I write to you today, a very special time, to bring something of my work over the last period, both inner and outer.
We find ourselves at a time of great spiritual darkness, a fact revealed day after day as I pick up the newspaper. In the pages of the newspaper I read again and again of the deeds of men, my brethren, which speaks to a great encroaching darkness within humanity.
Yet these deeds are not the darkness of which I speak, they are merely symptomatic of a foreshadowing of the spiritual nature of the world in which we live. At this time of year it is a hurtful experience to go shopping in town, for preparations for the coming of the light of the world at Christmas seem to have been reduced to a season of commercialised indulgence. The most hurtful aspect of this is that this too is symptomatic of a darkness in our souls at this time of year. Our deeds turn to the physical exotericisms of love, replacing the soul experience of family and community so necessary at this time of year.
At the threshold of the dark side of the year we meet in November the Earth beginning to breath in, and with this in breath the forces of nature which lived in the world were drawn deep into the earth to be renewed.
But as these forces withdraw from our lives, we also begin an inbreathing of sorts, an introspection. Our world becomes so much smaller, the exoteric light with which we have now lived with for half a year has become less and less. The world we live in is overshadowed by clouds, darkened by perpetual rain and the howling wind blows and blows. In advent these conditions are most evident, and the building of the chaos and darkness met in the world is not idle building, but building towards something, a change, a light.
The forces which lived in nature have withdrawn, and at this time of year we come under the forces of the moon. Consider for a moment the moon as a quality. It is distant, pale, cratered and hollow. As we come under the influence of these lunar forces our souls also have the potential to be deeply touched by this hollowing experience, and we as people turn more and more inwards.
This force, unbalanced in our lives at this time of introspection, can lead to a great human darkness. At no other time in the year is there so much material indulgence, seeking to drown out the darkness within through physical attainment. At no other time is there so much use and misuse of alcohol, an acceptable drug of modern society, yet also one utterly abused for escapist ends. At this time of year there is also a higher rate of suicide than any other time of year. The switchboards of helplines light up and calls come again and again speaking of a deep rooted darkness in the caller, and yet the action of calling, looking for help, is trying to reach out in some small way, trying to find a light in the pits of despair.
Of this time of year Dr. Steiner gives us the phrase “behold the evil”. This is no mere social commentary but a call to arms as we must all face the strength of influence the dark year has on us. For as the forces of the moon grow ever stronger, there lies a potential to loose sight of our essential nature as spiritual beings.
All of these events, symptoms, speak to our loosing sight of the spiritual during this dark time of year, and in our larger mechanised lives.
In my own life, this is often a time of great personal darkness, something I find a yearly struggle.
But the message I would wish to bring to you at this dark time is that this need not be so.
At the very beginning of Advent, on the very first Sunday there is a most soul filling experience in Waldorf schools and Anthroposophical communities across the length and breath of the globe. Indeed in my own home here in Camphill this same practice is brought to life yearly. It is of course the Advent Garden.
The Advent Garden is an activity for the children, but has its basis in the work of the curative, having been first manifest for the first curative Waldorf School class.
As an image the advent garden is indeed mighty, a spiral of moss turning inwards unto a centre where a single large candle illuminates the room. At the edge of the circle is a candle placed standing in an apple. The apple is our burden of evil which is turned inwards as the child spirals inwards to the central light.
From the central light the child lights their candle and turns outwards again, spiralling out, placing the candle somewhere in the spiral of moss. In meeting this central light we are meeting our process of turning inwards, and through finding this light in the darkness, our inner nature as spiritual beings, we may turn, and our inner darkness may be met, illuminated by the light of our true, and affirmed nature as spiritual beings.
For the child this is exoterically affirmed, for the adult this is an inner process of finding our spirit self in the darkest time of year.
To this I would add a light is lit, so it may illumine. I have just spent the past twenty days engaging in the tradition of Wichteling. A wichtel is, by my understanding, a small gnome like being, never seen, but the results of which are often felt. In this tradition we take on another person, we choose a person at random.
This person is often not a person you meet in your social sphere, may not be someone you feel you have a lot in common with or even get on with very well. But we make an effort for this person, we give something, we do something which is an active giving to another person. It can be so many things, a small deed, a gift, a note to brighten the day.
In this deed we do not stand up and say “it was me”, for it is not done out of an impulse for gaining an egoistic gratification, it is rather an impulse to extend a light, a gesture of good will into the life of another person so we may kindle a light in them.
This year I was very pleased with the efforts of my wichtel towards me, for it lit something in me, each time, for the sense of genuine warmth that such a gesture requires, and through this experience enabled me to do so for others.
But in meeting people every day we have this same potential to be lightworkers in the lives of those around us, and to engender a sense of the spiritual, found in our human encounters.
As I stand at the threshold of Christmas I look at the world I have described and wonder why is it so? And perhaps more importantly what is my part in it? These questions remain with me, and will for some years I suspect, but towards this light I continue to work until we reach Christmas when we can say, year after year Christ is born today. Hallelujah.
May the Light Of The World shine in your lives this festive season, may it transform and enliven you, renewing you and affirming your innermost nature as a spiritual being. May it also lend to you the courage and the power to turn this light outwards to transform and enliven those around you and this world, the community of our brethren.