15 Dec From the World Society – On Darkness’s Sun
Dear Members and Friends of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada,
With each new day we have come ever closer to the heart of winter. The rising light comes ever later; the approaching darkness comes sooner. This closing in of the darkness at first comes imperceptibly. Then with each day the advance comes with increasing rapidity. We become more conscious that the space given to us to experience the light is ever more measured.
This enveloping of the light by darkness has its inner accompaniment. This too, at first, is concealed for us. Gradually our souls become increasingly shrouded, enveloped, and we draw back from this inner experience, this approaching night in our souls. The familiarity, the safety, of our daily engagements abandon us. Our accustomed activities that keep our lives busy lose their immediacy. The structures of our accustomed lives lose their importance. What gives meaning to our daily lives recedes.
This seeming loss of purpose, accompanied by the withdrawal of outer light, is unsettling. We lose our bearings. What has given shape to our daily lives loses its form, and this loss has its inner soul reflection. This disconnection from what gives our daily lives their orientation becomes a loss of meaning for us. This time of outer darkness is also a time of inner loss: of sadness, even disorientation.
This annual experience of retreating light, both outer light and its accompanying inner reflection, has been heightened throughout this year. This advancing darkness, this impingement of darkness on that place where we feel safe, has taken hold of human society. Over these past months it has become ever more difficult to feel ourselves as ‘standing in the light’.
Rudolf Steiner reveals how this experience of being bound by darkness is a critical step on our path toward becoming truly human. Wonder can take hold of us as he describes how in the ancient mysteries the student was led into darkness, a deep sense of loss, even despair – and in this enveloping darkness comes the delicate, almost imperceptible presence of radiance, of light permeating the darkness. The coming of the Sun at night’s darkest point.
Each year we are given the possibility to not turn away from this gift of the darkness. We need not descend into holding fast the accustomed structures of life. We can open ourselves to where this withdrawing of the light would lead us. This unaccustomed place, this place where we are without our accustomed supports, is where we are allowed to become part of the narrative of king and shepherd. Here we are given the possibility, through them, to sense the first glimmers of the invisible inner light, this radiant sun presence shining through all substance.
Speaking to a circle of young people, Rudolf Steiner calls upon them to recognize that the perception of this inner light is an ever-present possibility. Its presence is concealed because we do not attend to it. This wondrous inner radiance illumines with such delicacy that the heaviness of our accustomed sense perceptions conceal it. But we do have the soul capacities with which to discern it. It is to this that Rudolf Steiner calls us. We have these experiences; he calls us to recognize them. To cultivate this recognition is profoundly important.
How do these spiritual intimations communicate themselves to us? What soul capacities convey the delicate illumination that shines through substance to light up within us?
In speaking of the ancient mysteries, Rudolf Steiner elaborates how the one prepared for initiation is guided into the darkness, and in this darkness is led to the reality of the sun at midnight, permeating all substance. The world’s substance, our own substance. It was out of this experience that one of the most profound activities of the mysteries evolved, the ennoblement of substance, the lifting up of the world’s body – to spiritualise matter. It is this raising up of the elements that becomes the sacred practicing we call art. This development of the arts is inseparable from the development of the mysteries for it is the arts that prepare the soul for recognizing the permeation of the material world by spiritual radiance shining through matter. It is the blooming of aesthetic experience in the soul that in the sense world we experience as being in the presence of beauty. Beauty and spiritual radiance through substance are compliments. For Rudolf Steiner this ‘creating forms as an expression of inner life’ was central to all his creative endeavors. The practice of art is the bridge. When we truly grasp the centrality of artistic cultivation for humanity’s future, we can begin to understand how much is undermined by removing art from life.
One of the most devastating effects of our current situation is that this ‘creating forms as an expression of inner life’ has been crippled. The musician is silenced, the theater closed. Our cultural institutions have profoundly suffered this year. Recognizing this, the Goetheanum has made intensive efforts to continue supporting artists and their work. This past summer, despite all of the restrictions in place, the Goetheanum was committed to continue its artistic work. Working closely with local authorities it was the only major stage that continued to function in central Europe, proceeding with a full program of Goethe’s ‘Faust’. The Section for Visual Arts also mounted a significant show, ‘Into the Unknown: Art in the Times of Corona virus’. Twenty-eight artists participated, their work filling the Goetheanum’s public spaces.
As we immerse ourselves in the celebrations at mid-winter, can we sense that the walls of encircling darkness ask us to attend ever more closely to that inner light that would reveal itself to us? Is this a time of practice, of preparation? As Christmastide mantles us, can we recognize that at the heart of all we seek is a deep, profound aesthetic experience that unites us with the world of divine presence that draws near to us?
Can we apprehend that at this special time in the year, but also in the extraordinary conditions of this moment in time, it is in our active beholding of this inner radiance-within-darkness that creates the bridge between matter and spirit?