By Robert Powell

The wave of Christ's etheric return repeats itself rhythmically every 33 1//3 years, mirroring His earthly life, and dividing each century into three parts. In this respect, the 33 1/3 year rhythm is a key rhythm underlying the New Age, the age of the second coming. The first third of the twentieth century, during which the descent of the Risen One from cosmic heights was taking place, saw the birth of Anthroposophy in preparation for Christ's return to the etheric aura of the Earth In Stockholm, on the evening of January 12, 1910, the founder of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, proclaimed the imminent return to the Earth's aura of the Risen One in etheric form. On this day in 1910 the Sun was in conjunction with the planet Uranus, the planet which is often associated with the bringing in of new impulses. Rudolf Steiner's deed at this moment of inspiration made him a prophet of the second coming-a kind of twentieth century "John the Baptist"-but his~death in 1925 precluded him from experiencing that which he had foretold: Christ's entrance into the Earth's etheric aura one-third of the way through this century, signifying the onset of the New Age.

An acquaintance with Rudolf Steiner's life's work reveals that he was endowed with the faculty of being able to extend his consciousness not only to the Earth's etheric aura but also to cosmic realms beyond, within which he could behold the descent of the Risen One towards the Earth. Hence he could be certain of the truth of his proclamation concerning the second coming, even to the extent of dating the onset of this event to begin one third of the way through this century. But for those whose consciousness has not yet developed to the extent of being able to perceive beyond the physical plane of existence into the etheric world, the question remains: Is it possible to know with certainty that the second coming within the Earth's etheric aura has already begun?

Obviously there can be no "proof" of the second coming in the sense of a scientific demonstration, but nevertheless some-evidence of this event has been provided by witnesses of the~second coming who have reported their experiences. For example, there is the Russian witness of 1933 referred to in the Appendix "The Second Coming" in my book Hermetic Astrology, who spoke of Christ beginning to move "from the West to the East in wave-like lines. He will begin in America and win continue through Europe to the north-east of Europe". Then again, there is the witness borne by David Spangler in his book Revelation: The Birth of a New Age: "Like most great events, the birth of the New Age occurred quietly...the Cosmic Christ descended and entered the life of Earth on all its Christ walks amongst us again, though clothed in etheric energy, and His Presence quickens the etheric and spiritual life of all who can open in love and peace, and responding, arise to His level...the true Second Coming has occurred and is this revelation and release of Christ Life within the inner planes of Christmas 1967 the initiation was complete...the New Age had been born". (Chapter 4).

This can be interpreted to mean that the first 33 1/3 year period of Christ's etheric return within the Earth's etheric aura was completed by Christmas 1967. Thus, although at present we are living in the third 33 1/3 year period measured from the cosmic commencement of the New Age in 1900, from the standpoint of the Earth and mankind we are now living in the second 33 1/3 year period of the second coming, which will culminate at the end of this century.

(Rudolph Steiner spoke of the New Age, the "Age of Light': as having begun in the year 1900. Since the year 1900 denotes the start of the first 33 1/3 year period of the twentieth century' which cuIminated with the entrance of Christ into the Earth's etheric one third of the way through this century, it is certainly true to regard 1900 as the cosmically initiated commencement of the new Age. From an earthly standpoint, however, the end of the first 33 1/3 year period after this cosmic commencement signified the onset of the Second coming- and therewith the start of the New Age-for the Earth and mankind.)

But, apart from Rudolf Steiner, who was a herald of the New Age in its cosmic perspective, who already in 1910 prophesied the onset of the second coming in the 1930's, and apart from the witness of 1933, who described the beginning of the second coming within the Earth's etheric aura, and apart from David Spangler, who bore witness to the culmination of the first 33 1/3 year period in 1967, are there others who have experienced the Risen One in the twentieth century?

A remarkable book published in Stockholm in 1973 confirms the truth of Rudolf Steiner's prophecy first made in Stockholm in the year 1910. Bearing in mind the words of the witness of 1933 concerning the Etheric Christ: "He will begin in America' and will continue through Europe to the north-east of Europe", it seems appropriate-shortly after the culmination of the first 33 1/3 year period of the wave of the etheric return-that a number of testimonies of experiences of the Risen One from people in Scandinavia have been recorded and presented in book form. It should be added that these testimonies, as far as can be judged, are from people who have no connection either with Anthroposophy or the "New Age" movement, people from all walks of life who have nothing in common apart from the Christian faith.

The book, entitled They Experienced the Christ, was published as a report, compiled by Gunnar Hillerdal and Berndt Gustafsson, of the Religious-sociological Institute of Stockholm. The first edition was published in Stockholm by Verbum in 1973 and a second edition in 1979. Also in 1979, a German translation, Sie erlebten Christus, translated from the Swedish by Dr Boris Tullander, was published by Verlag die Pforte in Basel, Switzerland. From the Foreword it appears that the book came about seemingly by chance. Some letters received by Gunnar Hillerdal, which reported unusual experiences ("meetings with Christ"), led Hillerdal, after consultation with Berndt Gustafsson, to place an advertisement in a 1arge Swedish daily newspaper. This was on December 24, 1972. The response went far beyond the expectations of Hillerdal and Gustafsson. The wealth of reports they received, many deeply impressive and detailed descriptions of profound personal experiences, induced them to edit a selection of the accounts and present them in the form of a book.

Before considering the material published by Hillerdal and Gustafsson, it may be helpful to review some points made by Rudolf Steiner with respect to the second coming. On numerous occasions (from 1910 onwards) he spoke of the onset-in the course of the twentieth century-of a new "Christ revelation", the outcome of which would be such that a number of people would be able to perceive Christ in His etheric form. He called this the "greatest mystery of the twentieth century", but warned of dire consequences if it were not to be heeded by mankind. He emphasized that Christ would come in the etheric world, and would be active from there for the good of mankind and the Earth, independently of whether or not He would be recognized by human beings. In his descriptions as to how people would experience the Etheric Christ, he pointed to Him as a helper and comforter of needy, sick, and despairing human beings. Rudolf Steiner indicated how it would be possible for all human beings to draw near to Him in what he characterized as the way to the Christ through thinking:

"Instead of taking an interest merely in my own way of thinking, and in what I consider right, I must develop a selfless interest in every opinion I encounter, however strongly I may hold it to be mistaken. The more a man prides himself on his own dogmatic opinions and is interested only in them, the further he removes himself, at this moment of world-evolution, from the Christ. The more he develops a social interest in the opinions of other men, even though he considers them erroneous-the more light he receives into his own thinking from the opinions of others-the more he does to fulfil in his inmost soul a saying of Christ, which today must be interpreted in the sense of the new Christ-language. Christ said: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me". The Christ never ceases to reveal Himself anew to meneven unto the end of earthly time. And thus He speaks today to those willing to listen: "In whatever the least of your brethren thinks, you must recognize that I am thinking in him; and that I enter into your feeling, whenever you bring another's thought into relation with your own, and whenever you feel a fraternal interest for what is passing in another's soul. Whatever opinion, whatever outlook on life, you discover in the least of your brethren, therein you are seeking Myself". So does the Christ speak to our life of thought-the Christ who desires to reveal Himself in a new way-the time for it is drawing near-to the men of the twentieth century...This is the way which today must be characterized as the way to the Christ through thinking."

(Rudolf Steiner, The Inner Aspect of the Social Question; trsl. C. Davy, Rudolf Steiner Press, u London, 1974, pp. 40-41).

Since experience of Christ in His second coming is on the whole an intimate subjective encounter with the Divine, most people who have had such an experience do not usually speak about it, except perhaps to their husbands or wives or close friends. For this reason these spiritual experiences, of a deep and profound nature, do not generally become communicated to a wider public. It is therefore something quite out of the ordinary that over one hundred people in Scandinavia reported their "Christ encounters" in writing, and that a selection of these reports have been published in book form. In a clear and remarkable way, these reports confirm Rudolf Steiner's - prophetic announcement of the second coming.

Many of the appearances of Christ described in the book They experienced Christ are to people in need, and to the sick. Of these, the following, related by a pregnant woman from Denmark, who had become ill with malaria after visiting Thailand, gives an indication of the comforting presence of the Risen One to people in despair:

"On Christmas Eve my temperature soared rapidly agin. I was brought to the maternity ward of the hospital, received pain-killers, and came into a room where I was quite alone. The doctors and nurse encouraged me to be brave and not to be afraid. A nurse brought a bowl of red soup, and I ate it. Strange that I could do this. After the operation I was brought back to the room. A young doctor entered and said words to the effect that our child would not live. At these words everything went black, totally dark. Beyond time and space. Death. This I did not know. But suddenly He was there. I saw Him coming, but did not know who He was. With His left hand He took hold of my right and filled me with a joy that cannot be described with words; I felt blessedness, peace, joy, thankfulness. Words are unable to describe it."

A second account by a Norwegian woman relates her experience in hospital after she had had an accident in which her leg became bored through with steel wire. She lay in bed and suffered much pain. She said she felt himself abandoned by God. Then she heard someone coming. A figure drew near:

"He wore a long white garment, was tall and majestic, with a radiant golden crown on his head. In spite of the kingly appearance and sublime dignity, unending compassion streamed forth from him. He said: "today you have seen many doctors here, and you know that there is one who calls himself the head physician. You should know, however, that I am the one who is the head physician in this house, and this is my visiting time. When evening comes, when the lights are dimmed and the noise dies down, I make my rounds; for then I have a chance to speak to the hearts of those here. And I say to you: You thirst, I thirsted also; you feel yourself abandoned by God, so it was with me: also; you have hard, cold iron in your flesh and blood, so had I also. " He did not say more; he turned and disappeared. But I felt such joy that I could have leapt out of bed...And I was allowed to feel in my own body something of that which He had suffered for all of us."

In this appearance the words of Christ from the Cross are called to mind: "I thirst" and "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me", as well as the fact of the hands and feet of Christ having been pierced through by nails.

Also frequently reported are appearances of Christ during holy communion, such as the following account, by a Swedish woman, of an experience she underwent in 1966 or 1967 in a church in Onsala:

"As the congregation went up to the altar to receive communion, I remained sitting. I thought I would not go alone today, but would wait for another occasion. I sat to the right in the church, one or two rows under the gallery. I believe that another person also sat beside me. As I was sitting and thinking this, I saw a brilliant appearance in the aisle, just in front of the row where I was sitting, approximately the height of a man. To my left I heard a voice which spoke the~ single word "Christ". It was as if someone was referring to this appearance in order to say who it was. A moment later I heard from this appearance the words: "Whoever does not eat and drink with me has not part of me. " Then the whole disappeared instantaneously. I do not know if this formulation is in the Bible, whether it was spoken by Jesus, but I recall the words exactly. I stood up immediately to go to the altar..."

In this appearance the words of Jesus Christ from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John are recalled: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you...He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. "

Apart from appearances to the sick and needy, and apart from experiences in connection with holy communion, several artists report in They experienced Christ of their encounter with Christ. One example of this is that of an artist who was painting a picture depicting Christ in the garden of Gethsemane:

"The whole time that I was painting the picture I regretted that I had agreed to sell it. When the painting was finished, I put it in front of the door to my balcony. I sat down on the sofa on the opposite side of the room. Then it seemed to me as if Christ's eyes and also His hands moved. The flowers in the garden began to come alive. They turned into human beings surrounding Christ. Then I saw Christ moving from one side of the painting to the other. O, how he spoke! But I recall only the "Gethsemane". In a flash of lightning Christ disappeared, clothed in a light blue cloak. In his place sat Mary, clothed with a red cloak, and holding a baby in her arms. She moved and so did the child. A voice spoke, "Christ is born again ". Then I saw again a flash of lightning and Christ stood there as before. He spoke the whole time; I saw how his lips moved, but now I heard no words. All this repeated itself several times. First it was Christ, then again Mary with the child."

Not all the encounters described in They experienced Christ are of a visual nature. Several refer to the experience of the presence of Christ, a strong and unmistakable sensation of His nearness as a silent, comforting, guiding strength. Others describe inner auditory experiences of Christ in which words of help and consolation spoken by Him are received quietly and inwardly. Almost all those who have had this latter kind of experience, as well as others who both saw Him and heard Him, convey their impression of His soft and gentle voice, full of love. Those who have seen Him often describe the power of His loving gaze, His all penetrating look. And many refer to the radiant light in which He is bathed, such as in the following account:

"Suddenly the room became indescribably full of light. It became so bright that the eyes hurt. The light radiated out from the middle of the room. An unparalleled radiance came from the lamp on the ceiling and spread forth in all possible kinds of beautiful rays, as if emitted, by a star. In the midst of these rays stood Jesus, vibrantly alive, before me."

As far as it is possible to judge from the selection of reports in They Experienced Christ, a large proportion of the appearances of Christ took place at night, with midnight often being referred to. One account describes that it was the night of the Full Moon:

"It was a strange evening, Full Moon, and a tremendous storm. I stood at the window and looked at the clouds chasing across the heavens, and thought of a poem by Hjalmar Gullberg. After I had spoken the poem, someone came into my room. I knew instantly Who it was, and sank upon my knees at the window-sill, and did not dare to turn my head to look at Him. Light and peace radiated from Him, transcending all understanding. I distinctly felt the touch of His hand as He bent towards me and took away my burdenthe burden that I am not fit to be His servant. How long I knelt at the window-sill, I do not know. But outside, looking i through the window, there appeared out of the dark cross another Cross, which was bright and reached up to heaven His voice explained to me the Mystery of the Cross. I did not hear a voice, but the meaning of the Cross became clear to me in a miraculous way. The whole question of sacrifice had been so difficult for me to grasp; now I suddenly understood, so I believe, the profound sense of Christ's deed of sacrifice and its significance for every single human being. A tremendously great perspective opened up. I saw the Cross between heaven and earth as an axis about which everything revolves, the innermost mystery of creation...Divine Love."

( She had been looking at the shadow of the cross formed by the wood in the window.)

This account calls to mind that Christ's death on the Cross on Good Friday took place at the time of the Full Moon.

The foregoing descriptions translated from They Experienced Christ reveal that a number of people have had experiences of Jesus Christ in His second coming, since the onset of this event in the twentieth century. From these descriptions it is evident that Rudolf Steiner's prophecy is ; confirmed: appearances of the Etheric Christ can take place unexpectedlyanywhere, at any timeto anyone. Who can tell just how many people in our time may have had such experiences? Common to all these appearances is the experience of Hi n as a comforter, helper, and source of healing strength. This profound, personal experience is unforgettable, a sacred memory, generally signifying not only a breakthrough to the religious dimension of existence but also being I accompanied by a great strengthening of the soul and of the life forces. To use Rudolf Steiner's words, this is the "greatest mystery of the twentieth century", betokening the arising of a New Age, an Age of Light.