Giotto di Bondone “The Stigmatization of Saint Francis”
The story of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) is linked to the story of Barlaam and Josaphat, narrated in Manichean circles and dating back to the sixth century, in which the Indian prince Josaphat received the impulse of Christ from the hermit Barlaam. Barlaam is the Buddha, he welcomed Christ into the spiritual world and now enlightens his representative in order to lead the next Bodhisattva, Josaphat. He is one of the incarnations of the Maitreya Buddha.
In the 7th and 8th centuries, near the Black Sea, there was a very important initiatory school in which he taught the Buddha in the spiritual body. In such schools there are masters who teach by being incarnated in a physical body; but, for the more advanced disciples, it is also possible to obtain guidance from a teacher who teaches by being present with only the etheric body. Thus, the Buddha taught there for those who were able to receive higher knowledge. Among the Buddha’s disciples there was, at that time, one who would incarnate again a few centuries later. We speak of a personality – then present in the physical body – who, centuries later, would live again in a physical body, in Italy, and who we know as St. Francis of Assisi. The peculiar nature of Francis of Assisi, who has so much resemblance – even in the life of his monks – to the Buddha’s disciples, comes from the fact that Francis of Assisi himself was a disciple of the Buddha. – Rudolf Steiner
In St. Francis lives the same Buddhist spirit renewed by Christ. Francis of Assisi had in himself a copy of the astral body of Christ Jesus and from this fact derive his spiritual and biographical experiences. For the first time in history a human being of patì again the same identical sufferings suffered by Christ Jesus. Around the 21 years, Francis, that from always had fighting spirit, came imprisoned, having lost a battle of the Ghibelline Assisi against the Guelph Perugia. When it came out from the jail it was reduced in finite of life, is externally that inwardly: it was in that moment so close to the death that received the astral of Jesus.
Because of the fact that in that astral body also intesseva Jesus of the Gospel of Luca, intesseva in Francis the innocence of the Adam before the Expulsion from the Paradise, which still lived in the divine ecstasy. Francis thus embodies both the archetypal soul of man before suffering, the first Adam or Adam paradisiacal; and after the Passion, the second Adam, lived in the Jesus of Nazareth.
From this reliving of the Passion, his spiritual experience culminates with the vision of Christ as Seraphim who gives him the stigmata for the first time in history. These correspond to the 4th stage of initiation of the Christian Way, the “Crucifixion”.
From the fact that Francis lived in communion with the astral body of Jesus Christ also springs his sharing with Nature and in particular with the Animal Kingdom: animals possess an incarnated astral body and are therefore linked to the astral body of man of which they represent, in fact, an exteriorization.
The astral body of man was formed in the third metamorphosis of the Ancient Moon, when man had a dream consciousness, and the animals incarnated the astral before man in order to take with them the characteristics that would have made man too specialized, implying that he incarnated the Ego. That is why animals today live in a dream state. In other words, the animals made a sacrifice in favor of man’s soul.
Linked to this is the Seraphim encountered by Francis: the Seraphim, the Spirits of Love, are the sublime hierarchy that in the Ancient Moon laid the seed of the Spiritual Self or Manas in the astral body of man. It is in a certain sense, the Superior Ego of man in whose action will be placed the whole sixth epoch of culture, the Russian-Slavic, or Aquarius Era.
Francis created a community that respected the Gospel rather than the Catholic Church. So much so that initially the church tried to crush this movement, just as it crushed other “heretical pauperistic” movements, that is, that preached the return to simplicity and poverty, among which we can also see the Cathars, finally eradicated with the siege of Montsegur in 1244. We can therefore say that “Rule of St. Francis” was in fact reworked several times and not only by Francis, in order to incorporate the Franciscan way into the Catholic Church.
Now it will become clear how in the writings of Francis it is possible to trace Buddhist compassion, since the previous incarnation of Francis was that Buddhist monk connected to the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat. It was after that incarnation that, during his stay in the spiritual world, he had the possibility to take upon himself the astral body of the heavenly Adam. In the sign of Buddhism enlightened by Christ, that of proclaiming the Gospel of Luke to the Pastors, Francis became a bearer of peace.
From this return to the Christianity of the origins derives the choice of Francis to strip himself of all that was superfluous, to live in communion with Nature, where with the term “communion” we can understand the very being one with the astral body of Christ Jesus, making him able to return to the adamic state of the Earthly Paradise.
In the biographical story of St. Francis and in what he did, renouncing the excesses of exteriority for the greater life in the interior, we must see summarized the ideal that the soul of the Italian people should aspire to achieve. It is no coincidence that the Patron Saint of Italy was born in Umbria, halfway between Rome, from which he promoted the most ancient impulse, and Florence, from which a more modern impulse would have derived, preparing the spiritual ground for the following spiritual evolution.
Think of the Supreme Poet Dante, through whose Divine Comedy the Italian language was born; as well as the spiritual atmosphere of the Florence of the Medici with the Neoplatonic Academy, within which Marsilio Ficino translated the Corpus Hermeticum from which the whole Renaissance was born, allowing the flowering of the highest artistic expression in the world with Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raffaello, iridescent expressions of the soul penetrated by the solar impulse. Now, if we follow these spiritual nexuses, we can recognize how the Renaissance is due in the beginning to the spiritual rebirth of a single man, Francis.
In order to characterize the personal moral forces that were concentrated in the individuality of Francis of Assisi we try to delineate the thing before the soul as it presents itself to the occultist, even at the cost of being accused of madness or superstition. It is good to take these facts seriously, because they acted just as seriously in that period of transition. It is known that Francis of Assisi was the son of the merchant Pietro Bernardone and his wife Pica. The father made many trips to France for business and was a man whose outward appearances were very much at heart. The mother was woman of pious virtue, of fine sensibility of heart, devoted and religious. The legends surrounding the birth and life of Francis of Assisi really correspond to occult facts. Often in the history occult facts really happened are adombrati with images and legends. So it is absolutely true that a certain number of people, before Francis of Assisi was born, came to know by means of visions or revelations that an important personality had to be born, among them St. Francis of Assisi. Hildegard*. I insist on these historical facts, controlled through the investigation of the akasha chronicle. To St. Hildegard there appeared in a dream a woman with a torn face, dripping with blood, who told her: “Here, on earth, birds have their nest, their voIps…their dens, but I have nothing, not even a stick to lean on. When Hildegard woke up from this dream, she was aware that this being represented the true image of Christianity. So many other people dreamed, and they were convinced that the external apparatus of the Church was not the proper shell to contain true Christianity. So it really happened – that, while Pietro Bernardone was in France on business, a pilgrim entered the house of Pica, the mother of Francis of Assisi, and said to her: “The son that you wait for will not be able to come into the world in this house where the superfluous abounds. To follow his master he will have to be born on straw and therefore you will have to give birth to him in the stable! ». It is not legend, but pure truth, that invitation addressed to the mother of Francis of Assisi. For which, while the father was absent, the birth of the child could take place so on straw and in the stable. Also what follows corresponds to truth: some time after the birth of the child, in the place where he was born, a strange man was seen, never seen before and never again after, who walked the streets announcing: “In this city was born an important man! “Another people who still lived in a state of clairvoyant consciousness heard a ringing of bells at the hour of the birth of Francis of Assisi. Many similar events could still be enumerated, but these are enough for us to show how the whole spiritual world was concentrated on the appearance of a single personality. Adding still another episode, all this will appear more and more interesting. The mother had thought that the child should be called John, and so he was called. Only when his father returned from France, since he had done good business in France, did he want his son to be called Francis. But originally the child was called Giovanni. We only need to take a few facts from the life of this singular personality. What is revealed to us about the man Francis of Assisi, observing him as a boy? It reveals us that he behaves like a descendant of the ancient Germanic cavalry, and this should not surprise us given the many mixes of peoples followed by the invasions from the north: brave, battling, pervaded by the ideal of acquiring fame and honours with weapons. This was also the main dowry that Francis of Assisi inherited as a characteristic of race. It can be said that, in him, the properties that in the ancient germanesimo were presented under the inner aspect of dowries of the heart and the soul, appear rather esteriorizzate. Thus he became nothing more than a dissipator. He was a wealthy merchant, a very wealthy merchant. Wherever he went he lavished the riches and fruits of his father’s work. He was always ready to distribute gifts to his playmates. No wonder, therefore, that he was always elected leader by his young companions during the childish war games and that everyone really considered him a boy-warrior. As such he was known throughout the city. Between the young people of Assisi and Perugia there were often of the fights; during one of these Francis was captured and held prisoner with his young companions. Not only sopportò not only cavalierescamente the imprisonment, but it incited also the others to imitate it, until after a year all were freed and they could return to their residences. And when, being in cavalry service, he found himself in the need to take part in an expedition against Naples; the young Francesco had a vision in his dream. He saw in a great palace many shields and many weapons; and he saw a part of the building where were scattered fragments of weapons. He drew the consequence that this was an incitement to become a warrior and he decided to take part in the war against Naples. But already because of this, and even more so after he had joined the expedition, he had various visions and inner revelations; he heard a voice saying to him: “Don’t go any further, you have misinterpreted the vision of the dream that was of the utmost importance to you. He obeyed these words, he returned to Assisi, and there he had a spiritual conversation with a being who said to him: “You do not have to serve outwardly your vocation as a knight. You are destined to transform all your forces into forces of the soul, to be shaped as weapons that you will have to use animically. All of the weapons that you saw in the palette mean for you the soul and spiritual weapons of piety, compassion and love. All the shields mean the strength of reason and discernment to keep you strong in the sufferings of a life dedicated to piety, compassion and love. A brief but quite dangerous illness followed, from which however he recovered. Then he lived for several days in a retrospective vision that extended over his entire past life. The brave knight who in his boldest dreams had longed so much to become a warrior hero, had hardened himself to new strength in a man who went in search of the moral impulses of compassion, pity and love, to the extreme. All the forces he wanted to use in service of the physical plane had been transformed into moral impulses of the inner life. It is not without significance that we observe a great moral impulse, because not every individual can always rise to the highest peaks of moral impulses, and learning can only be learned from those in whom the impulses are radically expressed and in whom we see them acting in their greatest power. Exactly when we direct our attention to the great fundamental things, to observe the small things in the light that shines from those, we can arrive at a right point of view on the moral impulses of life. So what happened in the case of Francis of Assisi? It is not necessary to describe the struggles that he had with his father, when he passed to a whole other kind of prodigality. The father could still understand the previous prodigality of the son who gave fame and lustre to his father’s house, but he could not understand that the son, after his transformation, threw away his best clothes, and also the indispensable, to give everything to the needy. He could not understand the transformation that had led his son to say to himself: “It is incredible how little attention is paid to those through whom Christian impulses have achieved such great results in the West,” and that this led him to make a pilgrimage to Rome to lay a large sum of money on the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul. The father could not understand these things. It is not necessary to describe the struggles that followed. He found a wonderful use for what was now developing in him. At that time many European countries were obsessed with the fear of leprosy. The Church had an extraordinary method for curing lepers, which was very numerous at the time. The priests called the sick to themselves and said to them: “You have been struck by this disease in this life, but if you are lost for life, you are conquered to God, you are consecrated to the Lord”; and the sick person was sent away to solitary places where his life ended alone and abandoned by all. Not that I reproach this cure; no other cure was known, nor any better. But Francis of Assisi knew, instead, a better one, and here it speaks about it because this will lead us out of the immediate experiences until the sources of morality. In the next few days we will see why we deal with these things. Francis of Assisi was guided to look for lepers.wherever they were without fear of contagion. And an evil against which then nothing could the drugs, for which it was necessary to remove the sick from the human community, was healed in many cases by Francis of Assisi, because he presented himself to these people with the forces of his moral impulses that took away the fear and gave him more and more the courage not only to wash thoroughly the wounds of the sick, but to live with them, to cure them intensely, to kiss them, to penetrate them with his love. It is not only poetry, therefore, the healing of poor Henry through the work of the daughter of the faithful servant; it reflects what in many cases at that time had happened through the well known historical personality of Francis of Assisi. Let us realize what has happened. E’ happened that in a man like Francis of Assisi was present an immense capital of psychic life; what we have found in the ancient European populations, under form of courage and audacity, had transformed in him in active animic and spiritual strength. The same impulse that in ancient times, in the form of courage and audacity, had led to a waste of personal energy, and still manifested itself in Francis of Assisi in his youthful prodigality, now instead pushes him to become a prodigator of moral forces. He overflowed with moral strength, and effectively what he had in him poured out on all those to whom he turned his love. We must absolutely feel that there is a reality in this, similar to that which is in the air we breathe and without which we could not live. A similar reality flowed in the limbs of Francis of Assisi and from here in all the hearts to which he dedicated himself, because Francis of Assisi prodigavano a fullness of forces that flowed out of him; and just this quid flowed in the whole life of the more mature Europe and it was incorporated transforming itself in animic element and acting simultaneously in the external reality. Let us reflect well on these facts, which may, after all, perhaps seem alien to the current moral problems. Let’s try to understand what lies at the basis of Indian devotion and Nordic courage; let’s consider the healing action of the moral forces that were used by Francis of Assisi, and tomorrow we can talk about the essence of the true moral impulses. We will see that these are not only words, but authentic realities that act in the soul and found morality. – Rudolf Steiner, Christ and the human soul, The sources of morality, pp. 70-76