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Manna (archaically also mana; Hebrewמָן man; Greekμάννα; Arabic اَلْمَنُّ) or bread of heaven is the name given in the Bible Ex 16 to the legendary food that served as nourishment for the Israelites on their wanderings through the desert. Manna is described as "something fine, crunchy, fine like hoarfrost" Ex 16:14, "white like coriander seed" and with the taste of "honey cake" Ex 16:31. This food fell on the desert floor at night and could be picked up in the morning. It was not to be saved. Everything that was not eaten in the evening spoiled overnight Ex 16:19–20. This can be seen as the Lord's demand for trust. Only for the Sabbath were the Israelites allowed to gather double the amount of manna on the sixth day of the week. It did not spoil overnight. On the morning of the Sabbath itself, no fresh manna was to be found Ex 16:22–26.

The exact meaning of the word manna is considered unclear, but probably denotes in Hebrew "What is this?" (Hebrewמָן הוּא man hu), which is supposed to refer to the sudden, unexpected appearance of the manna in the desert. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that this meant manas, the spirit self or higher self.

„In Christian esotericism the word Manna means the same as Manas ...“ (Lit.:GA 104a, p. 48)

In the New Testament (John 6:30–35), Jesus Christ refers to manna as the "bread of life". In Christianity, therefore, manna stands as a symbol for the Lord's Supper. In this case, it is the mana into which the Buddhi, the life spirit, in which the power of Christ works, pours from above through grace. Initiates who have reached this high stage of spiritual development are quite generally called by the name of John.

„Consider further how the Christ Jesus contrasts his mission with what happened in the desert: "Your fathers ate manna in the desert and died. I give you another bread; I am the bread of life." Moses gave the bread in the desert, Christ gives the bread of life.“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 263f)

„There were such people who, out of the Manas, gave a highly developed soul organ to the Buddhi. This must be so. No matter how much light may shine, if there is no eye, it is not perceived. So it is with Budhi. There was a name for all those people who had developed such an organ, who were thirsty for the buddhi, a generic name: John. It is also particularly applicable to the Baptist. Christ and Buddhi are the same current in spiritual relation.“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 250)

„Now let us look at the outer sign through which the Logos trickles down to the Israelites, as far as they can grasp it purely conceptually, in thought. This outward sign is the 'manna' of the desert. Manna is in truth - those who know secret science know this - the same word as Manas, the spirit self. Thus, the first glimpse of the spirit-self flows into that humanity which has gradually attained I-consciousness. But that which lives and comes in the Manas itself may call itself something else. It is not merely that which one can know, but a power which one can receive oneself. When the Logos merely called his name, one must understand him, grasp him with reason. When the Logos becomes flesh and appears within humanity, he is a force-impulse which is brought among men, which lives not only as doctrine and concept, but which is contained in the world as a force-impulse in which man can participate. But then he no longer calls himself "Manna", but the "Bread of Life" (John 6:48), which is the technical expression for Buddhi or life-spirit.“ (Lit.:GA 103, p. 120)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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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.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - 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.