Judith von Halle (2021). Swan Wings: A Spiritual Autobiography, Part 1. Childhood and Youth. Clairview.
Original text in German, published in 2016. Translation into English by Frank Thomas Smith
Judith von Halle, born in Berlin in 1972, has attracted quite a lot of attention and controversy, especially in Anthroposophical circles. This is not entirely surprising, because it was revealed that she felt compelled to stop eating all food in 2004. This was followed by stigmas similar to the wounds of Christ.
Von Halle, who has published many books related to esoteric Christianity, has understandably been protective about her privacy. For this reason, the publication of a volume of her autobiography was unexpected, since this genre is always very personal and reveals a great deal to the reader. There is no abundance of spiritual autobiographies; as far as I can tell, only a few spiritual figures have told in detail about their path to illumination. For instance, Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) wrote an unfinished autobiography, The Course of My Life, but it revealed very little about his inner development.
Awakening and Supersensible Perception
Von Halle’s awakening took place when she was exceptionally young—only two years old. Her grandfather was watching news on TV, and a reporter said the following words (in German): “They woke up only when the fire passed through the roof.” The incident had nothing to do with von Halle, but the words awakened a dormant higher consciousness in her. She realized that there are two consciousnesses: one which manifests itself in the physical body and the other—the spiritual consciousness—which knows who I am and where I come from. In this state of I-consciousness, she experienced the presence of an immortal Majesty behind all existence, which has limitless goodwill toward all created beings.
Realizing that this higher consciousness should be active in the physical body, von Halle felt that it was nonetheless absent from the dreamlike daytime consciousness. This conflict caused a sense of nakedness within her. She tried to talk to her mother about the essence of time, death, and immortality, but her mother could not provide any answers. Nor could von Halle talk about her discoveries to adults, since they interpreted these observations as mere fables. Consequently, she decided to remain silent about her spiritual consciousness, a decision to which she remained loyal for twenty years.
Von Halle noticed that there is a magical life force that is present in every living being but absent from manmade objects. This life force, she discerned, was part of the immortal whole that unites all living beings. Its source is the creative Majesty. She saw how the life force was active in a flowerlike center (similar to the Theosophical concept of chakras) in the heart region and elsewhere in humans. She observed that a dimming of the streams of the life force indicated that a particular person had an illness or difficulties in his or her life. In addition, medicine had effects both on the streams of life force and on the flowerlike centers.
Von Halle’s “seeing” was spontaneous when she was a child, but later it developed into a skill she could use, although not without an intention to help and the consent of the person involved.
It became evident for von Halle that there are other invisible forces in addition to the life force. She could perceive with her inner eyes the body of feeling-willing forces, which is known in Theosophy as the astral body or aura. She once saw a raging person whose aura was an ugly, dark, brownish red color. The angry person discharged dark “flashes,” which wounded the person with them. At the same time, the anger reflected back on the angry person and disfigured their own inner self. Von Halle also noticed how strong desire and greed had an unappealing effect on the feeling-willing forces of those who possess these qualities.
On the other hand, von Halle describes how well-meaning, loving thoughts create brilliant, radiant currents emerging from the area of the heart. They have a good, uplifting, and healing influence on other people and the whole environment. It seems clear that many people can experience the feelings emanating from a well-meaning and loving person, although only few can actually perceive auras. It was of great help for von Halle to realize that such loving people existed. She wished that she could one day be as inwardly beautiful as they were.
Von Halle calls the spiritual world “the World of Reality.” She reminisces about how listening to the masters of classical music—especially Mozart—revealed how they had experienced this world. The noble music has its beneficial effects not only on the human aura, but also on the core human being, which in Theosophical circles is known as the higher Self. Von Halle learned to play piano, which brought a great deal of joy into her life.
The Gate of the Spiritual World
Von Halle was not a particularly religious child. One night, just before entering sleep, she found herself in an intense state of wakefulness. In this state, she met Jesus Christ, who taught her what love is. True higher understanding and unconditional love streamed out of the presence of Christ. She also learned that this love penetrated her and other human being cores. She deeply understood that all humans are equally loved by Christ.
Christ had a request for von Halle’s human being core. It involved remembering something that was already known to her higher Self as well as learning new things. Von Halle realized that her goal—and the goal of all other people—is conscious union with Christ.
Nevertheless, this experience didn’t lead von Halle toward institutional Christianity. She notes that whoever has a similar encounter with Christ, regardless of their religious background, knows that the usual conception of the Jesus figure is inadequate.
Von Halle’s encounter with Christ opened a “gate” in her, making her relation to the World of Reality much richer. This made it possible to have new discoveries and insights about the spiritual world. She learned how to stay awake during sleep. At this point, she was only ten years old.
Actual spiritual training could not commence before von Halle had encountered her own shadow aspects. When going into the sleep state, she occasionally saw a frightening being. This aroused dread in her and woke her up. The frightening being seemed to consist of a plethora of ugly creatures, which were intertwined. (She later saw figures in a painting by Hieronymus Bosch that greatly resembled these beings). At some point, she decided not to give up but to endure the presence of this frightening assembly. Then she saw that this being was not outside her, but a part of her. It was an imaginative projection of her own weaknesses.
Rudolf Steiner and some other esotericists call this frightening being the Guardian of the Threshold. Steiner’s impressive descriptions of both the lesser and greater Guardians of the Threshold are available here: https://rsarchive.org/Books/GA010/English/AP1947/GA010_c10.html.
After this realization, von Halle’s consciousness was free to enter the spiritual world. She encountered an entity that radiated “patience, loving forbearance, and solicitude.” This Teacher Entity conveyed a message without spoken words: “You have entered this realm. Therefore follow me and learn!”
Von Halle enthusiastically agreed. This was the beginning of her spiritual training during the sleep state. This training contained trials which she sometimes failed, leading to a darkening of consciousness. Sometimes she found a balance and managed to reach the Teacher Entity again; sometimes she slipped into normal sleep or woke up. The trials were intended to expand and enrich her understanding of the mysteries of the spiritual world. Her autobiography contains passages of her diary in which she contemplates her thoughts about this world.
The Three Ordeals
Von Halle describes the three ordeals she had to encounter in her youth. The first came from a euphoric and blissful state of mind. The pleasant part of the experience started with an impulse coming from the spiritual world. However, coming back to normal waking consciousness proved to be very hard, because the blissful state was sustained by an external impulse that did not want to let go. Von Halle interpreted this impulse as a tempter whose influence had to be conquered.
The second ordeal lasted for a year. It was a prolonged experience of loneliness, despair, and a temptation toward self-destruction. Von Halle had no one to talk to about this conflict between inner experience and the spiritless outer world. In addition to internal suffering, she developed painful neurodermatitis. Her connection to the World of Reality weakened, and she was no longer able to perceive life forces or auras. She felt that she had become blind to the spiritual world.
Eventually von Halle got better, after getting help and inspiration from her high school studies on literature, especially Goethe’s work. Her relationship with the spiritual world reemerged, and it was now possible during daytime, not just in the lucid sleep state.
The third ordeal took place when von Halle was a young adult during her architecture studies in a university in Berlin. She started feeling depressed, which was worsened by watching television programs filled with “emotionally deadening scum.” She had always wanted to be one with humanity, but now she started drifting away from people, becoming more and more depressed and bitter. Eventually she managed to pull herself together and rediscovered the forces of inner will and meaning in her life.
Two years after the third ordeal, von Halle woke up one night. An inner voice gave her the task of investigating the third ordeal. In the state of total clarity, she saw that there was a consciousness behind her depression. This being tried to separate her from the world, attempting to suffocate the living spirit and block the connection to the World of Reality.
Von Halle also observed that there were two forces behind her ordeals: one attempted to disconnect her from spirituality and join her to the dead, “false” earth. The other entity attempted to lift her to the spiritual world, to a “false” heaven. Anthroposophical literature refers to these two forces as Ahriman and Lucifer respectively. They have their own important role to play in the spiritual evolution of the humanity.
Von Halle realized that a true human being is both earthly and spiritual. The balance between these two forces is maintained by Christ, as is masterfully depicted in the large statue called The Representative of Humanity, sculpted by Rudolf Steiner and the English sculptor Edith Maryon and located in Steiner’s second Goetheanum, in Dornach, Switzerland.
Von Halle Encounters Steiner’s Teachings
Von Halle carried on her studies on architecture at another university in Berlin and attended a course run by a respected and popular professor. She spontaneously saw the radiating soul-force body of this professor, who truly loved his subject. Von Halle became close to her professor and started spending time with him after classes. One time she accidentally found a blue booklet that he had lost: Rudolf Steiner’s Weekly Meditations. After reading a short passage, she could not continue: her knees gave way, and tears started running down her cheeks. Von Halle strongly felt that she was home.
After finding the Weekly Meditations, von Halle rapidly advanced on her spiritual path. She could come back to the incident that woke her consciousness when she was two years old. She had not known it before, but now she could clearly see that a human being is a reincarnating individuality. The words uttered by the news announcer (“They woke up only when the fire passed through the roof”) awakened a memory from her previous life. (Von Halle does not say so directly, but the reader has the clear impression that that this memory is related to the fire that destroyed Steiner’s first Goetheanum on New Year’s Eve, 1922.) Later on, she could see the essence of her past lives, all of which were “beneficial for the growth of the higher spiritual human being.”
Von Halle returned the blue book to the professor and inquired whether there were more books by the same author. He gave her Steiner’s Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man. In this book, von Halle found everything that she had learned about the invisible constitution of the human being and spiritual world through experience. It gave her great joy to learn that there was a spiritual movement (Anthroposophy) and people interested in questions she had investigated from early childhood.
With the help of her professor, von Halle found her way to an Anthroposophical study group. Although she didn’t meet other clairvoyant people in that circle, there were some who in her estimation were close to the threshold of the spiritual world. It does not come as a great surprise for the reader that von Halle eventually married the professor.
Von Halle’s life is in many ways exceptional. Her connection to the World of Reality was formed at a very early age. In addition, her encounter with Jesus Christ is remarkable, as is the guidance she received in the spiritual world. One might imagine that the life of a spiritual person is in some ways “easy” inasmuch as the person knows the meaning of life and the unconditional love behind all existence. Nevertheless, no spiritual aspirant can escape from difficulties, ordeals, and suffering. What is especially sad in von Halle’s case is her rift between her and some influential Anthroposophists, which she only hints at in the autobiography.
Reading her life story brought into mind many incidents in the life of Pekka Ervast (1875–1934), who was a pioneer in the Finnish Theosophical movement (for an overview, see https://theosophy.wiki/en/Pekka_Ervast). His spiritual awareness was also awakened in childhood; he too had to endure great anguish before his spiritual rebirth; and he encountered difficulties and experienced a rift with his Theosophical brothers.
Von Halle looked for people who could understand her but did not find any in her childhood or youth. The turn took place when she found Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. Similarly, Ervast had trouble finding positive response to his spiritual aspirations until he found the Theosophical Masters, first in A. P. Sinnett’s book The Occult World (1881), and later in the invisible world.
Von Halle’s autobiography has an intriguing title: Swan Wings. This is a symbol for the soul, denoting the connection between the earthly and spiritual aspects of human being. In her spiritual training, she was shown that it is possible to forge a link between the higher Self and earthly consciousness. She strived to achieve this union, which indeed seems be the central aim of any truly spiritual aspiration. Esoteric Christianity refers to this union as the birth of Christ in the human soul. This does not make a person infallible, but it is a tremendous step on the spiritual path.
Von Halle’s book is an intimate, open, and compassionate story of spiritual growth. It is likely to become a classic in the domain of spiritual autobiographies. I recommend it for all truth seekers.
I thank Richard Smoley for editing the manuscript.