Back to Articles Home
Fourth Way Schools I - The Anthonites (Antonites)
For the fakirs, monks and yogis the inner work is at the same time their profession. The Fourth Way is for people in life, for householders, who work on themselves with others in the circumstances and conditions that life provides.
In In Search of the Miraculous Ouspensky reports from Gurdjieff:
"The fourth way requires no retirement into the desert, does not require a man to give up and renounce everything by which he formerly lived. The fourth way begins much further on than the way of the yogi. This means that a man must be prepared for the fourth way and this preparation must be acquired in ordinary life and be a very serious one, embracing many different sides. Furthermore a man must be living in conditions favorable for work on the fourth way..."
J. G. Bennett, in his last public talk on the 6th of November 1974 in London said:
Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273) communicated also something about the "Fourth Way" - the way of Mohammed:
Traces of the Fourth Way
The Antonites 1095 - 1562
Very little is known of the the Antonites. In 1059 a lay order was established by St-Didier-de-la-Motte in Dauphiné in Southern France (Dauphinè is a province with Grenoble as the main city and bordering Italy in the East). The order was sanctioned by Urban II, 1095, and was intended to care for the sick and poor. In 1218 Honorius III gave the members permission to take monastic vows. In 1296 Boniface VIII imposed on them the Augustinian rule, which meant that the women were no more allowed membership and could only take care of the nursing function in the hospitals.
The Antonites had monastery hospitals, called in German Präzeptorei, in Europe, altogether 370 colonies are mentioned from West to East and North to South. Although only half a dozen of the sick could be attended at any of the centers, due to the number of settlements, there were thousands of patients in these colonies in the whole of Europe.
The Antonites were supported by rich families, received alms (the Quests) and also had their Antonius pigs (the pig fat was used to alleviate the pain by putting it on the skin of the sick) - pigs that were grazing freely around, fed by the people and slaughtered on the 17th of January on St. Antonius day. The pigs had a bell around their necks and were branded with the symbol of the order, the Tau cross, the original form of the Christian cross. 1st century Palestine Romans commonly used the Tau Cross as an instrument of torture - the popular Roman style cross that we see in Christian jewelry, artwork, and sculptures did not come into Christian symbolism until after the 1st century. Apart from being the cross of St. Anthony and St. Francis the Tau was in Egypt a symbol for a gate or opening. It is also the last letter of the Greek alphabet.
However, around mid 16th century most of the monastery hospitals were closed, after the destruction of the buildings and their contents; this is known to us as reformation and led to the destruction, although only temporarily, of the catholic (catholic is here used in the meaning given to the word by the protestants) form of Christianity - a veritable protest movement! What have we not done in the name of Christ!
The members of the order were learned men and women with the highest international education available at the time. They had access to knowledge of surgery, plants and herbs and to inner Christian knowledge that was incorporated in a work of art know as the Triptych of Isenheim (of this later). The diseased received also Antonius wine and Antonius balsam, both seasoned with some of the 14 healing herbs that were used by the brothers and 'sisters'. When these did not help the surgical skills were needed for removal of the limbs; both the hands and legs were sometimes cut off.
There is a museum in Memmingen, Germany, which is housed in a former Antonite monastery. Visit their web site. Ironically the address is Martin-Luther-Platz 1!
Talking about websites there is a thorough study of the Antonites in German made by Dr. Jörg Sieger at his homepage Der Isenheimer Altar und seine Botschaft (includes videos of 3D drawings of how the original monastery in Isenheim looked like).
The Antonites specialized in taking care of those infected by Antonius disease, which was widely prevalent and also called St. Anthony’s fire, as well as morbus or ignis sacer. The chemical agent responsible for the hallucinations connected with the disease is LSD. The sickness appears in wheats contaminated with the fungus claviceps purpurea (found in our Millennium in Ethiopia in 2001).
"Individuals hallucinate and sometimes feel as if they are burning. Two toxic alkaloids are involved, ergotamine and ertotaline, causing constriction of the smooth muscles, and ensuing restriction of peripheral blood supplies that can lead to gangrene and death. Ergotism has been known for thousands of years, with reports as early as 857 BC. This mysterious disease struck the Spartans in 430 BC during their war with Athens. Screams of the dying, smell of rotting flesh, and the loss of limbs were grisly sights in those days. Supplications were made to their gods, in Christian time especially to St. Anthony, and pilgrimages were made in the hope of finding relief; thus the name St. Anthony’s Fire. Old German literature referred to ergots as mad grains."
More information at Ergotism. Another symptom was apparently also the so called Dancing Mania.
Were the Antonites a Fourth Way School ?
The evidence for:
Matthias Grünewald, c. 1475-1528, who in his own time was known as Mathis Gothart and also called Nithart or Neithardt, painted his masterpiece around 1510-15 in the new big church of Saint Anthony's Monastery in Isenheim in Alsace. This work is now at the nearby Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, France - visit web site.
The paintings in the altar are often seen to depict the realism of the historic event called Crucifixion, and the meaning of the knowledge incorporated in the paintings, the culmination of the knowledge of the Antonites, is simply not understood or even suspected.
Thomas Hoving is former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art writes at artnet.com: "But what art. What religion. Grünewald's Isenheim altarpiece is perhaps more brutal, more intense, than any other single artwork." This is no doubt true, but not the whole truth about the altar.
There is no doubt that Grünewald was commissioned to do this work by the Antonites and also most likely that he received special preparation for the task. I have studied his other works and find in them nothing comparable to the depth of the message of the Isenheim Altar.
Jean d'Orlier, pictured on the left with his Tau cross, was the tutor (French=précepteur, German=Präzeptor) in Isenheim Präzeptorei until 1490 and no doubt one of the men behind the idea of the Altar. He was followed by another Italian, Guido Guersi, whose role in giving the work its theological meaning appears to have been decisive.
The work consists of three triptychs, which are three painted or carved panels that are hinged together. This means that there are altogether three different openings, each of them with two sidepanels. In addition the altar has a predella (predella is an Italian term for the long horizontal structure at the base or 'foot' of an altarpiece) with one opening, making the total number of different scenes to 11.
Part of the work, the wood carvings, were made by Niclas Hagenauer, a well known sculptor from Strasburg, who was most likely commissioned by Jean d'Orlier. The sculptures were made around 1490, some 20-25 years before the paintings by Grünewald.
A quote from Eldritch Press web site, section Huysmans on Grünewald :
According to Eberhard Ruhmer ("Grünewald: The Paintings," Phaidon, 1958), "The high altar of the church was the first stage of the healing programme: the patient was taken to it to begin with, to assure him the possibility of participating in a miracle." Many of the elements of the Crucifixion and Christmas scenes have been explained as allegorical symbols inspired among others by the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373, but first published in 1492), forecasting a reformation of the church.
(The above site is worth a visit for a first introduction and a preliminary analysis of the paintings.)
Seen from the point of view of Gurdjieff's ideas the paintings themselves (apart from the carved images) in the side panels present the cosmic task of man from the opening scene with personality and essence engaged in conscious labour and intentional suffering to the temptations and the final stripping of the mask of St. Anthony.
A simultaneous story of death, birth and the new life is told in the center pieces.
First scene: Death
Second scene: Birth
Third scene: Life
An article about the Altar of Isenheim by Agnes Hidveghy is on its way as a study of the inner meaning of the altar. The article can be accessed here.
Links to the Antonites can be found in GIG's Links section at Antonites
Ref. 1 - P. D. Ouspensky: In Search of the Miraculous pp. 48-50
Ref. 2 - ibid p. 227
Ref. 3 - J. G. Bennett: Needs of a New Age Community, Bennett Books 1990, pp. 75 and 77
Ref. 4 - Jalal al-Din Rumi: Fihi ma Fihi - Discourses of Rumi - German: Von Allem und vom Einen