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Ephesus (Turkey)
Ephesus, southwest of it the island of Patmos

Ephesus (GreekἜφεσος Ephesos; LatinEphesus; Hittite probably Apaša), was one of the oldest, most important and largest Greek cities in Asia Minor in antiquity.

The Mysteries of Ephesus

Main article: Mysteries of Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis (Artemision) was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World in ancient times. In the Mysteries of Ephesus, which were based here and were among the most important mysteries of antiquity, the spiritual disciple was led to experience the creative world-word.

360 degree panorama of the site of the Temple of Artemis of Ephesus


The early Christian community of Ephesus

Statue of Artemis in the Museum of Ephesus (Photo: Lutz Langer)
Celsus Library, on the right the south gate of the Agora
The great theatre of Ephesus

Ephesus was the first of the seven Christian communities in Asia Minor to which a Epistle was addressed in the Apocalypse of John, dictated by the Christ to the Evangelist John. According to Rudolf Steiner, Ephesus represents the ancient Indian cultural epoch.

„1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’“

Rudolf Steiner explains:

„What now develops from period to period in the post-Atlantean culture, the apocalyptic imagines in such a way that it expresses itself in smaller communities, and thus these smaller communities, which are distributed in space on the outer earth, become for him representatives of these cultural epochs. When he speaks of the congregation or church at Ephesus, he means: I suppose that at Ephesus there lived such a community, which in a certain respect may well have adopted Christianity. But because everything develops gradually, something always remains from each cultural epoch. In Ephesus we have a school for initiates, but we have coloured the Christian teaching in such a way that you can still recognise the old Indian culture everywhere. - He wants to show us the first epoch in the post-Atlantean period. This first epoch in the post-Atlantean period is therefore represented in the Ephesian congregation, and what is to be proclaimed is to be proclaimed in a letter to the congregation of Ephesus. We must think of it something like this: The character of that distant Indian cultural epoch remained natural, it continued in various cultural currents. In the church of Ephesus we still have something of this character. Christianity was grasped by this congregation in such a way that it was still determined by the typical character of ancient Indian culture.

So in each of these letters we have addressed a representative of one of the seven post-Atlantean cultural epochs. In each letter we say: You are like this and like that! This and that side of your being corresponds to what is in the spirit of Christianity, the other must become different. - Thus the apocalyptic says to each cultural epoch what can be retained and what is no longer true and should become different.

Let us try to see whether the seven successive letters really contain something of the character of the seven successive cultural epochs. Let us try to understand how these letters must have been written if they were to correspond to what has just been said. The apocalyptic thinks to himself: In Ephesus there is a congregation, a church. It has accepted Christianity, but it shows Christianity in a colouring as the first cultural epoch still was, alien to the outer life, not filled with love for what is the real task of post-Atlantean man. - That it has left the worship of gross sensuality, that it has turned to spiritual life - so says the one who addresses the letters to the congregation - is what he likes about it. We see what the apocalyptic meant by this in the fact that Ephesus was the place where the mystery service of the chaste Diana was cultivated. It indicates that the turning away from matter was in special bloom there, the turning away from the sensual life and the turning towards the spiritual. "But I am against you because you have left the first love", the love that the first post-Atlantean culture must have, which expresses itself in seeing the earth as a field into which the divine seed must be transplanted.

How does the one who dictates this letter characterise himself? He characterises himself as the forerunner of the Christ Jesus, as it were as the leader of the first cultural epoch. The Christ Jesus speaks, as it were, through this guide or master of the first cultural epoch, that epoch when the initiate looked up to the worlds beyond. He says of himself that he holds the seven stars in his right hand and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are nothing other than symbols for the seven higher spiritual beings who are the leaders of the great cultural epochs. And of the seven candlesticks it is particularly expressed that they are spiritual entities which cannot be seen in the sensual world. In the initiation to yoga, too, they are clearly indicated, but also that man will never work in the sense of development if he hates the outer works, if he refrains from loving the outer works. The congregation at Ephesus abandoned the love of outward works. Thus it is rightly stated in the Apocalypse of John: You hate the works of the Nicolaitans. - "Nicolaitans" is nothing but a designation for those people who express life merely in sensual matter. In the time to which this letter refers, there was a sect of Nicolaitans who saw everything that should be worthy of man only in the external, carnal, sensual life. You shall not, says the one who inspires the first letter. But do not abandon the first love, he also says, for by having love for the outer world, you enliven this outer world, you bring it up to the spiritual life. - He who has ears to hear, let him hear: He who overcomes, to him will I give to eat, not only of the perishable tree, but of the tree of life - that is, he will be able to spiritualise what is here in the sensual, in order to lead it up to the altar of spiritual life.“ (Lit.:GA 104, p. 77ff)

See also


Steiner big.jpg
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.