Three Days' Journey

The Phrase “Three Days’ Journey” appears, as we shall see, eight times in the Bible. And thus far leading commentaries, when not ignoring it, show themselves oblivious to its spiritual meaning, treating it patronizingly as either an erroneous or exaggerated expression of geographic distance or size, a “ruse for escape,” or mere “dittography.”1

We will look first at Steiner’s treatment and then at the scriptural passages themselves. However, as with all Biblical language, this phrase does not exist in a vacuum and takes on added significance in relation to other terms and phrases. See especially “Mysteries” herein, as well as the various terms involving the number three (“Third Day,” “Thirty,” “Three Bodies,” “Three Days” and “Three Years”).

Fortuitously for us, William Barclay (“Barc” herein) has given us something of an entree into our subject through his original translation of 1 Cor 15,50-51 in his remarkably popular and readable Daily Study Bible Series:

Brothers, I say this, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Look now—I tell you something which only the initiated can understand. We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed. (My emphasis)

In his various lecture cycles on the Gospels, Steiner spoke often of what “initiation” meant within the ancient Mysteries, which themselves must be comprehended for an understanding of the very foundation of the Gospel message (see Christianity as Mystical Fact [CMF]). In the first Gospel cycle, The Gospel of St. John, (GSJ), Lect. 4 (“The Raising of Lazarus”), he points out that the opponents of Jesus were not provoked to seek his disposal until immediately after the raising of Lazarus (see Jn 11,47-53 and 12,9-11). Let us see Steiner’s language:

What is really at the bottom of it all? The raising of someone provoked the enemies of Christ Jesus to rise up against Him. Why should just the raising of Lazarus so provoke these opponents? Why does the persecution of Christ Jesus begin just at this stage? One who knows how to read this Gospel will understand that a mystery lies hidden within this chapter. The mystery concealed therein is, in truth, concerned with the actual identity of the man who says all that we find written there. In order to understand this, we must turn our attention to what in the ancient Mysteries is called “initiation.” How did these initiations in the ancient Mysteries take place?

A man who was initiated could himself have experiences and personal knowledge of the spiritual worlds and thus he could bear witness of them. Those who were found sufficiently developed for initiation were led into the Mysteries. Everywhere—in Greece, among the Chaldeans, among the Egyptians and the Indians—these Mysteries existed. There the neophytes were instructed for a long time in approximately the same things which we now learn in Spiritual Science. Then when they were sufficiently instructed, they followed that part of the training which opened up to them the way to a perception of the spiritual world. However, in ancient times this could only be brought about by putting the neophyte into a very extraordinary condition in respect of his four principles—his physical, ether and astral bodies and his ego. The next thing that occurred to the neophyte was that he was put into a death-like sleep by the initiator or hierophant who understood the matter and there he remained for three and a half days. Why this occurred can be seen if we consider that in the present cycle of evolution, when the human being sleeps in the ordinary sense of the word, his physical and ether bodies lie in bed and his astral body and ego are withdrawn [see I-9, I-10 and I-33]. In that condition he cannot observe any of the spiritual events taking place about him, because his astral body has not yet developed the spiritual sense-organs for a perception of the world in which he then finds himself. Only when his astral body and ego have slipped back into his physical and ether bodies, and he once more makes use of his eyes and ears, does he again perceive the physical world, that is, he perceives a world about him. Through what he had learned, the neophyte was capable of developing spiritual organs of perception in his astral body and when he was sufficiently evolved for the astral body to have formed these organs, then all that the astral body had received into itself had to be impressed upon the ether body just as the design on a seal is impressed upon the sealing-wax. This is the important thing. All preparations for initiation depended upon the surrender of the man himself to the inner processes which reorganized his astral body.

The human being at one time did not have eyes and ears in his physical body as he has today, but undeveloped organs instead—just as animals who have never been exposed to the light have no eyes. The light forms the eye, sound fashions the ear. What the neophyte practiced through meditation and concentration and what he experienced inwardly through them, acted like light upon the eye and sound upon the ear. In this way the astral body was transformed and organs of perception for seeing in the astral or higher world were evolved. But these organs are not yet firmly enough fixed in the ether body. They will become so when what has been formed in the astral body will have been stamped upon the ether body. However, as long as the ether body remains bound to the physical, it is not possible for all that has been accomplished by means of spiritual exercises to be really impressed upon it. Before this can happen, the ether body must be drawn out of the physical. Therefore when the ether body was drawn out of the physical body during the three and a half days death-like sleep, all that had been prepared in the astral body was stamped upon the ether body. The neophyte then experienced the spiritual world. Then when he was called back into the physical body by the Priest-Initiator, he bore witness through his own experience of what takes place in the spiritual worlds. This procedure has now become unnecessary through the appearance of Christ-Jesus. This three and a half day death-like sleep can now be replaced by the force proceeding from the Christ. For we shall soon see that in the Gospel of St. John strong forces are present which render it possible for the present astral body, even though the ether body is still within the physical, to have the power to stamp upon the etheric what had previously been prepared within it. But for this to take place, Christ-Jesus must first be present. Up to this time without the above characterized procedure, humanity was not far enough advanced for the astral body to be able to imprint upon the ether body what had been prepared within it through meditation and concentration. This was a process which often took place within the Mysteries; a neophyte was brought into a death-like sleep by the Priest-Initiator and was guided through the higher worlds. He was then again called back into his physical body by the Priest-Initiator and thus became a witness of the spiritual world through his own experience.

This took place always in the greatest secrecy and the outer world knew nothing of the occurrences within these ancient Mysteries. Through Christ-Jesus a new initiation had to arise to replace the old, an initiation produced by means of forces of which we have yet to speak. The old form of initiation must end, but a transition had to be made from the old to the new age and to make this transition, someone had once more to be initiated in the old way, but initiated into Christian Esotericism. This only Christ-Jesus Himself could perform and the neophyte was the one who is called Lazarus. “This sickness is not unto death” [Jn 11,4], means here that it is the three and a half day death-like sleep. This is clearly indicated.

You will see that the presentation is of a very veiled character, but for one who is able to decipher a presentation of this kind it represents initiation. The individuality Lazarus had to be initiated in such a way that he could be a witness of the spiritual worlds. An expression is used, a very significant expression in the language of the Mysteries, “that the Lord loved Lazarus” [Jn 11,3,36]. What does “to love” mean in the language of the Mysteries? It expresses the relationship of the pupil to the teacher. “He whom the Lord loved” is the most intimate, the most deeply initiated pupil. The Lord Himself initiated Lazarus and as an initiate Lazarus arose from the grave, which means from his place of initiation.

Akashic, Page 6
Three Days' Journey, Page 2