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Rembrandt, Entombment of Christ, c. 1639
Caravaggio, The Entombment of Christ, c. 1603

The entombment and burial rest is the sixth stage of the Christian initiation. It can be experienced in the mystical re-experiencing of the Entombment of Christ respectively the burial of Jesus as it is described in the Gospel of John. One feels united with the whole Earth and deeply united with the Christ who said: "Those who eat my bread trample me underfoot" (John 13:18). In some lectures Rudolf Steiner also includes the after-experience of the resurrection in this stage of the Christian initiation; the seventh stage is then called the Ascension. In individual lectures, however, he also refers to the 7th stage as "resurrection", in which case the Ascension is not mentioned.

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Rudolf Steiner describes the entombment as follows:

„The entombment: There the man feels pervaded by the sense that his own body has become alien to him and that he is completely one with the planet. He has merged with the Earth and finds himself again in the life of the planet.“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 59)

„Then follows the entombment, an experience in which one feels at one with the planets, and the seventh stage, which cannot be spoken of because only he who can separate his mind from his brain can suspect anything. It is the ascension.“ (Lit.:GA 97, p. 233)

„The sixth is what is called the "Entombment and Resurrection". This is the stage where the pupil feels at one with the whole body of the earth; he feels as if he were placed in and belonged to the whole earth-planet. His life has expanded into planetary life.“ (Lit.:GA 103, p. 193)

An illuminating light is shed on the Easter event if one compares the change in human consciousness with the changes in nature in the course of the year:

„Let us take a look at Easter. Through the feast of Easter, the Christ Jesus graciously placed himself in the development of humanity by revealing himself to humanity as the immortal, who is to a certain extent the model of man, the immortal man who goes through death and had to find resurrection. This is still understood from ancient times. Pre-natal life was understood. Death was seen on Earth, the resurrection was to be seen in the Christ Jesus. But the Christ Jesus also brought the mystery of Pentecost. He sent the Spirit, the healing Spirit, to man, thus indicating that man should have the experience of Christ out of himself. He can only have this if he can go the opposite way, first to experience the resurrection and then, after experiencing the resurrection, to go through physical death in the right way, that is, to resurrect the soul inwardly. To raise the soul to a higher vitality between birth and death through the full revival of the relationship to the Mystery of Golgotha, so that this soul feels in itself from the spiritual resurrection: I go through earthly death as a resurrected one. - The fact that the gods have taken care of man so that he does not lose his immortality is presented to humanity through the sequence of death and resurrection at Easter.

But now let us imagine: If man feels spiritually as vividly as he feels in springtime the sprouting of the young plants, the coming forth of the blossoms, the greening of the trees, the vividness and vitality of all nature, as he can become alive through his physical being with all nature, if he can feel in the same way after he has passed through midsummer and autumn again how nature is dying, when, after he has passed through the midsummer period and autumn comes again, he can feel how nature dies, how the outer physical dies in the browning leaves, in the withering shoots of plants, in the drying up of the fruits that have to be preserved - when man experiences this in the same way, but now experiences how in this buriel of nature the spiritual sprouts up, which will be most connected with the earthly at the height of winter or the depth of winter, at Christmas time, when man will be able to celebrate the approach of autumn as festively as he does spring at Easter, as he can celebrate spring at Easter, when he will feel the burial, death and resurrection just as festively as at Easter, so the resurrection of the soul at the burial of nature, in order then to face the earthly burial, the earthly death, properly, when he learns to feel the reverse consequence in nature in autumn: Resurrection, death, when out of his soul he creates the festival, which relates to the Easter festival just as the autumn sun relates to the spring sun, then man will also have gained the strength from today's spirit to give himself a festival.

We must not only strive not to lose more and more awareness of the content of the feasts, so that we no longer know why we should schedule Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon of spring. We must not say: It's just Easter; it's always been like that. Let us make it most convenient, the first Sunday after the first of April, quite abstractly! - We must learn to feel again: we need a connection of the human being with the cosmos. - As we have the rising and the setting sun, so we need, when we celebrate at Easter, death - resurrection, in autumn resurrection - death: resurrection of man within nature becoming dead.“ (Lit.:GA 226, p. 114f)


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.
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.