Gustave Moreau “Saint George and the Dragon” (1890)
In hagiography, St. George is one of the greatest saints and martyrs, who lived in the third century AD in Turkey and was venerated as early as the fourth century. Legend has it that a dragon lived in the land of Silenia, Libya. The dragon approached the city killing its inhabitants and then took refuge in the swamps. In order to appease him, he was offered two sheep a day, until they came to the human sacrifice: a young man was drawn by lot, that is randomly, as a meal. The time came when the king’s daughter was drawn, who tried to prevent it by donating her goods, and in so doing raised a popular revolt since the sons of the people had been sacrificed. The princess thus decided to sacrifice herself, but at that very moment the knight George came galloping on his white horse, vowing to help her in the name of Christ. George fights with the dragon: showing the cross painted on his shield, he immobilizes the dragon and pierces it with his spear. He then told the princess to wrap her belt around the dragon’s neck: putting him on a leash, George and the princess arrived at the gates of the city. Then George asked the inhabitants to recognize Christ, and when they had done so, George killed the dragon, whose hide was kept as a remembrance of the deed.
Symbolically, St. George embodies the archetype of the knight, all orders and tales of chivalry will be inspired by this saint. Saint George is the one who conquered the mind, symbolized by the horse, which is white or pure as the full Moon, the cosmic mirror capable of reflecting all astral impulses in purity. The mind as it rests on the four elements, the legs of the horse, enough to be able to move powerfully, but not too much like the dragon that despite having wings is forced when on the ground to be in contact with it. The cruciferous shield is a symbol of the Sun, the spear is a ray of the Sun that pierces the darkness of matter, the Dragon.
The spear is also the ancient symbol of the Ego, that is, of the individual spirit, which is carried by those who have recognized the Christ, and which later will become the double-edged sword, that is, the Ego enthroned in the rational soul that “separates” and “unites”, having an even more individual value than the spear. About the shield, the red cross on a white field is the flag of Genoa, which was also given to England for the safe movement of ships from pirate attacks. The Republic of Genoa has St. George as its patron saint and Queen Mary, who remembers the princess. The princess is the soul of man, who risks dying in the deadly breath of the dragon, as well as the vital forces, symbolized by the sheep and the sacrificed youth: materialism kills the life of the soul.
St. George is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, who are invoked to heal from disease. Each of these Saints represents one aspect of the 14 pieces in which the solar spirit Osiris was cut out by his brother Seth, god of desert despair. In this Egyptian myth, the lunar goddess Isis, Osiris’ wife, recomposes her husband’s body and through magic she resurrects him to give birth to Horus. St. George represents the skin, or rather containment, also acting in the sense of containing the ferocity of the dragon in devouring human souls.
With regard to St. George from an anthroposophical point of view, we can reconnect to the pre-terrestrial sacrifices of Christ, that is, those sacrifices that Christ made in the descent of Christ from Eternity to enter into evolution in time and space with the Mystery of Golgotha, which represents the fourth sacrifice, the only manifesto as such in the physical world.
The four sacrifices are therefore:
1) The first sacrifice took place in the second half of the Lemurian Era. It was accomplished in the sphere of the Fixed Stars, the Zodiac, in the Superior Devachan (World of Reason) and was aimed at healing the 12 senses of the physical body, allowing them to harmonize into a unity.
2) The second sacrifice took place in the first half of the Atlantean Era. It was accomplished in the sphere of the Sun as a planet, in the Lower Devachan (World of Thought) and was aimed at healing the 7 organs of the etheric body, allowing everyone to carry out his activity in cooperation.
3) The third sacrifice took place in the second half of the Atlantean Era. It was accomplished in the sphere of the Moon in the Astral World, and was aimed at maintaining the relationship in the astral body between the three forces of the soul: thinking, feeling and wanting.
4) The fourth sacrifice took place in the fourth cultural epoch, the Greek-Roman one. It was accomplished in the sphere of the Earth, in the Physical World, and was aimed at restoring the heavenly condition between the ego and the physical body in the Body of Resurrection, taking it away from Lucifer and Ahriman.
At each of these descendants of Christ from the higher to the lower worlds, Christ joined the soul of Adam Kadmon, the Nathanic Soul of Jesus of which is told in Luke’s Gospel. This Second Adam is that human soul that remains preserved in the spiritual worlds despite the expulsion from Paradise and that will descend into incarnation once and only once into the child Jesus of Luke’s Gospel, the one who is born on December 25, warmed by the ox and donkey in the cave. He is the spiritual archetype of humanity in the form of an angel, the angel of humanity. Just as humanity begins as an angel, it is destined to become him again in the next earthly incarnation, the Future Jupiter.
Now, the iconography of St. George represents the image of a knight who defeats the Dragon: St. George is the Saint who “loves the Earth”, Georgeos, the farmer, that is, the one who “cultivates the Earth” in a spiritual sense, and out of love for it takes upon himself the mission to save it from the “chaos of the elements” which in alchemy is represented precisely by the Dragon. Since after the Temptation of Adam and Eve at the hand of Lucifer in the Lemur Era, the 4 ethers decay into the elements in atomic form, physically perceivable, as we know them: that is, they become “ashes”, by analogy with the fire that burns the wood and leaves behind the inert ashes. What was before in a completely living state, the creative chaos of the ether, is after the Expulsion from Paradise in a state of decadence: what was originally creative chaos, necessary for Creation itself, risks becoming only by chance, decaying in the realm of Ahriman and the other spirits of the obstacle, the so-called Eighth Sphere, a sphere of counter-evolution with respect to the Earth.
The elements that decay from the etheric to the physical state, lose the quality of living chaos. The chaos of the elements thus becomes the “case” of which materialistic science cannot do without. To this alludes also the legend when it says that “the youth of the city were drawn by lot and fed to the dragon”, that is, the ether that prevails in youth was killed by chance, exactly as it happens today with the forces of childhood that are sacrificed to a completely materialistic education. Once the chaos has decayed in chance it is possible for what was ether and now is atomic element, to fall into the calculating intelligence of “weight, number and measure” of Ahriman, which has as its very foundation the case and therefore the lie. In “calculating chance” Ahriman systematically kills the vital element still present in the substance, that is, traps the ether. Steiner exemplifies this ahrimanic-materialistic process in a very clear way:
This [materialistic] knowledge today is extremely cunning, highly intellectual; above all, it can calculate with mortal precision. The calculations are accurate – but they are not true. – Rudolf Steiner, Nessi Karmici, Volume 6, GA240.
In a lecture on December 30, 1913 (GA149), Steiner pointed to the spotless and fearless knight St. George as the earthly image of the heavenly soul of Jesus: just as the heavenly soul of Jesus took upon Himself Christ in His four sacrifices, so too did the knight George take upon Himself the mission of carrying Christ. The Second Adam offers to join Christ because he loves the Earth and humanity, fulfilling a mission contained in the name “George”. To this is added the archangelical image of Christ, that is Michael. We therefore have three beings who share in the coming of the solar spirit Christ:
The archangel Michael, the Face of Christ and fiery prince of thought;
The paradisiacal soul of Adam, the angelic form of man;
And finally the human being George who becomes a saint having become the herald of Christ.
Being the heavenly soul of Jesus essentially the original etheric body of humanity, the Star of Humanity (the Pentagram), we can say in other words that St. George possessed in himself a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth.
By killing the dragon, Saint George, is as if he became one with it, in the iconography this is shown by the fact that the spear does not kill the dragon directly, but rather unites the figure of the saint, the horse and the dragon in a triad: they become a single being. Through incarnation, the angelic Nathan Soul thus entered in the dragon to tame it from inside, so to restrict its power over the human soul. Christ redeemed Lucifer for humanity, but it is only man who can redeem Ahriman through Michael and Christ. This indicates how man must “enter the dragon’s skin”, that is, he must become incarnated in an ahrimanic world and conquer it from within, just as Christ was gradually incarnated in human nature until he experienced death on the cross. This is the meaning of St. George as the one who kills the dragon and keeps its skin, becoming one of the 14 Holy Helpers, the one who heals skin diseases. Christ had the mission to bring harmony to man and the Earth, restoring the possibility of reaching the heavenly condition, now man must unite himself to Christ in order to reach it.