Tree of Time: 3: Many Paths: One Mountain: A Theology Lesson for 11th Graders

Tree of Time: 3: Many Paths: One Mountain: A Theology Lesson for 11th Graders

By Alan Whitehead

Copyright Alan Whitehead & Earthschooling: No Part of this book, post, URL, or book excerpt may be shared with anyone who has not paid for these materials. Additional note by Kristie Burns of Earthschooling.

Alan speaks in a very symbolic manner in some parts of the book. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.

Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with the teacher-students of Steiner himself so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception. Not all of his views will be reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. However, as I read through these passages, I am finding I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not apply to me.

We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss.

Return to the Main Page of the Golden Beetle Curriculum Guides Here

<It is best to first read this chapter through slowly and then take a paper and pencil and follow along as he takes you through the steps.>

There is a spiritual world hovering over the mole-like enterprises of humankind, yearning to inspire and inform. Most of the doors of perception to this world are closed tightly, but even a chink of consciousness can admit a stream of revolutionary light from on high.

One way to at least unlock – if not actually open – the many doors to the spirt is to acknowledge that they exist. When preparing a lesson, such as this Class 11 Theology main lesson, a teacher ‘keys in’ to as wide a range of spiritual powers as possible, in the hope that one or more will be accessed. This is a beguilingly simple process. One begins with a clean sheet of white paper and merely lists the relevant diving aspects. This raises them to consciousness, if only momentarily, here they remain, if in a dormant state, for the duration of the lesson.

Most of course are uncalled upon, but for that magic moment which makes a lesson memorable, or in an even deeper sense, an epiphany for both teacher and student, one or other spiritual inspiration must occur. Often it is only one – but what a one!

Let’s start right out in space and time and draw closer to earth and now. Ours is the fourth planetary incarnation, the Earth, that of the birth of the Ego in the grand plan of evolution. So that’s what we write on the paper – ‘Earth – Ego’. Who knows what forces of selfhood will infiltrate the soul of the lesson because we’ve noted this? Now to Earth’s first subset.

The Earth has seven stages of development, or Incarnations. These are all related to a particular planetary inspiration (in the same order as the days of the week incidentally). We Earth habitués are, since the event of Golgotha, enjoying our fifth, our Mercury Earth incarnation – Wednesday is, as the French call it, “Mercredi”. So we jot this down, with a word or two describing what mercurial aspects might enter and enrich our lesson, such as quick-witted intelligence and vitality. Rudolf Steiner’s voluminous writings (and my humble efforts) describe in detail many of these Mercury, and the other metaphysical aspects. The inspiration from this quarter, in this Theology lesion, might come while we are teaching about the sixth religion, that of Mercury, The Tao.

Earth is again divided into seven Epochs, beginning with Polaria to Altantis. We live in the fifth Epoch – Arya. As a side note, this has nothing to do with the so-called Aryan race. In this vast evolutionary context, every human being is an Aryan, meaning ‘noble’. <However, I suggest, in 2020, where this term has taken on such a heavy weight from misuse that it can be changed to Aria. We live in the age of Aria and the people are known as Aria Beings.>

The mission of this vast time span is to incarnate Spirit Self faculties into human evolution so that is what we write. The art of Spirit Self, or Manas, is Poetry, or the Language Arts generally. This might be handy in our studies of the Mars or ‘speech’ religion, Shinto.

The Age or Arya <or Aria> further devolves into seven, but Seven Civilizations this time. Ours is the Anglo-Nihon – again the fifth. The mission of this 2160-year period is to bring Consciousness Soul faculties to humankind. Against this we might write ‘semi-transformed physical body’, or even ‘ensouled will’. It would appear that the hands-on approach this implies would help make the unit become more contemporary. This Civilization principle is determined by the 2160-year vernal risings, or the ‘Precession of the Equinoxes’. In the Southern Hemisphere we are today living in a Virgo age. Against this we write something like sense of movement – quality of soberness´- or more Virgoan characteristics if we like.

There is a continual cycling of Archangelic dispensations supporting mankind’s cultural life and  again this is seven-fold. Since 1879, we have enjoyed the benison of the Sun Archangel, Michael. Beside this we might write “new values, spiritual courage” and other michaelian qualities so detailed in the teachings of Spiritual Science. He may also be active in aiding us in the teaching of the Sun religion itself, Christianity.

Then back to the Zodiac. This lesson might be taught in the annual context, say, with the sun in the sign of Libra (in the new – since 1413 – processional dispensation, between October 22 to November 22). Beside Libra we write, ‘sense of balance – quality of balance in thought’.

But the Season Libra is in Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, the season presided over by the Archangel Raphael. Here we might call on the forces of healing and education. This again may have a relationship to the ‘Raphaelian’ religion, The Tao.

Not only the month, but the Time of Day is important. The lesson will be conducted in the morning, the ‘Sylph’ of etheric hours. Here we write ‘form and movement’ which is not a bad inclusion in any lesson, but especially good in the daily regency of the Air Elementals.

Next is the Lesson itself. We must note that a Main Lesson has a ‘head’ or academe emphasis might help as would the Subject in this Social Science stream, with its power to awaken, above all others, the Etheric consciousness in its learners. Then the Lesson Strand. Theology represents, of three Social Science strands, that of Sociology which is the Feeling member of the will-feeling-thought troika. Social Science is the Gemini subject in the 12-fold Subject Zodiac. Here we might note that ‘quality of faculty and sense to ego’. When one of these many entries looks as if it may have special importance for the lesson, we put a big asterisk beside it.

As well as the big picture, those things which affect everyone, a separate and shorter list can be compiled in relation to the Class itself. 17-year-olds are, in the planetary unfolding through the years 14 to 21, living their Sun year. Wait, did we say the Sun again? This means we should make an asterisk next to that entry. This could affect how they perceive the deeds of the Sun God, the Christ. In fact, Theology is programmed for Class 11 mainly due to this central Sun principle.

In the Education Zodiac, that which the pupil traverses in the twelve years beginning in Class 1 with Cancer, Class 11 are Taurus learners. The note one could jot down here about ‘sense of thought’ and ‘quality of will’ may provide higher insight into the students’ psychic needs.

Through the ordained seven-year cycles of life, high school students are unfolding their third ‘body’, the Astral. Here a moment to consider various ‘sentient body’ characteristics could be valuable, such as soul, color, tone, metabolism – and many more.

Again in the seven-year 14-21 journey, there is a faculty unfolding, one in which the astral body, step-by-step, is taken possession of by its teen owner. In Class 11 this is the Conceptual Aspect of the Astral Body – a self-evident principle. But as a caution, don’t overdo this listing business, losing valuable preparation time in this rather arcane spiritual research. These things are mere ‘keys’ which, when turned in the lock of higher inspiration, may admit spiritual aid – or not. Sometimes out of say twenty notes, only one is a golden key, that which tinctures the whole three weeks with discovery, creativity and excitement. If one does find this kind of key, then still only a word or two is needed to use it.

If the students are indeed Sun beings in their 17th year, then this, along with its astral sense organ, the 12-Petal Lotus, the Anaharta, is that which is being awakened. This again alludes to Christianity. The Christian persuasion also bears its shadowy – Anti-Christ – counterpart, the Prince of Darkness, Satan. Ahriman it is who corrupts the soul with anti-heart forces, like anger, hatred and fear.

In the cultural recapitulation through the whole of Earth and Man evolution, 17-year-olds, having revisited their illimitable existence from Ancient Saturn in the first year of life, have arrived at the 19th Century. This was a time of great upheaval for religious life, with Darwin’s revelations, and an assault of materialism with the works of Marx and others. Class 11 is proceeding, even if they are not fully aware of it, through a similar anti-epiphany with their earlier innocent faith being violently confronted by a seemingly godless world.

So to summarize; our long list includes Earth, Mercury Earth, Arya (Aria), Anglo-Nihon, Virgo Age, Michaelian Zeitgeist, Spring, Libra, Morning – Taurus Year, Sun-Heart Year, 19th Century, Conceptual Aspect of Astral Body – Main Lesson, Social Science, Sociology, and Gemini Subject.

There are even more of these if you can think of them. To sift the grain from the esoteric chaff, mark the things which seem to complement the content being taught. One could even upgrade the list to include, say the day. If it was Monday, one would write ‘Moon’ which imbues creativity and genetics. This is a good day to teach Islam, the Moon faith.

But back to Ahriman, who, in different names, has infiltrated all the seven world religions, every one of which has its dark underbelly. This was taught in the Hebrew Kabbala as a metaphoric portrayal of the Seven Deadly Sins, and their accompanying virulent deities.

Each sin relates specifically to a religion or an anti-religion in this case. They are the opponents of humankind’s Seven Lotus Flower development which, of course, is a long-term mission of world religion.

If Hinduism, the oldest of the seven, is of Saturn, with its lofty ideal being the unfolding of the 1000-petal Crown Lotus, then its spiritual opponent is Pride in the guise of Lucifer. Pride – that which goeth before a fall – is traditionally known as the sin of Lucifer. The Saturnian/Vedantic sunny uplands of the Seven Virtues is Humility.

Those who bequeathed this seven-fold insight into sin (not evil, that of the Ego – sins are astral in nature; see my book A Steiner High School), the Jewish religion, calls first on Yahveh – Jehovah – Jove – Jupiter! The anti-Jupiter sin is avarice – its high side, Self-denial. As they say in the scriptures ‘God or Mammon’? And they mean it as Mommon is the god of materialism. He is repelled by awakening the two-petal lotus. Jewish people portray themselves as torn between greed and generosity.

The Mars religion, Shinto, is eternally wrestling with lust, the third deadly sin. Naturally its beacon in the darkness is Self-discipline. Asmodeus is the spirit of lust in the soul of man. However he is confronted by the power of the sixteen-petal lotus, that of creative speech.

Then we have the central religion in the spiritual solar system, Christianity. As mentioned earlier, this is the Sun faith. Hatred (and its unsavory bedfellow, anger) is the sin of Satan. Love is its apotheosis – ‘love one another…’.  As Christ made clear, love is the highest of all Christian virtues.

The minor or inner planets begin with Buddhism, the Venus – Goddess of Beauty – religion. Beauty, without the supporting divine hand of the eight-petal Lotus, easily crosses the dark threshold into gluttony, the fifth deadly sin, egged on by its ministering demon, Beelzebub!

The Mercury faith, The Tao (The Way), is opposed by the blind nature forces known as Leviathon. The Tao helps develop, specifically, the six-petal Lotus through nature wisdom. The sixth deadly sin is envy.

The newest of all religions (the only post-Christian faith), is Islam, the Moon persuasion. Even its resident demon, Belphegar, god of sloth, is least known. Not even the revolving of the four-petal Chakra wakes him up. The highest Islamic virtue is of course diligence.

There can readily be seen a correlation between the inner and outer planets and religions, as they orbit around the Sun of Christianity: Hindu-Saturn is a complement of Islam-Moon; the oldest and youngest. Hinduism is the most complex religion, with 33,000 nominal deities to appease, while Islam is the simplest, its cosmology focusing on ‘The One God, and His name is Allah’. Their virtues, humility-diligence is also a beautiful pairing, as pride-sloth is contemptible and antinomic.

Judaism complements The Tao. The first is a prescription of the wisdom of man, the second, the wisdom of nature. Jehovah was the Creator; nameless Feng-Shui powers did likewise in the Orient. Avarice and envy are similar but emanate from a different soul disposition – as do Mammon and Leviathon. Of course there is a sublime harmony between generosity and honor, the virtues of Judaism and The Tao.

Finally the coupling of Mars and Venus, of lust and gluttony – an insatiable appetite for sex and food respectively! How similar are these two deadly sins as are the Mars-Venus virtues of compassion and moderation; Asmodeus and Beelzebub are the notorious pairing here.

My 17-year-olds enjoyed learning about, and drawing, the sacred symbols of the Seven World Religions. The first is the eight-spoke Wheel of Dharma, that which says so much so simply about Hinduism. There is even a dark side here. The infamous Juggernaut was a giant wheeled (eight-spoked) vehicle which was pushed-pulled oh so slowly (in its saturnian way) through the teeming streets yet slowly enough to permit Lucifer-inspired zealots to hurl themselves under its merciless wheels. This is yet another image of Saturn eating his own children!

The Wheel of Dharma promises an eternal existence of repeated earth lives, reaching as far ahead as they have come from the hoary past. Even though in Steiner Education we eschew the propagandizing of our young charges with the tenets of Anthroposophy, such as reincarnation, we can certainly teach it in context of lessons such as Theology. How could one truly represent the spirt of the Vedanta without detailing its central canon? Cronus, a time god, is a Greek epithet of Saturn. The element of time is nowhere more profoundly expressed than in Hinduism. Their Kalpa, the most ancient and cryptic occult time frame known, being 4320,000,000 years. This is almost as long as what modern science describes as evolutionary time.

The well-known Star of David is sacred to Judaism. Among other things, it expresses the etheric forces of earth and man ascending to harmonize with the descending etheric power of the sun. The pine and palm as it’s described (see my book of the same name), Shinto, dwells behind the red disc of Mars. The flag of Japan, a red disc on white field, is an image of Mars (Sasano in their understanding) as a cosmic subordinate of the all-embracing white of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess.

Christianity of course has its Black Cross, a symbol of incarnate man. Esoteric Christianity has rather the Rose Cross which is again a black cross, but one with a circle of red roses. This is a promise of the triumph of spirit over matter – or Redemption on earth, and Resurrection beyond.

We have another cross for Buddhism, the Sun Swastika. This is so different from the corrupted version used by the Nazis. Theirs was the cross of the earth, of the Cave Lodge, Agarthi. The Buddhist swastika, meaning ‘well-being’, revolves clockwise – as does the sun on its own axis – and is upright, not ‘crooked’. The original swastika stands at a 90-degree angle instead of a 45-degree one, and its arms may point in either direction, whereas the Nazi  arms always point clockwise.

<As a side note, it is interesting at this time to acknowledge that the swastika symbol has been used in many religions and cultures throughout time.>

Again there is a complement across the world religion solar system, with a sun element in both Shinto and Buddhism. In the former, the circle is within, the latter, without.

Rudolf Steiner said that Siddhartha, after this ascent to Buddhahood, went to live on Mars. This was in order to mollify the inherent forces of combat and violence emanating from that ruddy soul sphere. Even on earth, Buddhism performed the same lofty mission, by emigrating to the home of the Mars religion, Shinto Japan.

The Tao is symbolized by the Yin Yang, drawn correctly of course (not like the Korean flag), with the forms horizontal, red below being the earth, blue above the heavens. How similar this is to its planetary complement, the dualist emblem of Judaism!

Finally we have the Crescent Moon of Islam. This is a short-term, incomplete circle compared with its Saturn-Hindu equivalent, the Wheel of Dharma. According to the tenets of Islam, man is created anew and from nothing with every child. Here on an unforgiving earth, s/he ekes out a short, usually painful existence, and if the life has been lived in accordance with the Koran, is received into the bosom of Allah to dwell in Paradise forever. The soul factor cultivated by Islam is obedience, and by its Vedantic counterpart, meditation. The first is a soul incarceration, the second a liberation.

All these things are wonderful discussion topics in class but time must be spent providing an overview of the theography and cultural significance of World Religion. And what about the multiplicity of other religions – mainly those of indigenous peoples? (Incidentally this lesson concerns itself only with current World Religions, not those which have died, like Zoroastrianism, or that of the Ancient Greeks).

The indigenous religions relate, not to the soul-planets, but the body-zodiac. There are countless belief systems among tribal communities. Each was created and inspired by a particular zodiacal configuration. They all have one thing in common though; a profound awareness of spirit-in-matter. This is so whether it be the Sacred Places of the Australian Aborigines, the Great Earth Spirit of the North American Indians – or the global plethora of religious ‘idols’, personified nature forces as they usually are, from the Congo to the Amazon.

The dominant soul religions have to learn earth-care from their star-body cousins. The Tao is about the only one of the Holy Seven with a deep understanding of the Spirit of Nature. Of course the ‘star’ creeds have a lot to learn from those of the ‘planets’ as well, especially about higher morality in relation to the individual.

I’ll let the Report I wrote for my students tell the rest of this highly ‘individualized’ story:

Many Paths One Mountain

A Comparative Study of World Theology

Class 11, 1984

The main aim of this unit was to broaden the students’ knowledge of the Seven World Religions, creating an attitude of tolerance for, and understanding of, the different beliefs, thought patterns and people. An introduction was given on the origin of religion from both a mythical and historical viewpoint.

This brought in aspects of theography, the geographic distribution of the various faiths, including the role of Animism as a precursor to most of the Sacred Seven. The religions of the past were than briefly studied, as they emerged from the Vedism of the Mother Lodge in Tibet. These included Zoroastrianism, the religions of Ancient Egypt, Hibernianism, Norse Mythology, Classical Greek, and Roman. The role of the Indian Ocean as the seedbed of all seven current major religions (except Shinto) was outlined, especially as a bulwark against Western materialism and Communist atheism.

The main thrust of the unit was devoted to these Seven World Religions:

Twin-spired mosque, South Yemen

ISLAM: This is the religion of Imagination, finds expression in the social life of Muslim countries. Emphasis was also placed on the political effects of Islam as they influence the global scene, especially Australia, with its nearest neighbor being Indonesia. Prayer ritual was described with its Lunar quality of introspection and submission to Allah’s will. Sacred Islamic objects were studied, like the Kaaba and the Koran.

THE TAO: This religion evolved in the religious consciousness of the Chinese through perception of Spirit in Nature, especially the Feng Shul or wind-water forces. This was expressed through the image of the Phoenix, who, like all the most important of the Tao deities, lived in the air element, and was therefore perceived through Inspiration – inspired breath! This became a more worldly stream under Confucius, and a spiritual one with Lao-Tse. The Mercurial effect of The Tao on Chinese life is expressed in the I-Ching, and in the rich mythology, such as the concept of the creation of the world parodied in Chinese coins, with their circle of heaven around the square hole of earth. It was described how Taoist thought as spread far beyond its Cathay birthplace into international life. Even a well-prepared traditional Chinese meal contains the mysteries of Yin Yang, like sweet and sour sauce.

BUDDHISM: This religion was studied in terms of its teaching of peace and love in the world, and of a path of Venus-inspired personal self-development. The religion was characterized by its dearth of external gods, the focus being rather on the inner life. This is expressed through the image of the Garuda bird, and the three main adversaries of avarice (will), hatred (feeling) and folly (thought). The historical effect of the nature of Buddhahood was also explained, with its focus on Veneration, under the Ten Virtues. Reference was made also to the law of Karma, Dharma and Nirvana.

CHRISTIANITY: This study centered on the Four Gospels, especially Matthew and Luke, where the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception was traced through the two respective genetic lines (see my book Hidden Agenda for more on the ‘two Jesus boys’). The beauty and perfection of the new Testament was emphasized (King James version), as was conditions of Illumination necessary for their creation. Difficult concepts were discussed, like the role of a God incarnate as well as imagination in parables, inspiration in direct teaching, and intuition in the performing of miracles, first by Jesus, then later his Disciples. The sacred animal of Christianity is the lamb.

Renaissance church, Porta Venera, Italy

SHINTO: The religion of Japan has also spread in influence around the world, as it is the basis of that country’s phenomenal success in world economics – focusing, as it does, on dedication to task. As in the other persuasions, history and geography play a large part, as seen in the warrior codes of the Amural, the Ninja, and the Bushido Code. These, in one way or another, are all an expression of the God of Tempests, Susano, and God of Earth fire, Kaga Zuchi. Both these geographical conditions are extreme in Japan and are a reflection of the extensive dragon mythology and spirit of Mars.

JUDAISM: During this study we leaned heavily on the Old Testament as a book of Jehovah or Jupiter revelation – of Wisdom. It is a text of proscriptions and prescriptions and embodies knowledge of the three organizations of man in the allegorical Sphinx. This timeless Tetramorph has a bull’s lower body, lion’s upper body, eagle’s wings, and a human head. As in the two Jesus genetic streams, the Two Creations in Genesis were described; those of the Sons of Fire and Sons of Dust. Also discussed was the polemic between the Creationists and Evolutionists, and how malevolent beings like Lucifer and Satan contribute to humankind’s tribulations. As well, the class looked at the role of biblical prophecy, and the nature of Revelation in Judaism.

HINDUISM: This religion was a child of Vedism. The class studied its geographic range, especially as this relates to the sacred rivers of India. Its pantheon of 33,000 gods were reduced to just three for our purposes; the Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Others, such as Agni, Kama Yama and Manu were taught in context of the sacred books of the Rig Veda and others. Aspects of mythology and ritual were outlined, with the central faculty, cultivated through Yoga meditation, being Contemplation; especially as this relates to sacred cow worship. This was awakened through cultivation of the Saturn chakra, the 1000-petal Lotus.

All photos of religious sites by the author

Finally, an excursion was enjoyed, where the class visited a Hindu Temple, an Islamic Mosque, a Buddhist Temple, a Jewish Synagogue, the Catholic St. Mary’s Cathedral and took part in a healing service in St. Andrew’s (Anglican) Cathedral, had a Shinto-inspired meal in a Japanese restaurant, and did a class of Chinese Tai Chi. The lesson concluded with a test essay on work studied.

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