Our bookstore is now open. Shop today →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

St. John’s Festival—
A Celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist

Artwork by Art Olsavsky

June 18, 2022

June 24th is St. John’s day which celebrates the birth of John the Baptist approximately 6 months before the birth of Jesus. John, the forerunner of Christ Jesus, knew the Christ would come and that he must prepare the way for Him. Steiner tells us:

St. John's Day reminds us that the most exalted Individuality that ever took part in the evolution of mankind was preceded by a forerunner. […] In the course of human evolution there appear again and again events of such profound import as to throw a stronger light than others. From epoch to epoch we see history recording such vital events; and ever and anon we are told that there are men who, in certain respects, know of such events in advance and can foretell them. This implies that such events are not arbitrary, but rather, that one who discerns the whole sense and spirit of human history knows how such events must unfold, and how he himself must work and prepare in order that they may come to pass.


Background from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter I

As background, the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells of the annunciation of both John and Jesus of Nazareth to their mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, respectively. See Luke 1. To summarize:

  • First, the angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly priest Zechariah and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son named John who would “make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”
  • Zechariah questioned how this could be since both he and his wife Elizabeth were advanced in years. Because of his disbelief, Gabriel made him unable to speak.
  • The angel Gabriel then announced to Mary that she would bear a child named Jesus, called the Son of the Most High.
  • Six months later, Mary visited Elizabeth in Judea. When she greeted Elizabeth, the babe John “leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
  • The pregnant Mary then stayed with Zechariah and the pregnant Elizabeth for 3 months before returning home.
  • Zechariah remained mute until the birth of the child. When Zechariah announced the child’s name would be John rather than being named after himself, he was blessed with the ability to speak again. People were amazed and word spread throughout Judea.

From these events, one can see the extent of the spiritual connection between John and Jesus and the divine forces already at work. Through the news of the miraculous healing of Zechariah, the way was already being prepared for the Lord's birth 6 months later. This is why St. John's Day is celebrated approximately 6 months before Christmas.

Steiner provides an esoteric view of the profound relationship between John and Jesus.

He explains John had the same Ego that was withheld from the never-before incarnated Nathan Jesus.

The John-Ego descended from the same holy region (Stätte) as that from which the soul-being of the Jesus-child of the Gospel of St. Luke descended, save that upon Jesus there were chiefly bestowed qualities not yet permeated by an Ego in which egoistic traits had developed: that is to say, a young soul was guided to the place where the reborn Adam was to incarnate. […]

[T]he same Ego that was withheld from the Jesus of the Gospel of St. Luke was bestowed upon the body of John the Baptist; thus the soul-being in Jesus of the Gospel of St. Luke and the Ego-being in John the Baptist were inwardly related from the beginning.

See THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE, GA 114, Lecture Five

Normally, an Ego becomes slowly activated in an embryo in the last months of pregnancy, but John’s quickened immediately upon the greeting of the pregnant Mary.

In the case of John, however, the Ego in question was inwardly related to the soul-being of the Nathan Jesus. Hence according to the Gospel of St. Luke, the mother of Jesus went to the mother of John the Baptist when the latter was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, and the embryo that in other cases is quickened by its own Ego was here quickened through the medium of the other embryo. The child in the body of Elisabeth begins to move when the mother bearing the Nathan Jesus-child approaches; and it is the Ego through which the child in the other mother (Elisabeth) is quickened. (Luke I, 39–44). Such was the deep connection between the Being who was to bring about the fusion of the two spiritual streams and the other who was to announce His coming! Ibid.

John’s Mission

Steiner teaches in The Gospel of St. Luke lectures that John was “herald of the Being who was to come in Jesus.” John prepared the way for the Christ to come by first summarizing “the infinite power everything contained in the old Law.” He says:

What the Baptist wished to bring home to men was that there must be observance of what was written in the old Law but had grown old in civilization and had been forgotten; it was mature, but was no longer heeded. Therefore what John required above all was the power possessed by a soul born as a mature — even overmature — soul into the world. He was born of old parents; from the very beginning his astral body was pure and cleansed of all the forces which degrade man, because the aged parents were unaffected by passion and desire. There again, profound wisdom is expressed in the Gospel of St. Luke. Ibid.

Steiner gives a fascinating explanation of the divine forces—including those of the Buddha—working from the outside on both the Nathan Jesus and John. He further states, “We know from the Gospel itself that John the Baptist is to be regarded as the reborn Elijah.” Thus, he was well-equipped to preach about the old Law of Moses. Here Steiner expounds upon his discussion of the Ego of John:

Under the influence of the visit of her who is there called ‘Mary’, the Ego of John the Baptist awoke into activity. The Nirmanakaya of Buddha was here working upon the Ego of the former Elijah — now the Ego of John the Baptist — wakening it and penetrating right into the physical substance.”

See THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE, GA 114, Lecture Six

And further,

From the mouth of John the Baptist we hear what the Buddha had to say six hundred years after he had lived in a physical body. There we have a real indication of the ‘unity of religions!’ Ibid.

John baptized believers with water.

John preached the Word of God and baptized believers with water as part of a spiritual initiation process. It was not a drizzle of water like baptisms today. Rather, the disciple was held under water to provoke a near-death experience.

The disciple was submerged in water, resulting in a certain separation of the etheric from the physical body; and thus he could attain to a survey of his life and become aware of the connection of this individual life with the regions of the divine-spiritual world. To make it a little clearer, we can say that when the submersion was successful it produced in the disciple the conviction: I have spirit within me; I am not just a being in this physical-material body; and this spirit within me is one with the spirit underlying all things. — And he knew in addition that the Spirit Whom he thus confronted was the same that Moses had perceived in the fire of the burning bush and in the lightning on Sinai as Jahve, as I am the I AM, as ehjeh asher ehjeh. All this was revealed to him through the baptism by John.

See THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN, IN RELATION TO THE OTHER THREE GOSPELS, GA 112, Lecture 7. The Baptism with Water and the Baptism with Fire and Spirit.

With the baptism of the Nathan-Jesus, John facilitated the entry of the Christ into Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus of Nazareth was 30 years old, he came to John and was baptized in the same process of submersion.

Even in everyday existence it may happen that when a man is in danger of drowning, or sustains a violent shock, a tableau of his life hitherto appears before him. This is because something that otherwise takes place only after death, occurs momentarily: the etheric body is lifted out of the physical body and is freed from its power. This happened to most of those who were baptized by John, and in a very special way to the Nathan Jesus. His etheric body was drawn out — and during that moment the sublime Being we call the Christ descended into his body.See GA 112, Lecture 6.

Filled with the Christ, Jesus began his three-year journey to Golgotha, and ultimately to ascension. The Gospel of Matthew tells us John preached that the coming Redeemer greater than himself who would baptize disciples directly with the fire, like the burning bush and lightning on Mt. Sinai, and with the Holy Spirit to come. See Matthew 3:11. Steiner expounds upon this further:

John baptized with water, with the result that the etheric body was disconnected for a short time from the physical body. But John the Baptist claimed to be the Forerunner of Him Who baptized with fire and with the Holy Spirit. The baptism with fire and with the Holy Spirit came to our earth through Christ. See GA 112, Lecture 7.

These excerpts offer only a glimpse of the wealth of information provided by Steiner regarding John the Baptist and St. John’s Festival. Visit the Festivals Topic Page to find select lectures for each season.