The Cycle of the Year by Rudolf Steiner

Published by Anthroposophic Press, Ny, 1984

(From 5 Lectures in Dornach 31 March to 8 April, 1923)

Book Review by Bobby Matherne, Copyright 1989

Rudolf Steiner brings fresh insight to the four seasons of the year by analyzing their pivotal points. The vernal equinox is the Easter point, the summer solstice is the St. John's point, the autumnal equinox is the St. Michael's point, and the winter solstice is the Christmas point. Each point has a thought associated with it and a festival. Christmas and Easter are the most familiar festivals, but the Midsummer's (St. John's Day) and Michaelmas (St. Michael's Day) require some elaboration, and that is the theme of the book. The first cardinal points he deals with are Easter and Michaelmas. The Easter thought in Steiner's words is, "Let us lay him in the grave. He has risen." On the opposite end of the year is Michaelmas, whose thought is, "He has risen. Let us lay Him in the grave." In the fall of the year the spirit of the trees and plants has risen, leaving behind their fading physical bodies represented by their leaves' red, orange, and gold colors.

In the heart of winter the thought is directed inward in humans just as the earth has inhaled its spirit completely. In summer the spirit is fully exhaled as evinced by the lush growth of plants and trees. Thus does Steiner build a yearly respiratory cycle for the earth. The four festivals at the anchor points of the seasons are aimed at renewing in humans the primordial experience of this annual respiratory cycle of the planet on which they live. By establishing rapport with this cycle, human life alternates from breathing in spirit (winter) to breathing out spirit (summer). This cycle has been taught by mystery schools for aeons and is presented here in simple logical fashion by Steiner.

The cycle helps explain why summer is such a vacation time: the summer thought is "know nature."

The cycle of the year is designed into many human activities and celebrations already. Reading this book helps one to appreciate the logic, reason, and all around good sense behind the cycle of the year.