A Book Journey – Chapter 8 & 9: Ascension and Whitsun
A monthly book study by Amy McGehee-Lee
Festivals of the Year:
A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle
by Roger Druitt
Amy McGehee-Lee has been thoughtfully working her way through Festivals of the Year: A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle, by Roger Druitt. Family commitments have meant that Amy has temporarily handed over her study to me, and I shall share a few thoughts on Ascension and Whitsun with you all. Amy will return for St John’s, at Midsummer.
We are pleased to sell Roger Druitt’s book in the Christopherus Bookstore as it is a life-affirming, gentle and participatory exploration of the Christian festivals. As one might expect from a priest working out of the indications of Rudolf Steiner, Reverend Druitt’s vision of Christ and of the Christian year is a Cosmic one, not a narrowly sectarian perspective bound to a particular church or dogma. Christ, as a cosmic spiritual being, brought (and continues to bring) a particular impetus and impulse to the evolution of the Cosmos and of the human being in particular. Just as the Buddha, Moses, Zarathustra and other spiritual beings brought their gifts and endowments to humanity at particular junctures of history, so the Christ impulse is a part of the common evolution of mankind.
Whereas with most of the other festivals of the Christian year it is reasonably straightforward to identify the universal element that shines through all religions, with Ascension and Whitsun, this is not the case. Advent is a festival of bringing the Light into the Dark, like Channukah. Christmas is about the birth of the Light—most pagan and pre-Christian religions have this element though in some, only in their most esoteric depths (such as what the Pharaoh Ahkhanaton brought to the Egyptian people). At Lent, we go inward and prepare ourselves: the Light dies and then is born again at Easter. So, too, the Green Man dies and is re-born.
But then something new enters the picture. The Oneness, the Universality of all true religions, diverges. It is time for those called by their karma to choose their paths. Some will choose to consciously attend to what actually happened during Christ’s deed on Golgotha, when He died and was resurrected. Where did He go? What happened to Him? Roger Druitt helps us understand that He united Himself with the Earth, through the clouds, and with human destiny.
Taken all together, the Gospels create a picture of Jesus entering a form of existence wider than that of his resurrected ‘bodily’ incarnation, which was a representation of a perfect, redeemed and raised humanity. As salt dissolves in water, its form vanishes but its substance becomes all-pervasive. This all-pervasive living element is called ‘a cloud’. The cloud does not dissolve earthly reality into nothingness so that suddenly Jesus can be in close proximity to the Father. No, Jesus permeates the cloud on his own initiative, just as He set in motion the final process of dying on his own initiative by breaking his body, the bread. As that sacramental deed is a blessing for all eternity on our bodily (fallen) nature so is this permeation of the cloud (life-sphere), a blessing on our own vital (fallen) body, our ‘life body’ or etheric body. (page 72)
Roger Druitt goes on to describe how Christ is now united with the elements—with the clouds, as it says in the Gospels. Clouds, in their movement and make-up, are a dynamic and subtle expression of the interplay of the four elements. They are earth in their particles of dust and matter taken up from the terrestrial realm; they are water in the moisture they contain and their potential for rain or snow; they are air as they whisper and drift and move; and they are fire as they grow or disappear as they transform and are transformed by warmth. Christ has gone into the clouds: He is, as the ancient Celts knew, the King of the Elements, the Lord of the Dance.
Much of what Roger Druitt focuses on in his chapter on Ascension is focused on the clouds. One can appreciate the warm and human-centered but objective way he leads one through exercises for cloud observation. Clearly, he has spent much time in contemplation of the clouds, and he urges his readers to do the same. Even if one cannot quite get a sense for the presence of the Christ in the etheric or cloud-realm of the Earth and human existence, anyone can meditatively reflect on the clouds.
Christ has gone into the cloud-regions of the earth: is that the main key note of Ascension? No. Christ returns, He ‘comes again’, now ensheathed in a spiritualized bodily form and for 10 days, until Whitsun, closets Himself with the Disciples, teaching them. The Gospels say nothing of what transpires during this time. But we might wish to reflect that the Gospels themselves, in their movement and in the mysteries of human groping to understand them, are themselves an expression of the etheric reality of Christ, available to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear.
Ten days after Ascension, we have Whitsun:
The spirit of Whitsun bestows understanding, warmth of will and an eye for opportunity. It is the festival of a freedom in which these things carry the stamp of personality. In earlier times the right outer form sufficed for inspiration and success, for example, a tribal council of elders, a ritual, a festival of peace, war, fertility or hunting. It could work like magic. This is now not adequate. The right forms are now those which mediate between an individual’s responsibilities and free initiative so that these may be shared and responded to by everyone in the group, perhaps involving sacrifice of one’s own aims through insight into those of others and offering assistance to help others to contribute to the whole. In this way, the members of the group gradually find their own places and roles for the whole. The new forms arise now through the interaction of personalities with each other and with the common goal. They promote greater freedom and greater character building and responsibility than in former times. (page 78/79)
This is the festival of the Holy Spirit, of the birth of conscience and freedom in each individual human being. As described in the Bible, the Apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit, which was experienced as seeing a tongue of fire above the head of each person present. Languages were spoken which in another setting could not be understood—but through the Holy Spirit, each ‘I’ could understand and recognize every other ‘I’. Moreover, no one could see their own tongue of fire—it was something that another had to witness to. This hints at the mystery of the relationship between individual freedom and community.
A right celebration of Whitsun could be focused on a celebration of the weaving of individual freedom and social responsibility.
Here is a verse written by Rudolf Steiner (which does not appear in Roger Druitt’s book but which I think is a fitting end to these shared thoughts):
The healthy social life is found
When in the mirror of each human being
The whole community finds its reflection
And when in the community
The virtue of each one is living.
How lovely it would be if people reading this shared their thoughts and observations! Please, may I encourage you to leave a comment?
Thank you, Donna
Posted on May 18, 2017 in Book Study