- by Claude Gendron
On April 26th of this year, 12 people gathered at the lovely Cowansville residence (Eastern Townships, Quebec) recently acquired by our hosts Marie-Claire and Willem Joubert, local anthroposophists graced with remarkable kindness and generosity. The reason for this gathering was to take part in a day of reflection, sharing and conversation on the theme of Vladimir Soloviev’s Antechrist, for which the chapter from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov entitled The Grand Inquisitor was also suggested preparatory reading.
The Dostoyevsky text depicts a cardinal who has taken on the role of grand inquisitor. This individual positions himself as an adversary of Christ, Who has reappeared incognito in XVIth century Spain. When Christ performs the feat of bringing a child back to life, the grand inquisitor’s armed guards seize Him and throw Him into prison.
The Grand Inquisitor, who has recognized Christ’s true identity, goes to Him at night in order to declare that it is the institution of the Church that will bring happiness to mankind. He claims that Christ has failed in in mission – that the freedom and love He proclaims, spread by the sword and creating discord among men, are not viable options for humanity, because human beings exhibit child-like behaviour and therefore need to be led by the hand like children. During the inquisitor’s lengthy indictment, in which many aspects of present-day cultural prejudices are made evident, Christ remains silent. The deeds He performed and the words He spoke at “the turning point of time” are in themselves an absolute refutation of the accuser’s distortion of His true message. And yet in spite of the inquisitor’s condemnation, Christ continues to gaze upon him with love and compassion.
Soloviev’s text depicts an extraordinary individual who has as his assistant the most powerful magician of the time. The individual in question is a narcissist of overweening pride and arrogance, and considers himself to be Christ’s direct successor. He sees himself as the true freer of mankind, born to bring happiness to human beings. He orders his magician to strike down anyone who opposes his views, including the latest pope of the Catholic Church, who refuses to become one of his followers. But in the end Christ returns, with an army made up of all those who had been sacrificed, in order to extricate mankind from the Antichrist’s power. This then, in highly condensed form, is the story told by Soloviev.
Our gathering began with singing led by Arie van Ameringen, and when this activity had sufficiently warmed our hearts, we were all invited to share our reflections regarding the prepared reading material. To sum up very briefly the gist of our conversation: we felt that the texts were directly applicable to our current social condition and at the same time prophetic for the future of mankind.
Present-day man is caught in the web of his own cultural habits and stereotypes, and as such constantly suffers from a general feeling of dissatisfaction as these values are challenged and called into question on a daily basis. As long as the human being does not realise that his body, his science, his culture and his language belong only to the earth and will never satisfy the needs of his soul and spirit, he will seek the fleeting happiness afforded by the smoke and mirrors of material things and let himself be seduced by the infinite number of illusory forms these material things assume.
As a means of salvation for the human soul, art is a precious asset, and Jean Balekian made this significantly clear as he led us through a living experience of the beings depicted in the Sculpture of the Representative of Man, the statue in which Christ is the central figure. By struggling to raise ourselves to the level of the Spirit-Self, we can reach the etheric Christ and sense how, even in the sculpted wood of the Statue, He secures the balance between the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers within us and in the world by repelling them while at the same time holding them in their legitimate places. As far as the Asuras are concerned, those Spirits of Personality also called the Spirits of Egoism, they exacerbate and provoke a sort of perversion of the soul by exalting, among other things, sexuality. And Sorat, the Sun Demon also known in the Apocalypse as the Two-Horned Beast, though he does not appear in the Statue, feeds on our lack of understanding and our confusion regarding these retarded Spirit beings that man will be called upon to redeem at some future time.
The Foundation Stone Meditation can be perceived in the three-fold structure of the Group. Our life is a path of development, an inner workshop and sanctuary in which each one carves, modestly, his own personal representation of the Statue using the forces of his own heart. Thanks to the model of the Group sculpted by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon, each one of us can remain awake by perserveringly carving away the wood shavings of our own weaknesses as we create our own “sculpture”.
The stunning accomplishments of modern technical science, such as great hydroelectric dams and dizzyingly tall office towers, conceal beneath their ingenious structural aspects the cold, angular intelligence of Ahrimanic beings. Indeed, the human skull is where these beings set up their headquarters. On the other hand, we find the feverish overexcitement of nationalistic pride which, when taken to the extreme, morphs into terrorism and fanaticism. Here Luciferic forces project their blinding glare, tempting all followers of fundamentalist movements into the “black hole” of a never-ending ascending vortex. Thus, the ego is taken prisoner and the Spirit-Self is tossed violently back and forth between the heights and the depths, like a beast of prey being ripped to shreds.
Jean Balekian guided our gaze in such a way as to bring us to perceive in Christ’s gesture (both repelling the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers and time holding them in their places) a coming together and harmonious balancing in the region of the human heart. Jean called on us to contemplate the love, compassion and moral forces expressed in this central figure of Christ. We then moved on to a drawing exercise which helped to give outward expression to our experience of the interpenetrating forces of light and dark; indeed, the balance between these two elements is a feature of all universal works of art.
After lunch, Andrée Lanthier’s “visible speech” allowed us to refocus and re-unify as a group. A final drawing exercise, in which we illustrated our comprehension and our feelings regarding the Statue, revealed the underlying unity of the sculpture in spite of the multiplicity of its forms. Arie then proceeded to speak of the seven major forms in which Ahrimanic beings manifest in matter, after which Marie-Claire Joubert brought the day’s activities to a close by reciting the last panel of the Foundation Stone Meditation.
A final request was expressed by Andrée Lanthier: that this day’s work not become lost in some sort of “cosmic vacuum”. She wondered if it would not be possible to foresee more of these gatherings, to determine time, place, schedule, and theme. Those who feel moved to continue this impulse should contact Arie, who agrees to follow up on this request.
Claude Gendron, Candiac, April 28, 2014