Thursday, August 17, 2017
Rudolf Steiner: "He is here, He makes His presence felt in such a way that we know clearly that He will now expect more of His human children than in centuries gone by. Till now the Gospels have spoken an inner language to man. They had to lay hold of the soul — men should, therefore, be satisfied with faith alone and had not to progress to knowledge. That time is now over, it lies behind us. Christ has something different in view for His human children. His present purpose is that the kingdom to which He referred when He said: ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ should really draw into that part of the human being which is not of this world but which is of another world. In each one of us there is a part which is not of this world. That part of man which is not of this world must seek with intensity that kingdom of which Christ spoke, of which He said, that it was not of this world.
We are living at a time when this must be understood. Many such things in human evolution announce themselves through contrasts. In our own age something great and significant is announced by a great contrast. For with the coming Christ, with the presence of Christ, will come the time when men will learn to enquire of Him, not only concerning their souls, but concerning their immortal part on earth. Christ is not merely a Ruler of men, but their Brother, Who, particularly in the near future, wishes to be consulted on all the details of life. In anything we undertake today we act in the opposite way. Events seem to be accomplished today, in which men appear to be as far removed as possible from any appeal to Christ. We must ask ourselves this question: Who is there today who stops to enquire: ‘What would Christ Jesus say to what is now taking place?’ Who puts such a question to himself? Many say they do, but it would be sacrilegious to believe that they put the question in the form in which it is put here, addressing it directly to Christ Himself. Yet the time must come and cannot be far distant, when men's souls will, in their immortal part, ask of Christ, when they think of undertaking something: ‘Ought we to do this or not?’ Then human souls will see Christ standing by them as the beloved Companion and they will not only obtain consolation and strength from the Christ-Being, but will also receive instruction from Him as to what is to be done. The kingdom of Christ Jesus is not of this world, but it must work in this world and the human souls must be instruments of the Kingdom that is not of this world. From this point of view we must consider the fact of how few today have asked themselves the question which, as regards individual acts, as well as events, must be put to the Christ. Humanity must, however, learn to ask of Him. How is that to come about? It can only become possible if we learn His language. Anyone who comprehends the deeper purpose of our Spiritual Science, realises that it not only gives out a theoretical knowledge about different problems of humanity, the principles of human nature, reincarnation and karma, but that it contains a quite special language, that it has a particular way of expressing itself about spiritual things. The fact that through Spiritual Science we learn to hold inner converse with the spiritual world in thought, is much more important than the mere acquiring of theoretical thoughts. For Christ is with us always, even to the end of the earth-epochs. And we must learn His language. By means of the language — no matter how abstract it may seem — in which we hear of Saturn, Sun, Moon and Earth and of the different periods and ages of the earth, and of many other secrets of evolution — we teach ourselves a language in which we can frame out the questions we put to the spiritual world. When we really learn inwardly to speak the language of this spiritual life, the result will be that Christ will stand by us and give us the answers Himself. This is the attitude that our work in Spiritual Science should bring about in us, as a sentiment, a feeling. Why do we occupy ourselves with Spiritual Science? It is as though we were learning the vocabulary of the language through which we approach the Christ. If we take the trouble to learn to think the thoughts of Spiritual Science, and make the mental effort necessary for an understanding of the Cosmic secrets taught by Spiritual Science, then, out of the dim, dark foundations of the Cosmic mysteries, will come forth the figure of Christ Jesus, which will draw near to us and give us the strength and force in which we shall then live. The Christ will guide us, standing beside us as a brother, so that our hearts and souls may be strong enough to grow up to the necessary level of the tasks awaiting humanity in its further development.
Let us then try to acquire Spiritual Science, not as a mere doctrine but as a language, and then wait till we can find in that language, the questions which we may venture to put to the Christ. He will answer, yes, indeed, He will answer! Plentiful indeed will be the soul-forces, the soul-strengthening, the soul-impulses, which the student will carry away with him from the grey spiritual depths through which humanity in its evolution is now passing, if he is able to receive instructions from Christ Himself; for, in the near future He will give them to those who seek."
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
The wishes of the soul are springing
The deeds of the will are growing
The fruits of life are ripening
I feel my destiny
My destiny finds me
I feel my star
My star finds me
I feel my goals in life
My goals in life are finding me
My soul and the great World are one
Life grows more radiant about me,
Life grows more arduous for me.
Grows more abundant within me.
~ Rudolf Steiner
"A theosophy that does not provide the means of understanding Christianity is absolutely valueless to our present civilization." — Rudolf Steiner
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
|I Am Kyrios (Yellow)|
Background to the Gospel of Mark. Lecture 11.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, December 12, 1910:
In the course of years, considerations have been brought forward in the various groups in different lecture cycles, for a great number of the anthroposophical friends sitting here, on the John Gospel, the Luke Gospel, the Matthew Gospel, and we have attempted in these considerations, on the three gospels, to let appear before our spiritual eye the great event of Palestine, the Mystery of Golgotha, from three different sides, as it were, in three varying ways. And perhaps these considerations have proved adapted to lay in our souls the foundations for an ever-increasing valuation of this unique event. We have already pointed out how the reason why we have four gospels is to be sought essentially in the fact that the writers of the gospels, as inspired occultists, wanted to represent this great event each from his own side, just as one copies or photographs something external from one standpoint. And if one takes photographs of a thing from different sides, so through a combination of what results, through bringing them together before the soul, one can come to the true reality. Each of the evangelists really gives us opportunity to consider the great event of Palestine from one special side. From a side which we can call at the same time the opening of the highest human, occult and other aims, and beside this highest human principle, also taking into account the highest world principle — from this side it is the John Gospel which gives us an insight into the great event of Palestine.
The Luke Gospel opens for us an insight into the secrets which hover around the personality of Jesus of Nazareth, of the Solomon and Nathan Jesus, up to the moment where the great inspiration of Jesus of Nazareth is replaced by the Christ.
The Matthew Gospel, for those who have heard the lecture cycle on it, or have read it later, has to show how from the people of ancient Hebraism, from the folk-secrets of the Hebrew people, the physical principle of life (as it were) was prepared, in which the Christ Principle should incarnate for three years.
In a certain connection it is again the Mark Gospel which can lead us into the highest summits of the anthroposophical, Christian method of observation, and through the Mark Gospel opportunity is given us to look into many things which should be imparted to us through the gospels, but are not brought near to us in such a way by the other evangelists. And I have laid on myself the task of saying a few words because opportunity offers itself today to speak of the Mark Gospel.
If we speak of this, we must be quite clear how necessary it is to look into many things for which the superficial world of the present has no real inclination. If one is to understand the Mark Gospel and all its depths, one must become acquainted with the quite different method of expression among men at the time when Christ Jesus walked on Earth. Do not take it amiss if I attempt to say to you what I really intend through a distinct shading, a distinct twilight.
We express through speech what we want to say. And what lives in our soul should in a certain way be made obvious in the words of speech. In this method of expressing through speech what lives in our soul, the various epochs of human development are very different from each other. If we went back to the epoch of the old Hebrew evolution, to that wonderful method of expression which was still possible in the old Hebraic temple-speech, we should find quite another method of clothing the secrets of our soul in words than people today have any idea of. When a word sounded in the old Hebraic speech — only the consonants were written, the vowels were then added — then there did not merely sound in this word what sounds in it today — a more or less abstract idea — but a whole world. Because of this, the vowels were not really written, because he who spoke gave out his most inner being just through his way of vocalizing, whereas in the consonants there lay more the description, the portraying, of what is outside. One can say that when, e.g., an ancient Hebrew drew a “B” — what corresponds today with our “B” — he always felt something like a portraying of external relationships, of something which formed a warm, hut-like enclosure. The letter “B” always evoked the picture of something which, house-like, could surround a being. One could not utter the “B” without that living in the soul. And if one vocalized an “A,” one could not do it without something of strength, of force, even of radiating power, living within it. Thus the soul lived further. The soul-content worked outward with the words, soared into space and into other souls. Thus speech was then a far more living affair. It entered far more into the secrets of existence than our speech.
That is the light which I wanted to place before you. And the shadows I must represent in contrast: that we in our time have become to a high degree in this connection pedants. Our languages only express abstractions, generalities. One does not even feel that any more. Speech only expresses now pedantry, fundamentally. How should this be different in an age when people even begin to manipulate it in literary fashion long before they have a spiritual content, in an age when such an infinite amount goes into the broad masses as print, when each one thinks he must write something, when everything becomes an object for writing. I have had to experience that even in the founding of our society, authors turned up from curiosity, who had the intention of being able to extract perhaps a novel out of the matter: why should not forms exist there which one can have on tap and retail in a public writing shop? Thus we must be quite clear that we have a speech which has become abstract, empty, pedantic — in contrast to the way in which one formerly conceived it as something holy, to which one felt the responsibility that GOD should speak from out of it. Hence it is so infinitely difficult to squeeze into modern words those great, tremendous facts which are imparted to us and which sound to us, for instance, in the gospels. Why should the man of today not also believe that one can give everything in our speech? He cannot understand that our speech says something empty with what even the Greek speech still meant with a word. And if we read the Bible today, we read something which, compared with its original content, has been sifted once, twice, three times — but so sifted that there remains not the best but always the worst. Therefore it is naturally cheap in a certain way to appeal to the modern words of the Bible. But we go astray most of all if we appeal to the Bible in the case of the Mark Gospel, as it lies before us today. In any case we must not do that.
Now, you know that the Mark Gospel had in its first lines as its basis the words which the translation by Weizsacker, regarded as exceptionally good — but it is conceivable that what is regarded today as so excellent need not be so really — renders as follows: “As stands written in the prophet Isaiah; Behold, I send my messenger before thee, who shall prepare the way for thee; listen how it calls in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”
Honest people must really say to themselves: If the Mark Gospel begins thus, in this Weizsacker: I do not understand a single word of it all. Whoever will understand it must really resolve to do something. Whoever goes sincerely to work cannot understand anything when it is said: “Behold, I send my messenger before thee, who shall prepare the way for thee; listen how it calls in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.” For either a triviality is uttered, or something is said which one cannot understand. One must first bring together those ideas which make it possible to understand such an utterance as that of Isaiah's here. For Isaiah points to that great, mighty event which should be the most significant event in human evolution. What is he really pointing to? Now, from what we have already described we can well indicate what Isaiah predicted. We can indicate it by saying: In ancient times, man had a kind of clairvoyance; he had the possibility of growing with his soul-forces into the divine spiritual world. What really happened with man when he grew thus into the divine spiritual world? Then it was the case that when he grew into the divine spiritual world he ceased to employ his ego, so far as it was developed at that time. He used his astral body — in which were those forces which were the forces of vision, of seership, whereas all the forces rooted in the ego were gradually awakened through the perception of the physical world. It is the ego which employs the instruments of the senses. The ancient human being, however, when he sought illumination about the world, employed his astral body. The ancient human being saw, perceived, in the astral body. Further evolution consisted in this, that the transition was found from the astral body to the use of the ego. With reference to this ego, the Christ Impulse had to be the most intense impulse. If, now, the Christ is taken up into the ego so that the phrase of Paul is true, “Not I, but the Christ in me,” then the ego has the power of growing into the spiritual world through itself. Formerly, only the astral body could do this.
Thus we have an evolution of humanity before us of which we can say: Man employed his astral body as organ of knowledge, but he lost more and more the possibility of developing an organ of knowledge in his astral body. And the more one approached the Christ Event, that stage of evolution arose of which man must say: My astral body has less and less the possibility of looking into the spiritual world. Nothing arose through its union with the spiritual world, and the ego was not yet forceful enough to get, from its side, any illumination from the world. That was the age when the Christ drew near.
Now, in the real evolution of mankind it is a question of certain great strides being gradually prepared, which then occur. This was the case with the Christ Impulse. But a transition had to exist. Things could not so run their course that man saw how his astral body gradually became dull toward the spiritual world, so that he would have felt utter barrenness and desolation in himself, until the ego was kindled through the Christ Impulse. Things could not take this course. But in the case of a few it happened, through an especial influence from the spiritual world, that they saw something already in the astral body similar to the way one should later see and know through the ego: The egoity (egohood) was, as it were, prepared in the astral body. That was an anticipation of the egoity, in the astral body. Man indeed first became earthly man through the ego and its development. The astral body really belonged to the ancient Moon. At that time the angel, the angel-man, was at the human stage. The angel was man on the old Moon. Man is man on the Earth. We know that. On the old Moon, it was man's task to use his astral body. Everything else was only preparation for the ego-evolution. The beginning of our Earth evolution was a repetition of the Moon evolution. For man could never become fully man in the astral body: on the Moon, only the angel could become man in the astral body. Therefore — just as in the Earth-man the Christ lived in order to inspire the ego — so for the preparation of this egohood the possibility had to be given that from the angels of the Moon — from the Moon-men, the angels — prophets were so inspired in their human astral body that the Ego could be prepared. There had thus to occur what a prophet could have characterized in the following way: There will come in human evolution a time when man will be ripe for the ego-evolution. In the astral body only the angels of the Moon have raised themselves to the highest. But in order that man can be prepared for this egoity, certain human beings must be so inspired on Earth, through grace, in exceptional conditions, that they work as angels, in spite of their being human — that they are angels in human form.
Here we come to an important occult idea, without which you cannot understand at all the evolution of humanity in the sense of occultism. Externally uttered, it is naturally easy if one simply says that all is maya. Well, all right. But that is an abstraction. One must really take it earnestly. Therefore one must be able to say: There stands a man before me: that, however, is maya! Who knows... is that, anyhow, a man? Perhaps the human existence is but the external veil, employed by quite another being than man is, just to bring about something which cannot yet be effected by man. I have indicated something of this in my Portal of Initiation.
In ancient times, such an event was actualized for humanity when that individuality who lived in Elias was reborn in John the Baptist, and when, in the soul of John the Baptist, an angel entered for that incarnation, and employed the corporality, and also the soul-nature, of John the Baptist in order to effect what no human being would have been able to bring about. In John lived an angel, an angel who had to go before, and announce before, that which should live in Jesus of Nazareth, in the widest sense, as true egohood [Ichheit]. It is extremely important to know that John the Baptist is a maya, an illusion, and in him there lives an angel, a messenger. This stands also in the Greek: “Behold, I send my messenger = Angel.” The German alone thinks no more of this, that in the Greek “Angel” stands in this place. “Behold I send my angel before him.” And so there is indicated a deep world-mystery which, preceded with the Baptist, was prophesied by Isaiah. He characterizes John the Baptist as a maya, as an illusion, he who in truth comprises the angel, who, as angel, has to announce what man really should become through the reception of the Christ Impulse — because the angel has to announce beforehand what man only later has to become. And so, at this place there should be said: “Behold, that which gives the egoity to the world sends the angel before thee, to whom the egoity should be given.”
Now we pass to the third sentence. What does it signify? Here one must call to mind the whole historic world-situation. How had things become in the human breast since the astral body had gradually lost the power of stretching out its forces like tentacles, to look clairvoyantly into the divine spiritual world? Formerly when the astral body was put in activity it could see in the divine spiritual world. This possibility disappeared more and more, and it became dark in man. Man could formerly spread out his astral body over all the beings of the divine spiritual world. Now he was alone in himself — alone is the same as eremos [Greek]. That which the soul was now, lived in solitude. That also stands there in the Greek text: Behold, how it appears, how it there speaks in the solitude of the soul — or you could say “in the wilderness of the soul” — when the astral body could no more spread itself out to the divine spiritual world. Give heed how it calls in thy soul-wilderness, in thy soul-loneliness.
What is it that announces itself beforehand? Here we must be clear as to the meaning of one quite definite word when one uses it of soul phenomena, or of spiritual phenomena in general, above all in the Hebrew, but also in the Greek: the word Kyrios. If one translates it by “the lord,” as generally happens, then one is translating truly absolute nonsense. What is meant by it? Everybody in ancient times who had such an utterance on his tongue knew that something was meant thereby which was connected with the soul-progress of the human race. He knew, therefore, that the word “Kyrios” pointed, indeed, to secrets of the soul. We have in the soul, when we look to the astral body, various forces. We usually call them thinking, feeling, and willing. The soul thinks, feels, and wills. Those are the three forces that work in the soul. But they are the serving forces of the soul. As man progressed in evolution, these forces — which formerly were the lords, to whom man was given over — (man had to wait whether his thinking, feeling, willing was called) — these single soul forces became subject to the Kyrios, the Lord of the soul forces, the “I.” Nothing else was understood by this word, when it referred to the soul, than the “I,” though it no longer held in the old sense — that is: "The divine spiritual thinks, feels, wills in me" — but: "I think, I feel, I will": The Lord makes itself valid in the soul forces. Prepare yourselves, ye human souls, to traverse such soul paths that you let the strong “I” awaken in your souls: Kyrios, the Lord in your souls. “Listen, how it calls in the solitude of the soul. Prepare the force, or the direction, of the Lord of the soul: the I. Make open his forces!” Thus one must translate it, approximately. “Make its forces open, so that it can come in, so that it is not the slave of thinking, feeling, and willing.” And if you translate these words “Behold, that which is the ego sends its angel before thee, who should give thee the possibility to understand how it calls in the solitude of the astral soul: Prepare the directions of the I, make the forces open for it, for the I,” then you have a meaning in these significant words of the prophet Isaiah, then you have an indication of the greatest event in human evolution. Thus you understand from this how Isaiah speaks of John the Baptist, how he points out thereby that man's soul-solitude longs for the approach of the Lord in the soul, of the “I.” Then the words get force and weight. It is thus that we must grasp such words.
Why could John the Baptist be the bearer of the angel? He could be this because he had had a quite special initiation, The various initiations are specialized. These initiations are not something general; they are specialized. With those individualities who have a quite special task, an initiation had to occur according to a quite special kind of secret. Now for everything which happens at all in the spiritual world, it is so provided that there is revealed in the heavens, in the starry script, what spiritual facts there are. One can receive the Sun-initiation — that means, enter the secrets of the spiritual world, which is the world of Ahura Mazdao, for which the Sun is the external expression. But one can be initiated into the Sun secrets in a twelvefold way, and each initiation is in a certain connection a Sun-initiation, but yet is differently constituted with reference to the other eleven. According as man has this or the other task for the whole of mankind, he receives a Sun-initiation of which one can say: This is a Sun-initiation but such that one must express by saying: The forces flow in so that the Sun stands in the sign of Cancer. That is different from the initiation one receives which one must express by saying: The forces flow in as if the Sun stands in the sign of the Balance or Scales. They are the expressions for different specialized initiations. And those individualities who have such a high task, a high mission, as characterized here for John the Baptist, they must be initiated in a quite special manner in a special initiation, because only from this can they get the strong force necessary to bring about this mission in the world, also, under conditions in a quite one-sided way. And so John the Baptist, in order that he could become the bearer of the Angelos, had that Sun-initiation which one can call the initiation from the sign of the Waterman. As the Sun stands in the sign of the Waterman, that is a symbol for that kind of initiation which John the Baptist received, in order to become the bearer of the angel, while he received the force of the Sun as it flows down when it stands in the sign of the Waterman, when it stands in such a relation to the other stars that one designates it with the expression: It stands in the sign of the Waterman. That was the symbol that John had: the Waterman-initiation. The sign indeed received this name, "Waterman," because he who had the Waterman-initiation received especially the power, as a spiritual initiate, of effecting in human beings what John effected as the Waterman, as the Baptist — namely, to bring human beings to this: that with the immersion in water, they got their etheric bodies so free that they came to a self-knowledge which made possible what was the most important thing at the time. Human beings were immersed, and the etheric body became free for a moment. Through the baptism in the Jordan, man could feel the quite especial importance of the world-historic epoch. Therefore John was initiated just in the Baptism initiation. And because one must express that symbolically, with the flowing-down of the sunrays out of the sign in which the Sun stands, so one called this sign also: the Waterman. Thus the name of the human power is carried over.
Today a whole number of learned ignoramuses make the attempt to interpret spiritual events by, as it were, bringing down heaven to the Earth. They say: Now, that signifies the prominence of the Sun. All these learned people, who really do not know much, interpret human events from out of the heavens. The reverse was the case. What lives in man spiritually was carried over to the heavens, while one made use of the heavens as a means of expression. So that John the Baptist could say: I am he who baptizes you with water. And that was the same as if he had said: I am endowed with the initiation of the Waterman. I baptize you with water; I am endowed with the initiation of the Waterman. That was the word which John would have been able to say to his intimate disciples. And, just as the Sun progresses in opposition to its sense-path, if you proceed in opposition to Waterman, there arises — Virgin; then it passes to Balance. If we have initiation in mind, we must consider the opposite path, on the other side: from Waterman to Fishes. Thus John could say: Something will come that no longer has to work as corresponds to the Sun from out of the Waterman, but as corresponds to the working of the Sun from out of the Fishes. One will come who will bring a higher baptism. When the spiritual Sun mounts higher, then there arises, from the Waterman-baptism, the baptism from spiritual water. The Sun ascends in spirit from Waterman to the Fishes: hence the well-known fish symbol for the bearer of the Christ, which is an ancient symbol. For just as in John through quite special spiritual influences a Waterman initiation took place, so the initiation of which I have spoken here and there to you, which arose through all Mysteries in a secret way which transpired around Jesus, a Fish-initiation — a progression of the Sun by one constellation. That was what placed Jesus of Nazareth in his age, that he was first subject to a Fish-initiation.
This is, one might say, sufficiently indicated to us in the gospel of Mark. Yet such things can only be indicated in image form. Christ Jesus draws together all those who are seeking fish. Therefore all his first apostles are fishermen. And we can find obvious what I have said — the progress to the Fishes — when we are told: I have baptized you with water. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. And as he drew to the sea of Galilee — that means, when the Sun was so far advanced that one could see its counterpart from the Fishes — those are inspired who were called Simon, and Simon's brother, James, and James' brother, fishers — they are inspired in the corresponding way. How can we understand all that? We cannot understand it, unless we enter a little more closely into the means of expression of that time.
Our modern means of expression is pedantic. If a man stands before us, we say: there is a man. If a second stands before us, we say again: there is a man. A third — another one, etc. But we have merely maya before us. If a being has two legs, and a human countenance, then in our pedantic way of expression we have but the one word: there is a man. But what is a man for occultism? Nothing but maya! Really, as he stands there before us, man is — nothing. He is about as much as the rainbow which stands in the sky. How long is this anything? Only so long as the necessary conditions are given between rain and sunshine. If the Sun and rain alter their relationship, it is gone. It is just the same with man. He is only a streaming together of forces of the macrocosm. We must seek the forces in heaven, here or there in the macrocosm. There, where one assumes perhaps a man somewhere on the Earth, there is nothing for the occultist. But forces are streaming from above down, from below up, and they intersect. And as the peculiar constellation of rain and sunshine results in the rainbow, so forces streaming out of the macrocosm from above and below result in a phenomenon, and this appears as man. That is the man. Man is nothing as he stands before us. In truth, he is a schema, a maya, an illusion. It is the cosmic forces which are real, which intersect there where our eyes think they see a man. Just try and take this expression earnestly: Man is nothing as he stands before us. He is but the shadow of many forces. The being, however, who reveals itself in man, can quite well be elsewhere than at that point where this man is walking on two legs. There are three men: The one is an ancient Persian, who works at the plough in the old Persian agriculture. He looks like a man — in truth he is one of the souls who are nourishing their forces out of this or that world from below or above. The second is perhaps an old Persian official. He is built through forces from another world which intersect in him. If we will know him, we must mount to these forces. All of you, as you are sitting here, are in your reality quite somewhere else. Only the forces from your own real being ray here.... Then stood a third Persian there, of whom one had to say: He is really utter deception — he is utterly a schema, which stands there. What was there in reality? One must go up to the Sun: there are the forces which nourished this model. There above, among the secrets of the Sun, one finds that which one can call the Gold Star — Zarathustra; that sends the rays down, and here below stands a model, which one calls Zarathustra. In truth, his being is not there at all. That is the third.
Now, it is important that in ancient times one was aware of what was meant by such designations. One did not give names as one does today, but one named people according to what lived in them, not according to their external illusory appearance. We must be quite clear of this. So that one should have been able to say: An ancient human being at the time of Christ should have well understood when one pointed to John the Baptist and said: Here is the angel of God. One would only have heeded that which had taken up the place. One spoke of the chief matter, not of the subsidiary ones. Now let us assume the same mode of expression was applied to Christ Jesus Himself. How must one have spoken of Christ Jesus if one understood such things? No man at that time would even have dreamt of naming that which then wandered over the Earth, this wandering body in flesh, the Christ Jesus; but that was the sign, that what streamed down spiritually from out of the Sun was caught up in this point in a quite special manner. If this body, which was the body of Jesus, went from one place to another, that was the rendering visible of the Sun-force which went from one place to another. This Sun-force could also go alone. At times the expression was so used, that Christ Jesus was in his home in the flesh, but what was in him moved further, even without his body. Especially in the John gospel the expression is so used, that under conditions, when this being moved purely spiritually, the writer of the gospel speaks quite exactly as if this Sun-force dwelt in a fleshly body. Hence it is so important that the deeds of Christ Jesus are always brought into connection with the physical Sun, which is the external expression for the spiritual world, which has been collected, been caught up, at that point where the fleshly body wanders. If thus the Christ Jesus heals, for instance, then it is the Sun-force which heals there. This must stand, however, at the right place in the heavens. “When evening was come, as the Sun went down, they brought to him all who were sick, diseased, etc.” It is important that one indicates that this healing power can flow down when the external Sun has set, when the Sun only still works spiritually. And as He needs a definite force in order to work, he had to take this out of the spiritual Sun, not out of the physical, visible Sun. “And early in the morning, while it was still dark, he arose and went out.” The path of the Sun, and the Sun-force, is expressly indicated to us: that this Sun-force works, and that fundamentally Jesus is only the external sign, that this path of the Sun-force could also be visible to the weak external eyes. And everywhere in the Mark gospel where we have mention of the Christ, the Sun-force is meant, which for that epoch of our earthly evolution was quite especially active on that part of the earth called Palestine. And one could see the Sun-force. “At this or that time, Christ went from this place to that place.” One could just as well say: “At this time, the spiritual force of the Sun, as if gathered into a focus, went from this to that place,” And the body of Jesus was the external sign which made visible to the eyes how the Sun-force moved. The paths of Jesus in Palestine were the paths of the Sun-force come down to Earth. And if you draw the steps of Jesus as on a special map, then you have a cosmic event; the working of the Sun-force out of the macrocosm in the land of Palestine. It is a question of this macrocosmic event. It is especially the writer of the Mark gospel who points this to us; the writer of the Mark gospel, who well knew that a body which was the vehicle of such a principle as the Christ-Principle must be subdued in a quite special way by his principle. It was the pointing to that world which Zarathustra had so powerfully announced behind the world of sense, the pointing to that world as it works into the human world. And so now there was indicated through Christ Jesus how the forces work on into the Earth. Therefore a kind of repetition of the Zarathustra-events must occur in that body which, as we have seen, even if it was the body of the Nathan Jesus, was in a certain way influenced by the Zarathustra individuality.
Now let us hear the great, beautiful legends of Zarathustra. As his mother gave him birth, the first wonder of Zarathustra showed itself as the famous Zarathustra smile. The second wonder was when the king of the district where Zarathustra was born, Durasrav, resolved to murder Zarathustra, of whom the decadent magicians had said special things. As the king appeared to stab the child, his arm was paralyzed. That was the second miracle after the birth of Zarathustra. And then the king, who could not use his dagger against Zarathustra, had the child taken among the wild beasts of the desert. That is the expression for the fact that in earliest childhood Zarathustra had to see what man sees when he appears impure. Instead of the noble group-souls, and the noble, higher spiritual beings, he sees the outflow of his wild fantasy. That is the exposure in the desert to the wild animals, among which Zarathustra remains unharmed. That is the third miracle. The fourth was again a miracle among the wild animals, etc. Always it was the good spirit of Ahura Mazdao who served Zarathustra.
We find these wonders again in the Mark gospel repeated: “And then the Spirit drove him into the wilderness — really it means solitude — for forty days... and the angels ministered unto him.” Here we are shown that the body was prepared to take up, as it were in a focus, that which transpired in the macrocosm. What happened with Zarathustra must happen again; being led to the wild beasts.... This body took up what came in from out of the macrocosm.
The Mark gospel already in its first lines places us within the greatest cosmic connections. And I wanted to show you how basically, if one but first understands the words in the right sense — not as in our modern pedantic speech, but as in the ancient speech, where each word had living worlds behind it — when one understands it in the sense of this ancient speech, how then the Mark gospel gets new life, new force. But one must say: Our modern speech can only find what was already laid in the words in these ancient speeches, after much paraphrase. What we utter when we say: “Man lives on the Earth and develops his ego. Man formerly lived on the Moon: then it was the angels who went through their human stage.” All of that lies behind, when it runs: “Behold, I send my angel before man.” And the words are not to be understood without the presupposition of what is offered in spiritual science. And people in the present should be sincere, and say of the words at the beginning of the Mark gospel: That is incomprehensible. Instead of doing this, they stand there in petty pride and explain spiritual science as fantasy, which puts all kinds of things into what they know in a simple way. But these people of today do not know it at all. And today one no longer has the principle that one had, for instance, in ancient Persia, where from epoch to epoch the ancient holy documents were rewritten, in order to be clothed anew for each epoch. Thus the divine spiritual word as Zend-Avesta was transformed, and again transformed, and what exists today is the last form. Seven times the Persian Bible was written anew. And anthroposophy should teach men how necessary it is that books in which the holy secrets are written must be transformed from age to age. For especially when one will preserve the mighty style of old, one may not as it were attempt to remain as much as possible with the old words. One cannot do it, one understands them no more, but one must attempt to transform the ancient words into a direct understanding of the present. We have tried this summer to do that with Genesis. You saw, then, how many of the words must be transformed. You have perhaps today got a little idea of how the words must also be transformed in the Gospel of Mark.
I find it astonishing that my grandmother was born in Tulsa in 1901 and lived there all her life; my mother was born in Tulsa in 1922 and lives there still; and I was born in 1947 and finally moved away from Tulsa at the age of thirty--AND I NEVER KNEW OF THE EXISTENCE OF THIS EVENT until I was in my thirties!
Monday, August 14, 2017
|"This is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ"|
The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 1 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 15, 1912:
It is well known that the Gospel of St. Mark begins with the words: “This is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
A man of today who seeks to comprehend this Gospel of St. Mark is at once, in the very first words, faced with three riddles. The first is to be found in the words: “This is the beginning.” The beginning of what? How can this beginning be understood? The second is: “the beginning of the Gospel ...” In an anthroposophical sense, what does the word “Gospel” mean? The third riddle we have often spoken of: the figure of Christ Jesus Himself.
Whoever is seriously seeking for knowledge and a deepening of himself must recognize that mankind is evolving and progressing. For this reason what we may call the understanding of any revelation is not fixed once and for all, or confined to any particular epoch. It progresses, so that anyone who attaches a serious meaning to the terms “evolution” and “progress” must necessarily believe that as time goes on, mankind's deepest problems will be ever better, and more thoroughly and profoundly, understood. For something like the Gospel of St. Mark, as we shall demonstrate by means of these three riddles, a certain turning point in our comprehension has been reached only at the present time. Slowly and gradually, but distinctly, there has been prepared what can now lead us to a real understanding of the Gospel and enable us to understand that “the Gospel begins.” Why is this the case?
We need only glance back a little to what filled human minds a comparatively short time ago and we shall see how the very nature of comprehension may — indeed must — have altered in relation to a subject like this. If we go back further than the nineteenth century we shall find that in the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries we approach ever closer to a time when those persons whose spiritual life was at all concerned with the Gospels had to start from a very different basis of comprehension than that of the person of today. What could an ordinary man of the eighteenth century say to himself if he wished to place himself in the general line of the evolution of humanity, and was not one of the few who were connected in some way with an initiation or some occult revelation — assuming that he had assimilated within himself everything offered by external exoteric life? Even the most cultivated man, one who stood on the highest pinnacle of the culture of his age, could not look back on more than three thousand years of the life of mankind; and one thousand of those years was before the Christian era and nearly lost in misty dimness. The other two thousand years since the founding of Christianity were not yet quite completed. He might look back three thousand years, shall we say? When one looked back at the earliest of these millennia one was confronted with a completely mythical, dim, prehistoric epoch of humanity, the age of old Persia. This, and what still remained of the knowledge of the ancient Egyptian epoch, preceded what “actual history” related, which began only with Hellenism. This Hellenism, to a certain extent, formed the foundation of the culture of this age. All those who wished to look more deeply into human life started with Hellenism; and within Hellenism appeared all that Homer, the Greek tragedians, and all the Greek writers have written concerning the primeval history of this people and their work for mankind.
Then one sees how Greece began to decline, how it was stifled by Rome, though only externally. Generally speaking, Rome overcame Greece only politically, while in reality it adopted Greek culture, Greek education,and Greek life. It might be said that politically the Romans conquered the Greeks, but spiritually the Greeks conquered the Romans. During this latter process, while Hellenism was conquering Rome spiritually, it poured into Rome through hundreds and hundreds of channels what it had itself acquired. From Rome this streamed forth into all the other civilizations of the world, while during this time Christianity streamed more and more into the Greco-Roman civilization and was to a large extent transformed when the northern Germanic peoples took part in the spreading of the Greco-Roman Christian culture. With this intermingling of Greece, Rome, and Christianity, the second millennium of the world's history passed away, which to the men of the eighteenth century was the first Christian one. Then we see the beginning of the second Christian millennium, the third historical civilization of man. We see how everything goes on apparently in the same way — although, if we have deeper insight, we shall see that in this third millennium everything is really different. Two figures only need be cited, a painter and a poet, who, although they appear some two centuries after the end of the millennium, nevertheless show how something essentially new began for Western civilization with the second Christian millennium, something which these two men carried further. These two figures are Giotto and Dante. [ Note 1 ] Giotto as painter and Dante as poet represent the beginning of all that followed, and what they gave was embodied in later Western cultures. Those were the three thousand years that could at that time be surveyed.
Then came the nineteenth century. Only someone who can look more deeply into the whole formation of the culture of the age is able now to perceive all that took place in the nineteenth century, and how for that reason everything had to become different. It is all contained in the minds and souls of men, but only a very few can as yet understand it.
The perspective of the man of the eighteenth century went back only to Hellenism; the age before that was somewhat nebulous. What happened in the nineteenth century — and this is little appreciated or understood today — is that the East played its part in the culture of the West, indeed very intensely so. This intervention of the Oriental influence in its own peculiar way is what we must bear in mind when considering the transformation that took place in the civilization of the nineteenth century. This penetration by the Orient threw light and shade upon everything that poured into the culture, and will increasingly do so. For this reason a new understanding was required concerning things that up to that time humanity had regarded in a different light.
If we wish to choose single figures and individuals who have influenced the culture of the West, in whom we could find nearly everything that a man felt in his soul at the beginning of the nineteenth century if he concerned himself with spiritual life, we may mention David, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe, [ Note 2 ] who was just beginning to penetrate into life. Future historians writing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will be very clear about one thing, that the intellectual and spiritual life of that era was determined by these five figures. There lived then, more than anyone can imagine now, even in the most delicate stirrings of the soul, what we may call the feelings and truths of the Psalms. There lived also fundamentally what is to be found in Homer as well as what took such magnificent form in Dante; then, even if it did not live in Shakespeare himself, there was what is nevertheless so beautifully expressed by him in the form in which it now lives in men of modern times. Added to this is the striving of the human soul after truth which Goethe expressed in Faust, something that in reality lived in every human soul in such a way that it was often said, “Every man who seeks the truth has something of the Faust nature in him.”
To all this there was added a quite new perspective, which extended beyond the three thousand years covered by these five persons. It came in ways that are at first quite unfathomable by external history. This was the first entry of an inner Orient into the mental and spiritual life of Europe. It was not only that to the poems of those writers mentioned earlier was added what was given in the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita, nor the fact that by learning to know these Eastern poems a different emotional nuance about the world was aroused, differing fundamentally from that of the Psalms or from what is to be found in the poetry of Dante or Homer, but something appeared in a mysterious manner which became ever more visible during the nineteenth century. One name alone will suffice, a name which made a great stir in the middle of the nineteenth century, and this will convince us that something came from the East to Europe along mysterious paths. We need but mention the name of Schopenhauer. [ Note 3 ] In Schopenhauer what is it that strikes you most of all, if you leave aside the theoretical elements of his system? Isn't it the content of feeling and sentiment that pervades his whole thought? In the profound relationship between this nineteenth-century man and the Oriental-Aryan mode of thought and feeling, in every sentence, we might say, in the emphasis of feeling in Schopenhauer, lives that which we might call the Eastern element in the West; and this passed on to Eduard von Hartmann [ Note 3 ] in the second half of the nineteenth century.
This penetrated along mysterious paths, as we have just said. We gradually come to better understand these mysterious paths when we see that in the course of the developments of the nineteenth century a complete transformation, a metamorphosis, of all human thinking and feeling took place — not however in only one part of the Earth but in the intellectual and spiritual life of the whole Earth. As to what took place in the West, if anyone would take the trouble, it would be enough to compare anything written about religion, philosophy, or any aspect of spiritual life with something that belongs to the eighteenth century. He will then see that a complete transformation took place, that all the questions regarding the highest riddles asked by mankind had become more vague, that men were striving to formulate new questions, to look for new sentiments and modes of perception, that nothing belonging to religion and what it formerly gave to man could still be given through it to the human soul in the same way. Everywhere there was a longing for something deeper and more profoundly hidden in the depths of religion.
This was not true of Europe alone. It is characteristic of the beginning of the nineteenth century that all over the civilized world men, through an inner urge, were compelled to think differently. If we wish to form a more exact conception of what we are discussing, we must see that there was a general convergence of the peoples and their folk cultures and folk beliefs, with the result that people belonging to entirely different creeds began in the nineteenth century to understand each other in a quite remarkable way. We shall quote a characteristic example which lies at the heart of what we are trying to indicate. In the thirtieth year of the nineteenth century, a man appeared in England who was a Brahmin, an adherent of what he considered to be true Brahminism, that is, the Vedanta teaching. Ram Mohun Roy [ Note 4 ], who died in London in 1836, exercised a great influence on those of his contemporaries who were interested in such things, and made a great impression. The remarkable thing about him was that on the one hand he stood there as a reformer of Hinduism, though a misunderstood one, while on the other hand everything he said could be understood by all Europeans who were familiar with the advanced thought of their age. He did not put forth ideas that could be understood only through Orientalism, but ideas that could be understood by ordinary human reason.
What was Ram Mohun Roy's attitude? He said something along these lines: “I live in the midst of Hinduism, where a number of different gods are worshipped. If the people of my country are asked why they worship these gods, they say, ‘It is our custom, we know nothing else. It was done by our fathers and their fathers before them.’ And because the people were influenced in this way,” Ram Mohun Roy continued, “the crassest idolatry became the rule, an appalling idolatry which disgraces the original greatness of the religion of my fatherland. There once was a belief that, although partly contradictory, is to be found in the Vedas. It is the purest form of human thought, and it was brought into the Vedanta system by Vyasa.”
This was the belief professed by Ram Mohun Roy. For this reason he had not only made translations from various incomprehensible idioms into the languages that are understandable in India, but he also made extracts of what he considered the correct teaching and spread them among the people. What was his intention when he did this? He thought he recognized behind all that comes to expression in the various gods and all that is worshipped in the different idols a pure teaching of a primal divine unity, the spiritual God who lives in all things but can no longer be recognized in the idols. This God must once more penetrate into the minds of men. When this Indian Brahmin spoke in detail about what he believed to be the correct Vedanta teaching, the true Indian creed, it did not sound strange. To those who understood him rightly, it was as though he preached a kind of rational belief that can be attained by everyone who by using his rational mind turns to the universal unitary God. And Ram Mohun Roy had followers: Rabindranath Tagore and others [ Note 4 ]. One of these followers, and this is especially interesting, gave a lecture in 1870 about Christ and Christianity. It was indeed extraordinarily interesting to hear an Indian speak about Christ and Christianity. The actual mystery of Christianity was quite remote from the Indian speaker — he did not touch upon that at all. From the whole course of the lecture we can see that he is quite unable to grasp the fundamental fact that Christianity does not proceed from a personal teacher but is founded on the Mystery of Golgotha, a world-historical fact, on death and resurrection. But that which he can grasp and is so clear to him is that in Christ Jesus we have a figure of tremendous significance, one that is of importance to every human heart, a figure that must stand there as the ideal figure for the whole history of the world. It is remarkable to hear this Indian speaking about Christ and to hear him say “If a man goes deeply into Christianity, he will see that Christianity must, even in the West, go through a further evolution, for what the European brings to my fatherland as Christianity does not appear to me to be the true Christianity.”
We see from the examples quoted that it was not only in Europe that people's minds began to look behind the religious creeds, but also in distant India. It is true also of many parts of the Earth where minds began to awake, and men approached in a new way and from an entirely new point of view something they had possessed for thousands of years. This metamorphosis of souls in the nineteenth century will be fully perceptible only in the course of time. Only in later times will history recognize that impulses of this kind, although apparently affecting only a few people, streamed through thousands of channels into our hearts and souls, so that today all those who participate in any way in spiritual life have them within their souls. This had to result in a total renewal. All older questions were transformed, and a new kind of understanding came into being in relation to all views that had hitherto been held. So it is that in the world even today such questions are already taking on a greater profundity. What our spiritual movement desires today is the answering of these questions.
This spiritual movement is convinced that these questions cannot in their present form be answered by the old traditions, by modern natural science, or by that conception of the world which reckons only with the factors of modern natural science. Spiritual science, research into the spiritual worlds, is necessary. In other words, mankind today, in accordance with the whole trend of his evolution, must ask questions that can be answered only through supersensible investigation. Quite slowly and gradually there have emerged from the spiritual life of the West things that are once more in harmony with the most beautiful traditions that have come over from the East. You know that we have always stressed the fact that the law of reincarnation comes out of Western spiritual life itself, and that it need no more be taken as something historical coming from Buddhism than for example Pythagorean doctrine needs to be taken over from historical traditions. This has always been emphasized, but the fact that the idea of reincarnation arose in modern souls formed a bridge which extended across the three thousand years of which we have been speaking (during which the doctrine of reincarnation was not the center of thinking) to the figure of Buddha. The horizon, the perspective of the evolution of mankind, was extended beyond the three thousand years. This gave rise to new questions, which can be answered only through spiritual science.
Let us begin with the question to which the beginning of this Gospel of Saint Mark gives rise, this Gospel which begins with the words “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Let us remember that these introductory words are immediately followed not only by a characterization of a passage of the old prophets but by the announcement of Christ by John the Baptist. This proclamation was stated by him in such a way that it may be put in these words: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of the divine is extending over the whole Earth-existence.” What does all this mean?
Let us endeavor with the light that modern spiritual science can give us to view retrospectively those past ages in the center of which is contained “the fulfillment.” Let us try to understand what it means that “an old era is completed and a new one is beginning.” We shall best be able to understand this if we first turn our attention to something belonging to more remote times and then consider something belonging to the modern era; between the two lies the Mystery of Golgotha. Let us take something before the Mystery of Golgotha and then something later, and then endeavor to enter deeply into the difference between the two epochs, so that we may recognize how far the old epoch had been completed and a new one begun. In this way we shall not enter into abstractions or definitions, but consider the concrete.
I should like you to turn your attention to the first millennium of human evolution, as it was thought to be in earlier times. There in the remotest period of this first millennium stands the towering figure of Homer, the Greek poet and singer. Hardly more than the name remains to mankind of him to whom are ascribed those two great poems which are among the greatest accomplishment of mankind: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Scarcely more than his name is known, and in the nineteenth century doubts were cast even on that — but we need not dwell any further on that now. The more we know of the figure of Homer, the more we admire him. For a person who studies such things, the characters created by Homer whom we meet in the Iliad and the Odyssey seem more alive than all the purely political figures of Greece. Many different people who have studied Homer over and over again have said that because of the precision of his descriptions and his manner of presentation he must have been a doctor. Others say he must have been an artist, a sculptor, or a craftsman. Napoleon admired the way Homer described tactics and strategy; still others think he must have been a beggar wandering through the land.
However all this may be, it certainly does demonstrate the unique individuality of Homer. Consider one of his characters, Hector. If you have any time available, you ought to study the figure of Hector in the Iliad — how plastically he is described so that he stands as a complete personality before us; how we see his affection for his paternal city, Troy, his wife, Andromache, his relationship to Achilles, and to his armies; and how he commanded them. Try to call up this man before your mind, this man who possessed all the tenderness of a husband, and who clung in the ancient way to his home city of Troy, and who suffered such disillusions as only really great men can. Remember his relation with Achilles. Hector, as presented by Homer, is a towering figure from very ancient times, a man of great all-embracing humanity, for of course what Homer is describing belongs to a period well before his own, in the darkness of the past. Hector stands out above all the others, all those figures who seem mythical enough in the eyes of modern men.
Now take this one figure. Skeptics and all kinds of philologists may indeed doubt that there ever was a Hector at all, in the same way as they doubt the existence of Homer. But anyone who takes into consideration what may be understood from a purely human viewpoint will be convinced that Homer describes only facts that actually occurred. Hector was a living person who strode through Troy, and Achilles and the other figures were equally real. They still stand before us as personages of real earthly life. We look back to them as people of a different kind from ourselves, who are difficult to understand but whom the poet is able to bring before our souls in every detail. Now let us place before our souls a figure such as Hector, one of the chief Trojan commanders, who is defeated by Achilles. In such a personage we have something that belongs to the old pre-Christian age, something by which we can measure what men were before the time when Christ lived on Earth.
I will now draw your attention to another figure, a remarkable figure of the fifth century B.C.: the great philosopher Empedocles [ Note 5 ], who spent a large part of his life in Sicily. It was he who was the first to speak of the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth — and who said that everything that happens in the material realm caused by the mingling and disintegration of these four elements results from the principles of love and hate ruling in them. It was he also who by his activity influenced Sicily by calling into being important political institutions, and he went about trying to lead the people into a life of spirituality. When we look back to Empedocles we find that he lived an adventurous as well as a deeply spiritual life. Perhaps the truth of what I am about to say will be doubted by some, but spiritual science knows that Empedocles went about in Sicily not only as a statesman, but as a magician and initiate, just as Hector, as depicted by Homer, walked in Troy. In order to characterize the remarkable attitude of Empedocles toward the world the fact confronts us — and it is true and no invention — that in order, as it were, to unite himself with all existence around him, he ended by throwing himself into Mount Etna and was consumed by its fire. In this way a second figure of the pre-Christian age is presented to our souls.
Now let us consider such figures as these in accordance with the methods of spiritual science. First of all we know that these individualities will appear again; we know that such souls will return to life. We shall not pay any attention to their intermediate incarnations but look for them in the post-Christian era. We then see something of the change brought about by time, something that can help us to understand how the Mystery of Golgotha intervened in human evolution. If we say that such figures as Hector and Empedocles appeared again, we must ask how they walked among men in the post-Christian era. For we shall then see how the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha, the fulfillment and beginning of a new age, worked on their souls. As serious anthroposophists assembled here together we need not shrink from the communications of true spiritual science, which can be confirmed by external facts.
I should now like to turn your attention to something that took place in the post-Christian era, and perhaps again it may be said that the person concerned was a poetical personage. But this poetical personage can be traced back to a real individuality who was once alive. I direct your attention to the character created by Shakespeare in his Hamlet. Anyone who knows the development of Shakespeare, insofar as it can be known externally, and especially someone who is acquainted with it through spiritual science, will know that Shakespeare's Hamlet is none other than the transformed real prince of Denmark, who also lived at one time. I cannot go into everything underlying the historical prototype of the poetical figure of Hamlet, but through the research of spiritual science I can offer you a striking example of how a man, a spirit of ancient times, reappears in the post-Christian era. The real figure underlying Hamlet, as presented by Shakespeare, is Hector. The same soul that lived in Hamlet lived in Hector. It is just by such a characteristic example as this, and the striking way the two different souls manifest themselves, that we can interpret what happened in the intervening time. A personality such as that of Hector stands before us in the pre-Christian age. Then comes the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha in human evolution, and the spark it kindled in Hector's soul causes a figure, a prototype of Hamlet, to arise, of whom Goethe said, “This is a soul that is unable to deal with any situation and is not equal to its position, who is assigned tasks but is unable to fulfill them.” We may ask why Shakespeare expressed it in this way. He did not know. But anyone who can investigate the connections through spiritual science knows that behind these things forces were at work. The poet creates in the unconscious; before him stands, so to speak, first the figure which he creates, and then, as in a tableau of which he himself knows nothing, the whole individuality with which the figure is connected. Why does Shakespeare choose particular qualities in Hamlet and sharply emphasize them, qualities that perhaps Hamlet's own contemporaries would not have noticed? Because he observes them against the background of the era. He feels how different a soul has become in its transition from the old life to the new. Hamlet, the doubter, the skeptic, who has lost the ability to cope with the situations with which he meets in life, the procrastinator and waverer, this is what Hector, once so sure of himself, has become.
Let me direct your attention to another figure of modern times, who was also first presented to mankind in a poetic picture, in a poem whose protagonist will certainly live on in humanity for a long time to come when for posterity the poet, like Homer or Shakespeare, no longer is in existence. About Homer we know nothing at all, and about Shakespeare we know very little indeed. What the various compilers of notes and biographers of Goethe have written will long since have been forgotten. In spite of the printing press and other modern inventions, what interests people in Goethe at the present time will likewise have been long forgotten. But large as life, and modelled from life, there will stand the figure of Faust which Goethe has created. Just as men today know nothing of Homer, so will they some day know but little of Goethe (which will be a good thing); but they will know much about Faust. Faust again is a figure who, as he is presented to us in a literary form by Goethe, can be recognized as one brought to a certain conclusion by Goethe. The poetical picture refers back to a real sixteenth-century figure who lived then as a real person, though he was not as Goethe described him in his Faust. Why then did Goethe describe him in this way? Goethe himself did not know. But when he directed his attention to the traditional Faust that had been handed down to him, a Faust with whom he was already acquainted through the marionettes of his boyhood, then the forces that stood behind Faust, the forces of his previous incarnation, the forces of Empedocles, the old Greek philosopher, worked within him! All these radiated into the figure of Faust. So we might say, since Empedocles threw himself into Etna and united himself with the fire-element of the Earth, what a wonderful spiritualization of pre-Christian nature mysticism was accomplished in fact in the final tableau of Goethe's Faust, when Faust ascends into the fire- element of heaven through Pater Seraphicus and the rest. Slowly and gradually a totally new spiritual tendency entered into the deeper strivings of men. Already some time ago it began to become evident to the more profound spirits of mankind that, without their knowing anything about reincarnation or karma, when they were considering a great comprehensive soul whom they wished to describe from the depths of their inner life, they found themselves describing what radiated over from earlier incarnations. Although Shakespeare did not know that Hamlet was Hector, he nevertheless described him as such, without being aware that the same soul had lived in both of them. So too Goethe portrays his Faust as though Empedocles with all his peculiarities were standing behind him, because in his Faust there lived the soul of Empedocles. It is characteristic that the progress of the human soul should proceed in this way.
I have mentioned two characteristic figures, in both of whom we can perceive that when great men of earlier times reappear in a modern post-Christian age, they are shaken to the very depths of their souls and can only with difficulty adjust themselves to life. Everything that was within them in the past is still within them. For example, when we allow Hamlet to work upon us, we feel that the whole force of Hector is in him. But we feel that this force cannot come forth in the post-Christian era, that it then meets with obstacles, that something now works upon the soul that is the beginning of something new, whereas in the figures of antiquity something was coming to an end. So do these figures stand plastically delineated before us; both Hector and Empedocles represent a conclusion. But what is working on further in mankind must find new paths into new incarnations. This is revealed with Hector in Hamlet and also with Empedocles in Faust, who had within him all the abysmal urges toward the depths of nature. Because he had within him the whole nature of Empedocles he could say “I will lay aside the Bible for a time and study nature and medicine. I will no longer be a theologian.” He felt the need to have dealings with demonic beings who made him roam through the world leaving him marveling but uncomprehending. Here the Empedocles element had an after-effect but was not able to adjust itself to what a man must be after the new age had begun.
I wanted to show you through these explanations how in well-known souls, about whom anyone can find information, a powerful transformation shows itself, and how the more deeply we study them the more perceptible this becomes. If we inquire what happened between the two incarnations of such individualities, the answer always is the Mystery of Golgotha, which was announced by the Baptist when he said “The time is fulfilled: the kingdoms of the spirit, or the kingdoms of heaven, are passing over into the kingdom of man.” Yes, the kingdoms of heaven did indeed powerfully seize the human kingdom, but those who take this in an external sense are unable to understand it. They seized it so powerfully that the great men of antiquity, who had been in themselves so solid and compact, had to make a new beginning in human evolution on Earth. This new beginning showed itself precisely with them, and lasted until the end of the old epoch, with the Mystery of Golgotha. At that time something that had been fulfilled ebbed away, something which had presented men in such a way that they appeared as rounded personalities in themselves. Then came something that made it necessary for these souls to make a new beginning. Everything had to be transformed and altered, so that great souls appeared small. They had to be transformed into the stage of childhood, for something quite new was beginning. We must inscribe this in our souls if we wish to understand what is meant at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark by the words “a beginning.” Yes, truly a beginning, a beginning that shakes the inmost soul to its foundations and brings a totally new impulse into human evolution, a “beginning of the Gospel.”
What then is the Gospel? It is something that comes down to us from the kingdoms we have often described, where dwell the higher hierarchical beings, among whom are the angels and archangels. It descends through the world that rises above the human world. So do we gain an inkling of the deeper meaning of the word Gospel. It is an impulse that descends through the realms of the archangels and angels; it comes down from these kingdoms and enters into mankind. None of the abstract translations really covers the matter adequately. In reality the word Gospel should indicate that at a certain time something begins to flow in upon the Earth which formerly flowed only where there dwell the angels and archangels. Something descended to Earth that shook the souls of men, and shook the strongest souls most. It is here noted that this was the beginning, and the beginning has a continuation. The beginning was made at that time, and we shall see that fundamentally the whole development of humanity since then is a continuation of that beginning when the impulse began to flow down from the kingdom of the angeloi, or what we call the “ev-angel” or Gospel.
We cannot seek or investigate deeply enough if we wish to characterize the different Gospels. We shall see that especially the Gospel of St. Mark can be understood only if we understand in the right way the evolution of humanity with all its impulses and all that has happened in the course of it. I do not wish to describe this externally, but to characterize actual souls, showing how it is only the recognition of the fact of reincarnation, when it becomes a matter of real research, that can bear witness to the progress of such souls as those of Hector and Empedocles. Only in this way can the deeper significance of the Christ Impulse be brought before our souls. Otherwise we may discover beautiful things, but they will all be superficial. What lies behind all the outer events in the history of the Christ Impulse is discovered only when we can throw light upon life through spiritual research, so that we can recognize how a single life passes not only in its separate phases but also in the sequence of incarnations. We must look upon reincarnation as a serious matter and apply it to history in such a way that it becomes an element that gives life to it. We shall then perceive the working of the Event of Golgotha, the greatest of all impulses. It is especially in souls that this impulse, which we have described often enough, will become visible.