This book explores a little-known example of Rudolf Steiner’s efforts to bring into being, in a practical and future-oriented way, a contemporary embodiment of the wisdom that once lived in the ancient Mysteries—in this instance a sequence of fifteen images of the Madonna, intended originally for contemplation under supervision in a clinical setting as a new form of therapy for those suffering from wounds of the soul.
The idea first arose in 1908 in a conversation with Dr. Felix Peipers after a lecture in which Steiner, addressing the subterranean spiritual links connecting ancient Egypt and our own time, described certain healing functions that were part of the Mysteries of the Goddess Isis. Steiner drew a parallel between Isis and the Christian Madonna, Mary, as, in some sense, the evolutionary metamorphosis of Isis, focusing on Raphael’s visionary image of her in his Sistine Madonna.
The sequence itself was not fully formulated until 1911. Consisting of a series of fifteen images, predominantly by Raphael, and one sculpture, the first half begins and ends with the Sistine Madonna, which “frames” and contextualizes it. The second half is similarly framed, but this time by two details from The Transfiguration.
Patients in Dr. Peipers’ clinic would establish a calm, reverential meditative soul mood before being led into a deep contemplation of the images in sequence. In addition to its therapeutic use, the entire sequence of images is well suited for individual meditation and contemplation.
Topics covered include: the mystery of seeing; Beauty, Truth and Goodness; whether the images are sacred-religious or secular-spiritual; the centrality of devotion; Sophia, the divine feminine Wisdom; the once-and-future Holy Mother; Isis and Madonna; the origins of the Madonna sequence; the pentagram, the etheric body, and the organization of the sequence; working with the images; and Rudolf Steiner’s healing mission. Also included are sections on the Sistine Madonna and The Transfiguration.
- By Way of Introduction
- Approaching the Images, or the Mystery of Seeing
- Truth, Beauty, and Goodness
- Sacred-Religious or Secular-Spiritual
- Enter The Sistine Madonna
- Devotion and Reverence
- Sophia: Wisdom Becomes Love
- The Presence of the Holy Mother
- The Ancient Mysteries
- Isis and Madonna
- The Origins of the Madonna Sequence
- A Short Prehistory of the Pentagram
- The Images, Etheric Body, and Organization Underlying the Sequence
The Healing Madonna Images
- Sistine Madonna (full image)
- Beautiful Gardener
- Alba Madonna
- Alba Madonna (detail)
- Pazzi Madonna
- Madonna of the Goldfinch (detail)
- Bridgemwater Madonna
- Sistine Madonna (detail)
- Tempi Madonna
The publication of this work was made possible by a grant from the Waldorf Curriculum Fund.
About the Author
Christopher Bamford is Editor in Chief, Emeritus, for SteinerBooks and its imprints. A Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, he has lectured, taught, and written widely on Western spiritual and esoteric traditions. He is the author of The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (1990) and An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West(2003). He has also translated and edited numerous books, including Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness (1982);Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science; and The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz (all published by Lindisfarne Books).