VIII: tree

When Steiner spoke, then as a theosophist, one week before christmas 1906, he was standing next to a christmas tree. He spoke about the signs and symbols of christmas, some of which were the conrete decorations hanging in the tree, but I won’t speak of them now (although the pentagram was already mentioned the other day, and before that there was an entry about candles, which also has some significance, naturally). For this entry, today, let’s focus on the tree itself.

And so in the whole content of the Christmas Festival we feel something echoing from primeval ages. It has come over to us in the imagery belonging to Christianity. The symbols of Christianity are reflections of the most ancient symbols used by man. The lighted Christmas Tree is one of them. For us it is a symbol of the Tree of Paradise, representing all-embracing material nature. Spiritual Nature is represented by the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. [Steiner, 1906.]

He then spoke about the christmas tree again in 1911.

It is only one or at most two centuries ago that the Christmas Tree became a symbol of the thoughts and feelings which arise in man at the Christmas season. The Christmas Tree is a recent symbol but each year anew it reveals to man a great, eternal truth. That is why we imagine that it must always have existed, even in the remote past. It is as if from the Christmas Tree itself there resounded the proclamation of the Divine in the cosmic expanse, in the heavenly heights. The human being can feel this to be the unfailing source of those forces of peace in his soul which spring from good-will. [Steiner, 1911.]

And again in 1921 (and here it gets truly intricate with christ and god and stuff, forgive the long quote).

It is only by striving for a new understanding of Christ that we can truly celebrate the Christmas Festival to-day. Can it be said that this Festival still has any real meaning for the majority of people? It has become a beautiful custom to take the Christmas Tree as the symbol of the Festival, although as a matter of fact this custom is hardly a century old. … What is the Christmas Tree, in reality? When we endeavour to discover its meaning and know of the legend telling that it grew from the tiny branch carried in the arms of the boy Ruprecht on the 6th of December, when we follow its history, it dawns upon us that the Christmas Tree is directly connected with the Tree of Paradise. The mind turns to the Tree of Paradise, to Adam and Eve. This is one aspect of the way in which the Mystery of Golgotha can again be proclaimed in our time. The mind turns from the Mystery of Golgotha, back to the world’s beginning. The meaning of world-redemption is not understood and the mind turns again to the Divine creation of the world. This comes to expression in the fact that the real symbol of Christmas — the Crib — so beautifully presented in the Christmas Plays of earlier centuries, is gradually being superseded by the Christmas Tree which is, in reality, the Tree of Paradise. The old Jahve religion usurped the place of Christianity and the Christmas Tree is the symbol of its recrudescence. But in its reappearance the Jahve religion has been split into multiple divisions. Jahve was worshipped, and rightly worshipped, as the one, undivided Godhead in an age when his people felt themselves to be a single, self-contained unity not looking beyond their own boundaries and full of the expectation that one day they would fill the whole earth. But in our time, although people speak of Christ Jesus, in reality they worship Jahve. In the various nations (this was all too evident in the war), men spoke of Christ but were really venerating the original Godhead who holds sway in heredity and in the world of nature — Jahve. Thus we have the Christmas Tree on the one side, and on the other, national Gods at a level inferior to that of the Christian reality. These were the principles by which men’s comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha was diverted back again to the conceptions belonging to a much earlier epoch. The assertion of the principle of nationality, the claiming of national Gods, denotes a step backward into the old Jahve religion. Those who see fit to worship Christ as a national God — it is they who deny Him most deeply. [Steiner.] (1921)

The anthroposophical christmas three is a conventional tree — a coniferous tree, usually a fir tree. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that the tree is conventional, since some of its decorations are certainly not!

fir trees (where they belong and are most beautiful: in nature)