On the Secret of Pentecost
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. – 1 Corinthians 13:12
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:13
The description of the event of Pentecost with its descending tongues of fire and the ability to “speak in tongues” can seem so strange and unbelievable to our modern minds. It will be understood again when we discover that it was a down-pouring of understanding. Perhaps no-one has described this perspective better than Rudolf Steiner in his description of that Sunday morning some two thousand years ago:
“The apostles felt like awakened individuals who had lived for a long time in an unusual state of consciousness. It was really like a kind of awakening from a deep sleep, from a strange, dream-filled sleep, in which one carries out the everyday tasks of life as reasonable people do, so that others do not notice that one is in a different state of consciousness. Then came the moment when it seemed to the apostles that they had lived through a long time as in a dream from which they awoke with the Pentecost event. And they experienced this awakening in an extraordinary way: they really felt as though something we can only call the substance of all-encompassing love had descended on them from out of the universe. The apostles felt impregnated by all-encompassing love and awakened from the described dream-like state. As though they had been awakened by all that which as the source of the power of love pervades and warms the universe, as though this source of the power of love had penetrated the soul of each one of them. They seemed very strange to the others who heard how they talked. Those others knew that they had previously led very simple lives, but some of them had been acting strangely in the previous days, as though lost in dreams. Now, however, they were as transformed: like people who had achieved a new state of mind or soul disposition, like people who had lost all the narrow restrictions, all the egotism of life, who had gained an infinitely wide heart and all-embracing tolerance, a deeply heartfelt understanding of all that is human on earth. They could also express themselves so that everyone present could understand them. One felt also that they could see into each heart and soul and clarify the secrets of the soul, so they could comfort the other, could tell him exactly what he needed.
It was of course astonishing that such a transformation could happen to a number of people. But those people who experienced the transformation, who had been awakened by the cosmic spirit of love, those people felt in themselves a new understanding for what had acted in common in their souls, but which they had until then not understood.” – Rudolf Steiner, from a lecture given in Oslo, Norway, October 2, 1913