit man.
Let us hope, dear friends, that more and more we will be able to engender words which will speak again to the stars, and that we will strengthen our way to perceive what we speak, and thereby help to create a new world.