16 May The Esoteric Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer
We previously have shared some orthodox interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer, such as those from John Wesley, Charles Kingsley, and Helmut Thielicke, so as to highlight the differences between their traditional commentary and the Living Hour’s more metaphysical approach.
While our book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life is viewed by some as being a little esoteric, it is not so esoteric as the work of authors such as Rudolf Steiner, whose interpretations of the Our Father prayer rely on arcane theosophical knowledge. In contrast, our metaphysical interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer remains rooted in the direct mystical teachings of Jesus, which we link to in over 200 Gospel citations throughout our work.
However, our commentary on the Lord’s Prayer does share some common ground with Steiner’s analysis. And we do find the work of esoteric teachers worth reading and contemplating. So, we are going to share with you some of what Steiner wrote about the esoteric meaning of the Lord’s Prayer.
Before we start with Rudolf Steiner’s interpretation, a quick background on Steiner’s esoteric philosophy is needed. According to Steiner, human beings are composed of 7 parts or levels: a blending of the three higher potentials (spirit self, life spirit and spirit man) with the four existing lower principles (physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego) developed in a far-distant past. Thus Steiner views the Lord’s Prayer as an appeal to these 7 parts of us, which must grow together as we evolve spiritually.
An Esoteric Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer
To express the aim of the prayer, Jesus will have to begin, before he utters the seven petitions:
Our Father which art in Heaven.
In this form of salutation, we concern ourselves with the deepest foundation of the human soul, the inmost element of the human being, which Christian esoteric teaching characterizes as of the kingdom of spirit.
The link of the first three petitions, which follow this exalted salutation, is with the three higher principles of human nature, with the divine substance within man:
Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.
Now the Lord’s Prayer moves from the spiritual to the earthly kingdom:
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.
The four last petitions are linked with the four lower principles of human nature.
What appeal is the supplicant to make with reference to the physical body that it be sustained within the planetary life?
Give us this day our daily bread.
What does Jesus say with reference to sustaining the etheric body?
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
The adjustment of what takes place through the transgressions of the etheric body is what Jesus asks for here.
What is he now to ask with regard to the astral body?
Lead us not into temptation.
And with regard to the ego?
Deliver us from evil.
“The seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are thus seen to express the fact that the human soul, when it aspires rightly, implores the Divine Will for a development of the seven elements in human nature that will enable us to find our right course of life in the universe, a development of all these seven elements in the right way.
Through the Lord’s Prayer, the petitioner, at the time when he uses it, may rise to understand the full meaning of the development of his seven-principled human nature. It follows that even when the users of these seven petitions are the simplest people, who do not necessarily at all understand them, these petitions express for them, too, the spiritual-scientific view of human nature.
All formulas for meditation in the world’s great religious societies throughout history have had their origins in spiritual science. Analyze every true prayer that exists — word for word — and you will find it to be no arbitrary stringing together of words. Never has a mere blind impulse been followed to string together so many beautiful words. Not at all; rather, the great wise men have adopted these prayer forms from the wisdom teaching that is now called spiritual science.
Every true form of prayer was born of this great knowledge; and the great Initiate Who founded Christianity — Christ Jesus — had in mind the seven principles of human nature when he taught His prayer, expressing in it the seven-principled nature of man.”
– From a Lecture by Rudolf Steiner
To compare the esoteric meaning of the Lord’s Prayer by Rudolf Steiner with the Living Hour’s interpretation of the Our Father prayer, please go to: The Lord’s Prayer Explained Verse by Verse.
To esoteric commentary of the Lord’s Prayer by P. D. Ouspensky, go to: An Esoteric Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.
About Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and architect who founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, which has its roots in theosophy, Goethean science, and Rosicrucianism. Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science and spirituality, while applying Western critical thinking to spiritual questions. He also worked on various practical endeavors, including the establishment of Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical medicine. To learn more, go to: